Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Help Increase Filming Incentives in CO

From the Colorado Film and Video website…
HB 12-1286 goes to the House Finance Committee this week, Wednesday February 29th, 2012, and we need your help to see it through! HB 12-1286 will boost the current Colorado film incentives from 10% to 20%, as well as provide a state guarantee for a senior bank loan for production companies (the first of it's kind in the country). You can more details about HB 12-1286 here.
Follow this link to the Colorado Film and Video website for information on how (and who) to write to help make this happen. http://filmincolorado.com/votesmart.html
A large part of why we shot our last feature (Leading Ladies) in Illinois was the IL Film Office film incentive program.  Making Colorado’s film incentive program competitive will bring more film productions to the state, increase revenue for the state (in the form of everything purchased while the production is here… which often ads up to hundreds of thousands, even millions, of dollars), and create more work for Colorado filmmakers and crews!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Best SD or CF Card for Video

Because technology changes by the second, this post will likely be outdated the moment I post it.  Hopefully, however, you will still be able to glean some useful information to help you select a good card for your shooting purposes. (p.s. I will NOT be covering cards with wi-fi capability in this post; neither will I cover micro and mini cards).

There are two different data storage cards currently being utilized by Canon (and most other manufacturer’s): the SD card, and the CF card.  Canon T2i &T3i, and 60d use the SD card.  The 7D and 5D use a CF card.

The CF card is larger, thus easier to handle.  Most people also agree that the card is “sturdier” (it’s thicker and made of stronger materials) and less likely to fail for physical reasons.  The technology used to store the data is also different between the two.

SD card
CF card

The SD card can be SDSC, SDHC or SDXC.  DO NOT try to utilize the SDSC card for your HD Video.  It is too slow and will absolutely fail you.  While SDHC and SDXC cards are faster, the terms don’t necessarily have to do with speed but instead the capacity.  SDHC has a maximum capacity of 32GB (the common sizes are 8GB, 16GB, and 32GB).  SDCX have a capacity of 2TB, but we aren’t really seeing anything much over 128GB on the market at this time.

SD card speed can be defined by several standards.  One is by “class” (2, 4, 6, 10) and is intended to correspond to the MB per second rates for minimum sustained writing (i.e. Class 6 achieves 6MB/s).  The “x rating” is a multiple of the CD-ROM speed rating standard (1.2Mbit/sec) and will be shown as 100x, 133x, 266x, etc.  There is a relatively new standard called UHS that actually supports a higher clock frequency and starts out around 50MB/s.  At the time of posting, only a few devices support this new SD standard, however.

It is important to note  that these standards are governed only “in house,” so many manufacturers will claim their cards adhere to a class 10 speed, for instance, while real-world tests clearly show that they only achieve speeds in the class 4 range.  You can spend hours and hours (I have) trying to make sense of various brands and class ratings, comparing cards, reading reviews on various websites where people have actually done speed tests, etc… this is exactly why I’ve created this post.  Note also that even among cards that appear to be exactly the same (same brand, same model, same class) there can be wild variance with read/write speeds.  The better the brand, the greater the standards, and the less likely this is to happen, but of course, the more expensive the card.

An example of the above is a class 4 SanDisk 16GB card blowing a class 10 Transcend 16GB card right out of the water with both read and write times.  Theoretically any class 10 card should be absolutely acceptable for shooting HD Video, but many users report many cards failing in this regard.  While sometimes cards rated at class 4 report stellar performance shooting HD video.

The discrepancies in standards is extremely frustrating.  Bottom line, prices, speeds, and capacities are ALL OVER THE PLACE, and can vary greatly from brand to brand, and even WITHIN each brand.

The “best” brand (the one the pros use) in the business seems to be SanDisk.  Their cards consistently meet their published speeds, often exceeding the published speeds (sometimes even doubling speed claims).  Of course, there is always room for error, but this is the card that most people will swear by.

Another popular brand is Transcend, but I think their popularity is largely due to price point, as reviews show that these cards also vary wildly in meeting the published speeds.
I have had good luck (price to performance and cards achieving the advertised speed) with PNY Professional (20MB/s), and others report success with Lexar Professional/Platinum (133x) and Kingston.
UPDATE: My PNY 32GB class 10 fails constantly trying to shoot video with a T3i.

With SD cards the general price rule is around $1 a gig for most brands at the class 4 & 6 levels, and the faster you go, the higher the price. Sometime 32GB cards are a little more than 8 and 16 GB capacities.

“Better” cards like SanDisk Extreme (30MB/s) often doubles this rule ($2 a gig), and going with the “super pro” cards like the Extreme Pro (90MB/s) can triple or quadruple the price, but all the reviews suggest that the price is worth it when shooting HD video.

The CF card you will want should utilize the UDMA (Ultra Direct Memory Access) standard.  Most regular shooters advise getting a SanDisk “Extreme Pro” UDMA 6 card.  This means it can achieve 90MB/s speeds.  However, at nearly half the price, the “Pro” is probably fine at 60MB/s.  Just know that you’re less likely to lose a shot if you spend the cash on the (much) faster card.

You will see Type I and Type II when looking at CF cards.  This corresponds only to physical thickness.  The Type I card is 3.3mm thick, and the Type II card is 5mm thick.

