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DSLR Upgrades Blog

In this post I explain why your DSLR, in my case the Canon 6D, can’t cut it to shoot video, what the best the choices for a pro camcorder upgrade are, and what I ultimately chose.

Canon 6D wide

I bought the Canon 6D nearly 4 years ago, and I have to say it has served me well and I have grown to love it.

The 6D is obviously geared up as a high end DSLR, and using it for video takes a lot of work arounds, as I have explained previously in this blog:

How to Setup a Canon 6D DSLR Camera for Video

It has always been a fiddly beast when it comes to shooting video.

I originally bought it for a job following a group of cyclists across the Alps, hoping to get some stunning looking footage that would do them and the locations justice.

Looking back I think I it turned out as well as could be expected. It meant for a lot of extra effort I could achieve a high quality of video at an affordable price.

The more I used it the more I realised how much extra effort it takes, and with one (big) outlay of money each and every shoot could be so much easier. I put a lot of time and thought into this, after all its my livelihood and my life. And I feel it’s something beneficial to share.

 

So what exactly is my DSLR not doing that it should?

The following were ultimately insurmountable issues with the DSLR. Which, if you are serious, eventually call for an upgrade.

mic input 6D

Recording Audio

There’s only a mini jack audio in. I have covered this previously, and for any pro that is a nail in the coffin. I would have to record audio to another device, and then sync it up. Mini jack audio can be used, you can get mini jack radio mics (e.g. Rodelink Filmmaker), and directional mics (e.g. Rode Videomic, again). But the quality will never be there, it’s not physically secured well. But worst of all… monitoring it on the 6D is a nightmare.

Audio Monitoring

Monitoring audio will never work properly on the Canon 6D. There’s no headphone jack and the AV output workaround requires all manner of wires and a separate battery. (Though the 5D has a headphone jack.) Verdict: Whole world of pain.

Form Factor

It’s just not built to get a steady handheld video shot. It’s built for portability, to shoot from the hip to snap great stills. It is fine off the tripod, it has to be said. But handheld video needs something bigger, that you can get both hands round or lock into your shoulder to help stabilise the continuos handheld shots.

Tiffen ND Filter

ND Filters

What a pain having to screw the variable ND filter on and off as you go in and outside. How to suck the life out of any shoot.

You need a camcorder with built in HDs. What a difference it is to be able to just click them up and down as you roll.

Lack of HD High Speed (Slow Motion) Shooting Option

The Canon 6D can achieve 50fps at 720p. Which is OK for the odd shot if necessary, but not a long term solution. So many clients require it, and even if they don’t know they do, it can bring so many dull shots to life, inject beauty into the rowdiest, ugliest scenes, and give many a shoot that Wow factor. You’ve got to be able to shoot HD at high speed.

 

The Electronic View FinderCanon 6D EVF on  Canon 6D with eye piece EVF Eye piece

The 6D has a flat, immovable EVF, and no eye cup.

It requires an additional bit of kit to enable the screen to be seen in bright sun light

Just another thing to pack, and click on and off throughout the shoot. Which falls off about as often as you put it on. And being able to angle the EVF ‘opens the door’ to a whole range of different shooting angles.

Moire

The 6D suffered fairly badly here, and I need something with reduced effects of this.

 

So all of this meant that I was to destined to consign my DSLR to a B camera role. Great for second angles, on the odd occasion on which it is needed.

 

So what camera, or camcorder, is best as an upgrade from a DSLR like the Canon 6D to shoot video?

I thought about it long and hard, as of course there are a lot of options.

In my specific circumstance I need a video camera for corporate video production. I’ll have the Canon 6D DSLR as a backup, but I need something that addresses all the points above, gives a great look, has a good form factor for shooting video, and will work at low light if I don’t have the luxury of lighting a scene properly.

I am ruling out the standard documentary cameras such as the Sony PMW 300 and PMW 200 as they’re not going to give the ‘big budget’ look, I want something with interchangeable lenses.

I am not bothered about 4k as I produce predominantly for the web and I don’t envisage viewers on anything that will require 4k. If I do come across such a project I will hire a 4k camera, but there’s no need to pay for that luxury up front.

Here are the cameras I considered, in no particular order, with the factors which mattered most to me:

#01

Blackmagic Design URSA Mini 4k Digital Cinema Camera (EF-Mount)Ursa Mini

Bringing all the Blackmagic high spec low cost, customisability to the form factor of a movie camera.

Media recording: 2 x CFast cards

Audio input: 2 x XLR

Max Resolution: 4.6k

Lens Mount: EF Mount

Maximum Frame Rate: 60fps at 4k

Sensor Size: 22mm x 11.88mm. Called ‘Super35′ but that’s more the size of APS-C

Sensor Size Chart

CODEC: Apple Pro Res / Cinema DNG RAW

Global Shutter – pretty much unheard of at this price point, and who wouldn’t want that? I’d love to get rid of rolling shutter effects (see below pic). To my mind that ‘jello’ effect on a quickly moving object has no artistic merit.

Rolling Shutter

Price at time of this blog post: £2,600 inc VAT / USD $3,000

Pros: Blackmagic cameras are going to give you a lot of bang for your buck. It will look great. For me EF mount lens means I don’t have a big lens investment. Global shutter is fantastic, but not a deal sealer or breaker.

Cons: No internal ND. Not great at low light with a native ISO of 400 and max of 800.

Verdict: The quality is undeniable, but will it work as your sole corporate film production camera? I’m not convinced it’s flexible enough.

 

#02

Blackmagic Design URSA Mini 4.6k Digital Cinema Camera (EF-Mount)

Same camera as above in a 4.6k version.

Media recording: 2 x CFast

Audio input: 2 x XLR

Max Resolution: 4k

Lens Mount: EF Mount

Maximum Frame Rate: 120p in 2k resolution

Sensor Size: 25.34mm x 14.25mm (Super35)

CODEC: Apple Pro Res / Cinema DNG RAW

Global Shutter

Price at time of this blog post: £4,200 inc VAT / USD $5000

Pros: Again, a really, really nice camera. Bigger sensor (true Super 35), slightly higher resolution.

Cons:  No internal NDs. This model seems to add a lot of expense for a small increment in quality. Still poor in low light.

 

#03

Blackmagic Production CameraBlackmagic Production Camera

The 4k version of the Blackmagic flagship Cinema Camera.

Media recording: 2.5″ SSD

Audio input: 2 x 1/4” jacks

Max Resolution: 4k

Lens Mount: EF lens compatible

Maximum Frame Rate: 30fps

Sensor Size: 22mm x 11.88mm. ‘Super 35′, again more like APS-C in my book

CODEC: Apple Pro Res / Cinema DNG RAW

Global Shutter

Price at time of this blog post: £2.600 inc VAT / USD $3,000

Pros: Portable. Great value for money. High capacity to add third party hardware.

Cons: No NDs. Bad low light capability. Max ISO of 1600 results in high grain. Still suffers from moire as per the DSLR. No decent built in mic and no internal audio monitoring. The form factor of a DSLR is not much good for handheld or run and gun style. No high speed frame rates.

Verdict: For me the low light vulnerability and lack of a high speed frame option are the killers. All good if all I did was films or sit down interviews. And for this price I struggle to see why I’d not just opt for the Ursa which has a far better form factor, better audio inputs, 60fps, and for me a more convenient and cheaper media format of CFast.

 

#04

AJA CionAJA cion

Another beautifully spec’d and looking camera, that really had me thinking on its release.

Media recording: Pak Media (approx. £600 for a 256GB drive), Pak-Adapt-CFast (£100 for the adaptor).

Audio input: 2 x XLR

Max Resolution: 4k

Lens Mount: PL, with third party EF adaptors available

Maximum Frame Rate: 120 fps (4k, AJA RAW)

Sensor Size: 22.5mm x 11.9mm (APS-C )

CODEC:Apple Pro Res, AJA RAW

Global Shutter

Price at time of this blog post: £4,700 / USD $5,000

Pros: Supreme quality. I love the idea of this camera. Super high speed, global shutter,

Cons: Price is going up, but you do get a lot for it. But still no ND filter! PL lens mount not EF. Bad dynamic range (poor performance in low light) similar to the Blackmagic Production Camera. Media is expensive (or requires an adaptor).

Verdict: Great for film, but not suitable if it’s your only camera to cover all corporate video work with it’s low light issues and lack of NDs. Same as the Blackmagic range.

 

#05

Panasonic AF101Panasonic AF101

Fairly old now, but a well respected all rounder at the time.

Media recording: 2 x SD card slots

Audio input: 2 x XLRs

Max Resolution: 1080p HD

Lens Mount: Interchangeable (including EF) with the correct adaptor

Maximum Frame Rate: 60fps at HD

Sensor Size: 18.8 x 10.6 micro 4/3 rds

CODEC: AVCHD @ 21 Mbs

Rolling Shutter

Price at time of this blog post: £2,100 inc VAT / USD $2,600

Pros: Internal ND filter. Good at low light, good built in metres, good depth of field, right form factor, does do high speed. Low moire, few rolling shutter artefacts. Cheap, and compatible with EF lenses.

