Camera, Light, Projector and Sound Rental in Milwaukee & Chicago

            Renting cameras, audio, lighting & grip for Milwaukee, Chicago, and the surrounding area.




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  1. Back to School Bonus

    film-student-discountAre you a film, video, or photography student?  We used to be, too, so we know what it’s like!  That’s why we’re making it easier and more affordable than ever for students to rent equipment.

    Bring your student ID, and we’ll give you 20% off any rental that includes a camera body!  Whether you need it for a day or a week, for a midterm or a final project, you don’t have to be stuck with whatever’s left in the back of the campus closet when it comes time to make your masterpiece.  Plus, we’ll help you figure out the new gear, including a one-on-one camera 101, where we go over the hows and whys of your particular camera. To qualify for the discount, you must be a current student at an accreddited college, provide proof of insurance, and reserve at least five days in advance.

    With camera packages starting under $100, you don’t have to be held back by technology on any budget!  Contact us today to reserve your rental!

     

     

     

  2. Camera Lens Rental in Milwaukee

    rent-lens-milwaukeeIf you’re looking to rent a lens for your camera in Milwaukee, you’re in the right place.  We offer an ever-growing collection of rental lenses you can pick up today from our Milwaukee office in Bay View.

    Our Most Popular Zooms

    Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS
    Canon 20-35 f/2.8L Zoom Lens
    Sigma 24-60mm f/2.8 EX DG IF zoom lens
    Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Zoom Lens
    Tokina EF 11-16mm f/2.8 Wide-Angle Zoom Lens

    See all zoom lenses

    Our Most Popular Primes

    Rokinon 85mm T/1.5 Cine Prime Lens
    Sigma 20mm f/1.8 EF Mount Wide-Angle Lens
    Zeiss ZE Planar T* 50mm F/1.4
    Canon 50mm Macro f/2.5 Prime Lens

    See all prime lenses

    More than half of our lenses are EF mount, but we carry adapters for Micro Four Thirds (MFT) and Sony E/NEX so you can mount them on mirrorless cameras, as well.  We also have specialty lenses, including tilt-shift and fisheye.  If you need a very hard-to-find lens, we can use our network of other rental companies to help you find exactly the lens you need.

    We can add a temporary focus gear to any lens you like, so you can use it with your follow focus.  We’re adding new lenses all the time… and we make our inventory decisions based on your requests!  Let us know what you’d like to see next!

  3. Invoicing and Getting Paid – Getting Started in Film and Video Production

    Invoicing PaperworkIf you’ve finished your first gig in video production, chances are the producer has asked you to send an invoice. It can seem complicated at first, but it’s actually really simple.  Here’s what you’ll need to know to create a video production invoice, whether you’re working as a production assistant or anything else.

    Video production companies need invoices so they can keep track of production expenses.  Since you’re not a salaried or hourly employee, you’re considered a contractor. Your payment probably won’t be a payroll payment with payroll taxes and other expenses taken out. Instead, it will be a lump sum, similar to how you pay a plumber, cleaning service, or other business.  Your invoice is basically a receipt for their records, and a reminder that they need to pay you.

    Invoices are pretty easy with a program like QuickBooks, or you can make your own invoices for free using Google Drive whatever else you’re comfortable using.  Remember, just because you’re invoicing doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay taxes on your income.  Talk with your tax professional about your potential tax liability, especially when you’re just getting started!

    A good invoice should have all of the following information on it:

      • ◘ Your name, or if you’ve incorporated, your company name.
      • ◘ Your mailing address for checks, tax paperwork, and other correspondence.
      • ◘ An invoice number, for your records.  I usually number my invoices starting with the year (Invoice 2014-01, 2014-02, etc.) for simplicity later.
      • ◘ The name of the business or person that you’re invoicing.  Usually I put the company name, followed by ATTN: and the individual who handles payments and accounting.
      • ◘ A project number or purchase order number from your client.  If they don’t provide one, put a short description of the project here, so accounting knows where to put your charges
      • ◘ A due date.  The standard due date for most video production invoices is 30 days after the invoice has been sent. This is sometimes called “net 30”
      • ◘ The date the invoice was prepared.
      • ◘ A detailed listing of charges.  Usually I suggest using columns to list items  in a table like this
        Date Item Units Unit Cost Line Total
        8/1/2014 Production Assistant Day Rate 2 $200 $400

        Often, you’ll be billing a day rate, but sometimes you’ll need to bill hourly, or add line items for overtime, etc.