Canon cameras can only shoot clips up to 12 minutes, thus I would suggest having multiple smaller cards is better than having one huge card.  Lots of data on one card means greater risk for loss of all data, and since you’ll never be able to utilize the space for one long recording… go the safer route!

CF adapters are meant to utilize SD cards in devices requiring the CF form-factor.  These will be tempting to users upgrading from devices that utilized SD cards (because you spent a lot of money on fast SD cards and you want to keep using them).  Unfortunately most CF adapters create a bottleneck.  The bus speed of the adapter is nowhere near as fast as the SD cards themselves, thus they prohibit the device from reading/writing as fast as necessary.  Note also that there are Type I and Type II adapters, just like with CF cards (type I and type II).  This corresponds only to size. Type I is 3.3mm thick, while Type II cards are 5mm thick.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Why Does Photoshop Keep Grabbing the Wrong Object?!

You have “auto select” ticked.

Make sure you have your “move tool” (the arrow) selected, and in the upper left-hand corner there will be a box called “auto-select” with options for group and layer.  Untick (deselect) this option, and Photoshop will no longer auto-select the object you have your cursor hovering over.

You’re welcome.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Taking the DSLR for Video Plunge (Part 2: Choosing the Right Lenses for Canon DSLR Video)

Taking the DSLR for Video Plunge
Part I: General Questions and Choosing the Camera
Part II: Choosing the Right Lenses for Canon DSLR Video
Part III: Choosing the Right Accessories

When beginners are getting into the DSLR cinematography game, they tend to forget about the cost of glass.  Yeah, that Canon 60D is only around a thousands dollars, but you’re going to need to spend at least that much again on lenses to be up and running with any kind of versatility.

There are some really great lenses out there, but some of them are $2k a piece, even more.  For instance, this Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM retails for $18,200!!!

You would probably never use that with your 60D for shooting video, but on the realistic side, this Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L USM lens goes for $1,600 (street).  That’s more than a 7D.

Not only that, but the above lenses are mainly intended for shooting still photography.  Cine Lenses are the ultimate for shooting video, but they cost even more!  For instance, this EF mount (Canon) 85mm Zeiss compact prime goes for $4,000.

And this 30-300mm Canon Cine Zoom goes for a whopping $45,000!!!839226

What are these Cine Lenses I speak of?  Without going too deep into it, basic/general differences in “cine lenses” are greater turning radius for focusing, no “click” when changing the aperture, often more iris blades for smoother Bokeh, geared inner focus rings to reduce “breathing,” and generally better build quality and glass.

Where To Start
I want to put together a collection of “starter” lenses… good, solid lenses that will accommodate a wide range of shooting scenarios without breaking the bank.  I’d like to have a good set of “primes” and maybe one or two decent zooms.

“Primes” are fixed focal length lenses. You want primes with a low aperture number, or f-stop (meaning a “faster” lens that works in lower light and has a greater depth of field).  Generally a small set of primes will include something like a 14mm, a 24mm, a 35mm, a 50mm, and an 85mm.  Keep the “crop factor” (see below) in mind when making your list (with cropped sensor cameras like the 60D and 7D, your lens is actually “longer” than what it says on the side!)

Obviously 5 lenses aren’t always practical when considering the pocket book, and this is where a good zoom comes in handy.  Finding really good wide angle zooms (especially with a low f/stop) is more difficult than, say, a 24-70mm or even a 24-105mm, so you will likely want to purchase wide primes, and then let your zoom take care of your longer focal lengths.  That said, the first lens I’m dead set on getting is the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8.

Here’s a good post on the topic of purchasing “first time” lenses for video:

The Crop Factor
Most DSLR users already have this ingrained in their mind, but you need to remember that the T3i, 60D, and 7D are cropped sensor cameras, so when you slap a 50mm lens on the camera, you’re effectively using an 80mm lens (because the image is cropped, it’s virtually magnified). The T3i, 60D, and 7D all have a magnification factor of 1.6x. Click here for an explanation.

Here are some common lens sizes and their corresponding 1.6x “effective” size.

Full Frame Cropped Sensor (1.6x)
10mm 16mm
17mm 27.2mm
20mm 32mm
28mm 44.8mm
35mm 56mm
50mm 80mm
105mm 168mm
135mm 216mm
200mm 320mm
400mm 640mm
600mm 960mm

Purchasing Older Lenses for Video
Older lenses can be nicer because there is often more distance in the rotation of the focus ring, thus it’s easier to focus manually (and often smoother than the newer lenses as well). Not to mention you can find older lenses for CHEAP!

Different lenses will have different looks. Some are “softer,” and there will even be a change in the image color from lens to lens. Thus, when building a set, it’s good to get lenses with similar properties.

On the “softness” topic: A lot of people feel that the sharpness of a lens doesn’t matter as much when you’re shooting video, because the image is essentially only 2MP (HD screen size). Still, it’s a good idea to test drive a lens to see what your image will look like before dropping a huge chunk of change on a lens. Some lenses may be so soft as to be unusable.
Different manufacturers have different “mounts,” so you need to be sure you have an adapter that allows your lens to be used with the Canon EF (EOS) mount.

When purchasing an adapter to use older, manual lenses, bear in mind that the adapter for using old Canon lenses (FD mount) contains a piece of glass. Your image will be softer, and more importantly, it can often be difficult to focus at infinity (the the distance from the piece of glass to your sensor isn’t exactly right). The Nikon to Canon EF (EOS) adapter is a simple metal ring, so old Nikon lenses are the way to go.

