Canon 5D MarkII Shooting: Advice

A friend of mine is interested in getting into the video world. He’s going to enter the YouTube Project Report Contest. He asked me whether he should use his friend’s Canon that shoots video or rent a video camera. This was my response, detailing some of the things that are helpful to know before shooting video with the Canon.

What model is it – 5d, 7d or rebel? The video on all three should be super beautiful. Nacho has the 5d and shoots almost all his video with it. Because it uses a true camera lens, you have a depth of field that only the most very expensive cameras can do. I don’t know if normal video can even do it.  The above is a clip from Nacho’s contribution to Hold Out showing the depth of field.

That being said, taking video with it can be very difficult. Try to use a tripod. You should use manual focus (good rule for all video.) you may have to update the firmware so as to allow you to use manual and change the ISO instead of using auto exposure. You can use the auto but the results are far better manual. Whichever you do, do take a solid day to learn where the settings are and what they do. Here is a link to the firmware. It contains instructions for making the update.

Focusing: You’re going to be looking at the image on the display screen.  The best way to be absolutely focused is to zoom in 10X by pressing the magnify button next to your right thumb.  It’s the button on the very, very top right.  One press gives 5x.  Second press, 10X, Third press, back to normal.

Another issue is that the sound is not super. What is ideal is to plug a mic into the side – it takes a mini plug (with any camera, it’s better not to use in camera mic.)  Here is a soundtest of three popular microphones.  Nacho has the Rode VideoMic Directional Shotgun Mic w/ Mount.  The price is super reasonable, and I’ve used it with both the 5d and my Sony video camera, and it’s always given me super sound.  You have to be careful to turn it off.

Others, like Vince LaForet and Zach Wise claim you should record sound separately, with say, a Marantz.

Video format and editing. See how whatever program you will be using (Canon software (if it exists), iMovie, etc.) handles the files. Final Cut has some issues because it thinks the video is 30frames per second, not 29.97. Super goofy. It can cause some problems – mostly everything goes slow in editing but will work, with lots of time-eating rendering. MediaStorm has created a very thorough guide to making the footage usable for Final Cut. It is the proper way to do it, but takes a heap of time and memory.

Advice: use the camera. Don’t let any of this intimidate you. Watch a video or two of Nacho’s.  Roping the Wind is the best example, also Hold Out. See how he puts scenes together. Both were filmed all with Canon 5d.

If manual operations are too hard, switch to auto. Try to keep it under 3 minutes – people get bored fast. For the interview, have a list of questions. When you leave, the answers that stick in your mind are probably the ones you want.

If you are going to be handholding the camera, use a light lens. Heavy ones are super hard to hold steady.

Final Issue – video eats memory with the Canons. You need to have lots – I would say a minimum of 16gb if using the Rebel. According to Canon, 12 minutes of recording in HD takes 4gb of memory. Again, give it a go and see what happens. [Specific to the project proposed by my friend - If you start at his house with him getting ready, you can copy the card over on the way to the site. (Although you'll probably want some car imagery for transitions.)]

By the way, all of this was typed on my iphone.