      • ◘ A subtotal line
      • ◘ Any additional lines needed, like tax, discounts, etc. In Wisconsin and most other states, you probably won’t need to charge sales tax on your labor.  If you do, you’ll need to get a certificate allowing you to do so.
      • ◘ A total line.  I suggest putting this in bold.

    If you want to be sure your payment is processed ASAP, it can help to include a completed W9 form.  Download it, print it, fill it out, scan it and you can send the same one with all your invoices.  You can use the same W9 whether you’re a production assistant, camera operator, videographer, or have any other job on set.

    Pay attention to what the producer asks for.  Your expenses may need to be invoiced separately, and you may need receipts.  These days, 99% of my invoices are electronic as a PDF, but sometimes, people want a hard copy mailed to them. If you don’t get your payment in 30 days, send them a reminder invoice and let them know you still haven’t received payment.  Always be nice!  Assume they forgot to send a payment, even if they’re avoiding your calls.

    Here’s a sample invoice in a few common formats: PDF Excel OpenDoc

    Once you’ve got more than a few invoices, it might make sense to use a bookkeeping program, so you can run reports, manage unpaid invoices, and keep track of everything.  Remember to keep your forwarding address information current, because many video production companies will send you tax documents in January, up to 13 months after you’ve completed working for them.

    Good luck and happy billing!

    Posted by Jon Kline

  4. Canon 50mm Prime Showdown

    We recently added the Canon 50mm f/2.5 Macro prime lens to our rental inventory.  Naturally, the first thing we did was take a picture of Kyle’s eyeball.  The second thing?  We compared it to the Canon f/1.4 50mm prime lens.  We wanted to know if it was safe to leave our 50mm f/1.4 behind when we have enough available light and the Canon macro lens in our bag.  And since the price difference isn’t huge, we think a comparison of these two lenses isn’t completely out of order.  Here’s some of the obvious and not-so-obvious pros and cons of each lens:

    1) Up close, the 50mm macro is fantastic.  The 50mm f/1.4 is great for people, but if you want a closeup on a baby or pet, or are shooting anything smaller than about 9″ across, you’re really limited without the macro option.  The 50mm f/2.5 at close focus distance is 1:1, perfect for coins and jewelry. On a crop-factor camera, you’ll have even more apparent close-up power.

    2) The 50mm f/1.4 is a much better available-light lens.  1 2/3 stops more speed makes a big difference in the dark.  On a crop-factor camera, f/2.5 is “good enough” for portrait work, but being able to go into f/2 or beyond gives you more versatility as a portrait lens.

    3) For everyday shots, the 50mm f/1.4 obviously, clearly, blatantly outperforms the f/2.5 macro.

    Canon-50mm-f25-macro

    Sample shot from the Canon 50mm f/2.5 macro at f/2.8.  Click to enlarge.

     

    We tested both lenses with a Canon 5DmkIII body on a tripod at f/2.8, and focused on an object at the end of a hallway. We brought RAW images into photoshop with identical settings and saved them as high-quality JPEGs.

    The biggest differentiator is sharpness.  Looking at the 1:1 comparison crops, the 50mm f/1.4 is much sharper.  Even in our video tests (2MP resolution), you can see a slight difference in sharpness between both lenses.  Note, in both images you can see artifacts from digital sharpening, but it’s the same amount for both shots.

    The f/1.4 performs better in other areas, too.  In our tests, vignetting was much less noticeable on the f/1.4.  It has two fewer elements, which means that even at the same apertures, it lets in a bit more light.  Our guess is about 1/6th of a stop at the center and almost a full stop in the corners at f/2.8.

     

    Canon 50mm f/1.4 at f/2.8

    Sample shot from the Canon 50mm f/1.4 at f/2.8. Click to enlarge.

    The only place where the 50mm macro might be said to have an edge in our sample shots is in geometric distortion.  When putting the shots over each other, you can see a slight barrel distortion in the 50mm f/1.4.  The additional glass in the macro may be helping to square up the optics, making it slightly more rectilinear.  This makes the macro seem the tiniest bit wider, at least in the corners.

