Sunday, December 26, 2010
In a nutshell, this rig enables me to shoot and record with two dslr cameras at the same time. A Canon 7D is shooting extreme closeups with its 100-400mm telephoto lens and a Canon 5D Mark 2 is capturing the overall scene with a 24-70mm wide angle lens. Later on I can combine the footage of these two cameras while editing with Adobe Premiere Pro CS5. To sync it all together I now turn to Singular Software's Plural Eyes program which saves me many hours of painstaking toil aligning the various camera tracks.
Here's an example of the dual footage that I shot out my living room window today (with a few cats watching intently) -- a squirrel raiding our birdfeeder and nearby a Downie woodpecker munching on some suet.
Cinevate is the company that manufactures the components found in this rig. Located in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, I found the staff and even the president himself, Dennis Woods, extremely helpful and involved in helping me put this camera setup together.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Mounting Cinevate's new Cyclops viewfinder has a lot in common with mounting a full exhaust system on a Harley Softail. I've done both, and the Cyclops is easier. And you don't need shims.
To back up a little, I ordered the Cyclops from Cinevate and it came via Fedex in about 3 business days.
My assistant, Daphne, performing a parts inspection. The Cyclops was well-packed and came complete with unit, mounting hardware, two Allen keys, and even a cleaning cloth.
The viewfinder body and optics are quite large, and the body is made from what feels like lightweight high-impact plastic. The overall feel is quite sturdy, although I would personally prefer a more rubberlike body and eyecup.
Speaking of eyecup ---- it's HUGE! I found that with the equally HUGE optics, a practical standoff distance was 3 - 4 feet. This enables two or more people to view the image simultaneously and even read the data normally found on Liveview. The eyecup acts as a very effective sunshade -- these outdoor photos were taken during bright midday sunshine.
I find the Cyclops ideal for tripod use with my big telephoto (400ml + extenders + crop = 1792mm focal length!) on my 7D where I want standoff distance to avoid the slightest vibration -- otherwise unavoidable if my eye is contacting the eyecup. I love my Marshall 7" HDMI monitor for this (plus its peaking & false colour filters), but the Cyclops is handy and quick.
So, what's this all to do with mounting a Harley exhaust? Well, the principle is the same: at first it feels awkward to get it all fitted up properly, but I quickly learned, just like my Softail's pipes, you first loosen all 6 mounting screws giving you fore, aft, side-to-side, and up & down motion, then wiggle the Cyclops to fit the LCD screen and with your third hand
As you can see, the Cyclops fit into my 7D with battery grip, and my wife's 7D (right) without a grip. One note: my 5D Mark 2 has a Zacuto Z-Finder frame glued to the back of the body and the Cyclops WON'T fit to it.......the frame projects backwards too far and the Cyclops cannot be backed off far enough from the camera body to compensate.
Which brings me to the final point: how is the Cyclops as a third point-of-contact for handheld shooting? It's do-able to be sure, the optics are fine. I don't find the rigid eyecup very comfortable for longterm handheld shooting, especially compared to my Z-Finder's soft rubber eyecup (now that it's anti-fogged - thank you Zacuto!).
My final take: I prefer the Cyclops for tripod use vs the Zacuto Z-finder due to the super-long eye relief (ie. stand off distance). It's optics are bright and clear....I'll be fighting my wife for this one! (Yeah, yeah, just buy her another one. Heh). For handheld - I find the Z-Finder better "in my eye" as a third point of contact/stabilization - especially for extended sessions.
For my nature/wildlife work in the field, I'll be packing the Cyclops for telephoto shooting.
Monday, November 1, 2010
During this entire month those of us participating will be growing moustaches to promote this most serious challenge. It should be fun to watch our progress -- I'll keep updates coming every few days on this blog.
In the meantime, please check out our "Team Bloom 'Tasche" website for progress on how we're doing. Better yet, JOIN US!!! If you can, please make a donation -- big or small, it's all very much appreciated. The team website is at the end of this blog.
Keep checking back and feel free to comment, offer words of encourage, and BRAG about how much you donated.....no need for modesty here! :)
Here's the team website: http://uk.movember.com/mospace/818364/
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Having purchased the 504HD head through Henry's, I noted that the price of the 536 tripod was also similar to Vistek's (see below) -- both prices pretty steep at over $1000 CDN delivered. On a whim I checked B&H Photo in New York just for reference and got a huge eye opener!!!!! Check the table below and see why I ordered from The Big Apple:
I held off posting this until today when I received the final invoice from UPS for the B&H shipment tax and duty charges. As you can see, I would've paid a whopping $405.55 MORE by purchasing locally at Henry's, with Vistek marginally better at a still-outrageous $384.36 MORE going into their pockets. To be honest, I feel I can better put that cash to use on more equipment for ME.
As they say, "Caveat emptor"...."Let the buyer beware".
Here's how the Manfrotto 504HD/536 setup looks with my Canon dslr/telephoto setup with Rode Videomic and Marshall 7" HDMI:
It's a fair weight all up, but this head & tripod combination readily handles it well.
Friday, October 8, 2010
That said, this 7" LCD has paid for itself in three major ways:
1. Its larger screen is easier to see and, with the proper hotshoe holder (I use a sturdy Manfrotto 482), can be angled in any direction. This saves your back and really helps when shooting at low angles.
2. Its peaking filter is a major help in focusing while recording. Although I usually use the Canon 7D's 5X or 10X liveview feature to prefocus whenever possible, this ability to fine focus is lost during actual recording. The peaking filter overcomes this dilemma.