Cons: Going to need an Atomos to up the recording date rate which is the lowest here. Specs are just too out of date now (circa 2010), only records at HD and the picture quality is good but not up there with the Canon HD shooters. Sensor size is the smallest here.

Verdict: Great 5 years ago, but out of date. Still, at a price only just above the DSLRs it’d be a very advisable first camcorder instead of a DSLR. Do I wish I had done this instead of buying the Canon 6D? There’s a part of me that does, yes. But then I’ve learnt a lot about photography with that thing.

 

#06

Sony NEX-FS700Sony NEX-FS700

Mid range, yet well spec’d model. The ‘4k’ bit some mentioned is just the sensor, it doesn’t record 4k natively.

Media recording: Memory Stick Pro Duo / SD Card x 1

Audio input: 2 x XLR

Max Resolution: HD (4k can be achieved by buying an Odyssey 7Q at around £2000. An expensive and rather unwieldy addition)

Lens Mount: Sony E Mount. EF adaptor available (around £100)

Maximum Frame Rate: 60fps

Sensor Size: 24.9 x 18.7 Super 35 CMOS

CODEC: AVCHD @ 28 Mbs

Rolling Shutter

Price at time of this blog post: £4,500 inc VAT / USD $4,600

Pros: Built in NDs. Big sensor. Mid range slow motion. Cheap media.

Cons: Needs an Atomos to up the data rate – which can’t process the high speed, so you’re limited to the internal AVCHD rate for that. Sony E Mount. Pushing my price limit.

Verdict: There are better things available for in this price range, I’d push another £800 up and get the FS5.

 

#07

Sony PXW-FS7Sony PXW-FS7

Big cousin to the FS700. To be honest it’s too pricey for this comparison, but it’s such a popular camera it’s worth knowing what it can do and what it takes to afford those extra features.

Media recording: XQD card x 2, SD x 1

Audio input: 2 x XLR

Max Resolution: 4k

Lens Mount: Sony E mount

Maximum Frame Rate: 180 fps continuously @ HD / 60 fps 4k

Sensor Size: 24.9 x 18.7 Super 35 CMOS

CODEC: Apple Pro Res

Rolling Shutter

Price at time of this blog post: £7,300 inc VAT / USD $8,500

Pros: Fantastic set of specs including 4k. ND filters. Great high speed options. Great picture quality. Good form factor.

Cons: Way out of my price range. Sony E mount always feels a bit flimsy, or use an adaptor for EF. Very specific media card type.

Verdict: This is practically the dream spec of camera for me (except for the E Mount lenses), but not at an achievable price. Fantastic high speed frame rates, but be wary as these are still with a rolling shutter, so careful what you shoot with that super high speed as it will still be prone to the ‘jello’ roll.

 

#08

Sony PXW-FS5Sony PXW-FS5

Younger brother of the FS7.

Media recording: SDXC x 2

Audio input: 2 x XLR

Max Resolution: Ultra HD

Lens Mount: Sony E mount

Maximum Frame Rate: 240 fps @ HD with 8sec buffer

Sensor Size: 24.9 x 18.7 Super 35 CMOS

CODEC: MPEG-4 AVC @ 100 Mbs Long-GOP

Rolling Shutter

Price at time of this blog post: £5,300 inc VAT / USD $5,750

Pros: Also has a fantastic set of specs, still at 4k (give or take). ND filters. High speed options (albeit at HD only). Not as expensive as the FS7. Media type is more preferable to that of the FS7.

Cons: Still just out of my price range. Sony E mount lenses not ideal.

Verdict: Trumps the FS7 for me. What you lose spec-wise is minimal, but there’s a £2k price difference.

 

#09

Sony PMW-F3LSony PMW-F3L

Fairly out of date camera now. But offers all the standard HD features in a fairly cheap package.

Media recording: 2 x SxS Card

Audio input: 2 x XLR

Max Resolution: 1080p HD

Lens Mount: PL or FZ Mount

Maximum Frame Rate: 30fps

Sensor Size: 24.9 x 18.7 Super 35 CMOS

CODEC: M-PEG2 @ 35Mbps

Rolling Shutter

Price at time of this blog post: £3,000 inc VAT / USD $3,750

Pros: Great run and gun form factor. Large sensor size. Relatively cheap.

Cons: No high speed. 35 Mbs still too low, it needs to be at least 50 Mbs. So this will also require an Atomos card. SxS media is very expensive and not going to be much use for any other kit.

Verdict: Very dated camera. At this price range the C100 mark ii offers a lot more for only £500 more.

 

#10

Canon C100 mark iiCanon C300 mark ii

Media recording: 2 x SD Card

Audio input: 2 x XLR

Max Resolution: 1080p HD

Lens Mount: Canon EF

Maximum Frame Rate: 60fps

Sensor Size: 24.9 x 18.7 Super 35 CMOS

CODEC: AVCHD @ 28 Mbs

Rolling Shutter

Price at time of this blog post: £3,700 inc VAT / USD $4,000

Pros: Very high ISO setting (102,400) so excellent for low light. The mark ii has a moveable EVF and eye cup (unlike the mark i). It also has lightning quick dual pixel continuous AF autofocus. Uses Canon EF lenses. C-Log recording capability.

Cons: Requires the Atomos card yet again to get a decent data rate so you can grade the footage properly.

Verdict: The low light capability, the auto focus, slow motion (albeit it can’t be exported to the Atomos for Pro Res CODEC recording), low cost SD media, pro audio inputs, C-Log recoding option are mouth wateringly good. All at a very decent price point. And personally I love the way Canon designs its cameras: all very  intuitive and easy to use.

 

#11

Canon C100ii

Canon C300 mark ii

Media recording: 2 x CFast 2.0 and 1x SD

Audio input: 2 x XLR

Max Resolution: 4k

Lens Mount: Canon EF mount

Maximum Frame Rate: 120fps (cropped at 2k)

Sensor Size: 24.9 x 18.7 Super 35 CMOS

CODEC: MPEG-4 AVC @ 50 Mbs Long-GOP

Rolling Shutter

Price at time of this blog post: £11,000 inc VAT / USD $12,000

Pros: It has the lot, built in, ready to go.

Cons: Massively expensive. New Canon battery format so you have yet another expense. Still rolling shutter.

Verdict: This is only on the list as it is an ideal video camera. It requires no third party hardware, and gives a great image at a high data rate natively, and at high speed. But it’s 3 times the price which I can afford! It is (just) preferable to the FS7 (and stalwart FS5), but it’s very hard to justify doubling their price.

 

What camcorder did I ultimately chose as my DSLR upgrade to get better video?

Canon C100ii

The Canon C100 mark ii.

That’s what fitted budget – the mid range of these options.

I needed to save as much hassle and achieve as much as possible for as little layout as possible.

It requires the bolted on Atomos (Ninja, CFast recording) to achieve a decent data rate.

But my ultimate camera for cost, the Sony FS5, is still out of my league.

I don’t need ultra HD, and the extra slow motion can come project by project and the right camera can be hired in.

Why the Canon C100 ii?

• Good built-in features: Slow motion (at 60fps or 50fps Pal), ND filters, on board mic, moveable EVF with eye cup

C100-features

Max ISO on the C100ii

• Great auto focus, and good low light ability

• Media (Sd cards) I have already bought for the DSLR can be re-used in the camcorder

• The one drawback is the data rate of 28 Mbs in AVCHD. But that can be overcome using an HDMI out to the Atomos Ninja (around £300) recording to a CFast card.

It means making sure batteries for that device are charged, a couple more wires hanging around, and it’s a one off extra step to the setup.

But these things I can live with, they are surmountable, not such an ongoing pain in the backside as no NDs or no practically audio recording for example.Atomos on the C100ii

As for the lack of 4k, for me it is not an issue and clients are not asking for that. If they ever will need it for the internet who knows, but I can’t see how it’s necessary unless people start sitting a long way from their monitors.

• Cost. At £3.5k it’s one of the more affordable cameras.

The Ursa mini comes close, and is even cheaper at a mere £2.6k. But its struggle in low light and lack of NDs mean it’s just not practical for me.

The Sony FS5 at £5.3k ticks all the boxes, but that’s an extra £1500 on the price (allowing for the Ninja), and I opted to save money and pay the price of a little extra hassle. Which is really the same philosophy that lead me (and others) to getting a DSLR originally – low price (around £1500) yet high quality, achieved by a few workarounds.

So I opted for something that avoided most of the DSLR workarounds, just not quite all. But it upped the game of my primary camera to a level I am more than happy with.

Realistically it’s all about these baby steps, some people may opt to save longer and make a bigger jump, but I wanted to get on with the next stage ASAP. Of course it’s still leaving room for improvement, and where to go after this? Slow motion and high data rate are the next prerequisites for me. Would I go to the FS5 next? Maybe, but I think it’d be a slightly bigger leap than that, and a lot of other equipment is before it in the queue. At the moment I’d go C300ii or the FS7 depending on budget…and of course it all ultimately revolves around that.