    In our high-contrast scene, both lenses seemed to perform reasonably well, without much ghosting or fringing, and a small amount of  chromatic aberration.

    For video shooters, both lenses seem to breathe about equally.  Our opinion was the breathing was pretty natural, and certainly acceptable for a sub-$1000 lens.

    pixel-peeping-canon-50mm-macro

    One-to-one crops for pixel peeping

    The upshot?  It looks like we’ll be taking both 50mm lenses along on our shoots.  The macro features are too awesome to leave at home, but the better optics of the f/1.4 make it a much better choice on almost anything more than 18 inches away.  Want to make the comparison for yourself?  You can rent all our 50mm lenses for your own tests!

    Posted by Jon Kline

  5. Wisconsin, Film, and Film Tax Incentives

    mke-production-rental

    We’re considering opening a MKE Production Rental office in Thailand.  Kyle is not pleased.

    This is a call to all the Wisconsin lawmakers out there who want to take credit for creating jobs.  You’re doing it wrong.  At the end of the day Friday, the Wisconsin legislature put the nails in the coffin of the film tax incentives, and shut the door on dozens, if not hundreds, of entrepreneurs who took a chance on Wisconsin becoming a state that is friendly toward film.

    Over the last seven years, businesses like RDI Stages and  Tilt Media rode the wave of enthusiasm and made huge capital investments to build studio space.  Smaller companies like us could count on a few extra customers from out-of-state, who would rather rent equipment locally than pay an airline all the extra baggage fees. The idea was so simple, it was approved quickly, with bi-partisan support.

    The slide into ambivalence has been a slow process.  The film office closed in 2005.  The tax incentives began in 2008.  They were capped (or perhaps we should say “crippled”) in 2009, with an annual state limit of $500,000.  Then they added a $500 fee just to apply for the incentives.  Film Wisconsin added a per-project cap of just $100,000.  Medium-sized projects (under $500,000 or so total budget) had the hurdle set too high.  And large-scale multimillion dollar productions saw too little return after the cap.  Film Wisconsin drifted from its original aim of being an advocate for local production, to being a sales funnel for the few projects that still wandered in the front door.  Now, we’re left with an industry full of employees, offices filled with equipment, and  we’re forcing the exodus of talented film and video makers to other states.

    Film tax incentives made sense, and they still do.  The kerfuffle over accounting in 2009 muddied the waters, and shows that Wisconsinites want a clear picture of what they’re buying for their money.  I think that’s only fair, but it’s something that’s only going to happen when lawmakers do what they obviously should have done in the first place:  build a plan that makes sense, with simple administration, transparent accounting, and feedback from people in the film and video industry inside and outside Wisconsin.

    Bringing back the film office sounds like a radical idea in this political climate, but can anyone argue that the experiment in public-private partnership that is Film Wisconsin has worked?  Stamping one organization “Wisconsin-approved” isn’t the same as having an office that can answer questions, connect you with resources, and advocate for local workers, all without being motivated by private interests.  Film Wisconsin was a well-intentioned idea run by some of the most-vocal advocates for Wisconsin’s film industry, but it wasn’t the solution we needed.   We need to admit it, fix it, and move on.

    Wisconsin doesn’t need to be a copycat, we need to think Forward.  Creating a system that rewards local hiring, local buying, and local renting isn’t complicated.  Writing it in a way that doesn’t leave taxpayers on the hook to pay Hollywood salaries only makes sense.  And yes, a decade from now, if Wisconsin’s film and video industries are booming, let’s talk about scaling the program down or phasing it out.  But don’t invite all the filmmakers to a party just to take the rug out from under us.  We’re entrepreneurs who are fighting to create a new industry in Wisconsin, just like the technology-driven and green industry sectors.  Our new businesses will fail 50% of the time even under the best circumstances.  We don’t need any help to make things harder.

    As a filmmaker who learned almost everything I know while in the state of Wisconsin, I’m left stunned.  Of course, I fully expect to be in Wisconsin next year, and MKE Production Rental will be there to help our customers and fellow filmmakers.  We hope that Wisconsin’s recovery eventually catches up with the rest of the country.  But in a fragile economy, in a bruised industry, with the tax laws tilting our customers into neighboring states, it’s time for lawmakers to stop talking about jobs and start making it easier for the skilled people that are already here to get back to work.

