Shooting video with the Canon 5dMKII – Part 3

When I decided I needed to get this video stuff dialed, I needed something to shoot. There’s no point trying to figure this all out unless you have a purpose and some footage to play with. Leigh Powis, a local skier from Whistler, told about his crazy plan to put a trampoline on top of a cliff to help him practice a few new tricks before the winter. This was the perfect chance to try filming some action AND some lifestyle.

So below is my very first ever video with the 5dMKII. We shot it on 3 different days for about 2 hours on each day. Please click through to the actual Vimeo page if you want to watch the video in HD. But come back to find out more about the video!!

Cliff Trampoline – Whistler from Dan Carr

The lenses I used to shoot it were the 85mm1.8 , 17-40 f4, 24-105 f4, 70-200 f4,45mm 2.8 Tilt Shift, 15mm fisheye and the 50mm 1.8.

There are many people out there shooting videos with the 5dMKII right now. The new intro for Saturday Night Live was even shot with one last week! A lot of these video pros are attaching all sorts of accessories to the camera to make it easier to shoot video. External monitors, follow focus systems, matte boxes, shotgun mics and all manner of crazy rigs to hold them all together. This video though was shot with a 5dMKII on a tripod. Nothing else.

The tripod had a manfrotto 701HDV video head on it but that’s about the only difference to what I would usually carry for shooting photos. That’s not to say that all those potential accessories don’t make a difference, they undoubtedly do, but they are not a necessity if you want to travel light.

The whole video was shot in full manual mode so that I had total control over the aperture. In order to shoot at very wide apertures and keep the shutter speed down to something normal, I used a 2-stop neutral density filter on some of the lenses. Occasionally I also put a polarizing filter stacked on to the ND filter which has the effect of cutting down the light even more. This did produce some vignetting which you can see in a couple of the shots, but it actually looks like a nice effect! A 2 Stop ND is going to be the absolute minimum you need to get a nice looking DOF on a bright day though.

For a couple of shots I attached the camera to the end of a Manfrotto studio lighting boom arm. Not what it was intended for at all!! But it produced a dramatic angle. The panning shot right before the action starts at 2min08sec was shot like this. The camera fixed to the studio boom with a manfrotto magic arm and then panning on the mount on top of my regular Benro tripod. Again, a nice video boom would have been great, but I wanted to make this with just the gear I had access to. If you have read much about DSLR video before ,you will probably be aware of what “rolling shutter” is. You really have to be careful with your panning to avoid this. Slow and smooth is absolute necessity or you will get the jello effect. I also found that the visibility of this effect was somewhat dependent on what shutter speed I was shooting at. With a higher shutter speed it seemed to show up a lot easier.

Speaking of shutter speed, I experimented with that a bit too. My preference was for the footage that was shot between 1/120 and 1/250 for the action stuff. Anything faster than that and it gives it a sort of weird digital jerky effect. For the lifestyle shots and interview shots I think I used it down at around 1/60 though. I basically set the shutter speed I wanted, then used the filters to get to the aperture I wanted and then dialed in the ISO speed to get the correct exposure. Incidentally, that is something that I found frustrating. Its VERY easy to miss your exposure by a 1/3 of a stop because the “blinking highlights” feature is only available in playback. Most times I would shoot a quick 2 second clip to check exposure before shooting the shot. It would be great if there were some zebra lines to show overexposure. They are available int he Magic Lantern firmware hack but I haven’t ventured that far yet….

One thing that I was pleasantly surprised about was how easily I managed to nail the focus in the shots even though it is fully manual. The screen on the 5dMKII really is great and considering I wasn’t using any type of screen shade or eye-piece, I found it quite easy to get the focus right first time. Pulling focus between 2 subjects takes a bit of practice to do smoothly, but its possible.

Photo of author

Dan Carr

Founder of Shutter Muse, full time photographer and creative educator. Dan lives in the Canadian Yukon, but his wanderlust often sends him in search of images all around the world to meet the needs of clients and readers alike.

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