3. The false colour filter is essential for achieving accurate exposure. Histograms only give an overall exposure profile of the entire frame, the false colour filter shows the exposure level of each individual object and subject within the frame while recording. This was brought home to me while shooting a bright white egret on a sunny day -- its white feathers would have been blown out if not for the false colour filter enabling me to dial in optimal aperture/ISO/ND variofilter settings while actually recording.
But speaking of sunny days......
The 7" Marshall monitor can be turned way up in brightness to combat the overall glare of sunny surroundings. The screen can get washed out in direct sunshine. So, I priced the Hoodman 7" High Def Monitor Hood at Vistek in Mississauga: $119.95
WHOA!! $119.95? Plus tax??? (= 13% "Harmonized" Sales Tax in Ontario). No way!!!!!
On Twitter, I stumbled upon www.CoolLCD.com Previously an unknown site to me, it has interesting stuff. Of note was a 7" sunhood at ........ $16.20 Holy smokes! Possibly not the enduring quality of a $120 Hoodman, but that's cheaper than the tax alone on the Hoodman!!
With reckless abandon, I clicked "Add to cart". Going completely hogwild, I noticed they had a HDMI-miniHDMI cable only 0.5 meters in length at $5.90. Whack! "Item 2" got Added to Cart. Choosing DHL as a carrier, the cost of shipping was gonna slam another $20 to the total, but for about $40 I was good to go. I ordered on Thursday night, opting to use PayPal. It got processed on Friday. This shipment was out of China -- apparently they had a holiday weekend, so it didn't leave the China Mainland until Tuesday. It was in my hands Thursday morning -- less than a week from when I ordered it, with a Chinese Holiday thrown in. Not bad.
Here's what I got: (not counting the Marshall 7" monitor, of course)
The top edge had a strip of velcro fastener securely sewn in, plus it came with the narrow velcro straps you can see in the picture. These narrow straps are useless -- I snipped 'em off. Instead, I went to the nearest Fabricland and, for all of $3.48 bought a one-meter length of velcro 3/4" black velcro tape - the kind that you can peel off the white paper backing to stick the velcro onto a hard surface. This stuff:
I snipped off enough to cover the sides and top of the monitor (about 10") -- this is what the velcro edge of the CoolLCD sunhood affixes to. And it works! Take a look:
Here's a closeup of the velcro tape on the monitor:
As you can see, the 3/4" velcro tape fits perfectly without blocking any switches or ports. The sunhood is open at the bottom, giving easy access to the button controls at any time.
As a bonus, here is the small HDMI cable I also purchased at $5.90 (compared to the bigger one-meter HDMI cable on the left that I've been using up 'til now ):
It's actually only about 15" long or so -- but less length to deal with and less weight on the plugs to cause an accidental pullout at the worst possible time! Here's how it looks on the camera:
Compare this to the ungainly longer one (now my "spare" cable):
I was always worried I would accidently tangle or pull on this overly-long cable, and a couple of times I got an "ERR" message on my upper 7D display because one of the HDMI plugs had partially pulled out!
Finally, I have to thank my daughter's visiting kitty, "Daphne" for her unceasing assistance while I was trying to sort out velcro straps for the bench photos taken above:
OK, OK, that last bit was too cute, I know. It's Friday night, what can I say? Hey, any comments or Great Thoughts on the above? Put in the Comments/Great Thoughts section below!
Hope this is useful info for you!
Sunday, October 3, 2010
Exploiting the slim Depth of Field that dslr's offer with their large sensors, a common technique is to change focus while shooting to draw attention to the subject. Ideally, a full-out system with follow focus, whips, rails, camera cage, etc. etc. are used to adeptly dial in focus with no camera shake. This is nigh impossible when trying to adjust focus by twisting the focus ring directly by hand -- no matter how securely the dslr is anchored to its sturdy tripod -- camera shake inevitably occurs. This camera shake is magnified when using telephoto and macro lenses and this really detracts from the quality of the video itself.
Follow focus systems are expensive; no getting away from that. Likewise, I priced some commercially-made focus cranks and found that they, too, can run into some heavy cash, especially if you're looking at doing several lenses. This setup I've described on this clip looks a little Rube Goldberg-ish, but it DOES work amazingly well. I'm prepared to forgive a lot aesthetically if something actually helps me get the job done effectively....and CHEAPLY. A hose clamp, small carriage bolt and locking nuts cost less than $5 total -- THAT is cost effective in anyone's books!
This little clip was shot with a Canon 5D Mark 2, a Canon 24-70mm f2.8 L lens, Marshall 7" HDMI monitor (invaluable when self-video'ing), set on a very sturdy Manfrotto 504HD video head and 536 carbon-fibre tripod. Reference audio was done with a Rode Videomic plugged directly into the 5D, with secondary/final sound recorded on a Samson Zoom H4N audio recorder. Final editing was done in Adobe's wonderful CS5 version of Premiere Pro.
Whew! Thanks for watching. Please be sure to visit the website I've noted above -- lots of helpful tips there and I'm glad I stumbled upon it. Any thoughts or suggestions PLEASE add in the Comment section below
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
This resulted in approx 10 useable seconds which I plan to incorporate later in a feature I'm creating about this park. A timely "tweet" by @AdobePremiere pointed me to a CS5 Help File at help.adobe.com on Timeline Remapping.