NOTE: You need to be VERY careful when using lenses that weren’t intended for your camera, because sometimes the lens can actually stick out too far and hit the mirror or other internal workings of your DSLR. My advice is to research online the specific set up you’re trying to use. Chances are, someone else did it before you did, and you can learn from their (often expensive) mistakes!

Here’s a post with lots of links and information about using Nikon lenses with a Canon camera from famed digital camera reviewer, Ken Rockwell:  Using Nikor Lenses on a Canon

Lens Mounts
Color Key: Good, Not Really Recommended, Do Not Use
Canon EF (EOS) (1987-present)
Canon EF-S The “s” is for short. more information at Wiki
Canon FD (1981-1987)
Replaced FL. Can be used with an adapter, but the adapter contains glass that will definitely soften the image and often makes infinity focus difficult or impossible (if the glass isn’t positioned at exactly the right distance from the sensor).
Canon FL (1964-1971)
Can be used on FD mount. Replaced Canon R. Same problem with adapters as above.
Nikon F In addition to Nikon's own range of "Nikkor" lenses, brands of F-mount photographic lenses include Zeiss, Voigtländer, Schneider, Angénieux, Samyang, Sigma, Tokina, Tamron, Hartblei, Kiev-Arsenal, Lensbaby, and Vivitar. F-mount photographic cameras include current models from Nikon, Fujifilm, Sinar, Kenko and Horseman. Numerous other manufacturers employ the F-mount in non-photographic imaging applications. (more information on Wiki)
Nikon G (2003-present)
G lenses are F mount, but they have no aperture ring. Starting in 2007 a company started making an EF adapter for the G lenses that introduces the aperture ring.
Pentax K
Be careful about K lenses protruding into the camera body and hitting your mirror/sensor! Many adapters (specifically glass-less ones) specify that they are for cropped sensor Canons only (not film and not full sensor).
Pentax M42 Screw Mount (be careful with mirror clearance!)
Carl Zeiss Jena Flektogon and Pancolars which are M42 mount seem to work great
Leica R (with limitation on certain lenses –see below) From CameraQuest: “R Lenses Which will NOT work: Strangely enough not all Leica R lenses protrude in identical ways into camera bodies. The following Leica R lenses are reported to have mirror clearance issues with most if not all adapted EOS cameras: 15/3.5, 16/2.8, 19/2.8 Second Version, 21/4 Mirror Lock Up Version, 35/1.4, 35-70/2.8, 80-200/4.5 First Version. The 24/2.8 and 28-70/3.5-4.5 (2nd version) will not work on the EOS 5D because the rear element protective guard hits the mirror. The 21-35/3.5 Aspherical and 28-90/2.8-4.5 Aspherical is reported not to work on the 1Ds Mk II. Keep in mind there are minor design changes during a lens' lifetime (most of which are not reported by manufacturers), and so the changes are unknown to the public. The first time you mount any adapted lens to any adapted camera, it only makes prudent sense to carefully check mirror clearance. The Canon 5D has a larger than normal EOS mirror, so take extra care mounting lenses. This list is not represented as complete. If you find other Leica R mount lenses which will not mount safely on the EOS adapters, let me know and I will add to this list.”
Contax/Yashica (often seen as C/Y mount) (With exceptions)
From CameraQuest:
“LENSES WHICH WILL NOT WORK: Reportedly the following adapted Contax lenses are not compatible with the EOS 5D: 18/4, 85/1.2, and 135/2.  There have been conflicting OK/Not OK reports on the Contax 28/2.8, perhaps suggesting unreported lens variations.  Lens mount variations have been reported on the 28/2.8 MM and the 35-70 MM lenses.  These lenses may require about 1mm to be filed from the end of the brass locking latch,  before the lenses will lock on the adapter.  Take note that if you do this modification, the adapter may or may not lock on other Contax lenses.
Olympus OM

Winners (I’m definitely getting these, and will keep updating the list):
Tokina 11mm-16mm f/2.8 (around $700 street)
I’ve heard a few complaints (though very few) about minor distortion at the edges when shooting around 15mm; these people normally then state that they purchased the Canon 10-22mm EF-S instead, but it costs more and is f/3.5-4.5 instead of fixed at f/2.8 like the Tokina.
If price wasn’t an issue, I’d love to have the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM for the next step in the focal length range, but it’s $1,600.

Carl Zeiss Pancolar 50mm/1.8 MC converted to “Cine Style” –slower grease and de-clicked aperture (around $170)

UPDATE: I actually found a couple of Nikon lenses on Craigslist.  Someone was selling their old Nikon camera, and these lenses came with it.  Not sure what I’ll be doing with the camera, but I now have a 28mm/2.8, a 50mm/1.8, and a 70-200/3.8 all for under $150.  They won’t likely remain my go to set of primes, but they’ll definitely get me started so I can take my time putting together my “real” lens kit.  I got on Ebay and purchased three of the cheapest Nikon F to Canon EF adapters at $10 a pop, and bought three back caps from Amazon for $4 a piece.  Everything arrived, and I got lucky because everything fits tightly (sometimes the caps or adapters will be a little loose, and thus no good).  I also purchased a set of JIS screw drivers (drivers for Phillips head looking screws which are slightly different and typically used in Japanese made computers and cameras) and took apart the lenses to de-click the aperture ring.  I’m still looking for a good grease to use for the focus and aperture rings, but I’ll write another post on that soon.

