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Hardware Hacking Input Devices Movies Operating Systems Build

GPL Firmware For Canon 5D Mk II Adds Features For Filmmakers 117

tramm writes "I've released an extension for the Canon 5D Mark II DSLR's video mode to enable functions that are useful for independent film makers. While the camera produces a great movie out of the box, the audio is a severely limited. My code adds features that should have been in the software, like on-screen stereo audio meters, live audio monitoring, reduced audio noise and crop marks for different formats. An introductory video shows the new features in use and an audio evaluation compares it to the stock firmware with very good results. It's similar to the incredibly flexible CHDK software for Canon's point-and-shoot cameras, but targeted at the film makers using the 5D. The Magic Lantern firmware is GPLed and new features will be written to make the camera even more useful on set. There is a wiki for documentation and development."
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GPL Firmware For Canon 5D Mk II Adds Features For Filmmakers

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  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @09:50AM (#28438163) Journal
    If somebody is going to hack together a custom firmware with all kinds of interesting features, and offer it to all of us for no money, it's really hard for me to get upset at them. Empty bravado is useless; but I'd take less humility and more software any day.
  • by Iskender ( 1040286 ) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @09:57AM (#28438241)

    This GPL'd firmware sounds cool and the 5D2 is a cool camera. However, people who are interested in getting one solely for video should also look at the Panasonic GH1: it has stepless aperture control (with the right lens) and is in general made for video, unlike the 5D2 which has half-afterthought video.

    The reason I mention the GH1 is that it's really the first digital system camera that's 1) Made for video 2) Costs below 1500-2000 euros. It would be nice if the firmware hack people could do it for some other brands than Canon too though...

    The models won't matter soon though: all of this points to high quality video soon being available from lots of companies for anyone with 1000 euros to spend. Essentially, anyone with a decent income can soon only blame themselves for their video footage sucking.

  • by Animaether ( 411575 ) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @10:00AM (#28438267) Journal

    Why not?
    It's possible, they can do it, so why not do it? I, for one, welcome custom camera firmwares. The more the merrier - I know I had a reply on Slashdot before where I asked if there was a programmable camera; lo and behold, there is.. and there's some very fun projects coming out of it. Why let the camera maker dictate what you can do with the camera, when you know that it is physically capable of so much more? E.g. why limit exposure times to 2 seconds, when there's no physical reason you couldn't keep the shutter open for an hour? )

    As for HD.. an HD camera, 1080i/p, is 1920x1080.

    The 5D Mark 2 is 5616x3744. That's larger than 4K cinema. Let me put it differently.. that's larger than practically every single movie you see on 'the big screen' today (which are often finished at 2K, or post-effected at 2K and upressed to 3K).

    Sure, a consumer might not exactly -need- 4K. I'm not so sure they need HD - non-'HD' youtube resolution seems to be just fine for most people. But, again, it's possible.. so why not?

    RED, at one point, decided that movies could he shot all-digital and made their behemoths based around fairly expensive sensors... now Canon, Nikon, Kodak, SONY, etc. are realizing that their sensors are getting fast enough to do movies as well.. and they're taking full advantage of it.

  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @10:13AM (#28438415) Homepage

    Yup it's cool, but...

    if you are a indie film maker, why are you using a DSLR instead of a HD video camera that will shoot better video for less money?

    I'd rather have XLR mic in and record real audio than use a DSLR as a video camera.

  • by Chuffpole ( 765597 ) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @10:15AM (#28438431)
    If you a 5D-II forum with a lot of activity, see []
  • by corsec67 ( 627446 ) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @10:16AM (#28438447) Homepage Journal

    Except that the sensor size in the GH1 is much smaller than that in the 5D, so if you want to use a smaller DOF, you are going to have more problems on the GH1 than on a 5D with something like a Canon 85mm f/1.2. That same lens on the GH1 is going to be much less useful.

  • by Hijacked Public ( 999535 ) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @10:27AM (#28438609)

    Because there are no HD video cameras that shoot better video for less money? Indeed, to even be on par you'd need to spend quite a bit more.

    Until you get close to the 6 figure range you won't get a sensor as large as the one in the 5D. Even if you forego sensor size and just want decent optics to resolve the kind of detail HD video is capable of showing you'll more than double the price of the 5D and attendant L lenses.