Here is described a very simple technique, which I've employed before for "Winter Sparrows", in which to create slow motion of the geese in flight by remapping the timeline. Slowing down to 25% (7.5 fps) of the original 30 fps framerate does create a slight jerkiness in the panning, but the wing motion actually remains quite smooth. Next time I WILL shoot at 720p/60 fps so that the resultant slo-mo frame rate of 15 fps (ie. 25%) will be smoother overall.
Thanks to @AdobePremiere (follow him on Twitter -- lots of useful tweets daily!)
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Sharpness -- all the way down to "0"
Contrast -- all the way down to "-4"
Saturation -- dial down two notches to "-2"
Colour Tone -- leave it where it is at "0"
Assign (ie. "save") these new settings as Custom Picture Style C1 and you're good to go.
As you can see in my little video above, the "Ungraded" part of each little clip looks very flat (with a tiny bit of flickering just to be annoying). As I mention in this video, I'm a firm believer in "Less is More" as far as post adjustments are concerned to preserve as close to life-like as I can. Here is all I did for each clip (labelled in the video as "Graded"):
Autocolour - Manually adjusted Black Clipping and White Clipping from 0% to 0.10%;
Shadow/Highlight - simply clicked on "Auto Amount" which put a check mark in the box
Unsharp Mask - left the default amount of Sharpening alone at "50%"
- Increased the Radius from the default 1.0% to "4.0%"
- left the Threshold value alone at the default value of "0"
Note: be very careful to use a minimal amount of Sharpening. It's tempting to use a little too much and you can get some really ugly artifacts showing up -- haloing around the edges, grainy-looking noise, and other noxious qualities.
The music is "Living Voyage" by Kevin Macleod.
Be sure to visit Phil Bloom's blog for the latest on dslr film making!
As I said in the video -- Comments, suggestions, or even just a quick "Hi!" would be very much appreciated!
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Earlier this evening (Sept 19th), with a clear sky and Jupiter beckoning, I set up my Canon 7D and hooked in a 100-400 mm Canon telephoto with two multiplying teleconverters stacked in -- Canon 2.0 and 1.4 extenders -- giving me an apparent focal length of 1,792 mm with the 7D's crop factor of 1.6 factored in. A Marshall 7" HDMI LCD monitor was invaluable in both tracking this moving target as it migrated southward, and achieving as sharp a focus as possible. Since we are not in orbit with the Hubble telescope, a fair bit of fuzziness due to our not-so-clear atmosphere is apparent, but it's still possible to detect a gaseous band or two on Jupiter's surface.
Next I swung the lens towards the Moon -- much easier to spot and track due to its huge size and brightness. The major features of the Moon - its craters and "seas" are easily seen.
The resulting video clips were edited in Adobe's Premiere Pro CS5.
Music is "Arcadia" by Kevin Macleod.
My inspiration/motivation for this post is thanks to Tom Guilmette
For those not familiar with his work, click on the hyperlink on his name above to visit his blog -- a huge variety of info on all things video. His work frequently finds him using the latest and greatest of the huge cameras at professional sport matches -- he had turned the lens of one of these monsters to the moon recently and tweeted about the short clip he got. Very impressive. And last night, with Jupiter rising in the eastern sky, no clouds, and an almost full moon to boot...... Thanks, Tom!
Monday, September 6, 2010
An important part of the joy in shooting and creating video masterpieces is the post processing, or editing, of the video and audio files captured by camera(s) and audio recorder(s). Once the province of dedicated editing houses, with the advent of high definition digital video cameras and high fidelity digital audio recorders, the third party software houses have kept pace. Now, with enough dedication and perseverance, the amateur videographer can create a respectably polished final video product that only a short time ago would have been virtually impossible within a household budget. Most significantly, the creative process can now expand enormously well beyond the actual video shooting and sound recording. Best of all: it's fun! :)
Let's keep in mind that the home video editing studio is, and forever will be, a Work-in-Progress. As you and I both gain in knowledge and experience the equipment and software will evolve. Techniques will improve, new ways of creating and editing will develop.....it's all good! The above shot of my home studio is really simplicity in itself. Here are a few notes:
1. Dual monitors: so handy when working with a Non Linear Editor (NLE) such as Adobe's Premiere Pro CS5. Here I've got the CS5 workspace on the left monitor, with the second monitor dedicated to a full-screen of the video preview. This was very handy for the "voice-over talent", my wife Karen, to watch as she spoke about the embroidery subject in the video.
2. Zoom H4N audio recorder: with a Rode Videomic shotgun microphone plugged into the H4N recorder, I had a very simple but effective audio mixing station that I could operate while Karen was speaking into the Videomic. I recently acquired a remote switch for the H4N which was worth it's weight in gold in organizing the controls of this unit.
3. Sennheiser headphone: any quality headphone will do, but it's a must to monitor the quality and level of sound entering the H4N.
4. Not shown: just off-screen is my PC. It's a 2.67 Hz quad-core with 12 Gigs of DDR ram, along with a couple of external 2 Tb harddrives for storage and backup. Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 is now 64-bit, so the extra ram is utilized and is a major help when it comes to manipulating and rendering huge video files.
5. Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 - a godsend to Canon dslr video shooters. It's important to have specified Nvidia video cards (mine's a GTX285 - a gamer's favourite!) installed in your PC to take advantage of the new Mercury Playback engine that optimally utilizes the Nvidia card's GPU to smoothly scrub and playback the otherwise-awkward H.264 codec files courtesy of Canon. Earlier versions of Premiere Pro would choke on these files, so it was necessary to use a third party transcoder, such as Cineform's excellent Neoscene, to pre-render the Canon video files into a usable format. However, this took time and resulted in a set of much larger video files to store and manipulate. No longer necessary with CS5.
