Nikon D800 vs Canon 5D Mk III

YouTube Preview Image
“The F%^&ing D800 vs. Canon 5D Mark iii Shootout”

It starts like a regular camera comparison and then takes a dip into the absurd.
Canon 5D Mk III: $3400 – 22.3 Megapixel
Nikon D800: $3000 – 36.3 Megapixel


Dimensions: feature film shot on 5D

Some movies do have a nice back story. “Dimensions” was created by the director Sloane U’Ren and composer Ant Neely, who are a married couple. In order to pursue their dream, they needed a budget and so they sold their home. Talk about going all the way. The movie is called “Dimensions“, plays in England in the 1920s and plays with some sci-fi concepts (non-linear time).

The movie was shot on Canon 5D and 7D, edited on Final Cut Pro, and looks absolutely stunning.

YouTube Preview Image

Continue reading ‘Dimensions: feature film shot on 5D’

Digital cinema aspect ratios

Aspect ratios can be a bit confusing when you start a movie project that will end up in a cinema. Do you used the HD convention (1920×1080 or aspect 1.78)? The 2K convention (2048×1080 or 1.90)? Some people talk about ‘scope’, what’s that? Well, let me get that straight for you:

Cinema ‘flat’ or 35mm widescreen = 1.85

I am mainly speaking from my experience with European cinema, but movies here are either ‘flat’ or ‘scope’. The first is the oldest standard of the two. The aspect ratio for ‘flat’ is 1.85: the width is 1.85 times the height. Before that, there used to be 4:3  and 5:3 movies but you won’t find those anymore. Compared to those dimensions 1.85 is indeed ‘wide’.

Cinema ‘scope’ or Panavision = 2.39

This is the super widescreen format used in most blockbusters and Hollywood movies. It’s much wider and gives a better cinema immersion feeling, if you believe the directors. It was originally an anamorphic format (the actual film was still 1.85 or 4:3 but the image was stretched horizontally to fill the whole screen), but this is no longer the case in digital cinema. See below for the pixel dimensions of the digital scope.

HD = TV standard

HD (1920×1080) is a high-definition TV standard. If your movie project is going to be shown only on TV, this might be the best option. Most of the cinema commercials have this dimension too, partly due to the fact that a lot of commercials were originally created for TV, and cinema advertisers want to keep the same aspect ratio for all clips. Are you shooting a commercial or a trailer that will be shown together with ‘flat’ material? No problem for HD. Will it run before ‘scope’ material? Then you might be in trouble using HD (read on).

2K = artificial standard

The reason for making 2K (2048×1080) slightly bigger than HD seems to have little other reason than that it is a bit bigger and that they need a catchy name. Cinema content is almost never 2048 x 1080 sized, but it is almost always distributed in a 2K (or 4K) ‘envelope’. What does that mean:

  • cinema ‘flat’ is encoded as 1998 x 1080 frames: aspect ratio 1.85 and fits inside the 2K frame. The frames can be just that size, or black bars are added left & right to get to the full 2K size (‘pillar boxed’).
  • cinema ‘scope’ is encoded as 2048 x 858 frames: aspect ratio 2.39 and fits inside the 2K frame. The frames can be just that size, or black bars are added top & bottom to get to the full 2K size (‘letter boxed’).

Screen aspect ratio

Keep in mind that the cinema screens also come in flat and scope. Most modern cinemas over here in Europe install a scope screen (2.39). They use one lens setting for ‘flat’ content (they need to fit the full 1080 height on the screen – so they get black space on the left and right) and another one for ‘scope’ content (they zoom in more, because they want to fill the full width and they know only 858 pixels of the height are used). This operation of zooming in can be automated, but requires at least 5-10 seconds.

So the whole preshow of the ‘scope’ movie will typically split in a a ‘flat’ part in the beginning (commercials, branded content), a lens switch and a ‘scope’ part (trailers & feauture film). If your movie is mastered on ‘scope’ ratio, and it is shown in the ‘flat’ part, it will not fill the whole screen, but will be both letter-boxed (black above and below) and pillar-boxed (black left & right). It will run in a big black frame. Just so you know.

Shooting ‘scope’

Your HDSLR will typically shoot in Full HD format. The conversion to flat or scope will be done during editing. Some DoP’s will put some gaffer tape on the preview screen to see only the scope part, since the rest will be cut away later anyway.



Depth-of-field calculator: now with visualisation!

I wasn’t happy with the text-only depth-of-field calculator I had made. Sure I could calculate the near limit and far limit, but those numbers still remained a bit abstract. What is a ‘shallow’ or ‘large’ depth-of-field? So first I added the % (“1.71 m Total (34.2% of the subject distance)“), which gave you some feeling. But I knew I wanted a graphical representation, a visualisation of it.

Depth-of-field Visualisation
So I started with the triangle: the focal distance & crop factor define the vertical angle of view, and together with the aperture, they define the near/far limit. And then I wanted to add a representation of a person, to get a real feel of the situation. I needed to dive into HTML5 and its <canvas> element to find the right tools (so it doesn’t work in IE, but honestly: just get Chrome), but I finally managed: the DOF calculator now has a visualisation that makes things much clearer. Just try it!

