Saturday, December 12, 2009

New Camera Shoulder Mounts

The movie I'm shooting right now is a comedy mockumentary.

Much of the film is handheld, and I've decided to use the Tamron 17-50 f2.8 VC for most of the movie.
I'm also using a certain grade of LowCon filter. I've been using my Old ass Birns and Sawyer DV2000 shoulder mount like this:

I've been having a LOT of back pain
and I think I want to switch out to one of these:

They have a similar appearance to the Zacuto rigs, but seem a lot cooler because they are made by a dude in Korea and are more affordable.

I definitely want to ditch my redrock setup if anyone is interested, otherwise it should be on ebay by the holidays.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

New Film, New Festival

Just started shooting another feature on the 7D.

It's a comedy, it's going to be funny. I'm using a bit different lensing on this one, and different filtration.

New Canon Film Festival.

This sounds cool because the prizes are cool.

This sounds extremely CRAP because:
1. You have to pay $40 to enter. Why the Fuck should I pay $40 to enter a film festival when I already blew my wad buying three Canon 7Ds and batteries. Probably never buying a canon Lens. Never say never though.

2. They mention that you have to shoot with a canon HD DSLR including the 7D, the 5DII, or the 1DMKIV - what about the rebel T1i?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Winter Nights. The first 7D Feature Trailer


Mad Props to Ari Dassa (director) and Yuki Aizawa (editor) as well as the incredible talent Ari chose to put in front of the lens.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009

Feature Wrapped!

First Feature Film shot entirely with the Canon 7D (2 of them) has wrapped production.

Now for some sleep.

Pascal wanted to know what picture profile settings we've been using.

I have the cams set to neutral picture style, contrast all the way down, sharpness all the way down. Saturation down between -2 and -3 points depending on the scene, and no adjustment to color tone.

Highlight tone priority was used in one scene only.

No Auto Lighting Optimizer was used.

white balance was almost all Tungsten balance, as that was how we lit. The few things we shot during daylight hours were balanced for daylight.

Zeiss primes rock.

I want to revisit a really basic set of well oiled Nikon AiS superspeed primes though for my second cam as a rental option for other people.

Let's see what other kinds of fun I can have shooting with this camera in the coming weeks.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

First Feature Shot Entirely on the Canon 7D

I just want to declare that by tonight I will have completed principal photography on the first feature film shot entirely with the canon 7D.

Entirely with the 7D.


The Searching for Sonny guys claim to have the first feature shot on a DSLR - not so. I completed shooting on "The Louisiana Conversation" in February 2009. As far as I can tell they haven't finished principal photography. Maybe they have. I guess it just irked me that they took the credit, and while their film does look good - I was first. Of course the production team still doesn't have distribution on The Louisiana Conversation (or maybe they do) I don't know -I'm just a hired gun...

Anyway, that's part of the reason I started a Blog in the first place - to document what's going on. Now that we're almost done with Winter Nights, I can start to share technical details and stories from the production. Cool!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Winter Nights...

Usually I keep my mouth shut about the particulars of the production I'm working on, but since Ari Dassa, the talented director of the film has been publishing his own log of the film, I've decided to link to it here:

He's rad. Film's almost done Shooting!

Cambo Video?

Hey everyone, just wrapping up here on the set of the feature today.

I have to say, this is probably one of my favorite indie movies I've worked on so far.


We have only gone over 10 hours once. I love reasonable schedules.

Also, I have to say - one thing the 7D excels it is 2 camera shooting. Because the size of the body and support system is so reasonable it's easy to get two sizes with enough of an axis difference to allow for nice cross-cutting, without effing up my lighting setups.

It's how 2 camera shows are supposed to be!

I'm thinking of selling my SmallHD DP-1 after this show to try a different monitor. Feel free to email if you are interested in buying it!

Let's see what else...

I had some ideas for a series of stills to shoot after we finish up with the movie. Probably going to shoot some 4x5 fujifilm...

which got me thinking about this thing:

Anyone have one I can borrow to hook up to the 7D and shoot video with? Talk about swing shift!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

FireWire 800 Card Reader

Just wanted to mention how happy I am with the Calumet Firewire 800 card reader I purchased from Calumet with my first two 7D's.

The thing is blazingly fast and makes our onset workflow more of a pleasure than a chore.

It's also the cheapest one I've found for sale in the US...I'm a notorious cheapskate, so please enjoy the savings with me:

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Vincent LaForet

Met Vincent LaForet of Reverie (5D2) Fame at WurstKuche in Downtown LA tonight. Very nice guy, it's funny - i recognized him from his website, but also his panel when speaking at Birns and Sawyer a couple months ago.

He said, and I quote "Be excited - there are some very cool things coming."