A note on the audio:
I was never happy with the voice-over quality using my Sennheiser headphone/microphone plugged into my computer's Realtek audio card. The voice quality just seemed thin, flat, reedy, and nasal to me. Today I stumbled upon an excellent blog post by Dave Dugdale that described a quick & easy sound mixing station using a Zoom H4N audio recorder connected via USB to your PC with a Rode Videomic shotgun microphone plugged in turn into the H4N. The Sennheiser headphone/mic is certainly good quality, but besides the lacking (to me) sound quality there was an annoying feedback in the headphones no matter how low the headset mike was turned down -- very distracting to anyone trying to record! If you shifted the headset off your ears while recording into the attached mike (very awkward!!!) the mike would pick up the feedback, resulting in a faint echo being picked up and recorded -- not good.
The Rode Videomic hooked into the H4N provided very clean yet full audio quality. No worries of feedback since it was no longer necessary for the voice-over talent to wear a headphone while actually recording (I wore it for sound input monitoring). Here is the result, you be the judge:
Karen, doing both voice-overs, did not read from a script but instead recorded freestyle directly to the video as it was being previewed. She prefers the Sennheiser to the H4N/Rode Videomic, but I feel the Sennheiser sounds disembodied compared to the H4N/Rode's richer, fuller tone.
By the way, this was the finished video (using the Sennheiser - customer's always right!):
Certainly another method of voice-over recording is to record Karen directly into the H4N itself, or with the Rode Videomic hooked into the H4N (but not hooked by USB into the PC), then syncing into the video later. We actually tried this, but there were disadvantages. Just by the very nature of unscripted free form recording there will be false starts and other verbal glitches. This results in a whole bunch of sound files that need to be sorted out during final editing -- a real nightmare to keep organized. The other alternative is to just go back to the beginning after each flub and start all over........not fun. Been there, not worth the t-shirt!!! Things get a little stale after the tenth full repeat, or so.
This is a window into my video editing studio thus far. It's been a lot of fun and a real challenge to learn my way through this. As always, any comments and suggestions are very welcome -- please make sure you post 'em in the Comment section below!
Monday, August 23, 2010
Friday, August 20, 2010
My wife, Karen, has started a digital embroidery business, Karil Custom Designs (http://www.facebook.com/KarilCustomDesigns), and acquired a new Babylock BMP9 machine to handle some of the more challenging designs she will likely encounter. To this end, Karen is producing a series of tutorial videos in running this machine, including the process of setting up the digital aspects of this machine along with the actual embroidering action. To best capture and explain this process, several video cameras are needed to provide different perpectives simultaneously on this rather complex operation.
Here's a short video on a typical setup of the movie set, in this case using a total of four video cameras: a Canon 5D Mark 2, 2 x Canon 7D's, and an ultra-wide angle 1080p GoPro Hero HD.
Multi Camera Editing in Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 from David Rilstone on Vimeo.
Music is "Welcome to the Show" by Kevin MacLeod.
As the clip explains, each camera has a specific function; all of which are brought in together for editing in Premiere Pro CS5. This Non-Linear Editing (NLE) program quickly enables, among many techniques, to:
1. synchronize each video & audio track to each other
2. use split-screen to highlight detail from one camera against that of a second camera
3. the use of titling to provide: a) titles (obviously), and b) labels
4. transition effects to visually soften the switching from one camera to the next camera onscreen
5. video & audio effects; not noticeable to the viewer, but such video/audio effects as highlight control, balance, levels, etc. are used to better blend each camera's output with the other
6. multi camera editing control - a very powerful feature in which each camera's output is displayed next to each other to enable the editor to pick and choose which camera display will be placed and actually show on the timeline. Very similar to how a TV producer in the control room can pick and choose which TV camera will be broadcast at any given moment.
7. Voice over audio - rather than use use the soundtrack recorded during the actual video shooting, CS5 enables the editor to record a voice over later. The same applies to placing a music track along the timeline well after the video shooting itself is finished.
8. Key framing: a quick & easy method to apply a multitude of video and audio effects over a specified time frame.
Stay tuned for the resulting embroidery project using all the above equipment and editing techniques above. It will be a colourful experience!!!
Sunday, August 15, 2010
The lens used was a Canon 17-40mm f/4.0 L lens. Setting the focus to "manual", it was easy to hand-adjust by using the liveview feature with its multiplier of x5 and x10. I selected Aperture Priority @ f/4 and a relatively high ISO of 400 to give me reasonably quick shutter times in view of the coming sunset. The first sequence I chose an interval of 15 seconds, the second sequence had an interval of 5 seconds. (Next time I'll opt for an interval of one second - more on this later).
I've found I get the best results shooting these sequences using "Small .jpg" and "Landscape" picture style. The small .jpg's are already close to 1920 x 1080, which is what I wanted the final video resolution to be. I then imported this series of photos from the CF card to my hard drive using Lightroom 2.7. Upon quickly examining the photos for any obvious rejects, I then exported them to a separate folder -- Lightroom has the phenomenal ability to rename each photo in turn by sequence number ie. ".001" and upwards -- this makes it easy for your NLE (non-linear editing) program to import each photo in correct order to produce a timelapse film.
