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Very disappointed with video quality from Canon 70d. Hoping it's operator error!

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Martin Gleeson
Very disappointed with video quality from Canon 70d. Hoping it's operator error!
on Jun 6, 2015 at 11:23:23 pm

I'm a wedding videographer based on PAL land and I normally use that workhorse of wedding cameras, the EX1's and EX1R's. I love those cameras! I decided to buy myself a nice cheap DSLR camera. Anything special or too upmarket would be wasted on me. I wouldn't have the use for it. But then I thought, if I'm buying a DSLR for photography, why not spend a little more and learn a bit about DSLR videography. With my budget in mind, I read many online reviews and decided on the Canon 70D with the stock lens EFS 18-135mm 3.5-5.6 with image stabilization with the new STM auto-focus motor. I'm using it was a 45mbps SD Card. As a stills camera, it is awesome. It has some fantastic features and that new touch focus system is actually very good (mostly). But as a video camera, it seems to me to be very disappointing. I hope it is operator error!

Here are my issues:

1. Wanting avoid the stutter associated with 24p or 25p, I decided to shoot in 720 50p. My God, the resulting quality is simply appalling! Absolutely dreadful aliasing and really soft picture. When I first saw it, I thought I'd selected a low quality SD setting by mistake. In my opinion, 720p footage from this camera is unusable. Funny, none of my research revealed this as an issue even though I did try to find out what the quality of 720p was like. But once I saw the footage and knew what I was looking for, I sure found lots of reports of this then!


2. That leaves me with 25p at 1080 (both high and low compression). Definitely an improvement over 720p. Still lots of aliasing issues but not as bad as 720p. 25p Stutter (or judder) is an issue. But I'm still very disappointed with the quality. It is nowhere near as crisp, sharp and beautiful as my EX1's. Is this to be expected?

My questions:

1. 720P: Am I doing something wrong or is this footage truly dreadful: As bad as poor SD with aliasing thrown in for good measure? I tried various ISO's, shutter speeds and F stops. All quality dreadful.
I see that Magic Lantern are currently working on the 70D. Do they normally provide feature like increasing the resolution of the 50p setting from 720 to 1080? Am I hoping for too much for this? If they did, It may solve a lot of my issues.

2. 1080p. The stutter really is an issue. I've tried all the shutter speeds. Contrary to what I've read online, I think some of the higher shutter speeds actually reduce this a bit. Although I've learned to move the camera in such a way as to avoid a lot of that awful stutter, when someone walks though the frame at normal speed, the stutter of their movements looks terrible. At a wedding, you can't control things like that ("slow down people, you're screwing up my footage!"). How do others who use this camera for weddings cope with this?

Is it right to expect the footage from this camera to be much softer than that of an EX1? I've made sure what I'm filming is in focus and tried all of the F-stop, ISO and shutter settings. I was thinking this lens may possible have a sweet spot. But regardless of what F-stop I use, the footage does not look good to me.

I've had the camera a week and it's a bit too much of a stills camera for me. I can't justify the price I paid unless I can get some small use in my wedding video business. But I simply couldn't put this footage into the same production as that from an EX1! It's just not up to standard! So I'm going to sell the camera (with a heavy heart) and forget about DSLR video if this is what is on offer. The thing is everyone raves about this camera for video. For that reason, I am hoping the problem is just me (or maybe the lens) and not the camera.

Any advice would by much appreciated. I'll see about positing up some footage later, but it is awful!


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Martin Gleeson
Re: Very disappointed with video quality from Canon 70d. Hoping it's operator error!
on Jun 7, 2015 at 1:37:37 pm

I've uploaded some examples:

Example 1:

https://vimeo.com/130013717
https://vimeo.com/130013285

Maybe my focus is off on the above two videos, but I thought not (I used the touch-screen focus), but those videos look very soft to me for 1080p. Footage from my EX1's shot at 1440 at 50i looks much sharper than those videos.

Settings:
1920 25p IPB
50fps with F-Stop set to 5.6
ISO2500

Example 2:

https://vimeo.com/130013802
https://vimeo.com/130013904

In terms of 25p stutter, the video of the guys walking away from the camera doesn't look too bad, but they aren't moving very fast (if they were heading for the bar, the motion would have been MUCH faster!). The waiter walking across camera in the second one looks much worse. But I guess I'll have to live with this. Such a same the 50p footage is unusable!

Settings
1920 25p IPB
50fps with F-Stop set to 5.6
ISO2500

Example 3:

https://vimeo.com/130014267

This looks pretty terrible to me! There is a lot of aliasing and noise. I don't see why there should be noise, it was shot in daylight at low ISO. At lower light and higher ISO (up to 1600) the noise and aliasing is much worse than even this.

