Thursday, March 25, 2010

Using the Rebel T2i with CS5

I am still sworn to secrecy with a lot of stuff about CS5 until April 12th. All will be unveiled then. Let me just say, right here, right now, that the Adobe Mercury Engine is in Premiere Pro CS5, and it absolutely ROCKS with DSLR footage. How? Well, you'll have to wait til April 12th to hear all the details. All I can say now is, if you're transcoding the footage first, before you start editing, you're wasting a lot of time.

More to come...
I'm on my way to Colorado, to do some training at Tyler Stableford's facility there. I was supposed to be there last night, but travel cancellations and now delays are keeping me from getting there.
On another note, if you haven't seen the first episode of the Zacuto shootout, go to and check it out. Zacuto put DSLRs up against 35mm film in some side-by-side tests. The results were very impressive, to say the least. The first tests don't include the T2i, because it wasn't out yet, but they do have the similar 7D, and the T2i was added to some later tests.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Philip Bloom 1st short on the Rebel T2i

Salton Sea Beach from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

As I posted in the comments on his blog, I'm really interested to know how hard it was shooting in such a dusty, hot environment. If the camera held up, I may consider taking the precious with me to Burning Man this year.

Bloom mentions some recording troubles, and some overheating after 2 hours of solid shooting with the camera.

Read the whole article here.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Zacuto DSLR Shootout!

This looks really interesting....

Next week...

Low Light 6400 ISO shooting

Mark Lee does some test shots, including some at 6400 ISO:

6400 iso with 550d from marc lee on Vimeo.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Rack focus testing on the 50mm f/1.4 Canon lens

Rack focus testing on the 50mm f/1.4 lens. from Karl Soule on Vimeo.

This was shot handheld, just following the action at a friend's house as they discuss the amount of sugar in an energy drink. Lighting is all natural.

I've been very surprised how easy I've been able to pull focus with the Zacuto Z-finder in place. I would definitely rate this as a "must-have" for serious video work with the camera. I still need practice, but I'm getting more comfy with the camera each day. The Z-finder gives the camera the traditional 3-point contact with the body. With 2 hands on the camera/lens, and my eye in the viewfinder, the action is amazingly stable.

More pretty footage from the T2i

Just some ducks, but some nice, clear shots, ungraded:

Sunday, March 14, 2010

What You Need to Know to shoot "Film-Like" images on the T2i...

Okay - most of this is out there in other forms, but I thought I'd take a moment to gather all of this information together in one easy-to-find posting. The Rebel T2i is a fantastic camera for the price, and a good camera regardless of the price for shooting motion images. However, if you are new to the world of DSLR's, and have only shot full-auto on most camcorders, here are a few basic things you need to understand, especially if you want to shoot "film-like," narrow depth-of-field images, and play with focus.

Aperture. also referred to as f-stop. This is the number on the lens of the camera that usually looks like f/3.5, or a range, like f/3.5-5.0. The thing to know is that the lower the number, the wider the aperture, and the narrower the depth-of-field will be. On a nice lens, the f-stop is a single number. On a cheaper telephoto lens, the f-stop has a range, and the first number is the f-stop at the widest angle, and the second number is zoomed all the way in. To get that really narrow depth-of-field, you want to be shooting at an f-stop lower than f/4. F/2.8 looks really nice, and is probably a good, practical number for motion shots. I've been experimenting with f/1.4, and it's fun, but a bear to keep moving people in focus.

Shutter Speed. This represents the time the sensor is "exposed" to light each frame. The number in the viewfinder usually looks like a number between 30 and 4000. "30" means 1/30th of a second, and "4000" means 1/4000 of a second. High numbers mean no motion blur in a frame, which is great for sports photography, but doesn't look like motion picture film. Lower numbers provide some motion blur, which we want to get that film-like look. Normally, 24fps feature film is shot at 1/48th of a second. The only exception to that rule is typically found in Ridley Scott action sequences - go watch the opening battle of "Gladiator," or look for it in many scenes in "Blackhawk Down." You'll see scenes that have a very "stuttery" appearance, like the motion is faster than it should be, but it's not sped up. The shutter was running at 1/125 or 1/250th of a second in the camera, creating that "look."

ISO. This is the sensitivity of the chip in the camera. Lower numbers mean less sensitivity to light. Higher numbers mean more sensitivity, but typically higher noise. You'll hear discussions about the best "usable" ISO, meaning where does the noise become unacceptable. In daylight, numbers like ISO 80-200 are talked about, while shooting indoors, or at night, you may have to go as low as ISO 6400.