    Posted by Jon Kline

     

  6. Shutter Speeds and Frame Rates – Exposure for Video

    This is part two in our “Exposure for Video” series

    Shutter speed is one of the variables that helps control exposure and the overall look of your video.  If you’re an amateur photographer, you might be familiar with shutter speed, but there are some key differences between photo and video.  Frame rate also factors in for moving images.  Let’s start with frame rates first.

    The video frame rate is the number of images (frames) shown per second.  We abbreviate this FPS.  This can be anything from around 12 (the minimum to “fool” the eye into seeing motion) to more than 1000.  But film and video have converged around a few standards.  Here are the ones you should try to remember:

    Frame Rate    Most Common Use
    15 Old web videos
    23.976 Digital cinema
    24 Classic cinema
    25 PAL (foreign) TV
    29.97 Almost all SD TV in the US, lots of HD TV
    30 SD TV in the US before color
    48 Peter Jackson’s movies
    50 Some HD TV outside the US
    59.94 Some HD TV in the US

     

    I’m sure whole books could be written about why some of those frame rates seem so ridiculous, but the difference between 30 fps and 29.97 fps is actually really important, I promise.

    If you’re making movies or web videos in 2013, I strongly suggest shooting in 23.976 fps.  If what you do ends up on television, you’re probably better off with 29.97 or 59.94.  But let’s get back to shutter speed, which is the whole reason we started talking frame rates in the first place!

    motion-blur-shutter-speed

    Photo: Flickr/wwworks
    Longer shutter speeds make moving things streakier.

    The shutter speed is the amount of time the frame of video is exposed to light.  The longer the exposure, the more light is recorded.  Of course, under normal circumstances, the shutter speed can’t be any longer than the time between one frame and the next.  So if you’re shooting 24 fps, the most light you could let into each frame would be 1/24th of a second.  Makes sense, right? Your shutter speed can be a lot faster, however.  most cameras will let you adjust your shutter to 1/8000 or so.  This would let in a lot less light.

    Photographers have used fast shutters in millions of photos to freeze motion.  Since even fast-moving things appear relatively stationary over 1/8000th of a second, they can be “locked in place” without any visible motion blur.  Other times, photographers can use very long exposures to intentionally blur backgrounds or leave trails to indicate motion in a still shot.  But cinematographers have a different challenge.  Since video and moving pictures are all about capturing motion, each of the still images has to work together with the ones around it to create the illusion of motion.  The motion blur that photographers are often trying to avoid is the same blur that we can use to make motion seem fluid and natural.  The illusion of motion in moving pictures depends in part on the smooth transition from one frame to the next.  In modern video, we usually set a shutter speed at about half the frame rate.  In an homage to the film cameras of the 20th century, this is called a 180-degree shutter.

    There are times when the 180-degree shutter might not be the right choice.  Sometimes you may be shooting something that flickers, such as a televison or LED clock, and don’t want to emphasize the flicker. Other times you may be shooting in such darkness that you’d rather have the extra motion blur and get all the light in every frame possible.  There is no shutter speed that is right 100% of the time, but I usually start at 1/50th (when I’m shooting at 23.976fps) and make adjustments as necessary from there.

    There are artful ways to use faster shutter speeds, too.  In Saving Private Ryan, for example, the action scenes are shot with a 1/200th shutter, even though they are 24fps.  This tends to make the motion look “strobey” or stuttery, and reminiscent of old 16mm newsreels.

    Remember that shutter speed is just one of the four variables that affect exposure.  We’ll talk about the rest as we get further into our “Exposure for Video” series.

    Posted by Jon Kline

  7. Choosing a Lens 101

    If you’ve never used a detachable-lens camera like a DSLR or mirrorless camera before, the prospect of choosing lenses can be a bit intimidating.  There are some alright guides online for still shooters, but we felt we needed to write something specifically for people shooting video.  Here’s the quick-and-dirty overview of what you need to know before you pick a lens or set of lenses, whether it’s to rent, borrow, or buy.

    Lens Mounts

    The camera and the lens need to make a physical connection and an optical one.  If you use a lens and a camera that share the same mount, this is usually pretty easy.  The three most common categories of lens mounts in the video world are EF (Canon), F (Nikon) and PL (cinema cameras), but you’ll see others like Sony’s Alpha/NEX/E-mount, micro 4/3 (MFT) mounts, and more, too.  Frequently, you can use an adapter to connect one type of mount to another, but it can be kludgy and often you’ll lose any electronic features built into the lens, like autofocus or vignette correction.  And often, adapters will only work in one direction.  This is because of the imaging area of the lens.

