This past weekend I attended a workshop taught by Philip Bloom. It was hosted by The Boston Final Cut User Group and Rule Boston. The workshop was 7 hours packed full of information about how to use digital SLRs for film making. Being new to shooting with DSLRs, it was very helpful.
I want to share with you some of my take aways from the event. There was a lot of information covered so I’m only going to share what is relevant to a documentary film, like the one I am working on.
The two cameras we talked the most about were the Canon T2i, 7D and 5D Mark II. While there are a couple more cameras that are capable of doing full HD video, these three have the most options.
The main difference between the cameras is in image. This has to do with the size of the sensor used to record the images. The T2i and 7D use the same size sensor and produce a similar image. The 5D uses a full frame sensor that produces an athletic image like no other video camera. To see an example of this camera in action check out this year’s season finale of House.
The 7D does seem to have some more advantages over the 5D and that is probably the camera we will end up getting. Unless you love the look of the 5D, then the 7D should work just fine. I asked him if one was better for interviews and he said either one worked great.
Philip stressed that lenses are the biggest investment. Ideally you want a lens that will work on both the 7D and 5D. Since the sensors are different sizes, the optics change for each lens. I’m still trying to understand this myself but it’s something to research if you are going this route.
For interviewers he recommended the Canon EF 70-200mm because it’s light and works with both cameras. It’s very challenging to keep the camera still when shooting, so image stabilization is a must.
You will want to shoot in a very flat color. Turn the contrast and saturation all the way down. This will prevent loss of detail in the image and make it easier to color match the video in post production. A simple solution for color matching is Magic Bullet software. You can easily create a style for your film by draging and dropping effects onto your video.
If you are going shoot with moving subjects, you will need some extra equipment. It’s nearly impossible to get a stable image without it. Zacuto has a number of products for DSLR cameras that will make it easier to keep the camera still. One piece of equipment that was recommended by someone other than Philip was the LCD ViewFinder. It’s nicer the Zacuto version because it attaches by a small magnet stuck to the camera.
The take away here is DO NOT use the camera as your main source of audio. You can use it for reference audio but the quality is not good and there is no way to monitor it. You want to use an external recorder to capture the sounds and then sync the audio in post production. You can use PluralEyes software to easily match up the audio and video. It is so easy Philip was even able to give us a live demo and it worked perfectly.
For a recorder he recommends the Tascam DR100 over the Zoom H series. The main reason being that the Zoom recorders have problems closing files. You could lose an entire interview if you run out of power. The Tascam uses a rechargeable battery and two AA for backup. It also does not have the file closing issue.
Big Take Away
The biggest take away from the workshop was that Philip is basically a one man film crew. With these cameras he can create stunning imagery without all the equipment you would traditionally need.
This is great news for John and I because this is exactly the situation we are in. We want to create something that looks great without breaking the bank.
After this workshop I am excited about the possibilities and can’t wait to get started. I want to thank Philip and everyone else who made the event possible. It was just what I needed to put my project in perspective.