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Tecnología

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February 2010

Since the September 2008 launch of the EOS 5D Mark II Canon has been able to offer High Definition video capabilities in its DSLRs. Since then many photographers have added video to their ‘imaging repertoire’ and many filmmakers now shoot Full HD movie footage with EOS DSLRs. Canon’s EOS 5D Mark II, EOS 550D, EOS 7D and EOS-1D Mark IV DSLRs all offer the flexibility of shooting stills and HD video with one camera. Doug Harman talks to three photographers and filmmakers who shoot with ‘EOS Movie’ to find out the benefits they get from the EOS system and EF lenses.

The introduction of the EOS 7D in autumn 2009 was the first Canon DSLR that offered a fully flexible HD movie system - with user selectable frame rates and manual exposure settings - straight ‘out of the box’. This has been followed by the EOS-1D Mark IV, featuring the same frame rate and exposure control as the 7D, and the announcement that such complete flexibility will come to the EOS 5D Mark II via a 2010 firmware update.

Already many Canon photographers have embraced what the movie capability gives them and TV companies are commissioning ‘idents’ and intro footage to be shot on EOS DSLRs. Some of the advantages are clear - being able to shoot Full HD movies, alongside stills, of a quality previously unavailable from other digital camera equipment and all using the same Canon EOS system. In addition to this there are benefits that can only be discovered by shooting movies ‘in the field’.


© Richard Walch

Photographer, and now also filmmaker, Richard Walch.

Richard Walch

Over the past 20 years German-born photographer Richard Walch has specialised in shooting a mixture of ski, snowboarding and sailing stills, and he now focuses mainly on snow and sailing action shots. Talking about the benefits of using the EOS system for HD video, Richard simply says: "Well, where do you start?"

Richard admits: "When the EOS 5D Mark II came out, I was kind of forced to try the HD video simply because it was there. Having the ability to instantly switch from stills to video and back again was amazing. It meant everything I had learnt about the camera and Canon’s EF lenses I could quickly apply to video and transform stills into motion."

He explains: "If you’d asked me about video a year ago I would have said I wouldn’t even have touched it. Yet, a year later, I already have a TV ad campaign about the Tyrol region of Austria that uses 10 to 15 seconds of video shot on the Canon. It’s remarkable that within a year from not wanting to touch video, I was able to produce work that is of such quality. That pretty much sums up what HD video means to me."


© Richard Walch

Downhill action shot by Richard Walch on the EOS 5D Mark II for a Tyrol region tourism commercial.

So, the quality is obviously there, but has it changed the way Richard works? "It has certainly changed the way I approach my projects. I have pure photography projects and I have projects that are all about motion - and now I have projects that combine the two."

A good example of just that became apparent for Richard on a shoot for the Japanese car manufacturer Infiniti, in Paris: "I had to shoot from the back of a motorbike towards a following car," says Richard, "it was a very action driven shoot and not easily achievable with conventional gear." The resulting story ended up in the Infiniti custom magazine and on the magazine’s website as a movie about the production.

He reveals: "The Canon kit comes together nicely but gives you so many more options particularly when working with your clients, because you can offer them so much more - a video and photo shoot in one package. However, you’re not going to be able do it all at the same time, of course."

© Richard Walch

The EF14mm f/2.8L II USM allows for wideangle views.

Richard admits: "It is a faster production schedule – not twice as long if you had to do two separate shoots one for stills and one for the video. Production is about 50% longer (than a stills shoot alone), since you still need to shoot the stills and then go back to do the video. That’s still 50% faster than if you had to shoot the two as completely separate entities, so that’s a very big plus for potential clients."

Richard uses some key EF lenses to get his work just right: "My favourite EF lenses have to be the EF14mm f/2.8L II USM, the EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM and the EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM. I get the optical quality and a great range of focal lengths covered."

But there’s another significant reason why Richard loves them: "The third reason I love these particular lenses is the way that you can easily manually control the focusing. Even though with the 14mm and the 16-35mm, thanks to the wider viewpoint, you don’t need to worry about focus so much you can pre-focus and duct tape down the focus ring, so that you can see if it moves. If you notice that after a shoot it’s too late."

© Richard Walch

The EF70-200mm allows for shooting and framing action differently from a distance.

He adds: "With the 70-200mm lens, you can do something really cool. You can set the focus (the lens has separate rings for focus and zooming) and then zoom, but I discovered that you don’t need to change the focus point, so you can pull closer or further away while your filming and not worry. Of course, if you want to pull focus in that way you have to plan it first, get two little dots of tape and mark the two spots (on the focus ring) I want to ‘pull’. You think about your shot, you practice it, you mark it, and you do it."

 

Wildlife photographer and filmmaker Fergus Kennedy.