In this case, I used Adobe Premiere Pro CS5. When rendering this video clip to 24 frames per second, I found that the cloud action was much too fast, hence I reduced the overall speed to 75% -- which is an improvement but looks slightly choppy. As mentioned above, next time I will take photos at one second intervals to give me a slower, smoother cloud action.
For this timelapse, I dusted off the 40D since my 5D Mark 2 and 7D have been heavily pressed into video service of late. Timelapse sequences are a great use for the older camera models (ie. 20D, 30D) since these cameras accept the same intervalometer as the more recent 50D, 7D, and 5D Mark 2 and will likewise give fantastic resolution in the end result.
The music is "The Chase" by Kevin MacLeod.
Ever started a shoot, only to get a "card full" message halfway through because you forgot to format the card earlier? Realize your external monitor battery has probably got 12 seconds of useful life left in it? Have that sinking sensation when you realize you've begun your shoot and your cameras aren't set to the same white balance? All these things and more that make you go "Aaaaarghh", or worse yet, awaken in the middle of the night in a cold sweat!!!
To that end, I've developed what could best be described as a "Work in Progress" by way of a check-off sheet. Hopefully this will help head off the potential glitches that are completely preventable. I've found, due to fatigue, distraction, and even the excitement of the shoot itself, that my memory ain't what it should be in remembering the little details that count. Here's my initial checklist I've put together that possibly may be of assistance to yourself, the reader:
I can only stress that the above is subject to change on an ongoing basis, plus I freely admit that this is NOT a comprehensive checklist, by any means, of what is required for a video shoot --- merely a reflection of the foibles that have caught me up personally from time to time.
If you're interested in receiving a copy of this in either Microsoft .docx format or .pdf, drop me a line at email@example.com and I'll be glad to send it to you by attachment on a return email. Also, if you have any suggestions to add to this checklist, or any comments at all, please be sure to do so in the comments section below.
Thanks to all!
Friday, August 13, 2010
For this video I used two cameras: a Canon 5D Mark 2 handheld with a 24-70mm f/2.8 L lens -- a Zacuto Z-Finder was extremely helpful here. The second was a Canon 7D on a tripod using a 135mm f/2.0 L lens for the stable closeup shots of the embroidery itself. Sound was recorded with a Samson Zoom H4N audiorecorder. Final processing was done with Adobe Premiere Pro CS5
Monday, July 12, 2010
My still photography background dictates that the optimal photo equipment would be a high quality dslr coupled with a powerful prime telephoto with as wide an aperture as possible. Flash is not always practical due to the spooky nature of the subjects, the excessive distances involved (Better Beamers notwithstanding), plus the desire to use natural existing light where possible. Continual lighting with video shooting is completely out of the question for most wildlife settings.
Unfortunately, the prime telephoto lenses with large f/2.8 or f/4.0 apertures with long focal lengths (minimum 400 mm) are, for many of us, prohibitively expensive! In the past year and a half, I've acquired two dslr cameras, the Canon 5D Mark 2 and 7D that both offer superb low-noise photo & video capabilities at previously unheard-of high ISO's. This greatly assists shooting in low light with the smaller-apertured (but still high quality) 400mm telephoto lenses by Canon. Many wildlife photographers prefer Canon's prime f/5.6 400mm, which has a reputation for sharp capture and, in the case of still photos, fast auto-focusing ability. Personally, I opted for Canon's popular f/4.5 - f/5.6 zoom telephoto due to the flexibilty of the 100-400mm feature. (Zooming out to 100mm to actually acquire a small subject, then zooming in to 400mm is a real advantage -- saves a LOT of "hunting around" for an elusive target). Sharpness has always been good with this lens for me, and it does an admirable job of locking focus on fast-moving birds in flight when taking photos.
That said, everything changes when you try bumping up the focal length with teleconverters. With the prosumer Canon cameras you automatically lose autofocus, even with the addition of the 1.4x TC to a 400mm f/5.6 lens. Image quality does soften somewhat, and many photographers feel unacceptably so with the 2.0x TC. Does this apply to the Canon 7D's video side? Let's see:
Unfortunately, this downsized imbed from Vimeo doesn't have the sharpness that the full 1080p h.264 .MP4 export demonstrates. However, it certainly is sharp enough to see the fine feather detailing on the birds, as well as showing some good blurring in the background which places more focus (pun intended) on the subject itself. The cost of a 100-400m plus the two teleconverters --all combined-- is approx 1/3 to 1/4 the price of a single f/2.8 400mm prime (or a f/4.0 500mm or 600mm lens for that matter). No arguing that the bigger glass would give a better image than the zoom 100-400 + teleconverters, but are the stacked lenses a viable cheaper alternative? It depends on your circumstances and destination of your efforts. For professional National Geographic or Discovery/Life Channel work.....likely not. For casual enthusiast work or even some low end video stock submissions, I'd venture to say yes.
Some production notes:
Songbirds such as sparrows and robins are quite tiny in size and, in my neck of the woods, very timid in nature. This is problematic when trying to fill a video frame with the bird itself. Perhaps going a little overboard, I stacked two Canon teleconverters (1.4x and 2.0x) onto my 100-400mm lens and hooked all this onto my Canon 7D -- with battery grip. My small Manfrotto 501 spring head was almost overwhelmed with all this weight, especially when I slid a Marshall 7" HDMI monitor into the 7D's hotshoe mount to help me with focus and exposure.
The final focal length in terms of a "standard" 35mm full frame dslr worked out to be quite impressive:
400mm (lens) X 1.4x (TC) X 2.0 (TC) X 1.6 (Canon APS-C crop factor) = 1,792mm!!!