Composition calculator

Composition calculator

Just released: the composition calculator will let you specify the type of camera (full-frame, APS-C), the focal length of your lens and the distance of the subject, and show you just how tall/small that person will be in your composition frame. Use it to see which lenses to use or the minimum distance you need for your shots.

HDR Video – with 2 Canon 5Ds

HDR Video Demonstration Using Two Canon 5D mark II’s from Soviet Montage on Vimeo.

This video highlights several clips we’ve made using our new High Dynamic Range (HDR) process. Video is captured on two Canon 5D mark II DSLRs, each capturing the exact same subject via a beam splitter. The cameras are configured so that they record different exposure values, e.g., one camera is overexposed, the other underexposed. After the footage has been recorded, we use a variety of HDR processing tools to combine the video from the two cameras, yielding the clips you see above.

HDR Video provides filmmakers with many exciting new opportunities. Not only can HDR video create interesting effects, it can also allow for even exposure where artificial lighting is unavailable or impractical. For example, when a subject is backlit, one camera could be set to properly expose the subject, the other the sky, resulting in video with perfect exposure throughout.

We will continue to develop and improve the HDR video process for better results and efficiency. For more information, check out our website

“House” Season finale shot on Canon 5D

This season’s last episode of House has been shot on HDSLR: with a Canon 5D Mk II and Canon lenses (including a 50mm f/1.0 – talk about shallow depth of field!)

The feedback of Vincent Laforet was very positive:

1. The lens sharpness was phenomenal. Why? The lighting. Sure we all caught some glimpses of people/faces falling out of focus at times – something all 5D MKII and HDDSLR operators are well acquainted with… I’m sure this could be remedied with many of the newer 3rd party lens options out there today. I am told this episode was shot with Canon EF Lenses – including the 24~70mm 2.8 and 70~200mm 2.8 – lenses that are particularly difficult to set focus marks with, as they were never really intended to be used as cinema lenses.
2. The image quality was phenomenal. No noise. No artifacting whatsoever. No blocking up of shadows. Why? In my opinion: The lighting.
3. The lighting throughout was phenomenal. Basically – it was lit in a very similar way if not identical way to the high standard that House has been filmed in the past. DP Gale Tatersall understood something that I have formulated over the past 2 years with the Canon 5D MKII: While the camera does produce incredible results in low light – you still need to light for it carefully – and often, you’ll end up lighting it in very similar ways to how you would light for just about any camera out there. The difference is that you may need 1-2 stops less overall in lighting at times.

So if you thought an HDSLR didn’t need proper lighting, think again.

Better audio with Beachtek 5DA


The Beachtek DXA-5DA offers a whole bunch of features you’re used to having on your video camera, but don’t have on your HDSLR, mainly the aforementioned xlr inputs and headphone jack, along with VU meters, volume knobs, and most importantly Camera Auto Gain Disabler.

The Auto Gain Control in the Canon HDSLR cameras tries to pick up as much sound as possible. This means that during silent periods, the microphone gain is cranked up to amplify as much as possible any sound there might be. As a result, you get amplified noise: ‘hissing’. That wouldn’t be as much of a problem if you could switch it off in the camera, but that you can’t. Hence the AGC disabling feature (by inserting an inaudible 20KHz tone in the left channel). Beachtek competitor JuicedLink says adding tones is evil, but most reviews are positive about it.

The BeachTek 5DA costs $330 (or 260€) at B&H!

NAB 2010 highlights: Zeiss, Panasonic, RedRock e.a.

As cinema5D states: NAB had over ninety thousand attendees and was all about DSLR’s.

Some of the highlights:

  • Zeiss has started making compact prime/zoom cinema lenses with a Canon ES mount: the CP.2 series. To use any of the existing cinema lenses with a PL-mount for HDSLR shooting, you could already use HotRod’s modified 7D, but now you can have a Zeiss lens that will fit in your Canon camera without modifications.
  • Panasonic took their Micro Four Thirds chip from the GH1 and built it into a camcorder: the AG-AF100. Finally a camcorder with interchangeable lenses. Expect response from Canon and Sony on that one!
  • The RedRock MicroRemote: auto-focus for motion video, with the option to build in a Ipod/iPhone.
  • HD monitors: the smallHD DP-SLR gets 1280×800 pixels on a bright 5.6″ screen.

Tom Guilmette has made a very nice overview of NAB on his blog.

Twitter Updates for 2010-04-19

  • Photocine: VDSLR Filmmakers wet dream! – Paramount to Unveil New… #
  • @philipbloom: DSLR Masterclass and 2 workshops in Oslo, Norway this May/The GREAT East Coast DSLR meet up! Manhatta… #
  • hdslr cinema: Twitter Updates for 2010-04-18/Twitter Updates for 2010-04-17/Twitter Updates for 2010-04-16/Twitter… #
  • planet5D: Behind the Scenes on “The Last 3 Minutes” with Shane… #