Canon C100ii

But I for one am happy to sit back, shoot with my Canon C100 mark ii, and watch what wonders appear over the horizon over next few years.

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I  hope you got a lot out of my list, and I’ve enjoyed creating it and checking out all the wonderful camera gear we have access to these days.

If you would like to provide feedback or even get a quote for a video production job, feel free to get in touch.

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Avid Tips - Creating a Traveling Matte for Text

In this post I will show you how to create reactive title text – i.e. parts of which change colour in response to a moving background. This is done by generating a “traveling matte” in Avid, requiring the use of no additional plug-ins.

________________

Titles say a great deal about a video or film, more than we realise, diligent in their subliminal ingenuity, check out the stupendous blog, Art of The Title for all the examples you could possibly need. The titles is an experience all in itself, often produced by an entirely separate specialist production company and director, in the case of James Bond it has practically become its own genre. They’ll often take weeks to make, with an effort only seen elsewhere in the movie trailer. Both are essential tools to whet the viewer’s appetite – the hook, before the opening scene of the film is to reel them in.

But if you’re not looking at spending thousands, or even getting a cheap logo animation theme via theme forest, and you’re still hoping to get something eye-catching yet simple, all within the Avid itself, then maybe this technique may well be of some use to you, or at least worth remembering.

First up of course is the font, a wondrous world that taps into our subconscious. Is your film serious? Happy? Sci fi geeky? Respectable? Old school? Old skool? Nu Skool? Rest assured there’ll be a font to fit and to tap into the subconscious of your viewership. A few good resources here are

Thinking With Type – by Ellen Lupton

Know Your Onions: Graphic Design – by Drew de Soto

Just My Type – by Simon Garfield

Then you need to lay it over your image or background. I’ll try to shoot specially for this, so it’s all planned beforehand and when I’m taking the shot I leave space for the text to be inserted:

Avid Tips - Creating a Traveling Matte for Text

 

Avid Tips - Creating a Traveling Matte for TextBut, as Neil Young said, the Devil fools with the best laid plan. So sometimes it’s more of an after thought. In my case study below, we began with a title for the company:

 

 

 

 

 

Avid Tips - Creating a Traveling Matte for TextAnd then needed to announce the course they had on offer. When I began the edit it became apparent it’d be more punchy just to get on with some shots, and I simply hadn’t a neat amount of space in the frame:

 

 

 

 

Just laying either an all black or all white title on anyway wasn’t going to look great, as the image was too contrasty:

Avid Tips - Creating a Traveling Matte for Text   Avid Tips - Creating a Traveling Matte for Text

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Avid Tips - Creating a Traveling Matte for TextSo I needed to create what’s called a “traveling matte” (as opposed to a static matte) being one that changes frames by frame. By using the below method the title reacts to the background, fluidly changing from black to white as appropriate:

 

 

 

 

As seen here in the final video, also adding a “light leak” effect on the top layer;

Ultimately you do at least need a contrasty image to make the matte work. But then, if the image isn’t contrasty, why aren’t you just using simple text? Anyway, here’s the step by step guide on how to achieve that look. You need no extra plugins, just set up the layers on the Avid timeline as follows:

Avid Tips - Creating a Traveling Matte for Text

V1.  Source clip (colour graded)

V2.  Text: White version

V3.  Text: Black version (otherwise identical to V2)

V4.  This layer is the “matte” itself. See below how to create it. It’s essentially another copy of the source clip, highly contrasted and de-saturated, with a matte key effect on top:

Avid Tips - Creating a Traveling Matte for Text

What’s a Matte?

For those who don’t know, a matte or mask is a black and white layer used to combine two other layers, the origins going back to film -“masking” out sections of the negative when shooting so as not to expose them. In their case they created as an exact a reverse version of the matte mask as possible, re-wound the negative, and re-ran and re-exposed it to fill in the other parts of the image, combing two scenes.

It’s not so tricky in our case, and it’s all done in post. You can imagine the matte cutting out a shape on one layer in order to see the layer(s) beneath. With Avid, the black part of the matte “cuts out” from the layer directly below it. In this case it cuts out part of the black version of the text, so we can see parts of the white version (which is all laid over the regular image).

What’s a Nest?

This layer is a “nested” clip, which is necessary to in order to drop the matte effect on top. What’s a nest? A sequence within a sequence, or more usually a layer with a layer, it neatens up the timeline, allows an effect to operate only on a select set of layers (N1, N2 etc.), and allows you to manipulate those layers as one with regards dissolving in and out or other transitions. Be aware that layer numbering in a nest is the opposite to that seen in the regular timeline, so N.1 is on the top, N.2 below that, N.3 below that and so on.

This nested layer consists of:

Avid Tips - Creating a Traveling Matte for Text

V4. Matte Key effect

N.1. De-saturation and contrast effect: Standard Avid colour effect, saturation at zero, with additional contrast and the black minimum point pushed right up to darken some areas.

N.2. Source clip

To summarise the matte creation idea here: we first create the best “black and white” version of our clip possible, and then drop the matte effect on top.

That’s it

There you have a traveling, or reactive, black and white title. But of course it doesn’t necessarily have to be black and white, change the text colours of layers 2 and 3 as required. And it also doesn’t need to be text, the technique could give you your own version of the old James Bond sequences: matte a shape on one layer – e.g. girls dancing (if that’s your thing); and cut out one coloured version of a layer, e.g. swirling blue liquids, on top of another, e.g. swirling red liquids. NB, you’d most likely need to use a garbage matte here as well.

These things aren’t meant to be hard, and when you dissect them, they really aren’t. I tend to think they’re only hard if they’re explained by someone who doesn’t understand them properly themselves.

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I hope this provides a little knowledge and gives a few ideas.

If you would like to provide feedback, add to the points raised, get some advice or even a quote for video production, feel free to get in touch.

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In this post I will list who I consider to be the 20 most influential people in the video production industry today. Some are old school, some are new school. Most are actually people, though some are websites, some operate as video production company blogs or resources. But all of them cast a great deal of light onto the industry.

By “Video” I mean both production and post production, and the list is split into those groups. By “Influential” I mean a combination of industry credentials and social media following.

I’ve narrowed each group down to a top 10 most useful people and websites (in no particular order), with a couple of extras thrown in.

Sure, there are going to be people whom I miss. I’d welcome your comments below, or tweet or email me.

Production

Producers, cinematographers, DoPs, directors, cameramen (and relevant video production company resource or blogging websites).

Philip Bloom

British cameramaPhilip Bloomn known for his DSLR and also camcorder filmmaking, blog and workshops. Probably the most influential and well-known DSLR and camcorder online reviewer out there.

He has worked as a cinematographer for Lucasfilm, Sky and the BBC, after starting his career at Sky News. Big CV, but not Hollywood. So how come the massive social media presence? Right place right time? Well, his hard work and personable approach set him apart, frequently interacting with other Twitter users and bloggers. Oh, and he looks cool too, which never hurt anyone. But whatever it is… he got it.

Twitter following:105k

YouTube subscribers 76k

Facebook likes 121k

Blog posts about once a fortnight

 

Shane Hurlbut

Shane HurlburtIf you want it straight from the horse’s mouth, Shane’s the place to start. He’s a renown American cinematographer and DoP with all the Hollywood cred, having worked on blockbusters such as  Terminator Salvation and Semi Pro. And he’s not above sharing his wealth of knowledge. There’s actually a brand new option in the offing from Shane, to join his “Inner Circle” and shine a light on the finer points of his craft. It’s aimed at the budding DoP, and is done in some real depth and with beautiful quality… though there’s a small price for that privilege.

Also operates through his production company, Hurlbut Visuals.

Twitter Following 29k

YouTube subscribers 9.5k

Facebook likes 10k

Blog posts about once a week

Roger Deakins

Roger DeakinsVeteran English cinematographer best known for his work on the films of the Coen brothers and Sam Mendes. Oh Brother Where Art Tho?, No Country for Old Men, Skyfall, The Shawsank Redemption, the list is endless.

Roger may have all the cred available, but conversely he’s no big presence on the web. He has a simple website, it’s not exactly space age and certainly without any of the verve of his cinematography.

He doesn’t tweet, blog, or indulge in Facebook, however, he does contribute the odd article to places such as the Black and Blue, and Cinefii.

Preston Kanak

Preston KanakPreston is my internet slider and time-lapse go-to guy. A cameraman operating out of Canada, he stepped into the limelight after working with Philip Bloom and receiving his glowing endorsement, but his footage genuinely speaks for itself. His website has a wealth of instructional pieces on it, and every shot is a winner.

He provides advice on camcorders, music, shooting outdoors, and of course time-lapse. Industry leaders Kessler agree, who provide a lot of his kit, with his videos also appearing in their apps. Preston’s not got the CV or following to match a lot of the guys here, and he’s certainly one of the younger members – but he knows his onions and what sets him apart is how much he shares of his knowledge and methods.

Also operates through his production company Cinescapes.

