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Tips for Shooting Video on the Canon 6D


Jon wrote a follow-up to this post in November 2013.

I first started shooting DSLR video in 2010.  Having such incredible cameras at a low price point has changed the way we work.  The democratization of filmmaking is underway, and the Canon 6D is a milestone on that path.   The key to standing out isn’t spending $40,000 on a camera, it’s taking the time to know your camera and equipment and get the best results.  Here’s what I’ve learned so far while shooting with the Canon 6D.

Use a monitor.  The 6D supports higher resolution output while recording than the 5DmkII, so you can actually focus while shooting.  You also don’t have the glitch in HDMI signal between standby and recording.  If you’ve been using a 480p monitor, it’s time to upgrade.

Without Magic Lantern, the 6D is really just a still photography camera.  ML is still in development for the 6D, but you can use the dev kit to install an early alpha version and at least get basic exposure and focus assist features.  This is a huge help when shooting video.

6D-rig

We prefer our 6D all dressed up in a cage and mattebox

You have a new, extended clip-length limit of 29:29.  This makes using the camera for sit-down interviews and events a bit easier.  It’s also quite likely that Magic Lantern will be able to eliminate the clip length entirely, now that Canon firmware has removed all the other obstacles to longer shot lengths.

Moire is not as bad as everybody says it is.  I spent half a day running around the office trying to create it and I can’t.  I’ve seen some sample shots online, but nothing that 30 seconds in After Effects couldn’t improve.  It’s no reason to ignore a great camera.  Just like rolling shutter and compression artifacts, it’s something that your audience should never be paying attention to, as long as you’re telling a good story.  If you’re really worried about it, try one of the optical low-pass filters, which seem to do the trick as long as you’re not on a wide lens.  And remember that a few years ago, professionals were still shooting 480i to tape.  Trust me, if your picture sucks, it’s not the camera’s fault.

Don’t be afraid of the dark.  Compared with a crop-factor camera, the 6D has 2-3 stops more room to work with.  The T2i/T3i/T4i tends to get “fuzzy,” especially in the blacks, at 800ISO and beyond. I would say the 6D at 3200ISO looks cleaner than the T2i at 800ISO.  The difference is so big, I usually don’t take crop factor cameras out of my bag indoors anymore.  If you’re also shooting photos, the 6D is a great indoors camera.  While the action-focusing doesn’t keep up with the Canon 5DmkII or III or the 7D, the low-light focusing performance on the center point is unmatched in any DSLR I’ve ever shot with.

Use All-I compression modes.  The camera supports IPB compression, but why would you intentionally reduce the quality of your video?  The real bottleneck for DSLR filmmakers has always been the data rate.  Canon gave us an incremental improvement with the All-I option.  Just make sure you have a fast enough memory card to handle the extra data.  We recommend the Sandisk Extreme Pro series.  Once Magic Lantern unlocks even more data rates and shooting modes, you’ll be glad you spent a little extra for the higher-speed card.

Give it some glass!  If you wanted performance like this ten years ago, you would have spent, literally, $250,000 or more on the camera body.  Why would you shoot through a $99 lens?  The 24-105mm is the logical walking-around lens, since the IS will help on the shoulder mount.  But you can get 2+ more stops of light out of a prime kit.  Take a prime lens kit out for a shoot at night and you’ll see what I’m talking about.  The limiting factor on almost every shoot in 2013 isn’t the camera, it’s the lenses.

Accessorize.  If you want results that look like film, you need to shoot like film.  Having a nice matte box on rails, follow-focus, filters, and monitor can be a huge boost to image quality and productivity on set.

If you’re on the fence about buying your own 6D, consider renting the 6D from us and letting us know how you liked it!

Posted by Jon Kline


13 Comments

  1. Micheal Johnston

    I am just starting in video and purchased a EOS 6D. To date I have used a LCD view finder over the built in screen to shoot in sunlight. I see you recommend using a Monitor. How are they in bright sunlight? (I live in Singapore and the camera screen is unusable).

    Micheal

  2. Jon Kline

    I like our monitor and the built-in shade, and find it much more usable on set. Even super-bright HD monitors aren’t viewable without some sort of covering.

