July 23, 2009

Cheap 35mm video

There is a lot of interest in Canon's 5D Mark II digital SLR for video production, as it is probably the cheapest way to shoot full-frame 35mm, and make the most of the shallow depth of filed you get with the bigger sensors. But "it has made me swear more than any other camera on a shoot, although the new firmware has made a huge difference," according to DoP, director and editor, Philip Bloom (pictured). The recent changes at least mean "you can now get the same exposure shot after shot," he told the recent Final Cut Pro User Group SuperMeet in London.

A huge bonus is that "the camera is incredible in low light," but there are problems. Even so, "I do think the camera is a game changer. Even with all the flaws it's got. If those are dealt with it will be brilliant."

He advised not to try to edit the native H.264 files, because they stutter in the editor, but to transcode it. The files can be converted in Final Cut Studio using Compressor, to ProRes, or in the free MPEG Streamclip from Squared 5, which is twice as fast. Unfortunately, the Canon shoots at 30fps, although users hope that Canon will issue a further firmware update for native 24 and 25fps. Meanwhile, there is no perfect way of converting 30p to 24p or 25p. The best way that Bloom has found is to change the time base in Cinema Tools (part of FCS). Although that will give an overcranked look (slow motion replay), it is simple to do. Otherwise, he advises using JES Deinterlacer, which is free, fast and retains the sound sync. It is also better to edit 30p native, then convert rather than converting the rushes.

Bloom also demonstrated JVC's small HM-100 camcorder, which records to cheap SDHC cards and can be set to capture in 35Mbps QuickTime, so that files can be instantly accessible to Final Cut Pro. "This is the quickest transfer you're going to have if you're a Final Cut user. There is no rewrapping, no capturing, and no transcoding. You just copy across the files."

SDHC can also solve one of the biggest problems with tapeless: "How do you archive? But these cards are so cheap you could store them." A 16GB card can store 50 minutes and costs about £25. The camera can also record MP4 files, for compatibility with other NLEs.

David Fox

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