I've been hearing a lot about the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, which has been around for a couple of years now. With over 21 megapixels of resolution, it's the first digital camera to be used for an official US presidential portrait.
But more than just a still camera, the 5D is the first digital camera to shoot in true high definition, 1080p video. It's image sensor is actually larger than the Hollywood darling RED One film camera and because of its light sensitivity, it offers photographers a very narrow depth of field - which is the big thing that filmmakers all love to talk about.
Last month, Canon released a firmware upgrade to the camera's internal computer which allows it to shoot in film-compatible 24p mode. Personally I have a pet peeve about 24p - mostly because its such a bitch to edit and all it seems to offer is that classic film look flicker people are used to seeing - but for the "video artiste" this mode makes anything look like it was shot on film.
For a camera that only costs $2,500, Canon has created a very serious, high quality and affordable tool.
Last year UK Cinematographer Philip Bloom got invited to Skywalker Ranch to discuss HD-DSLR (high definition, digital single lense reflex) filmmaking with Star Wars producer Rick McCallum and Lucasarts head of post production Mike Blanchard . This is a new area for filmmakers and Bloom is a bit of a subject matter expert on the emerging technology.
While he was there, Bloom shot some footage with the 5D, showing off its film-like qualities and the Lucas guys wanted to see what it looked like on the big screen. In this case, the screen of the ranch's "Stag Theater" considered to be one of the finest screening rooms in the world.
And then if that is not cool enough, Bloom experiences the surrealistic dream of almost every aspiring filmmaker:
Rick and Mike wanted to see how well the footage held up on the big screen. ...So they converted my edit into an MXF to play through Avid and I sat down to watch the edit. I was nervous. Never having seen my work on a big screen as good as this, but also George Lucas came in to watch and also the legendary sound designer Ben Burtt. My heart was racing. I watched as the edit played and they loved it. My favourite moment was when the star timelapse came on and Ben Burtt said “Hey, now, hang on!!” This was a very quick ungraded draft edit knocked together from a crappy grey day as a test, not supposed to be shown as an example of my work! Then Quentin Tarantino came in as he was due to talk at a screening of “Inglorious Basterds” and George said to Quentin, come see this. Quentin waxed lyrical, calling it Epic and William Wylersesque and was shocked it was shot on a DSLR. He had no idea you could shoot HD video on them or they were so good.
Here's Bloom's edited short film using the 5D and a small tracking dolly called a glidetrack:
Bloom explains all the details of the rig he used and his experience at the Star Wars nerd Mecca on his blog. If you're a film geek, you should really check it out.