 

Twitter Following 7.7k

YouTube subscribers 0.2k

Facebook likes 1.7k

Blog link about once a month

 

M. David Mullen

David MullenDavid Mullen is an eminent Japanese born LA DoP and cinematographer famed for his photography on Twin Falls Idaho, The Astronaut Farmer, and Northfork. Although he’s not much of a tweeter either (he doesn’t), David is nonetheless “the one-man faculty of a free, world-class, online film school” – his opinions and tips can be found at Cinematography.com. Though the majority of it might be a few years old now, it’s a fantastic resource.

Oh, and he’s quite possibly the most polite man you’ll find on the video-web-isphere, full of generous insights and with the time to impart them.

 

Rodney Charters

Rodney ChartersEmmy Award winning, New Zealand born Cinematographer and Director now working in LA, mostly on TV drama. When it comes to TV drama cameras and techniques, he’s quite the resource.

Social media-wise, Rodney has an avid twitter following, but little else, though his other contributions, wisdom and advice are invaluable: such as this background piece from the guys at the F-Stop Academy, and interviews with Zacuto and Creative Cow.

Twitter Following 9.4k

 

Vincent Laforet

Vincent LaforetVincent is a French American director and photographer. He’s a big name photographer first and foremost, working in news and winning the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography in 2002, he was then a three-time winner at the 2010 Cannes Lions Advertising Festival, whilst his sports photography led to directing a video commercial for Nike.

He is an internet heavyweight, and like so many people on this list that’s down to a combination of skill, hard work, a personable attitude, and a willingness to share.

Twitter following 91k

YouTube subscribers 72 (no, he doesn’t really do YouTube)

Facebook likes 7k

Blog posts about every week or fortnight

 

Nino Leitner

Nino LeitnerDocumentary and commercial director and DoP operating out of Vienna, Austria. In his own words “with a focus on DSLR filmmaking, and time-lapse”, but it goes a lot further than that, stopping just short of the larger ENG kit.

Nino is a good example of someone who has embraced new technology and talked a lot about it. He caught his first break when an really review of the Canon EOS 550D went viral on YouTube, and has since gained a sizeable following by sharing his work and blogging on his website and also as a partner in Cinema5d, one of the top websites for DSLR camera reviews. He bolsters his online presence with regular appearances on the masterclass and lecture circuit.

Twitter 33k

Facebook likes 6.5k

YouTube subscribers 1.6k

Blog (both here and on Cinema 5D) posts every month

 

Film Courage

Film CourageProlific indie filmakers resource consisting mainly of video interviews along with some articles. Aimed at the budding director, actor or screenwriter. Started in 2009 by filmmakers Karen Worden & David Branin.

Twitter following 62k

YouTube subscribers 28k

Facebook likes 6k

Blog posts about 4 or 5 per day

 

No Film School

No Film SchoolFounded by writer / director Ryan Koo, No Film School is an online resource providing the latest tutorials, articles, interviews, and news to help you become a better filmmaker – “no film school” required.

It’s a veritable mine of useful, digestible, and up to date information. If you want to get into or learn more about video production, then mark this firmly on your radar.

Twitter following 46k

YouTube subscribers 7.9k

Facebook likes 263k

Website link, blog posts 3 or 4 per day

 

And not forgetting…

filmmaker IQ with a Twitter following of 35k

Broadcast Beat Magazine with a Twitter following of 50k

Tom Guilmette, Twitter following of 12k

Sebastian Wiegartner, Twitter following of 20k

The Bui Brothers, Twitter followings of 24k and 7.6k

Post Production

There aren’t the big numbers of the Production guys here, and a lot of this list is not so much individuals as individuals masquerading as a blog or website resource. I think that’s just a reflection of the nature of the back room crew. Editors, colour graders, VFX artists  (also including video production resource or blogging company websites).

Stu Maschwitz

Stu MaschwitzStu is one part filmmaker and photographer, and one part VFX heavyweight, and for that he’s my go-to guy. Co-founder and chief technology officer of The Orphanage, a visual effects company based in California. He has worked as senior VFX supervisor on several films, such as Superman, Ironman, Pirates of the Caribbean, the list goes on.

Stu’s ProLost blog garners a lot of respect and attention from the post community, and that’s really due to his Hollywood credentials combined with an approachable manner and a willingness to impart a great deal of interesting information.

Twitter following 31k

YouTube subscribers 0.7k

Not on Facebook

Blog posts about twice a week on ProLost

 

Larry Jordan

Larry is a Californian FCP editor whose mission in life is to make your editing life easier… if you use the offline non-linear software “Final Cut Pro”. And if you don’t, he’s just a friendly old guy on the internet (but I guess you could say that about a lot of people here). OK, and that’s not even strictly true, you’ll also find instruction on a range of Adobe video and audio editing software, as well as other products.

The sheer quantity (and quality) of free training material on his website is where he comes into his own, with his blog only being a small part of the bigger picture on offer: also including webinars, a forum and a newsletter.

His career has seen him become a distinguished pillar of the avant garde, experimental, animated film community.

Twitter following 14.5k

YouTube subscribers 27k

Facebook likes 4.5k

Blog posts updated weekly

 

Randi Altman

Randi AltmanRandi isn’t an offline or online editor, or a grader or a VFX artist, she’s an industry journalist with about 20 years experience.

Her website “postPerpective” is an excellent source of various contributor’s reviews, interviews, tips and industry news for all things post production, be they offline, online, effects, audio, or hardware. She is also often to be found guest hosting #PostChat (Wednesdays 6pm PST/9pm EST) via Twitter.

Twitter Following 1.3k

YouTube subscribers 32

Facebook likes 0.5k

No blog as such, though there is a weekly newsletter

 

Tej Babra

Tej BabraOffline editor, producer and petrol-head based in Toronto, Canada. He’s not here for his mind blowing, blockbuster CV, he’s simply one of the most active and influential social media presences out there. Specifically for (offline editing software) Avid, I’d say he’s the guru.

His website hosts some excellent blogs and reviews, but it’s his Twitter presence that really sets him apart (in the post community), also being a regular host of #PostChat (along with AOTG’s Gordon Burkell and Jesse Averna from www.ICutFilm.com).

Twitter following 21.3k

YouTube subscribers 0

Facebook likes 5.6k

Blog posts about every fortnight (sometimes software, sometimes hardware, sometimes cars)

 

Monica Daniel

Monica DanielMonica Daniel, aka Monica Edits, is a US offline TV editor and colourist, host of podcast the Going Postal Show, and last but not least (and probably not last by the sounds of it) author of post production blog Shitting Sparkles. And what’s all that about!? Something to do with polishing turds and effortlessly turing them into sparkly and covetable gems / turning water into wine / miracle worker.

Twitter following 2.3k

No YouTube channel

and no Facebook page – it’s more of a tumblr thing

Blog posts approx. every 3 months

Shane Ross

Shane RossLA TV Editor Shane Ross’ blog Little Frog in High Def gives a tonne of in depth Avid and FCP software, plus associated hardware, tips and reviews. It also provides a podcast in the form of The Edit Bay.

What’s with the name? So Little Frog is his Indian name, and the High Definition part… from when he started the blog back in 2005, documenting his foray into the world of HD.

Twitter followers 5.4k

No YouTube channel

No Facebook page

Blog posts approx. every 3 months

 

Art of the Guillotine

AOTGIf you want post, you go it. Art of the Guillotine, aka AOTG, is a post production website for the film post production industry. It features reviews, interviews and blogs, and is frankly second to none for keeping abreast of developments in post production. It’s most compelling feature is a daily newsletter compiling all this, which is also to be had via Apple and Android apps.  I’d say if you follow no-one else in post, follow these guys.

Twitter following 6.7k

YouTube subscribers 226

Facebook likes 2.3k

Blog compile link approx.  20 posts per day, though it’s all on the newsletter

 

Splice Vine

Splice VineSplice Vine a community of video editors sharing innovative workflows, apps, devices and approaches. Founded by experienced editor Eric Wise, it’s a resource site, and a very decent and respected one at that.

It features podcasts and an excellent newsletter, which again is a tool that sets it apart.

Twitter following 2k

No YouTube channel

Facebook likes 0.2k

There are blog posts, but it’s best to see the newsletter

 

Studio Daily

Studio DailyStudio Daily is an American resource site providing news, views and videos on both production and post, but with bags of relevant info on editing, audio, VFX and generally all things post production. Also featuring a useful e-newsletter.

Twitter following 8.9k

No YouTube channel

Facebook likes 4.3k

There’s no blog as such, just the sometimes daily (sometimes weekly) newsletter

The Pro Video Coalition

PVCPVC is a blogging coalition site, featuring contributions from the likes of Scott Simmons and Alexis Van Hurkman. PVC covers the entire industry, so it does feature updates all the new camera gear etc, but if you follow those editor blogs it’s a white hot editors resource.

Yep, they be having an e-newsletter too.