To get that "film-like" look, you need to be aware of all 3 values while you shoot. Ideally, a wide aperture, low ISO number, and a shutter speed that mimics film would be ideal. But, let's talk specifics to the T2i.

First off, the kit lens for the T2i does not have the right range of f-stop to easily shoot what we want. Go and invest in a better lens. If you're on an extremely low budget, grab Canon's 50mm f/1.8 prime lens. It's enough to get started. I splurged a bit and got the next step up - the Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens - it's about $350, but is built much nicer.

Unfortunately, the T2i does NOT have a 1/48th shutter speed setting - it jumps from 1/30th to 1/40 to 1/50th. I've been playing with going from 1/40th to 1/50th, and I haven't made up my mind yet. But, this is the range we want to play in.

The ISO range when shooting moving pictures in the T2i is locked to a range of 200-6400. ISO 200 is where I typically start. This is fine for brighter indoor sequences, cloudy, shady days, dusk, etc. You may go to a higher sensitivity, like ISO 800 or 1600, depending just how dark it is. Just keep an eye on the noise. Different people have different thresholds for noise. I'm amazed just having the option to go to ISO 6400. This camera still shoots decent images at that level. However, noise-wise, I'd prefer to shoot at no higher than ISO 1600.

Here's the first big problem you'll face - ISO 200 is TOO SENSITIVE when shooting in full daylight. Ideally, we'd need to drop to ISO 80, but that's not an option on the T2i. At ISO 200, 1/50th shutter speed, and f/2.8, in bright sun, everything will be extremely blown out.
How do we solve this problem? Well, in-camera, the only solution is to increase the shutter speed - jump the number up until the amount of light in the image looks right. For bright daylight, that could be as high as 1/4000 of a second!
Unless you like the "Ridley Scott action sequence" look, you'll need to invest in another item - a Neutral Density filter, or ND filter.
An ND filter is like sunglasses for your lens - it screws into the front of your lens, and evenly lowers the amount of light that gets in. These come in a range of density - the higher the number, the less light gets in. I have a 0.9 ND filter, and it helps a bit, but it's not enough for full daylight - you need at least 3.0, maybe up to an 6.0 ND filter to shoot broad daylight. I just ordered a couple kits of filters here, and I'm hoping to stack them and find the right value I'll need.
Another, slightly more expensive option, is to use a "Dial-an-ND filter" like the one sold here. 2-8 stops is definitely enough for all daylight situations.
Be wary of cheap ND filters - they all affect color in some way (even though they are supposed to be neutral) and you may end up with an unwanted green cast to your video. Invest in good ND filters.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

JJ at Orange Wedding Films has another video, this one checking on overheating of the T2i. There have been some overheating issues with the 7D when continuously shooting for over 20 minutes, and JJ checks to see if the same issues arise in the T2i:

T2i vs 7D overheating test from Orange Wedding Films on Vimeo.

I think this isn't that big of a deal in the indie film community, but anyone shooting live events needs to be aware of it. With the battery life, and the limit on continuous takes, the Rebel doesn't really meet the needs of the live event shooter, IMHO.

Friday, March 12, 2010

More test shots

So, I'm starting to get comfy with the camera a little bit. I'm still absolutely fascinated with the low or natural light aspects of shooting with this thing. Last night, I presented at the SF Cutters user group in San Francisco, and during Chris Fenwick's wonderful presentation on file organization, I shot some scenes of the crowd. Keep in mind, this was in a darkened room while Chris was on stage presenting.

T2i Low Light, cycling through ISO values from Karl Soule on Vimeo.

In the first clip, I cycled through the ISO values. One thing I love is that all the controls can be played with live, during recording. At the end, I got some nice candle shots.

I'm really looking for a focus ring for the 50mm lens, with a post on it. I used to be pretty good at rack focus, but I'm dependent on having a post to manipulate. Turning the ring isn't as accurate for me.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Stu Maschwitz on the 7D

If you don't know about Stu's blog, it's linked in the upper right. Stu is a fantastic resource for DSLR filmmaking. This is an older post of his that still does the best job I've seen in setting up the 7D, which is extremely similar to the Rebel T2i:

"A frequent concern about shooting to a heavily-compressed digital format—something the DV Rebel often finds herself doing—is the degree to which the footage will be “color correctable.” Will the shots fall apart when subjected to software color grading? Or will you be able to work with the footage as fluidly as you tweak your raw stills in Lightroom?"

Read the whole article here.