An interesting post comparing cameras and the human eye that I stumbled upon while researching this post:

Taking the DSLR for Video Plunge
Part I: General Questions and Choosing the Camera
Part II: Choosing the Right Lenses for Canon DSLR Video
Part III: Choosing the Right Accessories

Building a Skate Wheel Dolly for Film and Video

Last week I pulled the Kessler Crane that a friend gave me after a shoot out from the garage.  It got me excited to start shooting again, but I am currently without a dolly, as I sent the one I’d previously been using back to its original owner after the last project.

So time to build a dolly.

There are lots of different styles and methods on the web, but a lot of the how to’s are videos, which I always find incredibly frustrating (I don’t want to have to watch a video).  A lot of the how to’s also don’t have a parts list.  A lot of the how to’s also add a lot of unnecessary steps and parts.

So I thought I’d document my version here.


Parts list for the Dolly:

Thrift Store:

  • 16 - in-line skate wheels (that’s two pairs of Rollerblades… I paid $2.50 a pair for a total of $5 at the local Habitat for Humanity ReStore)
  • If you don’t want to use used wheels, you can also order new wheels on E-bay.  There are consistent offerings of wheels for around $10 for four wheels.  You can probably find even better deals (as I type this there is a lot of 44 brand-new 84mm wheels with abec-5 bearings going for $9.99).

Lowe’s or Home Depot:

  • 16 - 1/4” x 2” zinc plated hex bolts (I paid $.24 each)
  • 64 - 1/4” zinc plated flat washers (I paid $.11 each)
  • 32 - 1/4” zinc plated cut washers (I paid $.15 each)
  • 32 - 1/4” zinc plated hex nuts (I paid $.09 each)
  • 02 - 1-1/2 in. x 48 in. zinc plated slotted angle rail (I paid $.11 each)
  • 01 - 48” x 28” 3/4” plywood platform
  • 02 - 48” 2x4’s (these aren’t absolutely necessary)
  • drywall or wood screws

NOTE: At Home Depot, the hardware packs of 100 pieces cost considerably more than buying pieces individually; stupid but true.


Parts List for the Track (modify liberally with whatever you might have available):

Lowe’s or Home Depot:

  • 02 – 8’ lengths of Galvanized or aluminum 1 5/8” diameter fence post (used for chain link fence)
  • 01 - 60” 2x4
  • 08 - 2 5/8” 16 penny nails



You will be fastening the skate wheels to a piece of angle steel as shown here.  There will be four clusters of four wheels, that will glide on two steel pipes (galvanized chain link fence posts) for track.



Here is one of the Rollerblades I stole the wheels from. You simply unscrew the bolts with an hex (Allen) wrench and remove each wheel.



Here is the hardware (bolt, wheel, nuts, and washers) laid out in the order you will assemble them. It goes: bolt, flat washer, cut washer, wheel, cut washer, flat washer, nut, flat washer, rail (not shown), flat washer, nut.  The cut washers fit up against the wheel bearings and allow the wheel to spin.  This is critical.  If you don’t use the cut washers, the flat washers will press against the wheel and the bearing and the wheel won’t be able to turn.  If you want, you can use a stand-off (a metal tube) instead of a cut washer, but the cut washer is the cheapest route and works great.



The perils of using used skate wheels. As you can see in the photo, the previous owner failed to rotate her wheels on a regular basis, thus the wheel is lopsided. To avoid this problem, you can either buy wheels new, or simply install the wheel with the worn side out (so the unworn side hits the track). The wheel in the photo below will thus need to be flipped on the bolt axel.

The perils of used skate wheels


Here are all sixteen wheels, assembled and ready to attach to the rails.

16 wheels all in a row


Here is a detail of how the wheels are attached to the rail.

How they're attached (detail)


You can space your wheels however you see fit.  I’m a little OCD, so I set mine on the holes lined up with the imprinted diamond mark on the rail.  Just make sure if you are using a slot that allows the bolt to move up and down or back and forth, that you’re setting everything in the same position.



Next comes the dolly platform.  You will be tempted to make the platform as wide as possible to accommodate wide-spread tripods, but I highly recommend making your platform less than 30” wide, so it will fit through most doors.  Some doors are only 28” wide, but most are either 30”, 32”, or 36”.

The thicker the wood for your platform, the sturdier the dolly will be, but this also means it will be heavier and harder to lug around.  I had some 1/2” plywood lying around, so that’s what I used.  It’s got some flex to it, so I ran 2x4’s all the way around the edge (the two steel rails (to which the wheels are bolted) running the length of the platform pretty much take care of the longitudinal flex, so the cross pieces are all that’s really necessary.  However, I did the whole perimeter so there would be something to grab when carrying it around (the 2x4’s act as a handle).  If you want, you could also glue a top layer of thinner MDF directly to the plywood to make it really strong and prevent flex, but this will contribute greatly to the total weight.



You will almost certainly find that you need to raise the wheels a bit off the platform (they will likely rub against the underside of the dolly).  You can use longer bolts and extra nuts to address this, but I feel that longer bolts run the risk of bending or at least flexing.  I chose to put a small strip of wood under each steel rail.  You will want to do this before/while setting the width of the rails (next step).