Twitter following 13.8k

No YouTube channel

No Facebook page

Blog posts (editing) approx 2 per day

 

And not forgetting

Digital Films by Oliver Peters

A Non Linear Editor’s Blog  by Michael Schmidt in Germany

Digital Production Buzz is a podcast / radio show that comes courtesy of our old pal Larry Jordan, along with Mike Horton and Cirina Catania

The Beat – Post (and some camera gear) focused blog, hosted by royalty free music library website Premium Beat

Digital Rebellion Blog – Post blog and resource, hosted by post production software tools company Digital Rebellion

 

Other

Devin Supertramp

Devin GrahamDevin Graham, aka Devin Supertramp, in his words “makes YouTube videos”. There are few or zero pretences to the world of film and TV, he is an out and out YouTube celebrity. You’re not going to learn the ropes of film production with Devin, but his extraordinary web presence cannot be ignored.

After starting out filming his own snowboarding stunts, Devin ended up breaking his legs and back. He now focuses his production on adventure and extreme sport pieces.

Twitter Following 114k

YouTube subscribers 2,877k (with a new video guaranteed every Monday)

Facebook likes 258k

Blog posts about once per month

 

The Black and Blue

The Black and BlueThe Black and Blue is a camera assistants production resource and blog by Evan Luzi, covering practical advice and techniques rather than hardware reviews. Also featuring an e-newsletter.

Twitter following 4.4k

YouTube subscribers 1.2k

Facebook likes 19k

Blog link

 

Steve Huff

Steve HuffDSLR Photographer and reviewer with some serious following stat’s.

Twitter Following 39k

YouTube subscribers 35k

Facebook likes 47k

 

Creative Cow

Creative CowSupport forum for the digital video, editing and post production community, which also features a fairly massive range of tutorials.

Twitter following 47k

Facebook likes 89k

 

 

________________________

I  hope you got a lot out of my list, I’ve certainly enjoyed putting it together, seeing how everyone compares and what makes people or their websites stand out in the video production industry today.

If you would like to provide feedback or even get a quote for a video production job, feel free to get in touch.

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video-production-costs-rates

In this post I’m going to show you in detail what to expect in terms of video production rates and prices, what you can do to reduce them and how it all works.

Video Production RatesThe bottom line in any enterprise, whether it be video production, grocery shopping or jetting to the moon, is what’s it going to cost? It’s probably the question in the back of most people’s minds when they first contact us: can I even afford this, what kind of playing field are we on? Is it all premier league stuff, or can I start in the fourth division and work my way up?

 

It’s not very helpful saying that every job is unique, and no two will be priced the same. It may be true, but you have to price things somehow, and we can at least come up with a few contributing factors.

Now I have some prices on my website, which I’ve called the Gold, Silver and Bronze packages, that detail exactly what you’ll get for a certain price, but will anyone actually want that specific package? Probably not. But chances are they’ll want something similar and the idea behind it is that it gives them a guideline – they can work from that baseline, adding or substituting a few items to a package to get an idea of the overall budget.

The next step is up to me to clarify the exact details of a project, find any hidden hurdles, and providing a more exact price or rate. And to do that, I need to explain the different phases of a video production job

Video Production Phases

First of all I should clarify the stages of any video production job, or film production project for that matter. You may well already have heard these terms, but I will explain them in detail so you know what a video production company is talking about.

Pre-Production

The first stage of any project is meeting with your video production company to determine what you want to achieve with the project. They will provide ideas and techniques on how to communicate your ideas in the most efficient and impactful way, and come up with a concept, theme, and feel for the piece. Then they will

  • get a script or storyboard together which you will need to sign off/approve
  • dates will be set for production
  • the crew and locations booked in

Production

Video Production RatesProduction is the physical shoot, which means creating the footage to create the final video clip. It could last a day, it could last a week, and will involve the likes of

  • producers
  • cameraman
  • assistants

The cheapest option is the one man band – operating both camera and sound and producing himself.

Tip: In case you are considering such a “one man” option, beware that it is not easy for the person doing it. So it is prone to error, and is an example of you get what you pay for. Which means, not the best result.

The shoot itself could be in a variety of locations such as

  • outside
  • in a client’s office
  • or in a studio maybe utilising a green screen

It may or may not involve a presenter, and it may well involve interviews with staff members or the company directors. There are a wide range of options when it comes to the production phase. And each has an affect on price of course.

Equipment could be one shoulder mounted HD camera with boom or radio-mic’d audio. More elaborate jobs will have more cameras, and use jibs, track and dolly systems, you have the option of client monitors, and even cherry pickers to get height for the really big wide shots.  For esampleAlthough you may not understand all these items, be aware that a more elaborate setup could cost you more.

 

Post-Production

After the shoot comes the editing, which involvesVideo Production Rates -SuperReel Edit Suite

  • the editor – always!
  • the producer – may or may not be present
  • the client – may or may not be present

Although the client (i.e. you) may not always be involved in the edit, you will always get sign off/approval of the final product.

Here we turn the ideas of pre-production and the hard work of production into a final product. Music will be chosen, graphics can be added, and any voice over will need to be recorded. This part always takes the most time, and if it doesn’t, you’re not producing the best quality final product. Be aware that good editing is time consuming and has a huge affect on the results… so don’t cut any corners here.

 

Factors Affecting Video Production Rates or Prices

Location Shooting Permits

A shoot location can often involve a permit from the local council or land owner to allow you to film. You can’t just turn up and start filming if you are going to make money out of someone else’s property, they want to be payed fairly for their location.

Filming off the shoulder on the street is generally regarded as acceptable and free of charge, whereas the use of a tripod will cost you.

Tripod shooting could involve using more complex equipment such as tracks and dollies. Doing this in a public please will really bump up the prices: you need more crew, more preparation time on the day, there are more forms to fill in, and a higher cost for the permit. Something from a local council (in the UK) could range from £100 to £300, with private facilities and areas charging more, maybe £300 – £600+.

Keep Location Costs Down by:

  • filming on your own property
  • filming off the shoulder (no tripod) at other locations
  • calling a few councils/locations and finding out about any free possibilities

Here in Kent, the Kent Film Office are truly outstanding, and have come up with good prices or free alternatives for me in the past.

Number of Cameras On the Shoot

The number of cameras required to shoot a piece is a big factor factor in video production price.Video Production Rates - Film Production 03 We would normally hope to use just one camera to reduce costs.

A live event is another story. In such cases, you cannot miss the action, more than one thing may be happening at once, so you may need two, three or more cameras to capture the footage.

These days you’ll always use HD, and whether you go shallow depth of field with say the Canon C300 or the awesome run and gun quality of the Sony  PDW-F800, camera costs will be about the same.

Reducing Rates With Cameras

One way to keep prices down is to opt for shooting on a DSLR like the Canon 5D or 6D. This has some extra issues to address for recording audio, but they offer great picture quality at a lower camera hire charge.

The Fancy Stuff: Jibs, Dollies, Steadicams

These kinds of systems allow for impressive, stable camera movements, just like what you see on film or TV.

It can be very striking to use a jib (up and down movement) or a track and dolly (side to side), and adds a very impressive element to a piece of footage… but it’s not suitable for everyone or every project.

For example, showcasing a hotel or leisure centre would really benefit from this technique, but a hairdressers just doesn’t need a crane shot of its exterior to get the message done. Using these techniques here is simply wasting your money.

Video Production Rates - Jib in action

Keeping Equipment Costs Down

Movement is always key to maintaining interest in a shot when using video, so if you don’t go with the big guns (ie. big prices), then make sure the shots involve panning or tilting the tripod, or add a digital zoom in post production. SteadiCam can be “faked” if the camera does decent slow motion, such as the Sony FS7 or FS700, as per the walk-in intro on this very nicely shot piece (part of an expertly conceived series) :

Aerial Photography

It’s been the talk of the industry for the past few years now, everyone wants a sweeping aerial shot or two to start their piece, and yes they always look awesome. Drones, or quadcopters, have got cheaper and cheaper, you can pick up bargains like the DJI Phantom 2 for around £500 (US$750) these days.

A lot of production companies here in the UK are subsequently offering a very cheap service for aerial work. But are you really up, up and away just by going ahead and buying one of these?

It’s a very new industry, and essentially it’s just not quite fallen into line with the laws governing it yet, of which there are many. Here are some examples of the kinds of issues you face:

  • You always need a permitVideo Production Rates - Drone: DJI Phantom 2
  • You cannot film within 50m of people
  • Commercial aerial photography requires you to have a Civil Pilot’s Licence
  • The drone cannot go out of site of the pilot at any time – so no flying round buildings!

Check out what the Civil Aviation Authority had to say when this chap started videoing a nuclear submarine base in Cumbria, UK.

B Ystebo, flickr.com/photos/desoda/14518195124/, CC-BY-SA

Reducing Rates With Aerial Photography

The cheapest way to get this aerial look may be to use stock photography. You can go to the likes of Getty which has a huge library, lower cost libraries are:

Although these are cheaper, they can still be excellent. Then there are even specialist aerial photography libraries to address this very issue, such as Airstoc.

Interview And Voice Over

Using interviews or voice-over produces a very engaging result, which is infinitely better than simply relying only on music – but interviews will add extra time to the shoot because of the setting up of lighting and audio, and voice-over will usually involve half a day at a professional voice-over suite with the artist:

This piece also used a stock aerial shot to start off with, as I mentioned in the last section.