I had a real problem with vibration and shaking -- I was on a wooden deck (mistake) and it was a windy day. Definitely a heavy duty Miller tripod + head will be in my future. As it is, the inexpensive remote on/off switch available from Canon is a huge advantage in avoiding physically touching the camera -- any and all vibrations are picked up as camera movement with such a huge magnification factor.
I just picked up a Marshall 7" HDMI monitor at the recent Profusion Expo 2010 in Toronto. As Mr. Philip Bloom would say, "It works a treat". It made everything so much easier - focusing with a bigger screen is in itself very helpful, the inclusion of a peaking filter to verify focus is a bonus. Even checking exposure was easier with the false colour filter on this monitor. Finally, by its flexible hotshoe attachment it's easy to twist the monitor to face any direction, including up and down -- a real boon to anyone with an aching back from hunching behind a camera all day peering into a tiny 3" LCD.
I'm using the fabulous Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 with its new Mercury Playback engine on my i7 920 quad core PC. With its Nvidia GT285 vid card, this version of Premiere Pro can edit & scrub the 7D's h.264 .MOV files effortlessly, with only occasional rendering needed after some visual effects (highlights, USM) were added, along with a lowpass filter to knock out the persistant AGC hiss in the background. I'm holding on to my Cineform Neoscene, but find I'm using it less and less now that CS5 edits in floating 32-bit.
I've gone with Phil Bloom's recommended 7D custom picture style setting of completely knocking down sharpness and contrast (-4 notches each), and reducing saturation within the camera by 2 notches. This yields a fairly flat image which is easy to work on later in post.
I wanted to work at the maximum f/11 aperture to reduce DOF as much as possible to better isolate the subjects from the background. I eschew even the Singh Ray Variable Density Filter for telephoto work, preferring to use ISO as an exposure control (in this case generally ISO 320 worked well). Frame rate was set to 23.97 fps and shutter speed as close to 180 degrees as the camera would allow -- 1/50 second.
Hope the above provides useful information and I welcome any comments, questions, debate, thoughts, etc.
Saturday, June 26, 2010
This clip was filmed with two cameras: a Canon 5D Mark 2 with a Canon 24-70mm L f/2.8 lens, plus a Canon 7D with a Canon 100-400mm L f/4.5-5.6 telephoto zoom lens. A 1-meter Glidetrack was used for several of the clips, as well as a newly-acquired Marshall 7" monitor. This monitor greatly eased filming in that:
1. It mounted easily on the camera's hotshoe and could be quickly adjusted to face whatever direction needed. This eliminated the need to scrunch around and/or kneel down low to view the camera's built-in LCD display.
2. The 7" Marshall screen was much easier to view the image being filmed as opposed to each camera's built in 3.5" LCD displays.
3. The Marshall monitors peaking and false colour monitors made it much, much easier to adjust and verify focus and exposure.
The music is entitled "Clear Air" by Kevin McLeod at his royalty-free website: http://incompetech.com/m/c/royalty-free/
Editing of the clips was done in Adobe Premiere Pro CS5. It's new Mercury Playback engine has greatly simplified and speeded up editing the hugely-compressed h.264 video files created by the Canon cameras.
Monday, May 31, 2010
I have the disks for Adobe's Production Premium CS5 on order, but for the time being I've been finding the 30-day trial version to be working admirably well on my computer system (i7 CPU 920 @ 2.67HZ, 12G DDR3 RAM, Nvidia GTX 285 vid card). The Mercury GPU engine makes full use of the CUDA capabilities of this video card and it shows (compared to the otherwise excellent CS4 version). The only thing missing from the trial version of PP CS5 are some licensed MPEG presets for my Canon .MOV clips (although there are ways of working around that -- leave a comment below if you need further info).
Here's the clip (sorry for the brevity....it WAS only a test!):
Also, Premiere Pro CS5 is apparently very forgiving in mixing up codecs and even frame rates, so I'm looking forward to working with several different cameras within one project. For the short time I've been using Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.....I LIKE IT!
This timelapse was taken two days later from my backyard using a Canon 7D and a Canon 24-70mm L lens:
The Canon was set to Aperture Priority at f/22, and ISO at 100, with the photo interval set at 2 seconds. Post processing was first done in Lightroom 2.7 where the original large .jpeg size was retained and the file name of each photo was changed to a sequential number. These sequentially-numbered photos were then imported into Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 and rendered into a 30 fps (29.97) MP4 clip. Unlike PP CS4, Premiere Pro CS5 can handle the full-sized .jpg photos from the Canon 7D, although preview and scrubbing is not smooth with my system. It took about 3 hours for Media Encoder to transcode into 1920 x 1080 MP4 for just over a minute of play.
