This post is sort of a prelude to a review that i’ll be writing in the next couple of weeks. Recently the folks at IKAN sent me one of there v5600 to test out while I have been shooting some video with my 7d and 5d. When I started to take down some notes I realized that there are a few things to be said about using external monitors with these cameras and some of them are characteristics of the cameras and therefore independent of the type of monitor you are using. I found myself trying to figure out what was caused by the camera and what was the monitor so In order to not confuse the review at all, here are some things worth knowing……
We all know now that the quality of the 5dMKII video is great, but the way it is implemented is severely floored in several ways. Some things have been fixed with firmware (manual exposure) and some things will be fixed in future firmware (multiple frame rates).But the fact remains that Canon was caught a bit off guard with the implementation of the video functions. It seems they grossly underestimated the popularity of the video features and never expected it to be used for so many professional applications. Or at least not adopted for this this so quickly and eagerly.
Both the 5dmkII, 7d and 1dmkIV feature a mini HDMI port on the side which can be used to send a signal to either an HDTV or a video monitor. The necessary cable to do this does not come with the camera but can be easily purchased from most electronics stores for about $20. With both these cameras you are forced to use manual focus while you are recording.Nailing accurate focus by viewing the 3″ LCD screen on the back of the camera can be pretty tricky but with a larger external LCD things become considerably easier. Even just being able to angle the screen to a more suitable angle for viewing makes things easier, especially for low or high angles shots.
The way that the signal is output from these cameras varies because of a number of improvements were made when the 7d was announced.
Liveview – 1080i signal at 16:9. During liveview, a portion of the image is masked off at the top and bottom of the screen to achieve the 16:9 recording aspect from the cameras 3:2 photographic sensor. Cycling through various display options with the “view” button will alter the size of the on screen image depending on how much other information you require on the screen.
Recording – Pressing the video record button whilst you are in live view causes the external monitor to go black for between 2 and 3 seconds. While the screen is black, the recording has already started. This will happen with ANY external monitor plugged into the 5dMKII. When the picture returns to the screen you will see that it has changed from 1080i 16:9 signal and instead switched to a 480p 4:3 signal. Hence the screen blackout as the aspect ratio changes. Quite why Canon decided to implement an aspect ratio change at this point is beyond me. A change of resolution could almost be excused, but the drop from 16:9 to 4:3 at this point is annoying. If you are using a 16:9 aspect LCD , the picture that before was filling your screen , is now letterboxed into a 4:3 window in the middle of the screen. On smaller monitors this does make quite a big difference to the size of the video you now see on the screen, hence making the benefit of an external monitor a little less for accurately focusing during recording.
Playback – Once you have recorded your video clips, video plays back in 1080i 16:9 and will fill the screen on a 16:9 aspect monitor with no overlays and no letterboxing.
Liveview – 1080i 16:9 signal. This works the same as on the 5dMKII. Cycling through different views with the view button changes the size of the video as different details are displayed on screen. In the most cluttered view, the video is moved to a 4:3 sized box in the middle of the screen and the resulting pillarboxes on either sized are used to display information. Unless you are using a HUGE LCD monitor you really should avoid this particular mode.
Record – Hooray! Canon fixed the annoying aspect change! With the 7d things are greatly improved over the 5dMKII. Pressing the record button whilst in liveview simply starts recording with no unwanted resolution or aspect change. No screen blackout whatsoever, just a red recording dot in the top corner. It is still letter boxed slightly on the top to account for the bars masking off the 16:9 image from the 3:2 sensor but I do not find that to be much problem.
Playback – Video plays back in 1080i 16:9 and will fill the screen on a 16:9 aspect monitor with no overlays and no letterboxing.
At the time of writing this, the Canon 1dmkIV is not yet available but the Canon white paper on the camera is available for download on the Canon website as well as the user manual. I have downloaded both these documents and it seems that the HDMI output of this camera behave identically to that of the Canon 7d (refer to the text above to see how the 7d works)
Great blog, really interesting to read.
Have you tried the Magic lantern firmware for the 5D mark II?
Looks like it would fix the problem that you are takling about when using an external display.
Keep up the good work!
Hi Tomas, thanks for reading the blog. Yes I have seen Tram’s Magic Lantern firmware.
The addition of 1080i output during recording is fantastic but it has not yet been implemented into the update. It will be added to version 0.1.7 i think.
Magic Lantern is a fantastic project and I am in awe of what Tram has achieved. For people making movies with the camera, this is a huge.
Hi John ,
Thanks for taking the time to post this. You are certainly correct, RCA connections for this just dont make it easier. The monitor that I am testing right now has both HDMI and RCA and I have tried the RCA, as you say , abysmal results. HDMI is the key.
I think I saw somewhere screens which show what is in focus with a colorcast – this really appeals to me when shooting super shallow – f1.8 and under. Nailing focus at that DOF is quite the art! Can’t for the life of me remember what they were called.
Can you tell me what rig you are using to hold the Marshall. It looks like some kind of magic arm? Also what is the yellow head on the hot shoe? It looks like a lot of weight to be on the hot shoe?
HI Andrew, The arm and the yellow shoe are made by IKAN, there is a separate post on my blog about those products. Thanks, dan
@ Jonathan Dear
I think that what you are looking for is called a “Peaking Filter”.
How can I use the 7D as a Studio Video Camera with a clean (no menus) video output for mixing?
Is there a direct power adapter to run unstopped for longer than 60 minutes?
Ricardo, the canon ACK-E6 will power the canon 7d from a wall socket so you can use it continuously. Available here : http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/590445-REG/Canon_3351B002_ACK_E6_AC_Adapter_Kit.html/BI/5343/KBID/6139
As for video output mixing…. the problem is that the HDMI output during recording has crop marks on it top and bottom. If you are using a system that allows you to crop into the signal that it is receiving then it is possible to do. I’m not sure if anyone else is doing it for studio work , but i have heard of people recording the hdmi output signal using extrenal HDMI recorders. A google search might pull up a bit more info on that.
Dan, thank you for your response. I will purchase the ACK-E6 on Amazon. Is there a possibility of a component or S-Video output in the 7D?
Yes Ricardo , I think there is no problem to convert the hdmi to component or other type of cable. The only thing is that it would need to be done by a powered converter box, not just a simple cable. I think they are available for around $300.
is it possible to shoot with an external monitor (through HDMI) and still view the LCD ‘LiveView’ monitor on the CANON 7D?
I’m asking because we want to work with an external monitor and a Zacuto Z-finder on the LCD for the camera operator.
No this is not possible unfortunately. If you need more than one person viewing the feed, ie focus puller, director etc then the best thing is to buy a powered hdmi splitter and run multiple hdmi monitors instead.
Thanks a lot, that cleared a few things up!
I run a lot of Live Switching Events.
What if we took the HDMI cable to a Marshall monitor and took the loop thru from the Marshall Monitor back to a live switching device or switcher. Would that stay in HD with the loop thru?
I honestly dont know the answer to that one Ryan, sorry.
I spoke with a canon Tech person today who confirmed that the 7D ONLY outputs 1080i when in playback mode. NOT during liveview or recording.
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