Saving Money On Interviews

The simplest (and cheapest) type of video is really just shots set to music, using a few explanatory titles to guide the viewer. If you want interviews on a budget, an informal vox pop style, off the shoulder may be suitable; a budget voice-over could be done either by placing the piece from the clients perspective, so you use them, or take a look at this ingeniously cheap solution from The Photo Booth Guys

Or, in the case of these football training videos, the client always gave the final round-up themselves (see the last 15 seconds)

I’ve even been know to have a go myself in my own studio, which is obviously a cost saver too!

 Graphics

Graphics in post-production are obviously very eye-catching and help set your brand apart from the competition, but they do take up significant time, and therefore cost. Bespoke graphics are generally around £1500 (US$2300) per minute, we’re talking a weeks’ work to generate that content, it’s about the same cost as shooting and editing the video, if not more expensive.

Animating a logo for the start and end of a piece is more commonplace, and using an After Effects template, for example from Video Hive or Video Blocks will be the most cost effective solution and will only add around £200 (US$300) to the cost, as per this example:

The very simplest way to do it on a budget is to use a static company logo to start and finish the clip, and add what text you need in your editing software.

The above clip for Henry Wiltshire estate agents is part of a larger series of pieces, and the quick cut sequence of shots at the very beginning works an alternative to a more involved animated sequence.

 Music

Music costs are on a very wide-ranging-scale indeed. In an ideal world you source lyric-free, good quality library music. The big players are the likes of Extreme MusicAudio NetworksEMI KPM Play and Universal.

Video Production Rates - Treble CleffYou’ll need an account with any of them, and it’s not exactly cheap. For example EMI charges £100 (US$150) per 30 secs, Audio Networks is more reasonable and you can get a buyout for your production at £225 (US$350) all up. On top of that, though, here in the UK you need to add an annual PRS Online Licence fee of a £62+VAT minimum, though beware that will depend on the job and it could be more.

For the more generic, background tracks we can often source free pieces from the YouTube library, or try Audio Jungle or iStock music for cheap and very serviceable tracks without the PRS licence required.

There are instances where a client will want to use a commercial track, but it’s not easy getting the licences. You need to obtain two – the mechanical rights to the recording and a synchronisation licence from the publisher. Here’s a good run down of what all that means by Heather McDonald.  So you need to find out who owns the rights to your track and then get in touch with them… only to find it is over the top, or that the artist just doesn’t want to do it.

How do you get round that? If you have a little money, just not a LOT, then you can use a composer to generate a soundalike version of the track, just legally “different” enough – there are rules involving numbers of matching notes that govern this, it’s an art alright. We’ve used Jack at AudioBox Productions, who’s usually around £300 (US$450) for a bespoke track such as this one… can you guess what it is yet??

Quantity and Length of the Video

Last in my list is the length of the video and the number of videos. Google loves video content, as do your customers, so producing 8 videos for your site is an ideal, but it’s not always a viable option.

A single, short, 30 second piece will obviously be the cheapest option, but will only give a small taste of what you offer. If you produce a clip of say 3-4 minutes, then you could also do shorter versions at 1 minute, 30 seconds or 15 secs perhaps. Below is a 1 minute version of the main piece we did for Ride & Seek cycle tours:

Prices!

For me, the smallest jobs start at a rock bottom price of around £1500 (US$2300) for a short days’ shoot involving one cameraman, with a 2 day edit to produce a simple 1-2 minute video, using simple logo inserts at one or both ends, and or adding text in the editing software.

A medium price job is around £3k – £4k (US$4.5k – $6k), which would involve scripting time with the the producer, a producer and cameraman on the shoot, possibly a second camera, at least one assistant, some (fancy) jib or dolly equipment on location, and approx. a 5 day edit to produce a 3-4 minute piece with professional voice-over, plus shorter versions of that main piece.

The premier league is more like £10k – £15k (US$15K – $23k) and would involve extensive pre-production scripting time with a producer; a producer, 2 cameramen and an assistant on location, over a period of a 2-4 days, using tracks and dollies, a presenter, possibly a green screen / studio hire; and 1-2 weeks in the edit to produce maybe 8-12 mins of content (which is often divided across multiple pieces), also producing cutdown versions of these.

________________

I hope that gives you a better idea of video production rates, how you can save costs and what to expect. It’s good to be aware of these things, but ultimately it’s a chat with a couple of producers that will get you a list of alternatives, some prices applicable to you and what you need… and generate a few ideas to bring your business to life.

If you would like to get some more advice or even a quote for a video production job, feel free to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk via Compfight cc

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This piece covers everything from the ground up to set-up and use your Canon 6D DSLR for video, for the completely un-initiated, this is everything you need to know. There are many pieces out there assuming a fair degree of knowledge… this isn’t one of them. In this case I am using the 6D to shoot HD video, but all points really apply equally to other Canon DSLRs such as the 60D, 70D and 7D, with the 5D having one or two extras that set it apart somewhat, but will still remain relevant.

   The Canon EOS-6D with 24-205mm EF lens How To Setup a Canon 6d DSLR for Video
The Canon EOS 6D                                                                                          with 24-105mm EF lens

I bought the 6D as a second camera for my corporate video production company about a year a half ago. I’d worked in TV for many years, and had seen the advent of this and the Canon 5D in many of the shows I’d worked on, and the quality was staggering, as was the price tag.

The look and feel, the bang for you buck, is truly something else. I was hoping to leap from video to cinema, and did I? Yes… but not straight out of the box.

To use a Canon DSLR for HD video takes a lot of tweaking, research and add-ons. In short, if you want to lift your piece to another level on a tight budget it can be done, and is indeed worth doing. But what are the hurdles? Why is it such a faff??

 

I should preface this by saying that though I am going to list the “drawbacks” of the Canon 6D, the build quality of the camera is great, as in my humble opinion are all the professional end Canon digital video cameras. They look and feel great, the images are exceptional, and you can even get them to the broadcast standard bitrate of 50 Mb/sec. Remember, the 6D is first and foremost a DSLR, a stills camera, it’s only that technology reached a tipping point with the introduction of the 5D (in 2005), and then the TV industry realised that these devices, with super sexy lenses and sensors, actually met the new HDTV broadcast pixel resolution spec of 1920 x 1080p, producing images with wonderful colour and depth of field, all at a fraction of the cost of the TV workhorses at the time like the Sony PMW-EX3 or Canon XF305.

 

In no particular order:

Electronic View-Finder

OK, so it has an EVF, you can see a digital image whilst recording video… but that’s about it. You can’t tilt and move the EVF like on dedicated camcorders such as the Canon C100, C300 or Sony models like the FS700 or PMW 200. When shooting video the image is displayed only on EVF, not through the view-finder, and the EVF has no eyecup. So to all intents and purposes shooting outdoors is impossible, as you’ll never adequately make anything out on the EVF with the sunlight reflected on it.

Camera's native EVF is non-moveable with no eye-cup for bright light

The solution?

Buy a clip-on eye-cup. The one I went for was the LCDVF 3/2 at around £75 off eBay. Essentially, you attach a metal frame around the EVF, which the viewfinder / eyepiece attaches to magnetically.

Clip-on viewfinder Clip on viewfinder attached to camera
The LCDVF viewfinder

 

ND filter

So not being a dedicated camcorder it doesn’t have an ND filter. What is an ND filter, and why do you need one? The only way we can shoot anything at all, or that film, video, and even sight is possible is down to light. Without light, it’s, well, it’s all black. There are of course optimal amounts, not too much and not to little, and a stills camera controls the amount of light hitting the lens via a well-trodden triangle of adjustable parameters:

  • ISO setting – the “film” or sensor sensitivity. In the digital world, the more sensitive you make the sensor to light (or the higher the “gain”), the lower light level you can shoot in, but the more grain and distortion there is to the image. These cameras have some cracking ISO ability.

            High ISO in low light leading to grainy distortion
            Interior evening meal, pushing to approx. 8000 ISO at f/4.0 – and starting to see the grain

  • Aperture or f-stop – the size of the hole letting light through the lens, the larger the hole, the lower the f-stop, e.g. f/4 is a lower f-stop than f/22. A paradox? Yes. f-stop is a ratio rather than an absolute number. So f/4 means an aperture of 1/4 of the focal length, and “higher” numbers such as f/22 are actually 1/22 of the focal length, not “higher” at all, and so mean a very small aperture. The more light through the lens, the renrrker the situation you can shoot in.

The lower the f-stop the shallower the depth of field. These low f-stops combined with the large sensors led to a type of picture totally different to the old TV workhorses.

            Shallow depth of field over the North Downs - f/4
            f/4.0 – shallow depth of field (70-200mm EF lens)

            Large depth of field over the North Downs - f/28
            f/28 – large depth of field (70-200mm EF lens)

Why does do we get this effect? This article at Cambridge in Colour again explains the reasons very well, and this piece from Matthew Cole tells you pretty much everything you need know about DoF and how to achieve it.

