Yesterday's Light

Images in Space and Time

Toys I have that make me Crazy……

Drawbridge, Mystic River, Mystic, CT

Drawbridge, Mystic River, Mystic, CT

One of the things that intrigued me about my new Canon 5D mark II camera was it’s ability to create HD video.  I wasn’t sure how much I’d use it, but it seemed like a nice feature to have.  I’d looked at a lot of the videos made with this camera on the web and was suitably impressed.  And since I have grandsons (who are currently playing football) and since we love to travel, I thought I’d probably have opportunities to try it out.

I should point out that long ago I owned a pretty good camcorder (I used it mostly for my daughter’s basketball and soccer games when she was in high school).  That camera used VHS tape as the recording medium.  It was kind of heavy, but it did a reasonably good job.  Most importantly, playback was simple – just pop the tape into a VCR and off you went.  Well, that was then and this is now.

Early last week I made it a point to learn how to use the video recording function on the 5D MK II.  Technically, that’s not hard to do.  You have to activate “Live View” and do a few other things in the menus, but that only takes a few minutes.  Push a couple more buttons and the thing is recording HD video.  Then you start to realize how much you don’t know about this process.

For all intents and purposes, focus needs to be done manually.  There are autofocus options, but they seem to me to be a little slow.  One thing you have to realize is that during Live View mode the mirror is in the “Up” position.  So focus isn’t achieved in quite the same way.  So if you leave things up to the camera, stuff can go out of focus pretty quickly if it’s moving (like kids running).  Especially since it seems to want to shoot with the lens wide open.

A recent firmware update has improved that situation, however.  You can now set exposure manually by setting the camera to – you guessed it – “M”.  If you do that, setting ISO, aperture, and shutter speed is straightforward.  So you could set the lens to f/8 or f/11 and DOF will improve significantly (if that’s what you want).

But the biggest problem, in my opinion, is playback and editing.  And that’s something I honestly didn’t expect.  The camera produces files that are in MOV format (Apple Quicktime).  You can’t change this format – MOV is the only option.  If you have a PC (like me), you soon learn that these files don’t play all that well on Quicktime using a Windows platform.  They’re jerky and they stutter.  From what I’ve read, part of the reason is that Quicktime was never fully optimized for use on Windows systems.  In most cases it works just fine, but for some files – like these – it chokes a little bit.

You can use Canon’s Zoombrowser (supplied with the camera), and that plays these files just fine.  But that software doesn’t allow you to do much else in terms of editing or changing formats.  You could also, of course, hook the camera up to an HD TV and watch the raw video that way.  Again, though, it would be unedited.

So what you really need to do is find software that will play the raw video and allow you to transcode it (turn it into a file format that Windows “likes” and that Windows based editing software will recognize).  One that looks very promising is called Neoscene.  Many Windows users who own 5D Mark II’s recommend it highly, although I haven’t tried it yet.  But I’m about to.

Damn, I hate being an absolute “Newbie”.  But that’s what I am as far as this stuff goes.  Maybe if I figure it out, I’ll actually post some video.  We’ll see. 

Oh – if anyone reading this knows anything about 5D Mark II video, feel free to set me straight!  I promise I won’t be offended.


4 Responses to “Toys I have that make me Crazy……”

  1. Don

    Well after reading this post I finally figured out how to use my D90 video. I really didn’t care nor even read the section on it but you spiked my interest.

  2. Paul Maxim

    Ha! That’s funny, Don. Glad I could be of service (sort of). Do you use a Mac or PC? Does Nikon supply video editing software with the camera? Or are you just talking about being able to view it on the computer?

  3. rvewong

    I suspect that you are in for a world of hurt messing with HD video. I’ve done many weeks worth of DV (720×480 pixels) editing and even that was painful. The tools and computers can really only service those with lots of patience and those willing to settle for what is given rather than what one wants.

    I think the tools exist (made for professionals) to turn your camera into a reasonable movie making tool but the professional editing tools are out of this world.

  4. Paul Maxim

    To rvewong: I think I’ve reached the same general conclusion. It was nice to fool around with it a little, but as you say, the “serious” editing tools are outrageously expensive. One major problem has been Canon’s choice for framerate (30p) on the MK II. Supposedly, they’re coming out with a firmware update early next year that will allow the user to select 24p, which is more consistent with HD video. Still, making movies is not the same as making still photographs. If you really want to do it well, it’s going to cost some bucks.


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