Review: Learn Canon 5D Mark II Cinematography DVD

Review: Learn 5D Mark II Canon Cinematography with Philip Bloom

Philip Bloom 5D DVD Cover

DVD Product Page

My, how times change.  A decade ago DV was the hot new thing.  We were all debating whether shooting full frame, full frame with an anamorphic screw-on-lens (remember those?) or in-camera anamorphic was the best route for 35mm blow-up.  We all dreamed of being able to flip a switch and record beautiful, high resolution shots with shallow, film-like depth of field.  Here it is, 10 years later, and while video cameras have indeed gotten better, the current heir apparent to the film look for low budget production has come from an unlikely source.  That Digital SLR you had grew up and started shooting jaw-dropping footage at 800 ISO in candlelight.  Who knows what the next 10 years will bring.

Shooting HD on a dSLR is only roughly a year old.  That’s not long for a production technique.  In the last year things have developed rapidly.  Techniques have been developed and become outdated (I’m looking at you, half-twist-off the lens for aperture control), products are already in their rev 2 incarnation, and the first dSLR feature-length narratives are in post.

One of the most well-known voices in the HD dSLR space is Philip Bloom.  He hails from the UK and his background is primarily in videography.  Big shoulder cameras, 35mm adapters, etc.  He got a loaner 5D from Zacuto while in Hawaii for a shoot and fell in love.  He’s shot extensively with the 5D and has been putting on 5D training courses all over the world for interested videographers.  He recently released this DVD, a focused introduction to cinematography with the Canon 5D Mark II.

The Product & Disc

The DVD is packaged in a standard clamshell case, just the disc, no insert. The disc is natively 16:9 and looks great played with my PS3 on a 1080p LCD set. There are some compression issues, specifically in some of the middle chapters with footage shot on the Sony F350, but the 5D footage looks amazing.

Contents

Main Program (57 minutes)
1: Main Titles & Introduction
2: My 5dmkII history
3: Shooting with the 5dmkII
4: What kit do you need?
5: Setting up the camera to shoot video
6: Setting your ISO
7: Creating the best in camera picture style
8: Getting the correct exposure
9: Lenses
10: Lens discipline
11: Using a Macro Extension
12: The Mattebox
13: Follow Focus
14: Using a video monitor
15: Monopod & view finder
16: Variable ND filters
17: The IS Lens
18: Shooting handheld
19: Avoiding the “Jello effect”
20: Shutter speed
21: Getting the depth of field YOU want using the Fader/Vari ND
22: Shutter speed in artificial light
23: Sound
24: Best way to learn? Go out and shoot!

Workflow (17 minutes)
1: Bringing your footage into your computer
2: Converting to a format you can edit with
3: How to convert to 24p or 25p
4: Using Cinema Tools to change frame rate
5: How to sync sound

Presentation

Nearly the entire DVD is Philip talking to the camera, with some examples of 5D footage and split screen comparisons for variety. About a third of it is in his editing space, two thirds shot on location in Cambridge. Philip’s comfortable on camera and is an entertaining presenter.

Audience

The target audience for this tutorial is someone with photo or video experience who has an interest in this production technique but doesn’t want to spend hours or days teasing out nuggets of wisdom from forum threads. The DVD doesn’t spend much time on controls or fundamental photography/cinematography aspects. It assumes that you understand f-stops, ISO ratings and editing systems. The workflow sections which are included as an extra are Mac, and somewhat Final Cut Studio 3 specific. Non-FCP users will probably find this interesting, but it won’t be directly applicable.

The Good

The DVD does a good job of getting you up to speed on what the 5D is capable of so you can start shooting fast. It competently covers the basics: the kit he uses, defaults for camera settings that’ll give you flexibility in post, gotchas with the 1.1.0 firmware, tips, tricks and things to watch out for.

The chapters are direct, he doesn’t belabor any points and gives you enough information on everything he covers so you can feel competent about it. There’s quite a bit of 5D sample footage in the DVD, including some candlelight footage, behind the scenes footage of 5D shoots and filter look examples. It’s very helpful to see the footage and know what lenses and settings are used to create the look.

The Not-So-Good

This is obviously a rapidly developing field, and while this DVD covers the state of the art as of July of 2009, the 5D is fairly new and techniques are constantly evolving. You won’t find as much about mixing footage between cameras or handling multi-camera shoots. Philip also chose not to mention Magic Lantern, which is somewhat understandable since it’s not an official product, but for anyone serious about shooting with the 5D it’s an odd omission. It addresses a lot of the gotchas that Philip covers (ACG options, zebra stripes and now high resolution HDMI). It’d be nice to at least have it covered by a web special feature.

Conclusions

The disc is a great resource for someone who hasn’t been following dSLRs for HD closely and wants a concise introduction by an expert. After watching it I felt like I could pick up my 5D and produce some good footage. Philip’s very good at making it not feel like magic.

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