    Each lens creates a circle of the image it is capturing inside the camera.  Some lenses have a very large image circle.  These are usually more expensive and heavier.  They can be adapted more easily to almost any mount.  Some lenses have a smaller imaging area.  These are usually more affordable and lightweight, but can’t be used on a larger image sensor.  This is the reason EF lenses (approx. 43mm imaging area diameter) can be used on crop-factor cameras like the T5i (approx. 30mm sensor diagonal), but EF-S lenses can’t be used on fullframe cameras like the Canon 5D mark III.  This holds true for Nikon lenses (called DX) and some other third-party lens manufacturers, too.

    If all your cameras have the same imaging area, it’s a non-issue.  If you have different sensor sizes, it may make sense to buy for the biggest sensor, since you may be able to adapt your lenses to fit the smaller sensor.  Or buy a separate set of lenses for each of your different camera mounts, if you don’t mind carrying around all that extra glass.  For beginners, definitely start with a mount that matches your camera.  You’ll have plenty of time to experiment with odd mountings later in your career!

    vintage-lens-ad

    Not all vintage lenses are great lenses. This Tamron would be pretty slow by today’s standards.

    Lens Length

    Wide lens.  Long lens.  Normal lens.  Telephoto lens.  These all have meanings, and they all depend not just on the lens itself, but on the camera and imaging sensor they are designed to be paired with.  A “normal” lens is one that gives a field-of-view similar to what we see with our eyes.  We measure lens focal length in millimeters.  What tends to look normal is a focal length approximately the same as the diameter of the imaging area (the diagonal measurement of the camera sensor).  Fullframe cameras like the Canon 5D and 6D are often paired with a 50mm lens when the shooter wants a natural sense of depth and dimension.  Crop factor cameras have a smaller sensor, so the measurement of “normal” will be smaller, too.  On a APS-C sized sensor as found in lots of DSLRs (T2i, T3i, T4i, T5i, T6s, 7D, just to name a few) a 35mm lens will look about normal in most cases.

    Normal lenses, because they are doing “normal” things with light, tend to be the easiest to engineer.  This is why the $300 50mm Canon f/1.4 lens can look amazing, but nobody makes a 300mm f/1.4 at any price.

    Usually a photographer’s first lens is a zoom lens, this means it has variable focal length.  A lens that does not zoom is called a prime lens.  Prime lenses are easier to engineer than zoom lenses, so they tend to be less expensive, smaller, lighter, and of significantly higher image quality.  If you have time to switch lenses, or a team of people to help you, you’ll almost always want primes.  If you need to compose your shots on-the-fly, and don’t have time to dig through a set of 5 different lenses for the right one, a zoom might be the best choice.  Historically, zooms have been favored for 35mm photo and television, while primes have been used more for motion pictures and large-format photography.

    A wide lens is a lens that has a smaller focal length than whatever “normal” is, depending on the camera.  So on my Canon 6D, a 35mm lens is a wide lens, but on my Canon T5i, it’s a normal lens.  A wide lens tends to exaggerate space and perspective.

    A long lens (also called telephoto lens) has a focal length greater than normal.  Some lenses go much beyond normal, and are called super-telephoto lenses.  A long lens tends to compress space and minimize distance.

    A perfect bag of lenses would have all your focal lengths covered.  When I shoot with the Canon 5DmkII, I usually have a 20mm, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, and 105mm in my bag.  That way I know I can get just about any shot I want.  I usually only shoot with a zoom lens if I know I need to cover a lot of different kinds of action at the same time.

    Lens Speed

    If you don’t know the difference between stops and f-stops, take a moment to read our guide.  Once you have an understanding of how f-stops work, you can start to compare lenses.

    As far as we’re concerned, any lens with a maximum aperture of about f/2.0 or faster is a fast lens.  f/2.8 is right in the middle.  Anything slower is a pretty slow lens.  All other things being equal, faster is better.  But there are plenty of times when we’re shooting with an f/4 lens, too.  It’s just a question of what lens is right for the job.