I might get to work with him soon - that could be really cool.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Metering Timer in Video and Dropped Frames

Recently Martin Beek and Morgan Moore from Cinema5D have been discussing dropped frames while using the 7D.

I'd like to toss my hat into the ring with a setting that I think might prevent some dropped frames for a few people. I turned this setting of back in the 5D2 before manual controls days, and I did the same with my 7Ds because I thought they might be affected by it somehow.

I turn Metering Timer in the 4th red menu (video rec settings) to 30 minutes.

My belief is that this prevents unecessary communication between lens (or chipped adapter in my case) which is known to sometimes cause dropped frames for people.

I hope that helps!

Thanks to M. Beek and M. Moore for bringing up this discussion.

See you next time with more tales from my feature shoot, and my thoughts on the upcoming PL mounts for 7D. Oh - and one more thing...anyone have a good machinist to suggest? I'd love to have an Eos to Russian OCT-19 lens adapter. The OCT-19 lenses have these gorgeous rounded aperture blades and can be had affordably.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Prepping for the shoot tonight right now...had a few extra minutes and I checked one of my favorite forums:

so cool.

I saw this post by HollywoodTattooPhoto:

first usable PL mount on the 7D that I've heard of.


Can't wait to try it out.

Did a department store commercial this morning using my 7D as "Glam Cam" or C-Cam to 2x Sony EX-1s. That means that I got to shoot all the fun beauty stuff. Wheeeeee!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Auto Lighting Optimizer and Highlight Tone Priority

Just a quick note/observation as many others have made:

Auto Lighting Optimizer seems to apply a kind of knee function to the tonal curve of your shots in the same way that Highlight tone priority acts to bring down the shoulder...this could be a good thing or a bad thing...only you will know for sure.

In other news...Anyone try one of these to shoot video yet?

Friday, October 2, 2009

5D2 Versus 7D and Sensor Science

I've been seeing a lot of conjecture lately about 5D2 Versus 7D, especially in regards to noise and image quality.

Here's my opinion on what's going on:

People think the 5D2 has less noise - I think the signal to noise ratio of the sensors is probably about the same, maybe the 7D has a small lead because it's a next generation sensor with more readouts and "Gapless MicroLenses." I think the 5D2 has less PERCEIVED noise in the video because the debayering algorithm, combined with Canon's Noise Reduction, combined with H.264 encoding obliterates detail.

Sorry to break it to you folks thinking the 5D2 has any sort of lead (besides sensor size) just to give you an idea, use the focus assist on a 5D2 and a 7D side by side - you will immediately notice more "noise" or buzz in the magnified image. Not only is this an enlarged portion of the sensor readout - it also doesn't appear to be going through the noise reduction algorithm. This is what the sensor is actually seeing (sort of).

The 7D is using a different algorithm, and because it is actually resolving more detail it is also resolving more perceived noise. By resolving, I mean what the backend recording part of the camera is receiving from the sensor. Personally I think this is a good thing. Just compare any large smoothe surface in a 5D2 video next to a 7D video and you should be able to see what I mean about the way detail is handled. On the 5D2 many things with detail (including human skin tones) are sometimes reduced to a watercoloury gourade style shading. The 7D smoothes less at a pixel level, which shows more perceived noise/detail. If I have time I will do a comparison, but for now I just wanted to get this out.

Now, I'm not knocking either camera here - just making an observation. As a realist I perceive all new cameras as essentially new film stocks.They all react differently to different exposure, and they all have intricate qualities of their own. Like film stocks, they have strengths and weaknesses. We as camera people just have to find the strengths, and work around the weaknesses to get the best results for whatever we shoot.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Uh...Anyone see that one screw?

Taken from

After the First Night...I'm Hooked


After the first night of shooting with my two 7D's I have to say I'm completely addicted to the images I can create with this wonderful camera.

This is Going to be THE ultra low budget Indie Cinema camera for at LEAST the next 3 months.


Seriously though, What an outstanding image. Just to give the people out there an idea of the kit I'm running with on this show here's a breakdown:

2x Canon 7D Bodies
6x Canon LP-E6 Batteries (the real ones)
2x Canon Charger
1x SmallHD DP-1 Monitor
2x SmallHD DP-1 Battery
Director's Monitor: Samsung 17inch 4:3 (this needs to change- was a holdover from the 4:3 signal sent by the 5D2 while recording - I figured this out last night on set, and luckily the DP-1 does 4:3 my monitoring through a custom splitter loom looked decidedly standard Def...I was comfortable with this for the timebeing because of the time I've done with my 5D2 - it's for sale by the way if anyone is interested)
Beachtek DXA-5D audio preamp ( I let the sound mixer worry about this, he just feeds it to me)

