Thursday, September 02, 2010

DSLR and the revolution part 1

Nance and I have watched with interest the development of the inclusion of HD video into the realm of the DSLR world.  Nance has been wanting a full-frame DSLR ever since she saw the Kodak one around 2004.  Then we saw "The Last Three Minutes" shot by Shane Hurlbut and his crew, using a Canon 5D Mark II.  Then we saw the last episode of House, which was also shot with the 5D.

Since we loved the results of those two "films", we knew we just had to have that camera!  Almost all of the lenses that Nance uses are manual Nikkors.  In conducting our research, it was clear to us that the Canon was really leading the pack here in terms of value.  We also determined that we could use the Nikon glass with the help of a simple adapter.  Actually, she got 10 of a different brand on ebay for about $12.50 each.  They work great!  She almost forgot the Canon back caps.

The first day with the camera, Nance was messing around with it after shooting a bunch of still tests and decided to check out the video.  She shot a 10 second clip in natural light and loaded the clip up into FCP after using the EOS capture utility.

She was very excited.  She had me look at the footage and I was just blown away by it.  It was truly stunning.  Clear and vibrant.  Just beautiful.  At that point I suggested we do some side-by-side testing against the EX3.  We have been VERY happy with the EX3 and were anxious to see what the difference was.  There was a big difference.  And while the EX3 produces stunning results, there was just something very different about the 5D's imagery.

It was very cinematic - Film like.  24p or 30 - It still had this certain quality about it.  We were both very surprised by this.  Now, we understand the issues with this camera.  Specifically:
  • Fast camera movement distorts the image (rolling shutter "jello" cam)
  • Moire issues
  • 12 minute recording time
  • Rolling shutter artifacts (especially with flash)
I tested the moire issue by shooting the roof of a house across the street from us and indeed it was terrible.  However, lens selection can be used to minimize this effect.  Moreover, I tested the same focal length on the EX3 and got similar results.

For moire effects, if you properly plan your shots with this issue in mind, you can eliminate or at least, minimize this effect.  From what we can see, the main drawback for us with this camera is the 12 minute clip length.  We do some event shoots and they can involve the camera running for more than an hour at a time.  So, for that, we will tend to favor the EX3.

For film narrative, 12 minutes is not a real issue since most shots are a few minutes tops.

Oh - yeah, and this thing takes WONDERFUL stills.

Nance has since purchased a few accessories for the camera and has started testing a workflow that uses Premiere CS5 instead of FCP as Premiere is much more adept at consuming this highly compressed format natively.  This past weekend, Nance attended Shane Hurlbut's HDSLR Bootcamp and learned a great deal.  I will detail some of the things she learned over the weekend in the next installment of this as well as post up some images from our tests with the camera.  Here is a link to Shane's blog about the weekend.

Stay tuned.

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