Fergus Kennedy

Another photographer now shooting ‘EOS Movie’ is wildlife shooter Fergus Kennedy. Fittingly perhaps, Fergus - a marine biologist, photographer and filmmaker - has taken to the EOS 5D Mark II ‘like a duck to water’ shooting video and stills below the waves. He’s very keen on using both the EOS 5D Mark II and, going forward, the EOS 7D for video.

Fergus explains: "I've used a few different mid-sized professional camcorders in the past, for instance for some environmental news reports for BBC World. Compared to the single lens camcorders, there’s just so much flexibility with the Canon cameras, particularly if you’ve got a good selection of EF lenses to chose between. It is fantastic. Having the shallow depth-of-field provided by fast prime lenses combined with the full frame sensor (on the 5D Mark II), gives a high-end look to video, which otherwise can be very expensive and complicated to achieve."

© Fergus Kennedy

The EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM offers a different perspective when shooting moving images.

Underwater or out in the field, Fergus says: "Having one camera that is able to do everything is great; not carrying two lots of kit – one stills camera and one camcorder – is certainly one of the advantages."

However, the pre-eminent advantage, as far as Fergus sees it, is the quality of the video: "I get better results out of the Canon than I could achieve with a (conventional) video camera" he says, "having that ‘stills-like’ shallow depth-of-field, that huge 35mm sensor on the 5D is fantastic for video."

He reveals: "For wildlife, the long, fast Image Stabilization lenses are great when shooting video although, when on a tripod, you need to switch the IS off. Having high-quality, ‘ultra-wide’ and fisheye lenses available as well opens up a realm that is difficult to fully explore with conventional camcorders, since camcorders tend to rely on adapter lenses to get the equivalent angles."

Fergus explains: "The longer focal length lenses, particularly for wildlife, are an advantage too because they provide better ‘reach’ than standard camcorder optics. If you’ve got an EOS 7D and you put a 600mm lens on it, say, that’ll give you just under a 1000mm to play with because of the 1.6x crop factor."

Indeed, it’s evident to Fergus that those fisheye lenses or ultra wideangle lenses compared with a pro camcorder, where you’d need to get an adapter to have equivalent coverage and suffer the knock on effect that has on picture quality, allow the capture of footage that’s not normally achievable on a camcorder.

© Fergus Kennedy

‘Red Sea Underwater’ shot by Fergus Kennedy on the EOS 5D Mark II using an EF15mm f/2.8 Fisheye lens amongst others.

"I shot in the Red Sea last year using the 5D Mark II with a fisheye lens" says Fergus, "and it is a great example of what HD video can look like: bright colours beautiful corals and the clear water showing what it can really do."

Fergus, who adapted an original 5D underwater housing specifically for his 5D Mark II, believes the new Canon EF100mm f/2.8 Macro IS USM lens offers a lot of potential for the way he works: "I have used it - briefly - for video in the Camargue and it was superb. I know it would be great for video of smaller subjects underwater, where tripod use is tricky, and above water too."

Apart from the full frame chip in the 5D Mark II, it’s the APS-C sensor of the 7D that provides another weapon for Fergus’ armoury: "The slow-mo possibilities of the 7D are very interesting, particularly for wildlife, shooting in 60p, then slowing it to 24p for web display. That and using a wireless grip linked to a GPS to 'geotag' photos for an online map would be great too."

He adds: "I think one of the most important stories that has not yet come out from the recent shoot in the Camargue is simply this - the guys shooting the video aspect of it were going to shoot with big, professional camcorders. They played around with the EOS 7D and, in the end, they were fighting over who would get to use one of the three 7Ds we had down there."

© Fergus Kennedy

Underwater footage from South Africa shot by Fergus Kennedy on the EOS 5D Mark II.

Fergus reveals: "For instance, one of the videographers went up in a micro light with a 7D and a gyroscopic stabiliser bolted to the bottom, simply because it was so much easier to use and much less bulky than a conventional pro camcorder, yet could deliver the results. The videographers had been converted; ending up shooting around 75% of the entire video on the 7D".

Fittingly, for a first last word on shooting ‘EOS Movie’, Fergus Kennedy says: "I think after all is said and done, the way forward for stills cameras is still shooting, well, stills! But the advances in video, and the way it allows a complete rethink on how pros can work and the style of work they produce, means EOS video is here to stay."

Richard Jobson

For another take on ‘EOS Movie’ capture CPN spoke to Richard Jobson. Formerly the lead singer with the art-punk group The Skids and then a TV presenter, Richard now pursues a successful career as a director, producer and filmmaker, directing movies such as 'Sixteen Years of Alcohol' in 2003, 'The Purifiers' in 2004, 'A Woman in Winter' in 2005 and 'New Town Killers' in 2009.

© Richard Jobson

Filmmaker Richard Jobson.

Richard now mainly shoots using the EOS 5D Mark II, but it is the complexity of what he does and its constraints, such as the use of green screen for composite special effects, that offer him a range of challenges not usually met by a ‘normal’ professional stills photographer shooting video.