    If you’re shooting outside during the day, you won’t need a fast lens.  Fast lenses really pay off at night, or in interiors.  They are also great for interviews, and any time we want that “background-out-of-focus” look we call shallow depth of field.  I find I can usually shoot people by streetlight with a f/1.4 lens on a fullframe camera.  Even campfire shots are a possibility.

    Lens speed is one of the places where prime and zoom lenses really start to diverge.  As an example, Canon’s 24-105mm f/4L zoom lens is top-of-the-line, and costs about $1000.  But Canon’s 50mm f/1.4 prime lens is less than half the price, and three stops faster!  If you’re shooting indoors, that extra light can be a huge help.

    Image Stabilization

    Image stabilization is an option on some lenses made for DSLRs.  It tends to be used by people shooting in the style of television as opposed to the style of film, since video cameras have supported some kind of image stabilization for more than a decade.  Canon’s lenses that support it are marked IS, Nikon’s are marked VR (for Vibration Reduction), and others are marked VC (for Vibration Compensation).  As a video shooter, you’ll only want to turn it on if you’re shooting handheld or shoulder-mounted.  Almost all image-stabilizing lenses are zoom lenses, with notable exception.  There are different kinds of image stabilization, and some very high-end lenses will support two or more different IS modes.

    If you do a lot of run-and-gun shooting, a zoom lens with image stabilization might be a good choice for you.  But if you tend to do most of your work on a tripod, you’re better off taking something with extra speed or other features you might need.

    These are the four easy-to-compare differences between lenses.  Of course, we haven’t even touched on image quality, build quality, close-focus ability, or other important factors.   We also didn’t mention autofocus at all, but that’s because for video shooters on DSLRs, manual focus is pretty much the only way to shoot, for now.  How do you choose a lens?  Let us know in the comments below.

    Posted by Jon Kline

  8. Stops, F-stops, and Lens Speed – Exposure for Video

    This is part one in our “Exposure for Video” series

    When shooters talk about speed, they’re really talking about light.  Light is measured in stops.  If lens A lets in twice as much light as lens B, lens A is one stop faster than lens B.  If it lets in four times as much light, it’s two stops faster.  So, if we “stop up” or “open up” we are adding more light and if we “stop down” or “close down”  we are taking light away (relative to where we started).  All lenses have a maximum aperture (also called iris size or f-stop), but can be stopped down to reduce the amount of light coming in.

    Photo: flickr/sodaniechea

    Photo: flickr/sodaniechea
    In some images, you can actually see the iris in the photograph. Here, you can tell the iris has six sides, making hexagon-shaped lens flares.

    Lens speeds are measured in f-stops.  Don’t confuse a stop with an f-stop.  A stop is half or double a certain amount of light.  An f-stop is the measurement of the diameter of the iris in the lens.  They are related, but not the same.  I’m going to explain this with some math, please bear with me.  If you can commit it to memory, you’ll be halfway to being a professional shooter.  If it bends your brain too much, just skip to the chart and try to memorize the pattern.

    The F-stop is a ratio that measures the iris diameter relative to the focal length f.  That’s why it’s represented as a fraction, f/x.

    The cool thing about exposure is that as long as f is a constant, it doesn’t matter what it is. We can ignore it for this example, just remember that the number we’re focusing on is the denominator in a fraction, so a bigger denominator is actually a smaller number.

    If I double the diameter of a circle, the area of a circle will become four times as large (remember that πr² equation from geometry class?).  So if I double the diameter of the iris by going from f/8 to f/4, the iris gets four times bigger, and will let in four times as much light.  Four times the light… that’s two stops (because 4=2×2).  Eight times the light?  That would be three stops brighter.  One sixteenth the light?  Four stops darker.

    Now, as promised, the chart of f-stops:

     

    <--Opening up            Stopping down -->
     .      .      .      .      .      .      .
    f/1           f/2           f/4           f/8
          f/1.4         f/2.8         f/5.6
    
    

    What does it mean?  It means that there is a one-stop difference between f/1 and f/1.4.  There is a three-stop difference between f/1.4 and f/4.  And you can extend the imaginary chart out as far as your mind wants to go by just doubling or halving the f-stop ratios.  If you want numbers in-between…. you’d better bust out your geometry textbook (or use an f-stop calculator).  To be practical, we’ve never seen an f-stop beyond f/0.7 on the open side or f/32 on the closed side, and optics tend to get a little crazy as you approach extremes, anyway.