Finally you need to make the track on which the dolly will ride.  The standard width for dolly track is 24.5 inches (62.23cm), so it makes sense to set your track at this width.  Flip the entire set up over and set your wheel rails on the bottom of your dolly platform.  Place your track on the wheels.  Again, you should now have your dolly and track laid out on the floor upside down.  Measure 24.5” on center from pipe to pipe, and then screw your wheel rails down to the dolly platform.  You can also just measure the peak of the steel rails if your wheels are evenly spaced on either side of said rails.





Ideally you would also have crossties (supports every 2 feet or so) to keep the dolly track from flexing. An easy solution for crossties is sandbags. You can permanently affix your crossties to the track by drilling a hole in the center of the pipe and screwing it down to the cross ties, but it makes it more difficult to transport the track.  I have also found that even when riding my dolly there is little to no flex in 1 5/8” galvanized steel pipes, so I don’t use cross ties.

You can join lengths of track together for a longer track run, but you will almost certainly get a “bump” in your footage when you roll over the seem where two pieces of track meet. If you do join pieces, you will want a tight fitting tube or solid cylinder fit inside the two pieces of track to keep the two pieces fit snugly together.

Some people would suggest it’s just as easy (though definitely not as cheap) to buy track, and build your dolly.  When you purchase track, you’ll also have better luck with joining lengths together (if you need a run longer than 8ft.).  You can also buy curved sections (bending pipe requires special tools, and is beyond the scope of most DIY-ers).

At this point, you may also want to make a “hi-hat.”  This can be simply a piece of plywood with a bolt in the middle of it (on which to mount your camera).  A hi-hat is just a sturdy way to set your camera on a flat surface (like a dolly).  Obviously you’ll want to recess the hole for the bolt on the bottom of the hi-hat, so the board rests flush on a flat surface.  I drilled a hole then glued the bolt in place with Gorilla Glue.

p.s. Don’t store your dolly on the rails or leave it sitting for a long time or you’ll create flat spots on the wheels that will cause bumps when you roll.

Taking the DSLR for Video Plunge (Part 1: General Questions and Choosing the Camera)

Taking the DSLR for Video Plunge
Part I: General Questions and Choosing the Camera
Part II: Choosing the Right Lenses for Canon DSLR Video
Part III: Choosing the Right Accessories

As a filmmaker, I would love to have the luxury of owning every gadget, camera, and lens I might ever want to use.

As an indie filmmaker, I know I am limited by the amount of cash at my disposal.  So while I love shooting on RED, I can’t afford a camera and all the required peripherals, and I know not every little project can budget for renting a RED camera package and lenses.

dslr_mondayThus, I am looking more and more at actually purchasing a DSLR for “film” work (I still hate calling it video, even though that’s what it is –it just conjures thoughts of bad sit-com looking footage).

In addition to doing online research, I also put quite a few questions to two of my friends who shoot regularly using DSLR and other high-end digital cameras.  I thought it could benefit others if I posted the information here.

Jeff McCutcheon is an indie writer, director, and cinematographer living in Columbus, OH and working in Los Angeles.  He was the cinematographer for Jeffie Was Here (2010), and also co-directed, shot, and edited the award-winning 2011 short, Change.  Jeff owns a Canon 5D mark II.

Luke Boyce is the technical and creative mind behind Shatterglass  Studios in Champaign, IL.  He is responsible for various aspects of tech and production on the 2010 film Leading Ladies, the 2008 short, Sugar, as well as many other film/video projects in both the corporate and entertainment fields.  Luke’s company owns a RED One and a RED Scarlet, as well as Canon 5D, 7D, and 60D.

So here’s the first e-mail I sent out:

Howdy, fellas.

We're going to shoot some dance for the camera stuff, a short, and a television pilot this Spring, and I'm seriously considering the Canon platform to make it happen (vs. renting out higher end stuff).

I don't really care about any of the still photo features, so I'm thinking about going T3i instead of the more expensive 7D, and apparently 5D/1D is way overkill.  Also, what about the 60D?  It seems to be a similar price point (a few hundred dollars less) with similar features, but doesn't come up in these discussions as often.

Ten specific questions...

  1. Slow Motion:  I see people saying they shoot slow motion with their T2i, but it must suck (choppy and video-like)?  Correct me if I'm wrong but at full 1080p, 30fps is as fast as you can shoot, so slo-mo is not a real option

  2. h264: is ALL footage compressed in the camera?  Isn't this a major detriment?
  3. 12 minute limit --I assume this will not affect me at all... even the RED is limited to around 12 minutes, right?

  4. cards: I remember we had to get "special" RED cards for the RED, but that seems like it was a myth.  As long as you're using good, hi-speed cards, all's good, right?

  5. video out for monitor: do all these cameras have video out for utilizing a decent sized monitor?

  6. zoom during shooting:  I've heard you have to get a special lens, but even that stops down during zooming?

  7. Jeff says the on-camera screen on the 5D is fantastic and can be used with a simple magnifier for good focus?  Seems hard to believe you can pull sharp focus with a 2.5" or 3" screen.

  8. the rolling shutter issues and the jelly frame: what does this mean, and how big of an issue is it?

  9. Have you had luck with peripherals like follow focus, steady-cam type stuff, etc.  What would you suggest, and what can't you live without?

  10. Can you plug the camera into the wall, or must you use batteries (just curious)?

converting 30fps to 24p

Thanks so much in advance for letting me know your thoughts!!!