Stills or Video - that is the question!

One unfortunate side effect of owning the T2i now is that I'm falling back in love with shooting stills. I haven't owned an SLR since the mid-90's, and that was a film camera. For the most part, all pix I've taken have been on little point-and-shoot cameras. I've been traveling the world on business the last 2 years, and carrying both a video camera AND a big SLR just wasn't happening.

As I begin to trick my T2i out for video production, I'm concerned about modifying it too much, so that I can't quickly pull it out of a rig, and just shoot some stills with it. Does anyone have experience with the Z-finder, and how the camera operates with the proximity sensor covered?

I'm also fighting the urge to shoot some stills at some events, when I should be focusing on moving pictures. Anyone else run into that "creative issue" when switching to a vDSLR? :-) It's not really a bad problem to have - one camera that's flexible to do both. You just have to have the discipline to stick with your medium, still or moving.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Initial thoughts after 48 hours...

Good stuff
"Images so good you can lick the screen!" Yes, it's compressed. Yes, the rolling shutter can cause problems. But most of the time it blows away what I'm used to shooting on. For anyone in the DVCPROHD / HDV world, this is a big step up in image control. I'm really liking the potential.
I'm also liking the overall ergonomics of the camera. It's small enough I'm going to take it everywhere, but not too small. I'm used to shooting with an HV30, so this isn't too different, control-wise. Stick it on a monopod, and you can do amazing things with it.

Bad Stuff
Viewfinder, or lack thereof. You'll notice that I haven't uploaded any more clips yet - Most of the shots are pretty bad. Pulling good focus is impossible without a viewfinder. So far, the Zacuto Z-Finder seems like a must-have for daytime shooting.
Also, unless you like all your motion to have that high-shutter, "Ridley Scott Battle Sequence" look, invest in some good quality neutral density filters. Trying to shoot at f/1.8 or even 2.0 in daylight pushes the shutter speed up into the 1/250 range. You need to be able to step that down. Chris Fenwick recommends a dial-a-range ND filter on his blog.

Nice Stuff
As you may know, I work for Adobe, and I'm testing out some new, experimental software for Premiere Pro. It's called the Adobe Mercury Engine, and it's lightning-fast in all kinds of ways - check my other blog for details. Anyways, I'm editing the footage right off the camera with no transcoding, several layers, real-time color correction, and more. Stay tuned for more details, but what I see so far, Mercury + Rebel T2i = WOW.

More thoughts forthcoming, as well as additional clips. I've scripted a short film I hope to shoot in the upcoming weekends, called "Hyperspace." Anyone remember the video game "Defender"? :-)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

First test shots.

I'm using the 50mm f/1.4 prime lens from Canon for these first two test shots. I literally took the camera out of the box, charged the battery, threw the camera in Video mode, and shot these two scenes. The ISO is on automatic, and both scenes were shot in low light - one indoors, and the other on my porch.

2 simple test shots from Karl Soule on Vimeo.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

So, I picked up my camera this afternoon, along with the Canon f/1.4 50mm prime. Shooting some test footage of freight trains tonight.
Test message from my phone. Not sure how often I'll use this, but it's nice to be able to update from my phone occasionally.

The comments keep coming in....

Jay Friesen just had this to say on his blog:

"So there you go. I’m hooked. I love it. Every bit of it. It’s addicting, makes me feel good, looks amazing, and most of all, it’s freakin’ cheap as hell. Get a T2i, record some video and have some fun."

Read it all here.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

feature-for-feature comparison of the T2i and 7D

This is the most comprehensive side-by-side review I've seen yet:

It reiterates that the majority of the feature set differences are all on the still side. So, unless you want the larger, more robust body, there's only a few small differences between the 7D and the T2i for video.

I think the weatherproofing could be an issue. It's been raining nonstop here in Northern California, and I've been thinking about the weatherproofing. However, the short film I'm scripting doesn't involve wet weather. Also, even the robustness of the 7D can't withstand the dusty hell that is Burning Man, where I'm likely to take the camera to. The dust out at BM just eats cameras, and all the pros I've talked to say that gear brought to the event almost has to be considered 'disposable' afterwards. Playa dust is so fine it gets EVERYWHERE. I'd rather pay the lower price for the T2i, and have the option of buying a new camera after the event. ;-)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

uncompressed output via HDMI?

Jay Friesen is reporting on his blog that the HDMI output of the T2i is an uncompressed feed. He's doing testing with an MX02 Mini HDMI capture unit, and his blog post talks about the quality.