    If you need to travel light, the Z-finder or other off-brand DSLR viewfinder is an alternative for outdoor shooting. I find it makes camera ergonomics weird, though.

  3. Shannon

    I am just about to purchase a Canon 6D to use for a web series as well as shooting a documentary. What are the “must-have” accessories for shooting? (Lenses, mics, filters, etc)

    i want to make sure that I budget properly.

    Thanks for your help. This has been the most informative article I’ve found on the net so far!

    • Jon Kline

      Lenses are really a personal decision. For example, I’m a prime lens guy, but plenty of shooters I know prefer to shoot with zooms.
      I like the VideoMic Pro a lot as an onboard mic option and often run a Sennheiser G3 wireless lav direct into the camera for lo-fi sound. For anything serious, I prefer an audio recorder like the Tascam DR100 mark 2.
      You’ll also want some kind of ND filters. For run-and-gun stuff you can probably get away with a 1.2 and a 0.9 to start, or a nice variable ND, if you don’t mind the look of them.
      I think I need to post on this topic again with some accessory ideas!

  4. OJB

    I am planing to get a camera in some weeks time for documentary and musical video,and after reading through a lot of reviews on the web about Canon 5D mark11,canon 5D mark 111 and canon 6D,I discovered many prefered 6D because of it sharpness ,clearity and the selling price which is also my budget. Sir,I discovered 6D doesn’t have port for external mic which might make it difficult to monitor it sound. Hope this will not affect it purpose? And I will also like to know the best lens,filters and other accessories I will need to use and make my mission possible. Thanks

    • Jon Kline

      The 6D has an external mic port, but not a headphone jack. I strongly suggest using an external audio recorder with any DSLR rig. None of the DSLR cameras have respectable microphone preamps, so you can’t get great audio with them.

      Lenses are a pretty personal decision. I’d suggest trying a few out as rentals before you make the decision to buy one. For doc work, a nice IS zoom like the 24-70 f/2.8L is great, but so is the 100mm f/2 macro IS. Variable ND filters are nice if you don’t have a camera assistant. For music videos and films, I like prime lenses and traditional ND filters.

  5. Kurt Hall

    Hey Jon i have a Canon t5i and want to upgrade to a full frame censor on my list is 5d mark ii and the 6d. I will be shooting alot of video such as short film, documentaries, and music videos. Which camera do u suggest and I’d there’s any others you would suggest i take a look at that will be helpful my budget is 2000$

    • Jon Kline

      The 5DII is a great video option, if I’m shooting video-only, I like it better than the 6D. But if I’m shooting a mixture of photo and video, I like the 6D a lot better. The trade off is really a stable Magic Lantern version on the 5DII or 720p60, WiFi, GPS, and an edge in low light on the 6D. If you’re trying to get hired with your camera, lots more producers will ask for a 5DII or III over a 6D, even though the quality is very similar.

      If I were you, I’d think about waiting for an announcement of whatever will replace the 7D first. If there is a 7Dc, which I think seems likely, you may be able to get 4K in a DSLR body, under $2000. And all your lenses will still fit. But we won’t know for sure for another couple of months.

  6. Ali Ashraf

    I just bought 6d canon. I want to use this camera for wedding pictures and video. Is it possible to do the two job with just one Camera? I have 32GB Sandisk extreme pro series memory card. How long time I can record the Video? Please help. Thanks

    • Jon Kline

      You can certainly use one camera to do either job, just not at the same time.
      In IPB mode, you’re recording at around 6MB/sec, so you’ll fill up a 32 GB card in about 90 minutes. It’s much less time if you’re using All-I compression.

  7. Todd Ward

    I have been using a Canon T3i to record live drawing, like similar to the RSA style or speed drawing technique seen on YouTube. Usually, I work with a production company but thought I do my own live drawing video recording. The salesperson at the Camera store where i bought my Canon 6d said that with a timer device I can continuously shoot at half second intervals. Can you recommend a timer device to do this? Thanks.

    • Jon Kline

      Hi Todd,
      You could use an intervalometer, or you could use Magic Lantern and add that functionality to your camera for free. We’re big ML fans in the shop, but if you prefer to avoid it, Rainbow Imaging’s intervalometer is pretty popular without breaking the bank.

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