Shooting Doc w/7D
I will soon be starting a 3 year long documentary . The client is pretty much wants me toI shoot it on the Canon 7D, and I have serious reservation about using the camera, so I am trying to gather some Intel from shooter that have used it.
The Doc. will be mainly existing lighting and am wondering about controlling the iris and if there are any indicators like zebras on it? We will be doing interviews and need to shoot sound to the CF card what is the input mic or line input and can I monitor the audio? I can't find the record times for the camera.
My feeling is there will be a lot of uncontrolled lighting situations, a Hi shooting ratio, not much time for off loading media all in a fast paced environment. My feeling is that this is not the camera for me ..... am I crazy and should I relax or do some push back on the client?
Thanks in advance,
The possibilities of your client knowing shat when it comes to shooting/editing video is 99.99%. That's the frustrating part. The other frustrating part is that if he/she is paying well, it's hard to tell them no on the camera.
My only worries for you is the 10 minute-ish continuous record time the 7D has. In an interview, it would be wise to keep time somewhere, and stop record in an appropriate pause.
I wouldn't be worried about low light situations. The 7D has that beat any day...unless you're literally in a no light situation. It does inherently have a high dynamic range due to the large sensor, but still, crazy uneven lighting would be anyone's nightmare.
These Video DSLRs are not known for their audio abilities. There are devices out there that do work with the cameras, but even if you do get around the audio level issue, you still have to deal with the less-then-desirable audio compression.
About the lighting... I just got a 7D last week and it is fantastic in varying lighting conditions. Just pop it in manual photo mode, take some meter readings, take some still shots you are happy with, flip it to video and you are good to go. I don't feel the 12 minute recording time is that much of a problem. Starting and stopping to create a new take can be done in about 1 second.
Audio... ouch. Feeding audio to your 7D proves disastrous with the AGC (automatic gain control) in the current firmware. Impossible to get anything without hiss. Magic Lantern is hopefully going to come with some new firmware to disable it, but I wouldn't count on it. BeachTek DXA-5D sorta fixes it but not really.
Therefore you would really need double system sound, which is dooable, but adds a level of complexity that you might not want. You'd defiantly want to use PluralEyes to sync, http://www.singularsoftware.com/autosync/.
So about this Tapeless Workflow for 3 years.... are you prepared for that?
I think you could make it work, but I believe there are better solutions out there. The 7Ds are just not made for shooting long runs of video day in and day out. They are just a few months old!
BTW, To give yourself some more ammo with the client I would head over to Jem Schofields' video blog of using DSLRs, and pretty much watch everything. http://www.thec47.com
Best to you my friend.
Record your audio on the Zoom H4N audio recorder or similar.
I treat the 7d like an MOS camera.
Just time your start and stop times every ten minutes or so, and let the audio recorder run continuously.
You can then cover any breaks with Broll.
McGee Digital Media Inc.
24P HD Production and Post
The 7D has been proven to have overheating problems in heavy shooting situations - primarily in 720p and 480p formats. If you have a backup camera, that might solve the problem - but your client might want to know about this limitation of the 7D.
I have one and like it - but would nervous to have it as my workhorse camera without some heavy backup.
just shot a few min of video today for the first time - I see why people buy the Zacuto or other shoulder mounts with the follow focus wheel - it is near impossible to hand hold and manual focus without a lot of shake. Most likely a tripod camera for me. Results are pretty sharp image otherwise. We got a Zoom recorder too.
Wynn touched on a big issue. The 7D overheating a few times through the course of a single day's shoot is an inconvenience ...having to endure the same over the course of three years (though somewhere along the line you'll probably update to a newer production camera) would lead to undue stress and insanity.
The client may be looking at proposed picture quality linked to price point, but this inexpensive camera workflow could very well cost them much, much more in downtime, missed shots/story, and post-production. These are issues we as shooters should always bring as pre-production council to a client for their well being and overall satisfaction at the end of a job.
Director of Photography
Thought I would follow up on the 7D for docs topic, as I picked one up to test for this kind of use. It doesn't seem like a lot of people are using the 7D for doc, however, as I'm not finding much about it. Or at least for certain types of documentary, like where run & gun is important. I just came back from a test shoot in Russia, and there were a lot of significant differences from XDCAM EX and P2 cameras, obviously. Some observations that reflect previous comments:
If you want to do run & gun, you'd better know exactly what you're doing and have done a lot of testing. Using a rig is nearly essential for most shots off a tripod, and I say this while being very adept handheld. And while I haven't tested it, a follow focus would be very handy, something I don't usually employ with more traditional cameras for doc. Trying to focus on the ring with your hand adds a lot of shake, more so than other professional camcorders, even if you're really careful. Not essential, but handy. Of course having a follow focus can change the kind of rig you have, too, so it also has its potential downsides.
Everyone says the Z-finder is a joy to use and essential. I agree, it's essential, but not necessarily a joy to use. It may be natural for photography types to have their face glued to the back of the camera, but it's not always so for documentary work. A lot of shoulder-mount cameras have a viewfinder that you're using, but you also have the freedom to do different angles, and this isn't as easy with these DSLRs, until one gets a monitor. For instance, even with certain shots locked down on my Miller, let's say 42" from the ground, it's too high for me to kneel and look through the z-finder, and it's almost too low for me to lean over and look through. So you end up in a half-squat position that's uncomfortable enough to ruin any type of focus pulls I might want to do or even steady pans. I suppose this is a no-brainer, but it's just another thing I've never had to deal with before using this camera.
As far as the images, they really broke down from the aliasing when I tried to do wider landscape shots where most of the frame was in focus. When filming anything like gritty roads, sides of brick buildings--anything with a lot of detail, the aliasing was very problematic. In fact I almost dismissed the camera from these initial observations as being entirely unusable, but every once in a while I would get these amazing shots, and it was quite humbling to be wrestling with the variance. It wasn't until I read Barry Green's article about aliasing that it finally made complete sense and confirmed my results. You begin to realize when the camera almost fails, and when it gives great results.
Generally, on interviews, the camera really shines, especially if you have a fast, portraiture-length lens on it. I did an interview at 50mm 1.2 (about 80mm with x1.6 crop), and while it was a challenge to maintain focus, it was very nice. That's not to say you don't notice the lack of sharpness in the image; the way Canon creates their 1080 is just not as sharp when I compare with say, the EX1.
So for interviews, or when you are creating shallow depth of field, the camera can do a lot for its size. If you want to follow a subject (like vérité), good luck. Have a good rig, and even if you do, you might want to use Canon's IS lenses to avoid horrible shakes when you're moving on your feet.
Once you start exploiting the camera's strengths and avoiding its weaknesses, things will start to work well for you. I think if Canon can figure out a way to improve on the aliasing, this will be hard to beat.
I have shot a doc with our 7D. Unless you really have to, don't shoot interviews with 7D. It's fantastic for B-roll, but any longer take (than, say, 2 minutes) WILL introduce sync issues with sound no matter what. This has been covered on various blogs. DSLR make great pictures, but we cannot expect them to behave like a all-purpose HD camera for USD1700.