in filmmaking, Uncategorized, videos

Making Videos with the Canon 7D

I was recently approached by a band to record a musical performance using my dSLRs. I acquired a Rode Videomic and a 32 GB CF card to prepare for the opportunity.

While that gig ended up falling through, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to try out the mic anyway. The  5D Mark 2 is a capable video recorder, but I preferred my 7D simply because it seemed to be conceived and built with the possibility of video in mind (e.g. it has a dedicated video/photo switch and a dedicated video record button).

Local musician Grace Van’t Hof was gracious enough to allow me to sit in on one of her rehearsals. I used my 24-70mm L lens and the Videomic to make the following recording – her rousing rendition of a bluegrass version of “House of the Rising Sun”:

Overall, I think this video looks great (recorded at f/7.1 and ISO 640) and the sound is of an acceptable quality, albeit not quite professional. You might see in the video that I also used a Zoom H4n to record sound separately. The sound quality was indeed superior on the Zoom, but I was too lazy to sync them, so the sound on this video represents only what was recorded directly onto the 7D.

A few other thoughts:

  • I used a camera tripod for this video, but I’d recommend a video tripod. It is difficult to perform the movements required for such a video using only a camera tripod.
  • Speaking of movements, zooming in and out by turning the focal length ring on the Canon 7D was extremely challenging. Not only is it awkward to have my hand positioned there, but my L lens also didn’t have much “give.” I’m considering getting a Redrock Micro rig (which allows neat things like follow focus), but that is prohibitively expensive at this stage for me.
  • The sound controls on the Canon 7D are pretty lacking/nonexistent. More irritatingly, the Canon 7D employs automatic gain control (and a crappy one at that) which is impossible to turn off. Nonetheless, hacks have emerged to resolve this.

For those looking for more resources on this subject, I quite enjoyed Engadget’s EOS 7D impressions for filmmaker wannabees.

  • Hey Dave, if you're looking for an affordable rig, check out jag35 or express 35, they make some really nice equipment.

  • Tim

    Hi Dave

    There is firmware available that disables AGC on the 5d Mark II and improves video performance. I believe they are working on a version for the 7D as well.

  • Thanks for the tips, guys!

  • It seems to me that doing anything beyond basic video shoots on DLSRs is not worth it unless you're putting in thousands of extra dollars for equipment that allows you to handle the camera like a regular movie camera. At that point, you should just buy or rent a movie camera. DLSRs seem great for interviews or other situations where you'd put the camera on a tripod to shoot a subject that isn't moving much.

    The money you put into video accessories would be better spent on lenses and other photography equipment, methinks. DLSR video is cool and convenient (to a point), but it appears to have a lot of limitations without huge investments in audio and stabilizing equipment. And for the price, you better be shooting a LOT of video with it to make the investment worthwhile.

  • Good points Brendan. I bought the cameras primarily as still cameras. The video functionality is just a bonus. Now I'm just trying to figure out how much of its video potential I want to take advantage of.

  • Brendan, you're right. They were not meant to be used as a professional video cameras. That being said, they produce an image that a traditional video camera cannot because of their sensor size. The closest camera on the market right now is the AF100 that has a large sensor (micro 4/3) in a traditional video camera body.

  • Exactly. The image quality is so ridiculously good and the price so ridiculously cheap (compared to film cameras) that it's almost worth trying to maximize the utility of these devices, despite the limitations.