    Remember, the iris (aperture/f-stop/whatever you might call it), is just one of the four parts of exposure.  You will need to combine f-stop, shutter speed, sensitivity, and the amount of light in the scene to get the full equation.  The good news?  F-stops are the tricky part!  The rest gets much simpler.  And now you have one of the tools to compare two lenses side-by-side.  We’ll have more information on exposure in our next installment in the Exposure for Video series.

    Posted by Jon Kline

  9. 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.  Since Magic Lantern unlocks even more data rate options, 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

  10. Magic Lantern and Canon Cameras

    It seems like once a month or so, I run into someone who still hasn’t installed Magic Lantern on their Canon DSLR. Whether you’re shooting on a T4i, 7D, 5DmkII or III, 6D, or one of the other growing number of Canon DSLR cameras that support Magic Lantern, you’re missing out on some great free features!  But, since the Magic Lantern project is run by programmers, not marketers, it can be a little confusing at times.

    Canon 6D

    The Canon 6D Magic Lantern is still in Alpha

    We’ve been using Magic Lantern on every Canon DSLR we rent, and we think you should, too.

    Here’s a few reasons why you should be using it, and how to get started.

    What is Magic Lantern?

    Magic Lantern is free software, developed by a volunteer third party (the Magic Lantern team), that runs on your Canon camera.  It runs “on top of” your current Canon firmware and adds some features that Canon chose not to include.  A slightly different version of the program runs on each camera, but all of them work pretty similarly, and add features for video and still shooting.

    Exposure aids – zebras, histogram, waveform, vectorscope, and false color displays, plus HDR features in still and video modes.

    ml1

    One of the Magic Lantern menus, from the Canon 5DmkIII ML beta

    Focus aids – focus assist (even during recording), peaking, more control of external monitoring options, programmable focus racking, and trap focus features for still photography.

    Sound control – earlier cameras like the T2i (550D) lacked any manual audio control, and newer cameras have only basic configuration options.  Magic lantern allows you to control the gain manually and record two mono channels at different levels, as well as have on-screen metering of audio levels.

    Improved bitrate – if your memory card is fast enough, the camera can write more video data to the card, allowing for an image with clearer fine details and slightly better results in color grading.  Multiple Canon cameras now support raw video recording, at least in limited file lengths and resolutions.  This may help keep the Canon DSLR family competitive with newer offerings from Blackmagic Design.

    Tons of other stuff – including things that were so helpful, Canon integrated them in to official firmware updates. Features like alternate frame rates and manual sound controls were available through Magic Lantern before they were released by Canon.

    What’s the Downside?

    We’ve used it on hundreds of shoots on dozens of cameras and we’re confident in recommending it.  We have heard multiple users have installed Magic Lantern, needed unrelated warranty work, and still had their cameras covered under warranty.  But, because there is a third party involved, there’s no guarantee that Canon will honor it if you do something crazy like melt your CMOS sensor. Basically… don’t be a moron and use it to circumvent safety features, and you’ll be happy.

    To have a trouble-free install, you need to make sure your camera’s firmware matches the version Magic Lantern is expecting.  If you try to use the wrong version, you may get lockups or other weirdness.  If things get crazy, just take out the battery, remove the memory card, and restart the camera.

    How do I Install it?

    The process has become simple since the Magic Lantern project unified all the different cameras together in one download.  This information is current as of version 2.3

    1. Confirm your camera is running the proper firmware version for the version of Magic Lantern you’ll be using.

    2. Copy the Magic Lantern files to your memory card.  If your camera uses SD cards, it’s a bit easier to use 32GB or smaller (SDHC) cards instead of the 64GB and larger (SDXC) cards, which require an extra step

    3. Turn your camera mode dial to M, power on the camera, and perform a firmware update.

    Magic Lantern will take care of the rest, including making the card bootable and setting the right flags.

    Of course, take it out for a spin and shoot some tests before you bring it along for paid work.  If you ever have problems, you can always use a blank memory card, or format the card without reinstalling Magic Lantern, and you can revert back to standard functionality.  But we bet after a few weeks of shooting with it, you can’t imagine ever shooting without it again!

    Posted by Jon Kline