Music was "The Chase" by Kevin MacLeod.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
This timelapse was taken with a Canon 7D using a 17-40mm L lens (set at 17mm) with a Canon intervalometer set at 1 second intervals. I chose to set this camera on Aperture Priority at f16 and ISO 160. This was a bright, sunny day so f16 gave me sufficient Depth of Field with this lens to keep everything in focus along with a reasonable shutter speed to freeze the action. Approximately 1000 frames were shot at small .jpg, then batch resized to 1080 height using Lightroom 2.7. This was my first timelapse used with Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 (Trial Version -- full version on order!). I set the framespeed to 30 (29.97) fps, and added "Born to Run" for a little mood. :)
Thursday, May 20, 2010
I had not experienced this soft focus situation with an earlier acquired, but much more expensive, Singh-Ray vario ND filter when using my telephoto zoom lens. I then put together this quick trial comparing the cheaper, EBay-sourced "Nature" -brand ND filter against the pricey ($400+) Singh-Ray counterpart. You'll find my conclusions on this video:
The making of this video:
1. Cameras used: Canon 5D Mark 2, 7D
2. Lenses used: Canon 17-40mm L f4, Canon, 24-70mm L f4, Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6
3. Audio used: Rode Videomic (one each on 5D2 & 7D), Samson Zoom H4N, voiceovers done directly on PC Realtek soundcard
4. Moving shots of filters: Glidetrack Sharpshooter
5. Post processing: Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 (trial version -- disks on order!)
For my personal presentation appearances on this video, I used a two-camera setup. The 5D2 was fitted with the 24-70mm set at 64mm, the 7D had the 17-40 set at 40mm; this gave a similar perspective (full frame vs APS-C) with the cameras both approx 8 feet away from me at roughly 30 degrees to my left and right respectively. I used Philip Bloom's recommendation of a custom Picture Style of full negative sharpness & contrast, and about two notches negative saturation. This rather flat picture style gives the best dynamic range and lends itself to better post processing later. In actuality, I did no further processing in this regard as I liked the video appearance straight from the camera, as it turned out.
I had two Rode Videomics hooked into the cameras, but used this sound only to sync later with the exterior, separate Zoom H4N audiorecorder using its built in stereo microphones.
The panning shots of the two filters were taken inside my living room in front of my picture window which had excellent even lighting. The Glidetrack made for the smooth right-to-left motion, despite Bruiser, our cat, trying to literally stick his nose into the proceedings.
Premiere Pro CS5 (Trial Version) worked extremely well on my PC - an i7 920 platform with 12 Gigs RAM and a Nvidia GTX 285 video card. The new Mercury engine now makes it possible to edit the native 5D2 and 7D H.264 video files natively -- no prior transcoding necessary. This saves huge amounts of disk space, not to mention time. Scrubbing through the timeline was very smooth, plus no having to sip a cup of coffee every time you render after laying in a video effect or two -- it's that fast!
Brought over a few techniques from CS4 (split screen, multiple camera sync'ing, etc.), plus learned a few new ones on this clip -- magnifying effect, dropping an imported vid file onto the "New Item" icon to create a fresh sequence/timeline with the exact required presets.
All in all, this was a fun video to produce. If any information in this clip was useful re ND vario filters.....then great!! :)
Friday, February 5, 2010
Adobe's Premiere Pro CS4 provides several ways to generate a slow motion effect. I chose to explore adjusting the timeline itself as it easily allows the slow motion effect to be precisely administered at the exact time frame(s) desired, the degree of slow motion (as a percentage of real time; real time = "100%), plus the ability, if desired, to gradually introduce the slow motion effect and/or gradually return back to real time.
As with so many things I'm finding with PP CS4, everything is actually easy to do once you know how......it's gettin' to know how that's difficult! That said, the rewards of learning these different techniques are huge. I just wish Premiere Pro CS4 was a little more intuitive.
Sunday, January 31, 2010
As with everything else I'm finding in Adobe's Premiere Pro CS4, it's easy once you know how.......it's the gettin' to know how that's difficult! For anyone who just wants to run a video camera and get it up on the screen/TV/Internet as quickly as possible, I'd strongly recommend either Sony's Vegas Platinum Studio 9.0c or Adobe's Premiere Elements 7.0: both cost about $100 and can do a ton of things with a lot less fuss. Obviously, there won't be as many features or special effects you will find in the more elaborate (and expensive!!!) Premiere Pro, but I've found these two programs offer a ton of stuff and are TONS more intuitive than Premiere Pro. As a bonus, the techniques you learn in Vegas or Elements give you a better idea of how things work, to a point, with Premiere Pro if you should ever decide to enter The Dark Side.
Once I understood what was involved with split screen editing, the technique itself was really easy. All you're doing is running both videos, together, at the same time. Premiere Pro simply has you place one video clip ("Video 1) on the time line on "Video Track 1", then place Video 2 on the time line's "Video Track 2" immediately above it. Then, using the Premiere Pro's "Video Effects" you simply apply the "Four-Point Garbage Matte" to first Video 1, then Video 2. What you have the Four-Point Garbage Matte do is simply block off (ie using the "matte") one half (or so - you can adjust how much) of Video 1, then do the same with Video 2 and block off the other half. That way when you run the two overlapping videos together you only see the unblocked halves of each video track running.....the split screen!
An important thing to mind is that when shooting the videos to produce a split screen effect is that you have to remember to keep the subject in Camera 1 in the left side of the frame the whole time, and in Camera 2 the subject has to be in right side. This is because this particular technique does not allow you to shrink down the video in any way to "get 'em to fit" on one side or the other. The split screen technique can also be done top/bottom, or even with 4, 6, or even 8 split screens running. Same principle, just a bigger headache!
I spent quite a bit of time in post processing getting everything sync'd up: the two videos and the Zoom H4N audio recorder. Practice makes perfect and I've found that expanding the tracks to absolute maximum helps with dragging each track the tiny little bit needed to get perfectly aligned with the other is so much easier.
Friday, January 29, 2010
To that end, I needed to hone a skill set in both the physical setup and actual running of two cameras together, then tying the two video clips later on the computer. Just to add some extra fun to the mix, I introduced a third parameter -- remote audio recording to be sync'd in as well.