Settings:
1920x20p at All-I
50fps with F-Stop set to 5.6
ISO500


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Jonathan Ziegler
Re: Very disappointed with video quality from Canon 70d. Hoping it's operator error!
on Jun 8, 2015 at 3:09:01 pm

I think the lens might be the issue. The focus seems to be pulling slowly from back to foreground. Try disabling the auto focus (the 18-55 kit lens is a fairly poor lens these days - mine broke less than a month after I bought it). Shut off image stabilization. Consider installing magic lantern to get on-screen focus and things like zebra stripes. I use magic lantern on a t3i and t2i and I get great footage (I mostly shoot stock).

I highly suggest renting a lens from somewhere like borrow lenses.com. I don't buy lenses anymore: I research high end lenses then find whoever will rent it the cheapest and plan my shoot that way. I realize I can't just pick up and go, but I don't have to spend $thousands either. When a client hires me, I mark up lens and equipment costs so I can discount it later and I rent so there's overlap In time (for a 3-day shoot, rent for a week).

Save early. Save often.

Jonathan Ziegler

http://www.electrictiger.com
520-360-8293


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Blaise Douros
Re: Very disappointed with video quality from Canon 70d. Hoping it's operator error!
on Jun 8, 2015 at 3:45:16 pm

DSLRs are inherently softer than a small-sensor ENG camera like the EX1. However, the footage responds extremely well to sharpening in post, and this can vastly improve the quality of the footage.

First, your ISO--on every single one of these clips, you are using a multiple of 500. Try to use multiples of 160 as much as possible (320, 640, etc) because it crushes out some of the noise. Internally, these ISO settings are reached by taking the next ISO number up and dropping the gain on it, so it results in less noise than the round 500, 2500, etc, that you use in these clips.

I'm not seeing what you're seeing on the stutter. It looks fine to me. You're probably used to that 50i look--a little smoother, interlaced. The motion you're seeing is pretty standard for those of us who work with progressive footage.

I notice that you have not included shutter speed settings in any of your comments. This is a mistake, because shutter speed is just as important as any of the other settings--and when we're talking about the way the footage moves, it's the single most important variable behind framerate.

Make sure you're shooting at a 180 degree shutter (1/50 for 25p footage) and DON'T change that setting. If you want to get rid of stutter, a LOWER shutter speed is going to do that by adding pleasing motion blur. The faster your shutter speed, the less motion blur you get, and your eyes start to see each individual image as separate.

The kit lenses are not good enough for what you are trying to do. They are generally pretty soft, and they don't hold up when shot wide open. I would recommend picking up one of the higher-quality EF-S lenses, like the 17-55, or one of the L-series zooms (though you'll lose some wide-angle to the crop on the 24-105 or one of the 24-70s).

At the end of the day, the DSLR is NOT going to match the look of the EX1 no matter what you do--because they're two different kinds of cameras. DSLRs shine when you need that film look on a budget; progressive framerates, shallow depth of field. The ENG-style EX1 is designed to capture smooth, interlaced motion with a deep depth of field, with auto-focus and integrated audio. They live in two different worlds--and intercutting footage from them is going to be difficult.


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Martin Gleeson
Re: Very disappointed with video quality from Canon 70d. Hoping it's operator error!
on Jun 8, 2015 at 5:59:48 pm

Thank you Jonathan and Blaise. I'm actually delighted to know this us not an issue with the camera.

Jonathan, pardon my ignorance, but what do you mean by "The focus seems to be pulling slowly from back to foreground"? Am I losing focus?

Blaise, sorry, my bad. When I said 50fps in all those clips, I meant that it was shot at 25p with shutter speed set to 50. I was trying to keep the shutter at multiples of 25 (as you suggest).

I'll also try those ISO multiples of 160, although I must admit, I thought that was a bit of a myth.

In any case, I'll try renting some lenses and see how I get on. Hopefully that will improve the footage. I'll also try sharpening in post. But the lens is most likely the main culprit.

Really appreciate your great advice.


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Blaise Douros
Re: Very disappointed with video quality from Canon 70d. Hoping it's operator error!
on Jun 8, 2015 at 6:27:39 pm

Ah, gotcha--sorry to tell you what you already know re: shutter.

The ISO thing isn't a magic fix, for sure--but it really does help, and a couple of years ago before we had digital super-35 cameras like the C300, I know all the local DPs shooting Canon DSLR absolutely swore by the 160 thing.