  • Shutter Speed – how fast your shutter opens and closes – the longer it’s open the more light falls on the film or sensor during each exposure. In the stills camera this can be any speed you like – though dependent upon the style of image you want. You may want a fast shutter speed like 1/1000th of a second to capture really high speed action, such as splashing water, or you may want to demonstrate the motion of an object by selecting a slower shutter speed so everything is totally in focus, baring the moving object which will be blurred, for example a car or man running. This is a particularly well-written and nicely illustrated article on shutter speeds by Darren Rowse at the Digital Photography School.

Slow shutter speed example, 2 seconds     High Shutter Speed example 1/1000th second
            Slow shutter speed: 2 seconds                                                                 High shutter speed: 1/1000th second

But! Video doesn’t have the shutter speed choice. Aware of it or not, after years of Hollywood conditioning, our eyes know what looks right and wrong in terms of movement. A high shutter speed, with no blur, gives a very staccato unnatural movement; lower speeds allow “motion blur”, so an arm for example is not so much appearing in 5 distinct places across a path of movement but blends across it gradually. The magic number for Pal video is 50 (i.e. the shutter opens and closes in 1/50th of a second) twice the frame rate of 25 fps (for NTSC it’s 60, twice 30).

So shutter speed for video is essentially locked at 50 (60 for NTSC), with certain exceptions like sports where it could be 100, to show the action better. Here’s the conundrum: what if you’re shooting on a fairly bright day, you want that shallow depth of field, say at f/4, you have your ISO all the way down at 100, and shutter speed is locked at 50? Too much light will be hitting the sensor.

The Solution?

Video cameras get round this by using a neutral density (ND) filter – a piece of neutral coloured grey glass that drops in front of the lens blocking a percentage of the light across the whole colour spectrum. They have it built into the camera body itself, but for the 6D you just have to buy one. Either you buy a matte box and drop graded ND plates in front of the lens, or you screw a variable ND filter on the front of the lens, one point to beware of is that with this option at very wide angles there may be some vignetting of the image, so chose carefully. I personally went for the Tiffen 77mm Variable ND filter which got a good review, costing about £115.

Close up of the Tiffen ND filter, 77mm Tiffen 77mm filter fitted to 24-205mm EF lens
The Tiffen variable ND filter

An excellent and in depth reference on the subject of ND filters can be found here from Cambridge in Colour.

Shoulder rig

The form factor of this camera is beautiful, robust and brimming with quality. Perfect… for photography, where you snap for a fraction of a second and a steady hand must last but a fraction of a second. With film and video, in my opinion after correct lighting, the next way to make every shot and piece jump to the pro level is to get stable shots. “Wobble vision” screams amateur, and the pro’s will go to all manner of lengths to achieve a steady shot – tracks, dollys, sliders, jibs; but if it’s got to be handheld you go either steadicam or finally jam it on your shoulder and try to move smoothly! OK, you could chose to go for a gritty observational documentary fly-on-the-wall style, but a small DSLR open to far, far too much rock n roll from your hands and arms.

The Solution?

For long periods of time you need to either attach it to a strap anchored around your neck (a good, cheap solution) or ideally a shoulder rig, minimizing the effects of the arm and hand movements. Anchoring to the shoulder allows for far more control and means far less natural wobble.

I ended up buying a rig from CamSmart for £140, but there are a lot of similar cheap, serviceable options.

Shoulder stabilisation rig Attachment of camera to shoulder rig sliders
Shoulder supported stabalising rig

And the other advantage of this? It looks like you mean business.

 

Barn doors

An issue with all lenses in bright sunlight is lens flare, where unwanted spots of light are reflected onto the lens and sensor.

Example of lens flare around red ribbon
Lens flare demonstrated near the red ribbon

 View from the North Downs - no lens flare
Using a lens hood eliminates the lens flare

Sometimes it’s a look that is wanted, but mostly it just looks unprofessional. A photographer will add a lens hood or flower to combat this:

Camera with lens hood / lens flower attached
Canon 6D with lens hood

But with your ND filter on, you’ll not be able to screw the hood on.

The Solution?

Attach a set of “barn doors” to your rig. The rigs often come with ones attached, so you can kill two birds with one stone, but those I got with my rig were cheap plastic and snapped fairly quickly.

Full shoulder rig kit with barn doors
Shoulder rig with viewfinder and barn doors (& ND filter) – full kit

Seems like quite a hefty piece of apparatus to achieve quite a small job, but that’s what you need. The plus side again, it gives a professional look.

I got myself an M3 Matte Box Rail Rod Support System for £85 off eBay, to fit the (standard) 15mm rails of my rig.

 

No high speed shooting option

Although the 6D is touted as having no high speed, that’s not quite true. It does have a 50fps (Pal) 1280 x 720p option, which comes out fairly well. I shot all of this using that setting:

For the web it turns out pretty well, as a lot of what people watch is 720p anyway.

Of course it could use a little more development in this area, but since the C100 mark II has only just got 1080p 50fps, I just don’t think Canon are the guys to go with for high speed. If you feel the need for speed, go Sony’s FS700 at 200 fps 1080p.

 

Mini jack audio in

Audio into any pro grade camera will be via XLR connections; not only is this a 3-wire balanced system, but the plugs are sturdy and not prone to being knocked out. The 6D simply has a mini-jack audio in socket – so it’s a low quality analogue signal, with a low quality connection that can be easily dislodged, as is very likely to happen on shoot.

Ain’t no solution to this!

 

No head-phone jack

Yes, the 6D has no head-phone, Jack. So you can’t monitor audio straight out of the box, bad news as you’ ain’t never, ever going to get away with recording audio for an interview for example without listening to what’s being recorded – there could be all manner of glitches, hums and drop-outs.

The Solution?

Either record to a second device such as those from Zoom or Tascam, or I currently pipe my audio into my other camera, the Sony Z1-E, which although it sounds great is quite long winded considering all the syncing in the edit as well.

Or you can do it via the magic lantern (ML) firmware add-on, which allows monitoring via the AV out. Not only do you have to install the specific audio monitoring version of ML, but you need to buy a handful of small pieces of kit too, which then have to be hung off the camera.

Additional headphone monitoring kit required Canon 6D with extra headphone monitoring kit
Extra equipment required for headphone monitoring

If you really want to do this you will need:

– AV cable out to RCA video and stereo RCA audio – supplied by Canon with the camera

– Male 1/8” mini jack to dual female RCA

– Mini amplifier to boost AV level audio to headphone level. I have the FiiO E06 (which needs to be charged)

A good tutorial on how to hook it all up is here courtesy of David Disponett (NB: it’s recently been brought to my attention that the link to the Magic / Tragic Lantern firmware gvien here amongst the other info is no longer valid, so I’ll look to get an alternative source for that ASAP.)

A word of warning is that I found the ML audio monitoring add-on had a small bug in it – changing the aperture setting on the camera whilst recording created unusable distortion, so no stopping up or down whilst recording audio! All kind of like trying to do it with one arm tied behind your back, standing on your head and juggling fire, I’m not pursuing this route. Could be an advert for the 5D right there.

 

Magic lantern – allows histograms, peaking, zebras, audio meters, timelapse, and increases the bit rate

I’m going to move on to the software / firmware side of things now. With every pro grade camcorder out there you will have the following visual tools to help adjust the levels for your shots:

  • Histograms to monitor exposure levels
  • Zebras as an alternative way of monitoring exposure
  • Peaking to assist with focus
  • Audio meters to visually monitor audio input levels

And without them, life is kind of hard.

The solution?

Is called Magic Lantern, same as the audio monitoring section above. There is a more generic firmware add-on I use that doesn’t have the bug of the audio fix, and works trouble free for me in everyday shooting. They have various disclaimers about it potentially breaking your camera, but I’d be bold and take the gamble, as I don’t really think there is one.

It’s out there for the Canon 5D, 6D, 7D, and the 60D, but NOT the 70D at the moment.

Now, not only does ML provide all the above visual tools, it has a couple of absolutely fantastic extras, so I think you simply have to have it. Firstly, it will also allow you to shoot timelapse, which the camera itself does not otherwise do, and works a treat. I used a slider and the timelapse function to shoot this:

Secondly, it can bump up your shooting bitrate to, well, 500 Mb/sec! But how you find an SD card to keep up with that, or why you’d need to go there I don’t know. It natively shoots at about 30 Mb/sec, which is fine, but pushing it to 50 or 60 gives you loads more versatility in post production, undoubtedly you get a far better grade in post; and of course 50 Mb/sec means it can be used for broadcast (although a TV program generally allows for 10% non HD content).

For a more comprehensive list of what makes Magic Lantern awesome, see this post by Hugh Brownstone from Planet 5D.

 

The Codec can be used for Avid AMA, but is unwieldy

So now I’m going to deal with what happens when the files hit your computer. Some files are easier to handle than others, and essentially the more you pay the better the encoding, the more info in the file itself, and the easier it is for a computer to process / read them.