I'm doing everything the hard way on a number of fronts:
1. Video dslr's.....the bad: everything is manual, ergonomics ain't the greatest, h.264 codec is efficient for recording but overloads a PC, recorded sound is not the best using the built in mono-microphone and really puts a need for an external microphone. Also, Canon has seen fit to mandate Auto Gain Control in its built in audio recording, resulting in a low hiss when recording quiet subjects as the camera "strains" to hear something.
.......the good: FANTASTIC 1080p video quality, lots of lens choices, ability to isolate subject from background with thin Depth of Field, the cameras themselves are relatively inexpensive (my wife may not agree) to purchase compared to pro vid cameras (but the needed accessories will kill ya! Karen would agree to that, I KNOW).
2. Adobe Premiere Pro CS4......the bad: PC version won't scrub the .mov vidclip files smoothly for editing; you need 3rd party software to transcode into more PC-friendly format. (I use Cineform's Neoscene, others use Streamclip). Also PP CS4 is expensive and a bugger to learn -- it's NOT intuitive at all. Anyone gonna produce a "Premiere Pro CS4 for Dummies"? I'll buy a copy.
.........the good: very powerful editing suite, can do lots of stuff with it. Easy when you know how (I just haven't figured out "how" yet....). Get lots of respect when you tell people you "post process in CS4" (because no one else on this planet knows "how" either. We all just pretend we do to impress each other).
3. Using outside audio - Zoom H4N audio recorder......the bad: a real pain to sync with video in post processing in CS4 (see '2' above), it's another set of controls to fuss with -- 'record' button requires TWO pushes to activate - how dumb is that?, use of clapboard not the best technique when filming nervous subjects like whitetail deer, songbirds, armed Brinks guards.
......the good: excellent sound (when you actually DO remember to push the 'record' button TWO FRICKEN' TIMES), small size, light weight, and fairly robust design.
4. DVD burning/uploading to Vimeo.......the bad: relates to '2' above (no surprise there, eh?) -- how to burn a disk that will actually PLAY on a DVD player without some stupid "disk error" message scrolling across the screen, how to find a way to upload a video clip to Vimeo that will actually look good.
........the good: after wasting 50 or so blank DVD's and the same number of hours I finally figured things out. (Well, blank disks ARE cheap and everyone has a DVD player to watch your creative masterpiece). Again, it's easy when you know how (I use Nero 9 to burn AVDHD format to DVD - works like a charm and looks great on my 1080p LCD bigscreen TV). With Vimeo I just transcode to 720p .mov first, then upload -- looks good on the Vimeo website.
And so it goes. I learned how to use PP CS4 to sync the video and cut back and forth from one camera to the next: http://vimeo.com/9057167 Next time I hope to have jumpy whitetail deer or songbirds (I'll pass on the Brinks guys). Here is the multicam setup I used with a Canon 5Dmk2 (24-70L wideangle) and 7D (100-400L telephoto):
I haven't gone into the step-by-step of camera settings (get Phil Bloom's DVD in my Jan 5th blog!), nor the Premiere Pro CS4 steps, etc. etc. for sake of brevity. If there's any further specific info you would like, post your email in the comment section below with your question(s) or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
To be honest, I held off purchasing Phil Bloom's 7D Training Video (and the earlier 5D Mark 2 version). I balked at the original selling price of $175 USD, reasoning that I already had most, if not all, of the information already in hand. Much of the information I felt I needed had already been gleaned --for free-- off such excellent forums as Cinema 5D and DVinfo (to which Phil is a contributor), plus blogs such as Phil Bloom's himself, Vincent Laforet, etc. etc. In other words, why would I lay out serious coin to buy something I believed I already had?
Recently my wife and I acquired two 7D's (Karen for her bird-in-flight photos, mine to complement my 5D2 nature videomaking). Following Phil Bloom on Twitter and Facebook, I was aware that he was promoting a new 7D video in addition to his 5D2 version with more 7D-specific info, plus he had applied a couple of discounts just before Christmas. I got the download off his blogsite http://www.learndslrvideostore.com/ for what amounted to $108 USD ($116 CDN). It ran fine on my PC using Microsoft's default Media Player, plus I burned it to a blank DVD so I could play it on my big screen LCD tv.
The video is an easy watch despite being crammed with information on camera settings, lenses, techniques, and useful accessories. Karen watched it with me and felt that some parts moved too fast, but that's the beauty of a DVD......simply play it again if you missed something. The video does move along briskly and there is a bit of Phil's dry Brit humour to provide a bit of relief to all the detail.
I confess that I was surprised there was a lot of camera-specific info that was new to me. Further, it was useful to have techniques demonstrated on video that are otherwise a little difficult to understand through words alone.
Is this video worth $108? Yes. Is it worth $175? Yes. You could do as I did and spend over 100 hours perusing the internet forums and blogs for a far lesser yield of information. Is your time worth $1.75/hr? How about all those [expensive] photo & video mags singing the praises of the 5D2 and 7D but tell you ZILCH on how to get serious results with the video aspect?
I haven't delved into the post-processing part of this 7D Training Video as yet. It deals in part with Final Cut Pro which is Mac-based, but there are techniques that Phil discusses that should translate over to PC-based Non-Linear Editors like Premiere Pro or Sony Vegas. I'll leave that for a future blog.
In the meantime, if you have a Canon 5D Mark 2 or a 7D and wish to do some video shooting, cut to the chase and get the DVD.