Cartoni Fluid head on a set of OLD SCHOOL Miller sticks...this is a totally killer setup.
Redrock DSLR setup with mattebox, rails, follow focus.
Custom Made Israeli Arm (the cheap kind)
Custom Made HDMI/DVI Splitter Wiring Harness
Various Filters (Circ Polas,NDs, ND Grads, Pro-Mists)

Zeiss 35 mm f1.4
Zeiss 50mm f1.4
Zeiss 85mm f1.4
Nikkor 180mm f2.8
Nikkor Zoom 35-70mm f3.3-4.5

All the lenses are using Pixco AF-Confirm adapters from Hong-Kong. These are the best I'ved used. They hold the lenses solidy and the af-confirm and exposure info they garner can be useful. I have some dumb mount extension rings too...probably time to look into some smart ones as they are I'm sure machined better.

One interesting tidbit: when you're in video mode on the 7D the mirror is automatically locked up...I'm used to being able to use the liveview button on my 5d2 to flip the mirror up and down at will, and thus save power. Maybe there's a custom function for a MLU/Liveview button that's programmable...haven't dug into the menus too much yet.

We only had one minor 'scare' last night: my B-Camera operator Matt noticed the temperature indicator pop up on his 7D during a rehearsal. This is something I'd witnessed on the 5DII before, but only shooting Day exterior when the grips forgot to put a courtesy over me and the camera. Electronics don't like direct sunlight in California Summer. Last night we were shooting inside a cafe though - so I was a little worried. I chalked it up to the fact that maybe Matt wasn't being as conservative as I was with my battery and saving camera power between setups. I calmly had Matt turn his camera off for only two minutes, power back on and we never saw the thermometer indicator again.

I can say with confidence that I trust the 7D for real production work as much as a Red One (although according to some people they crash a lot - never had one crash on me, but I saw someone stuck in a random reboot loop once)...which brings me to another observation: Cameras these days aren't like cameras. They're more like computers: they can crash, They're getting cheaper and cheaper, the features are getting more and more awesome, but the real kicker is I want to upgrade every 3 to 6 months now.

Everyone on set was thrilled with the images we were getting last night, and pretty much everyone was shocked we were shooting a feature film on two DSLR cameras. The actors had heard about Nikon's DSLR video function, and I assured them that while cool, and a cute toy the D90 (and successors with video) were just that - a toy. After a LOT of wrangling and hand wringing Canon made the 7D decidedly the best video camera you can purchase at this time for under $17,500. I'm sure some sony people will want to weigh in with their love of the EX-1 and Ex-3, but you can do a lot more on a 7D for a lot less - and the end of the day it's about how pretty of a picture you can make, how fast and how cheap.

I'm looking forward to shooting some 60P and 50P stuff for slow motion. What's that you ask? 50P in the us? Why? Well 50P is closer to 48 frames than 60, so for good half speed stuff 50P makes sense - apparently you have to switch to PAL mode in the menus to enable this, but High Speed is one of those things I don't use everyday any way it's just great to have as an option.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Welcome to My New Undertaking

Hello Everyone,

My Name is Dan. I'm a cinematographer. I've decided to start catalogging my Experience using my new Canon 7D cameras (2 of them) to shoot an independent feature film.

I was (as far as I know) the first person to complete principal photography of a feature length narrative film using the Canon 5D Mark II back in February 2009. The film is called "The Louisiana Conversation." It should be seeing the light of day (or the dark of night) soon.

My primary reason for writing about my experience with the 7Ds is that Canon has paid Virtually no attention to me whatsoever at this time.

One might think that someone pioneering the use of a camera meant primarily for stills as a motion picture camera might hold some status with Canon. Apparently only if you have a blog or are already an award winning AP photographer (no diss).

Anyway - just to give you an idea of how much Canon is living in the dark took them over 8 months to release a firmware allowing direct manual control over video functions on the 5DII. I got around this by using the superior Zeiss Contax series of lenses with EOS adapter rings on them. They have a manual aperture ring (Like any red Blooded cameraperson's lens should have) unlike the lame electronic aperture control of Canon's Eos glass. Thankfully you could lock the shutter speed, and then use exposure compensation to dial your ISO into place.

Still, the charm of the 5D Mark II far outweighed any hassles I had to go through to make it do what I wanted. In June Canon finally relented and rolled out the manual control firmware.

So here it is almost a year later, and I managed to score Two Canon 7D's on their first day of US sale at Calumet Photographic in Hollywood. Big Props to Jeff and all the other people at Calumet who helped me get my hands on the camera as soon as possible.

I'm just getting ready to shoot my first night on this feature, so I have to run for now...but first impressions and some samples coming soon!