I think Jonathan was pointing out that in the first shot you posted, the AF seems to be racking back and forth from the foreground to the background--so yes, you are losing some focus. Remember, this sensor is much larger than your EX1, so the depth of field is a lot thinner. Autofocus frankly sucks on DSLR, and I wouldn't use it. You are smarter than the camera, and much more likely to guess right about what subject you want to be in sharp focus :)

One other thing that you might try--I noticed that in a lot of the low-light clips, the white balance seems slightly shifted. Obviously, the foreground is gelled purple, but the tungsten lights in the background are really yellow--and if those are the prevailing white light in the scene, I'd want to be using a tungsten white balance to get them to look whiter.

If you're shooting in low light, especially, try using one of the white balance presets that is closest in color to the prevailing type of light (fluorescent, tungsten, etc). Sometimes a weird low-light WB makes footage look worse than it is. AWB works great when there's a lot of light, but in lower light especially, I would set it manually, because otherwise it can't see well enough to get close. You can try to do some color correction of your existing footage as well--if you can cool off the footage to get your tungsten light to look closer to white, you may find that the image "pops" and looks more clear. I know I have been in situations where a bad white balance has led to muddy-looking footage; a bit of grading can definitely help.


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Neil Pollick
Re: Very disappointed with video quality from Canon 70d. Hoping it's operator error!
on Jun 9, 2015 at 4:50:44 pm
Last Edited By Neil Pollick on Jun 9, 2015 at 5:31:41 pm

I just noticed this post comes after the "solution", sorry if it's surplus to requirement but I thought it would be useful...

Nothing wrong with the camera!

I would suggest that the first 2 shots you uploaded of the wedding are maybe 2/3 of stop underexposed, maybe even a full stop. I am a documentary film maker and I've been using EOS 550d for 5 years now and I know that you can't do much to recover standard underexposed video footage in post because the compressed video doesn't hold enough detail.

I find it useful to keep the video image on the soft side, rather than too sharp (though of course using the best lens available) by using a flat picture profile in camera with the sharpening value kept low - the sharpening you can do in post in much more attractive than the sharpening the camera does automatically (in fact in my camera it is truly grotesque!)
A flat picture profile makes the unprocessed image look flat and washed out but it has good dynamic range and a few tweeks in the video editor brings it to life completely.

The footage you take is just the raw material for the video editor. It seems inadvisable to me to aim to get the final product straight out of the camera.

If you can load custom picture styles on your camera you can try out the "cinestyle" profile. There is loads of information on the internet on how to grade it in post.

And if you can use the magic Lantern software on the 70d you might be able to increase the bitrate that your video records at on the SD card - which will increase the quality even more (gives you more latitude in post). You will need a faster SD card if you use a higher bitrate though.

You really need to examine your footage inside your video editor, see what's there embedded in the footage that can be brought out, how it can be changed successfully. Then you'll get to know what things you MUST attend to during the shoot as well. You'll feel more confident when shooting.

On the whole videographers don't advise using automatic focus in live situations because the camera will focus on the wrong subject sooner or later. That really IS NOT a lens issue, it's just that the camera's priorities are not the same as the photographers. (I advise you to keep this lens for the time being and fully master the camera and the video editing software before you upgrade the hardware.

Your camera is a great film making tool I think. It is renowned for its innovative focusing system, it is very quick in live-view and during video shooting (when the mirror is locked up and the main focusing system is inactive). It has a touch screen which is very useful for shifting focus from one subject to another, and very quick. You can set it so that it ONLY changes focus when YOU tell it to, i.e. when you touch the screen. Once you master the skill it can really look superb. This is the a feature which professional videographers, who have been dissing autofocus since the beginning, are finally saying is useful.


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Neil Pollick
Re: Very disappointed with video quality from Canon 70d. Hoping it's operator error!
on Jun 12, 2015 at 4:20:12 pm

You can load Magic Lantern onto the 70d and even extract raw footage but the workflow is heavy






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Martin Gleeson
Re: Very disappointed with video quality from Canon 70d. Hoping it's operator error!
on Jun 14, 2015 at 11:37:08 am

Thank you so much for you're very helpful reply Neil. I'll keep an eye on the exposure. As for focus, I agree with you. I never use auto focus on my EX1's either. But focusing on these DSLR's is a whole different ball game to the EX1! I think I need to learn some new techniques! I was actually using the touch focus system on those wedding clips. I also had to set not to try and track the focus subject, but it still seems to hunt. I think I may try establishing focus using this method and then immediately disable the focus servo to ensure it doesn't hunt. There is a handy toggle control on the screen to disable and enable focus servo quickly. Hopefully I can get the hang of that without having to go down the route of follow focus.

I got this camera as a cheapish way to get into and learn about DSLR video, and I really appreciate the great help from you guys here to get me started - yet again!

Cheers
Martin


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