Archive for June, 2011
OK so this isn’t the normal type of post you’ll see on this site but I tend to get asked a lot, an awful lot, about equipment I use, camera set ups, editing etc so I thought I’d give you my thoughts which could be used as a guide to people starting out.
I just want to point out what I say here is my own personal opinion based on my experiences, I’m completely independent and have no affiliations to any companies so any equipment I recommend is done so on the basis that I’ve used it or I own it. Filming is something I do for fun, It’s not my day Job and nor will it ever be.
Which Camera ?
Simple answer is it depends on the job but given the incredible impact DSLR’s have had on independent filmmaking I’ll concentrate on those, in particular on Canon’s range.
So why a DSLR ? .. Well lets not forget these are stills cameras, the fact they can shoot full HD video is almost offered as a bonus. So why choose these cameras to shoot your films on ? .. Two reasons, firstly the images defy the price tag and secondly, and most importantly, the ability to control depth of field. Using depth of field to draw your viewer to certain parts of a scene was something previously only available to Pro’s with cameras worth tens of thousands. When Canon introduced video to their DSLR’s and gave film makers the ability to control depth of field on such cheap cameras it completely changed the game.
Having said that this isn’t a review as it’s not really fair to review camera’s that differ so hugely in price, they vary for a reason, largely to do with their stills capabilities. Also with Canon releasing new bodies constantly this article would be out of date very quickly. Its safe to say that any of Canon’s range are more than capable cameras, the 550D/T2i is a fantastic bargain with the likes of the 600D, 60D all offering excellent features.
550D/T2i – great performance given the price
Obviously the two pro bodies canon offer, the 7D and 5Dmkii are priced well above their counterparts and they are both truly fantastic. The 7D with it’s 1.6x crop sensor is ideal for sports shooting, has the option of 50/60p and all wrapped up in a true weather sealed body. However the 5Dmkii is the one camera I use constantly, the huge full-framed sensor gives a picture its little brothers can’t match. Sure it has no 50/60p but who cares when the images look that good.
Canon’s two pro bodies, the 7D and 5D mkii
Which camera would I recommend? .. the one that suits you best ! .. is that a kop out ? .. No not really. It comes down to lots of things, budget, what you want to shoot, how much use you plan to get out of it. Of course I’m going to say the 5Dmkii if pushed but it has its drawbacks (not least price) however that full frame sensor offers you the ability to shoot wiiiide and the image, in my opinion, is SO much better than the others.
Wouldn’t it be lovely to shoot with a full compliment of Canon L Series lenses ? .. Well, yes and no. I get asked this question so much and don’t get me wrong, L Series lenses are supreme but they are ridiculously expensive and you can achieve amazing results with alternate glass. Rather than suggest lenses here’s what I shoot with, please remember though all these lenses were purchased with filming in mind, not stills : -
14mm Samyang F2.8 – Amazing lens and super wide on the 5D, despite being new it’s a fully manual lens with aperture controls on the barrel of the lens, focus ring is nice and smooth and picture quality is crisp. Build quality is excellent and all for a couple of hundred pounds.
20mm Canon F2.8 – I’m not really sure why I have this lens, the image is so so, it’s poor build quality and as with all modern Canon lenses the focus ring has no bump stops.
24mm Olympus Zuiko F2.8 – Supremely sharp old lens purchased on ebay and converted for EOS mount. Cost around £130.
35mm Zeiss Flectogon F2.4 – First of two 35mm lenses I use, this is VERY sharp and for the price is unbeatable, good copies can be had for £150 ish and they are worth every penny.
35mm Canon F1.4L – Yes an L Series lens, Incredible and hard to use anything else once you’ve tried it, no bump stops on the focus ring are the only thing that lets it down.
50mm Sigma F1.4EX – I know some film makers use this modern lens with great results, I hate it, the focus ring is AWFUL for manual focus. The image quality is fantastic given its price however the jittery stupid focus ring which tries to fight every move you make stops me using it all together. Did I say I hate it ?