From Jeff:

Slow Mo - I forgot the 60P on the T3i/t2i is 720P.... But the reason I
forgot is because we routinely shot 720 60P and uprezzed it to 1080
and no one could tell the difference (truthfully I couldn't even tell
the difference (although you saw how we shot [the last project] it was sorta
"dirty" to begin with. )

It is compressed, so it's not even close to as clean as the red (and
has less latitude in post) but I watched "Change" on a giant screen at
a festival and it looked good - sorta like 16mm (think leaving las

yeah, 12 minutes limit is no problem, what is a problem is overheating
sensors. We had 2 5d's and one 7d on set during Change, and really hot
days, the other two cameras would often overheat after a few hours,
requiring at least a half hour's rest.

(Mine never did overheat , i guess I just got lucky off the production line)
Yeah a good class 10 card will work. I get mine pretty cheap at microcenter.

I think they all have HDMI out which goes to hdtv easily
On the zoom, you need a manual zoom lens (I use an old Nikon)
otherwise you'll introduce a stutter -- whether or not the zoom stops
down during zoom is entirely dependent on the lens (look for a
straight f4 as opposed to F4-5.6)

Not sure about the other cameras -- you can add this to your resources though:
It is true, it's no picnic focusing off the lcd - you do need a good
magnifier (the hoodman is crap) I made mine out of a nice achromatic
lens. it's no picnic focusing off of a 7 inch lcd either though, so
for me (if I'm not going to be hooked up to large monitor) I prefer to
handhold it without any 7-inch screen.


From Luke:

You came to the right place cause we use Canon alongside our RED's on a weekly basis. Let me just say right off the bat that the 60D is the way to go. We had a 5D that we did love, but the full frame gave us almost TOO much depth of field to where it didn't look as filmic. The 60D and the 7D (as well as the T2i and T3i) all use the APS-C Cropped sensor which is basically the same sensor size as the RED and S35mm film. That's the way to go. But I would avoid the Rebels (T2i and T3i) if you can because they limit your ISO's and things like that. They're basically entry-level versions of the cameras. But from a video perspective the 60D and the 7D are essentially the exact same. If you were going to be doing heavy photography as well, I would say go with the 7D, but if you are focusing on video the 60D is the way to go. We not only use it regularly, but we started using it based on suggestions from professional cinematographers we talk to in Chicago. Here's a couple commercials we even shot recently with the 60D which both include slow-motion: http://vimeo.com/31869432. Again, the main benefit you get with the 60D over the T2i is way more manual controls (ISO choices, manual Color Temp, etc.) plus the viewfinder is adjustable unlike the 7D and the T2i.


1. Slow-motion can be achieved at 60fps in 720p on the T2i, T3i, 60D and the 7D. If you're final output is 1080p (which it obviously would be if you're shooting with a 1080p camera) than you shouldn't be able to discern a difference. As this does seem like a compromise, almost all cameras other than RED and Phantom force you to downrez to do slow-motion. Even Canon's new C300, a $20,000 camera, forces you to do 720p to do 60fps.

2. Yes. All footage is compressed, but that is the way it is for all current cameras like this on the market. All cameras are using either AVCHD, H.264 and the newer iFrame which is just another H.264 codec. The only thing this does is limit how much latitude you have in post to color-correct, but by using Technicolor's free color profile for Canon's you can eliminate any issues with that. It flattens the image and gives you as much information as the sensor can achieve. The only camera to really get if you don't want the compression issue is RED, which is the only camera that shoots RAW and gives you all available information. But trust me when I say that as long as you shoot with Technicolor's profile, you can still achieve some badass coloring with the H.264 files.

3. Shouldn't affect you at all. We use Canon's to even shoot long live events. 12 minutes is quite a lot of time for narrative work. We've even managed full interviews in the 12-minute time on numerous occasions. It's never been an issue.

4. All CF and SD cards work, but lower class cards will buffer a lot. Your best bet is to get a few 16gb cards (SDXC for 60D and T2i/T3i's). They work like a charm.

5. All the camera's feature mini-HDMI output and will give you full camera information on external monitors.

6. This is all depending on the quality of the lens you're using. If you're using, say, a 50-300mm f4-5.6 you'll get some stop down as you zoom, but if you use the Canon 70-200mm f2.8 you won't. Much more expensive lens, but the quality of your image is almost totally reliant on the quality of your lenses.

7. The quality of the lcd's on all of the Canon cameras are top-notch. Really great. The issue with the 5D and the 7D are that the lcd's are fixed and so it's hard to see them in weird positions. The 60D and the T3i both of pop-out LCD's that can be adjusted anywhere. It's MUCH better. The cameras all also have a zoom feature that lets you get a 1:1 image for focusing. It's great, but the caveat is that it can't be utilized when recording. Also, be aware that photo lenses are not really intended for motion stuff. They're great to get that great image and depth-of-field, but cinema lenses include much higher quality optics and gears that allow for continual focus. When pulling focus on photo lenses you have to account for "breathing" issues. I've seen a million professional videos shot with these lenses though, where they manage to still work it out just fine. You just should account for not doing many rack-focuses.