As unlikely bedfellows as they may seem, just how did Richard get into the 5D Mark II? "The 5D Mark II got us excited because myself and my team like the photography of our work; every frame is important to us and shooting at 25fps, every single one of those frames is important. We want cinematic elegance and beauty and having a keen eye on the photographic ‘graphic’ element of it is key. And that ‘element’ has been brought home for us by this camera; we just love it."

So has it been a challenge? Richard explains: "I’ve not had many problems using the 5D Mark II. OK, For my movie making, where we shoot a lot against green screen, the camera is used in a fixed position, otherwise you have to work out the tracking marks and movements. But that’s not a problem because it actually suits my style of working."

© Richard Jobson.

A still from Richard Jobson's film 'The Journey'.

He adds: "I do lots of different types of shot, with different lenses, and I ‘jump cut’ around the sequence. Of course, if I do have to do glide or steady cam work, there’s focus pulling to be done, but you just work it out and rehearse the moves, as you would with any other ‘standard’ movie camera."

Given the way effects work and fixed camera positions need to be factored in, what lenses work best in the film studio? "Well, choice of lenses for me is limited but that’s because I like to use prime lenses. I don’t have an issue with that because it’s my particular choice. I don’t know how the camera responds to ‘superzooms’, say, because I’m not interested in using them. But certainly the EF135mm f/2L USM, the EF85mm f/1.2L II USM, the EF50mm f/1.2L USM and the EF24mm f/1.4L II USM primes just provide a phenomenal response from the camera. Specially the 85mm f/1.2 lens."

Richard reveals: "One of the world’s biggest directors of photography, Seamus McGarvey (cinematographer on the movies 'Atonement' and 'World Trade Center') is currently shooting a documentary in the Nevada desert on the 5D Mark II, using the 85mm f/1.2 and a 135mm prime. He is another filmmaker who’s absolutely responded to that camera."

However, Richard points out some of this stuff might be unnatural to, say, a stills photographer coming to the HD movie medium for the first time: "For someone new to movie capture, it’s a totally new way to be thinking - thinking about motion. There might be some things that are absolutely natural to us as experienced filmmakers but they are not so for somebody coming to this sort of shooting for the first time. Having said that, it’s all a matter of experience; once you work these things out, it becomes second nature".

© Richard Jobson

A trailer for Richard Jobson’s hard-hitting film 'New Town Killers' - this was all shot on the EOS 5D Mark II.

There are things that Richard does that are simply down to his way of doing things as he’s keen to highlight: "When professionals see what I do with a stills camera they often ask ‘well why are you doing that?’ Well, of course, I tell them it’s what I’ve always done, and when I’m offered ways to do the same thing more quickly or easily, I tell them ‘no, its more about the aesthetic of what I do’."

He explains: "A professional I was working with recently asked me why had all this flare in my work. I told him… ‘It’s my aesthetic; it’s what I do’. He said he thought it looked bad – thanks! But it’s not something there by accident; it’s by design. I’m not a documentary maker, I’m creating this stuff and that’s what I do."

In fact, Richard believes that: "The more, so-called ‘pin-point perfect work’ can look flat and boring, whereas my stuff has real energy and violence about it; my work ethic gives it that kind of edge and again, that’s there by design not an accident."

Other key factors for Richard – and why he loves the 5D Mark II so much – come from some of the camera’s own, technologically achieved image making aesthetics: "The camera sees the way I see. I love the depth-of-field, it’s extraordinarily cinematic, and I love the way the camera responds to blacks. Blacks are so important to my work because my work is essentially monochromatic. I shoot in colour, obviously, but it’s that really rich monochromatic texture that I strive for. I can see it immediately and see that the 5D Mark II is really responding to the way that we compose the various lighting set-ups."

While Richard is the first to admit that while the camera suits what he does it might not suit others, working differently, but it’s the perfect tool for him: "I used to use the 5D Mark II as a back up for the dedicated, Red One cinematography camera, but I quickly came to prefer the 5D Mark II over the Red. Now understand, this is almost a heretical thing to admit in my business; they could string me up for saying that," he laughs.

© Richard Jobson.

Emma Thompson still grab from Richard Jobson’s latest movie, using the EOS 5D Mark II, 'The Journey'.

But it’s no laughing matter for Richard because as he and his team found, looking at material from both the Red camera and the 5D Mark II, all preferred the Canon camera’s output. "We had a 100% vote for the footage from the 5D, so there must be something going on there." But other complications have arisen: "Actors have problems taking the camera seriously," he says, "which is odd, but we can get round that, and we still march on with it. I’ve just finished a groundbreaking project with Emma Thompson, we used the 5D Mark II and the results speak for themselves, and that’s the bottom line."

Richard Jobson is characteristically forthright when he states: "At the end of the day, I cannot afford to have one good frame and 24 bad ones. Say all you want about the 5D Mark II; but let’s see the results. And when they’re in, right there in front of you, it’s hard to argue with the quality."