50mm Super Takumar F1.4 – This is hands down my most favourite lens I own. Fully manual old lens, doesn’t really get sharp till around F2.8 however when shooting at F1.4 it has an amazing diffused softness, M42 fitment lens easily converted for a few pounds on ebay. Lens cost was around £130.
85mm Samyang F1.4 – LOVE LOVE LOVE this lens, fantastic build quality, super fast and super sharp lens from Samyang. Manual aperture ring and manual focus new lens all for £225 !
70-200mm Canon F2.8L IS - My only zoom lens which only gets used for motorsports, for all other types of zooming I have my legs. Its obviously a very good lens though because its big and white and one of those lenses photographers geek out on. It took me a while to figure out what all the damn buttons on it do though.
So the key thing here is you really don’t need to spend big money to build up a nice compliment of lenses to shoot video with. There are obviously all sorts of other great lenses to use such as the 30mm Sigma F1.4 (which seemingly doesn’t have the ‘stupid’ focus ring) the Super Takumar 85mm F1.9, a ton of Nikkor/Nikon lenses too.
In conclusion though a good 24mm, 50mm and 85mm should see you covered for most things. All three could be had for under £500.
There are two basic bits of kit you need to turn a DSLR into a viable filming tool, a viewfinder and a variable ND filter. You can pimp it up with a TON of other kit such as rigs, follow focus systems, monitors, support systems, rods and rails but none of it is actually necessary, yes it helps but its not needed.
So which Viewfinder ? .. There are a few on the market, LCDVF is the best bang for your buck, at just over £110 it does the job perfectly with excellent build quality.
Other option is the Zacuto Z-Finder range, these are much more expensive than LCDVF and will set you back around £325, I’ve used them and didn’t particularly like them. Yes the build quality is incredible, it almost looks like it was designed by Canon but I just prefer the LCDVF.
Zacuto Zfinder Pro 2.5x – Note these ship with Zacuto’s mounting plate.
Variable ND filters are crucial when shooting video with DSLR’s, the vari-nd becomes your exposure tool. You twist the filter to the desired ND to hit exposure .. simple. A good cost effective way of covering all your lenses in one go is buying something like large 77mm ND and then buying various step up rings for your smaller diameter lenses (available from Ebay) so your single ND fits all of your lenses.
Lightcraft workshop FADER ND are probably the most popular choice,. a 77mm version should set you back around £170. The other option is the SinghRay VARI ND .. this is slightly more expensive than Lightcrafts offering however I’ve found it to be optically better, although it does seem to suffer from vignetting more on big wide lenses. Singh Ray also offer special versions of the filters with additional polarisers built in.
Light Craft Workshops FADER ND on the left and Singh Ray’s VARI ND on the right
Clicking on the link below will show you a short clip on how these filters work.
Ok so these are the settings I use, I’m not saying they’re right or they should be followed to the letter .. they are what work for me. First thing are frame rates, aside from shooting 50 or 60p slow motion I stick religiously to 24p, for no other reason than film is shot at 24 frames per second and 24p has a ‘look’.
Next is shutter speed, for 99% of the time its best to maintain a 180-degree shutter rule, which basically means your shutter speed must be twice that of your frame rate. So for 24p it should be 1/50th of a second, if you are shooting 50p then it should be 1/100th of a second. Why a 180 degree shutter ? Well, anything over this and your images will have an odd look to them.
Now, shooting outside on a bright day with your nice new Olympus Zuiko 24mm F2.8 lens on your camera, setting the aperture to F2.8 and your shutter speed to 1/50th will result in a completely blown out over exposed image. Sure you can stop the lens down to suit, but then everthing will be in focus and you’ve lost the ability to control your depth of field. You can throw a ton of shutter speed at it, but then you’ve lost your 180 degree rule and the images will appear jerky ..
So by adding your variable ND filter you can now twist the filter and add in ND as desired to hit exposure. So now you’re shooting at 24p, wide open at F2.8 and at the correct shutter speed of 1/50th …. But due to the ND you are correctly exposed.
Ok so thats it for Part one, in part two I’ll cover the rig, extra kit side of things, picture profile settings in the cameras and then post production.
Hope this article has helped !!