8. This is all depending on your personal taste. Rolling shutter and jelly basically refer to the fact that CMOS sensors record the image from top to bottom so when you're moving the camera around the processor inside the camera is not always fast enough to get the image from top to bottom so you get skew and when handheld you get the "jelly effect". Because of the saturation of the market with HDSLR's now this effect is almost accepted, but for many, myself included, it can be a tell-tale sign of "amateur hour". The main way to avoid this is to keep the camera on a tripod as much as possible. Avoid going handheld, and in cases where you have to, use a shoulder mount. Those two things will pretty much eliminate the jelly effect/rolling shutter. Keeping in mind that these tools are extremely cheap, but with care can produce incredible imagery. I've seen Canon stuff that I had a hard time believing it was shot on the Canon, just because it was shot with care and expertise.

9. Steady-cam works great for Canon stuff, but it's not easy. We rarely use it. We have never used focus gears or follow-focuses on our stuff either. This has been a good and bad thing. Focusing by hand is hard, but can be done.

10. You can find cheap AC-Adapters for Canon's to keep it plugged in no problem. We have a pair of these in fact, that work great:

Stillmotion Films is a canadian production company that is one of the best in North America. They shoot mainly using both Canon's and RED Epics. They do a spectacular series on shooting HDSLR with gear reviews and tutorials and how to get the most out of your stuff. I desperately want to get one of the monopods they recently reviewed here:

You can check out all of their videos and tutorials at this page:

Like I said, with care and technical detail there is no reason whatsoever that you couldn't shoot incredible stuff on a Canon. It's the best out there at that range. If you want to go higher, the Sony FS100 is an absolutely incredible camera but it uses proprietary Sony lenses and is $6,000. I say, go with the Canon's and learn what you can for sure.

Hope this helps!


9-27-09dan7drigConclusion: I’m getting a Canon 7D.  The 5D is overkill (and thus, for my needs, not worth the extra money). I had been concerned about the full sensor of the 5D vs. the RED-sized sensor of the 7D/T2i/60D, but everybody seems to agree the smaller sensor is the way to go.  Most people have said that the 5D actually has "too much" depth of field.

After using a couple of friends’ T2i/T3i’s for a couple weeks, they are definitely no longer in the running.  The T3i’s aren’t able to shoot multiples of 160 ISO/ASA, they only have one processor (as does the 60D), and they just feel cheap.  The dual processors in the 7D (vs. only one in the 60D) has proven to provide better images in low-light, so that’s another reason to choose the 7D over the 60D.

My final response to the two fellas above:

So, for a couple hundred dollars more, the 7D seems like a superior tool.  It lacks only in the audio recording department, but it seems like I'll almost always be recording dedicated/external sound anyway (for serious shoots).  And there seem to be rumors of a firmware update that will put the 7D on par with the 60D soon?

Better body (magnesium over plastic), dual processors (vs. 60D single), 19 points for autofocus vs. only 9 on 60D (which, admittedly, would be more for stills), and, a big one for me, 100% image coverage in the viewfinder, vs. only 96% with the 60D.  I'm not sure that I would ever like or even use the articulating viewfinder... am I wrong?  Maybe when the camera's up on a crane or down low on a dolly I guess.  Hopefully I'll have an off-camera monitor in those instances anyway though.

Seems like that dual processor vs. just one is a pretty big humdinger... especially for low light shooting.


Both Luke and Jeff responded that it’s GREAT having the articulating viewfinder on the 60D and it gets used more than one would think, but that wouldn’t be a sufficient reason to go 60D over 7D.

Here is one final link to an article by Dan Carr on choosing between the 60D and 7D.


And just so it doesn’t look like I wasn’t thorough in my research…

A couple other filmmaker friends suggested things like the Sony FS100, the Panasonic GH2, and the soon to be released Nikon D800 (with uncompressed HDMI out).

The Sony FS100 is great, but it’s cost prohibitive with a $5/6k (body only) price point.

A lot of people like the Panasonic GH2 for it’s in-camera software hacks (Canons have almost none). Reports also state that this camera blows the moire and aliasing issues of the 7D out of the water, but comes in second just about everywhere else.  And I firmly believe that the average viewer doesn’t care one iota about moire.

The Nikon is intriguing, but to utilize the uncompressed HDMI out you need an external recorder, it’s not available yet (there will always be “the next big thing” around the corner), and it costs twice as much (body only) as the 7D.  Not to mention every time I’ve tried to switch from Canon to Nikon, I’ve regretted it about 10 seconds later.  I’m sticking with Canon.

Taking the DSLR for Video Plunge
Part I: General Questions and Choosing the Camera
Part II: Choosing the Right Lenses for Canon DSLR Video
Part III: Choosing the Right Accessories

Monday, February 13, 2012

Best Wifi Streaming Music Setup

This blog gets a lot of hits for people looking for the best and easiest way to stream music over wifi, so I thought I’d revisit what I’m using these days.

My goal was to get the cheapest and easiest set up, so that I can use it, my wife can use it, and guests can use it. It needed to be as easy to use and accessible as possible. I also wanted to be able to stream music to existing audio equipment that I already own. I’ve got a beautiful 1960’s Clairtone G2 that I love using (vinyl is great, but not always practical),

as well as a Carver M-400t cube with a Carver C-2 preamp running into some Magnaplanar MG-I IMP’s from the early 70’s.