The 6D records video as a .mov file, using the H.264/MPEG-4 AVC codec, which can be linked via AMA if you are using Avid editing software (as I do), and in fact nearly all file formats can now be linked this way. That means you can look at your footage directly off the drives from your shoot, with no further processing through Avid. And that’s great! It’s such as timesaver, which only a few years ago was impossible. But the long GOP intricacies of the compression require such a considerable amount of processing power from your motherboard that AMA is not a reliable or stable way to edit long-term. The advice is to initially link your files or folder via AMA and then transcode copies to your local hard-drive.

Media Composer v7 and v8 have taken big strides to handle AMA more effectively, and will now transcode in the background. Hats off Avid, I love that. I have personally found that Sony XDCAM files (using the MPEG-2 codec) can work natively, without transcoding, and without issues; but the Canon stuff, not a hope, not even the AVCHD file generated by the C100, you have to step up to the C300’s XF codec (MPEG-2 in an MXF wrapper) to edit natively, which saves a lot of time ingesting footage.

 

Do I Recommend Canon Cameras With Video?

I’ve come to look at my 6D like a precocious child, I love it, but it ain’t half a pain in the backside. It takes so much to persuade it to do what you want.

But ultimately, let’s not forget it’s only £1k for the body! About 15 years you could spend 50 times that for an SD Betacam camcorder and not reach this quality.

It has a full frame CMOS sensor, and you can use it to shoot great looking video (admittedly within the 30 minute maximum clip length DSLR limitation), and create a great looking piece. I shot this mostly using the 6D (with some on a 60D).

When you buy the EF lenses to fit this camera, which are fantastic, they can be used if you upgrade to a dedicated video model like the EOS C100, C300, or C500.

So I think the ultimate question is, “if I had my time again would I make the same choice and buy the 6D?”…

To get all the features I’ve outlined you need to go up to the C300 at around £10k. Too much? If you cherry pick to get a workable camera, for example the Sony FS700 or Canon C100 mkII will set you back about £4k. But the 6D is £1k- and that difference in cost for me means the choice is made for you. Hey, these Canon DSLR cameras can do everything you need, if you force them!

If budget is the prime factor, then the 6D it is, but I’d say that the Canon 5D mkIII is ultimately the best Canon camera for video, for only an extra £600 or so.

The 5D mkIII will give you the headphone out, HDMI out, dual SD and CF card slots, and crucially a far more efficient elimination of moire. This may actually be the deciding factor, moire on buildings (and clothing) can be crippling, and yes the 6D does suffer from it, and so if I had my time again I would find the extra cash and get the 5D. This is the broadcast option, and there is a reason why.

In conclusion, the 6D is genuinely best as a second camera, albeit an exceptional one. Yes, go ahead and buy a Canon DSLR and set it up for video: implement the necessary adjustments… and produce some great looking shots that you’d never have got close to 10 years ago.

And don’t forget… they take photos too!

Filming on the 6D in Piedmont near Alba, Italy

 

A review of the Canon 6D’s all round capabilities can be found here by stalwart photographer Ken Rockwell

And a review of it’s video capabilities by Marc Franklin at invaluable resource Studio Daily, who comes to a similar conclusion.

 

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Late last summer I covered a week’s events on the Ride & Seek cycle tour through Europe on the trail of the Roman general, Hannibal.

The stage I had the pleasure of began in the French Alps, crossed them Alps into Italy, then descended at quite a rate into Italy as the countryside became more lush and the classic Italian vineyards materialized, and we made our way into Emilia Romagna, and ending for me near Milan.

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One of the first things that hit me appart from the cold morning in Les Chalps, “the View” apparently – and there’s more than one of these about, trust me, we tried another one first – was altitiude sickness. I had a trerrible headache I couldn’t shift and felt exhausted, going straight up to 3000m is not easy for those of us without the red blood cell count of an athlete.

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First things first, I’d say have a chat with the group beforehand, set them at ease that you do not want to ruin their experience, you are on their side, let them know who you are, tell them roughly the shots you intend to get, and tell them ever so nicely not to look into the camera and wave every time they see it! That’s the temptation, but we’re not shooting a holiday video, we want to see real emotions, and yes if they’re in pain, show it, but don’t worry we’re not about to stitch them up and make them look like a bunch of wimps.

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Types of Shot

There were two distinct types of shots, make that three. Maybe four then. The extra two are your standard GVS and the cyclists enjoying lunch or coffee or some Euro-style hospitality, eating, sipping, smiling, nice food etc. So there are two ways to get to grips with our cycling subjects: out of the van window, or from the side of the road.

My main recommendation is get a dedicated car / bike / van to shoot from. I used the support vehicle, so I did at least have a driver, but you need the ability to go back and forth, jumping ahead of the pack, and stopping and starting, setting up on the edge of the road. The support vehicle is so tied to the needs of the cyclists, that your wishes will always be frustrated.

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Next time… The Noble Art of Shooting Out of the Car Window:

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Late last summer I had the pleasure of covering a week’s events on the Ride & Seek cycle tour through Europe on the trail of the Roman general, Hannibal. Here’s a little of what I learnt…

Pt 2: Shooting – Out of the Car Window

This ended up my stock trade in generating high lycra content footage, but I feel I spent way to much time doing this.

If you’re shooting out of the side window with a shallow depth of field, with the cyclist in profile, each shot starts to get a bit samey: same framing, some differing backgrounds, not bad, but once you have a few good ones, it’s time to move on, with these a sequence you cannot make.

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Then there’s shooting out the front, though the windscreen. You end up with shots like this:

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You can probably get a bit more scenery in the shot, but without the cyclist’s face they get even more repetitive, and these are in my book bottom of the pile. When I took them I remember saying “oh yes great stuff, lovely”. And lovely each one might look, but put em all together and you have one very tedious sequence.

My main point here is CLEAN YOUR WINDSCREEN before you set off. By focusing a few metres through the glass you can easily forgive the smudges and dirt on the small viewfinder, but get it in the edit suite and the ghostly smudging turns ghastly and will render all your babies useless.

Then you have your resistance piece, or pièce de résistance as the French like to call it, which is hanging out the window with a sturdy camera and using a deep depth of field. In my case I had the Sony Z1 warhorse, zoom it all the way out wide, infinity focus  – so everything is in focus, hang the thing down as low as possible, bending up the viewfinder and get those front on shots of faces. Gold dust, these are the ones that really count.

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On my wish list for next time would be to ride pillion on a motorbike or moped,  a la Tour de France, and you could then get a load of these devils. It could just be that you hire the bike for a day, but it’s be worth it. Oh, and you need a driver!

What the ultimate shot here? In my opinion it’s going round a bend so the camera moves with the cyclist, so they stay in centre frame and the background moves past, in the shot below we see the alps moving past behind Pete:

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One more tip for the car. Turn the radio off when you’re shooting, 95% of what you use won’t need the audio, or just uses atmos, but you never know when the other 5% will hit, and you just have to be ready.

Next time… The Gritty Reality of Setting Up Shots on the Roadside

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Late last summer I had the pleasure of covering a week’s events on the Ride & Seek cycle tour through Europe on the trail of the Roman general, Hannibal. Here’s a little of what I learnt…

Pt 3: Shooting – Setting Up on the Roadside & Using the Go-Pro

Last but by no means least. In fact, this is pretty much your number one shot, if you want to show the scenery and get a sense of space properly, these are the key.

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To get these you have to constantly leapfrog the pack, so my advice – get that dedicated vehicle at your beck, whim and call. End of.

I used the support van, which, wonderful as it was, was at the beck and whim of each and every cyclist on the tour, as it’s meant to be, and hey they’ve paid for it.

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Beware! This mode of transport means you will never (or rarely) get to the right spot at the right time. You need your own (motorised) wheels, so you’ll need a crew of two, and in an ideal world you’ll have a moped and get some reverse pillion travelling shots a la Tour de France, with your bags carried in the support van.

So what constitutes the best roadside shots?

The journey. Get as much of the road travelled or the road ahead into the frame:

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The most important point here is to get the scenery in…

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Those mountain bends do it beautifully.

Something I didn’t exploit as much as I’d have liked, was the shot looking down onto a snaking series of S-Bends:

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And if you don’t have a series of S-bends, look out for those beautiful singles. They give a great perspective: you’ll get the relevant detail of the road in the foreground, and the road naturally leads the eye round to the cyclists:

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Finally, take care to set-up your framing both for the approach and the resulting pass-by shots (and good luck keeping them in frame!)

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But without these roadside shots your piece will get claustrophobic, however wonderful everything else you shoot is. Wide-angle lens it, polarize it, whatever you please, but whatever you do… keep on getting’ ‘em.

The Go Pro

A quick word on this. Attach it to the bike, of course:

- Rear facing off the crossbar at the cyclist’s face
– Front facing off the crossbar at the cyclists in front
– Rear facing off the underside of the seat
– I find helmet and chest cams often give too much wobble to bother with
– I use an articulated Ram mount off the offside front fork to get the camera low to the ground, facing either forwards or backwards

But invest in something like the Big Ushot 2 XSories mounting arm (~£35). Put your camera on a pole, stick it out the window as high as it’ll go and you get a great birdseye, high angled shot:

So what’s the jolly old thing look like, anyway?

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