M-400t magnaplanar

Of course these systems both sound better with vinyl or CD’s running “real” audio (not compressed MP3’s), but when I’m having a party or messing around the house and don’t want to be manning the music at all times, it’s nice to be able to just let HAL DJ.

airportI searched and searched and searched for wifi audio streaming hardware under $50, but to no avail.   I just wanted a box to plug into my stereo that would stream music from my computer.  A used Airport Express from Ebay is definitely the way to go.  You can easily find them for around $40, and all you’re using is the audio, so you can use older versions without any trouble.  (Added bonus: with most AirPort Expresses, you could even hook up a USB printer to have WiFi printing at a central location in your home).

While I know there will be people who decry using iTunes as the main player in the set up, it’s free and while it has it’s draw-backs seems to be the easiest thing going.  Also, most other software developers allow for interfacing or at least exporting/importing data that will work with an iTunes core.

I like iTunes as the center of the system, because it makes it super easy to choose various speakers (zones) around the house.  You just go to the bottom right corner and select the speakers to which you want to stream from the drop down.  You can stream to just one or two, or all of them.  Simply select “multiple speakers” and the dialogue box below pops up.

choose speakers

The more speakers you stream, the longer it takes for iTunes to find them all and “get going” when you hit play (still under a few seconds with several speakers), but that’s a small price to pay for this simple solution to multiple zones.

Another huge benefit to a system with iTunes at the core is that, anyone with iTunes on their computer, an iPhone, or a compatible Android app can control the music play (if I let them), and they can even stream their own music to my system.

Obviously iPhones can work the system without a hitch, but if you’re on PC or Android, it’s still easy as pie.

For my Android device remote, I was originally using Jeff Sharkey’s TunesRemote, but he’s since stopped creating updates (not to mention you had to pair it EVERY TIME you used it, and that was a major pain in the ass).  But not to worry, as there is a dedicated community who has taken over the app (now called TunesRemote+), and they’re doing a bang up job!  The app stays paired to iTunes forever (I paired it once, and have never had to do it again), and it even works with some other programs like MediaMonkey and Songbird.  It is made to act exactly like the iTunes remote, so there are a few apps out there that might be more robust (edit playlists from remote, etc.), but this is the best and easiest free Android iTunes remote I’ve found.

You will definitely want (need) to download AirPort utility from the Apple website, as it is what will get your computer gelling with the Airports around the house.  It’s intuitive and easy to use, so you shouldn’t have any trouble getting up and running once you install and run the app and have it find all your Airports.

And those who simply refuse to use iTunes need not fret.  You can still use this setup by utilizing AirFoil ($25, both Mac and PC), which basically hi-jacks your Apple Airports and allows you to stream audio to them from anything on your computer!

Rock on.

Friday, February 3, 2012

FRAUD ALERT: “Experian” Charging People’s Cards Without Authorization


Today I received my CC Bill and noticed a charge from Experian (which is a credit reporting agency).  I have never signed up for anything from Experian, nor have I authorized them to make any charges to my credit card.

The charge was for $19.95 and listed a number of 877-297-7790.  The company name listed for the charge was EXPERIAN *CREDIT877-297-7790 CA.

American Express let me know the charge actually came from ConsumerInfo.com.  When you type that address into your browser, you guessed it… FreeCreditReport.com; the landing page even has a photo of that douchebag musician from the annoying commercials.

I asked Amex why then my statement said the charge was from Experian (a “reputable” company and one of the three major credit reporting agencies in the US), and they didn’t seem to have an answer for me.  Really, Amex?  Any old company can use another company’s name to make (fraudulent) charges to my card, and you don’t seem to have a problem with that?  Not only that, but you can use a fake name (ConsumerInfo.com) instead of your real name (FreeCreditReport.com) and then LIST your name as someone else’s company (Experian)?!

I also can’t believe Experian hasn’t done something about this. There is a company (FreeCreditReport.com) using their name for some really shady activity!

FYI: when you Google the above phone number, there are hundreds of posts reporting fraudulent charges to people’s credit cards (under the guise of legitimate credit reporting agencies).  There are even reports of people calling the number, being asked for their CC number for identification (who are these people giving out their CC#’s just because someone asks for it?!), being disconnected, and then receiving more fraudulent charges (not surprisingly).

Bottom line: Freed Credit Report dot com is fraudulently (illegally) charging people’s credit cards for services they do not sign up for or authorize.  Be aware, and check your credit card statements regularly. [UDPATE] In most cases, it’s not FreeCreditReport.com initiating these charges, but a third party who has obtained the credit card numbers making a purchase at FreeCreditReport.com with your card.  However, if FreeCreditReport.com made ANY EFFORT WHATSOEVER to make sure these were legitimate purchases by checking the name of the person making the charge against the name on the card, or even requiring a billing zip code or card authorization number, this wouldn’t be happening.  Instead, FreeCreditReport.com is (of course) happy to receive the money from these illegal charges, and your credit card is happy to receive their percentage.  IMO, this is why no one wants to do anything to prevent this activity… they’re all making money!  Judging from reader comments, the credit card companies are usually quick to reverse the charges, but the credit reporting companies (Experian) and FreeCreditReport.com/ConsumerInfo.com are VERY reluctant to help in any way.

If this has happened to you, call your credit card company and REPORT IT TO YOUR STATE’S ATTORNEY GENERAL.  Call them (this is a link to the AG for every state in the US).  Do it now.  Eventually, the attention brought to this huge (and still growing) problem will surely cause someone to do something about it (instead of banks, credit reporting companies, and the Attorney General simply continuing to ignore the problem).