    You are right that the audio is lacking, and while this firmware allows some control, it can't address the cause directly.

  • by Andy Somnifac ( 971725 ) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @10:28AM (#28438611)
    There is a XLR adapter for the EOS 5D Mark II. It's made by Beachtek [].
  • by temojen ( 678985 ) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @10:48AM (#28438873) Journal
    "binning", not skipping... it's a very nice feature of CMOS sensors... 2x2 or 3x3 grids of pixels can be averaged before readout, increasing sensitivity and reducing noise.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @11:27AM (#28439515)

    MOV format is not that much of a problem. after all, it is very similar to MP4 container. What's important is the codec used for the video and in case of 5D Mark II it is H.264 (aka MPEG-4 AVC). There's no problem processing this in most video editing software.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @11:56AM (#28439939)

    MOV is just a container format. It's really all h.264. Demuxing the stream is easy and very fast and there are free tools to do that. VLC plays/converts it out of the box. VirtualDub can load it with a plugin.

    There's absolutely no reason to use QuickTime Pro.

  • by asparagus ( 29121 ) <koonce@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @12:12PM (#28440203) Homepage Journal

    Well, the red beats this thing handily and it can be had for under twenty grand.

    The thing is that when you do video you don't get the full sensor. These cameras->video tricks do a sort of reverse interleaving. The chips themselves don't run more than 10fps. So the camera uses line 1 for frame 1, line 2 for frame 2, line 3 for frame 3, line 1 for frame 4, and so on. The practical upshot is that the 5k sensor gets knocked down to a thousand lines of resolution rather quickly. But then, because you're literally moving boundaries each frame, these weird aliasing artifacts appear. The quickest way to see them on the 5D is to take the camera and pan it right/left quickly, you'll see the image going all wavy. Some of the effect is the rolling shutter but it exposes the how the software is actually making the image.

    So, you can't move the camera unless you're very very careful. You might as well shoot slates and sync audio in post as deal with the onboard stuff. The camera can't record longer than five minute takes because of a provision under Japanese export law that would make it officially a video camera. None of these problems are insurmountable but they're certainly there.

    That being said, I have a friend who's planning on shooting a feature this fall on one of these things. I think he's crazy, but it's the crazy people who change the world. :P

  • Videos and stills (Score:4, Informative)

    by TheLink ( 130905 ) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @12:24PM (#28440393) Journal

    You can also make some videos with stills.

    See: []
    (do get the HD videos, they're MUCH better)

    I recall the slashdot story saying that many of us can't see the Milky Way at night, but that's not true - we can see it on Youtube.

    And we can even see beautiful sunrises from our basements ;).

    FWIW those camera sensors and lenses are better then my eyes in terms of quality of picture.

  • by Hijacked Public ( 999535 ) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @12:40PM (#28440673)

    Yes, that was my 'more than double the price' option. And my 100k option beats a Red, handily.

    People keep mentioning Red cameras but I doubt they've ever used one. As a former owner of an early Red 1 I can tell you it was nice, but only when it worked, which wasn't nearly often enough. If they (ever) launch their new models the same way you won't be hearing much from them any more. Or, if established players like Canon and Nikon seriously target their market, same deal.

  • by nattt ( 568106 ) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @03:31PM (#28443629)

    Horizontally, the Canon measures less than half the measured resolution of a RED One. That's not slightly different, that's vastly different. I'd love to see how you can control the aliasing produced by the line skipping with external filters. Even if you could put a filter on blurry enough to do so, you'd now be into sub-HD territory with the resolution.

    As for performing better in low light, you can't even brighten up the shadows on something you've shot because it all just looks like macroblocks! The codec is terrible and utterly un-suited to any kind of professional post production.

    Sure, you can get good Canon glass cheap, or Nikon glass for that matter, both of which will work on your RED.

    It's funny that people always go on about the DOF with the Canon - because it's only when everything is out of focus are you not able to easily see what is wrong with the picture.

  • by Falconhell ( 1289630 ) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @07:32PM (#28447203) Journal

    There are only 2 advantages to using XLR mic inputs.

    1. XLR mics usually have a balanced output, helping with noise cancellation on long cable runs,
    and giving twice the effective signal voltage of an unbalanced mic. This really is only an advantage with long runs of cable.

    2. Condenser XLR mics can be powered from 48V phantom power which is possible due to haveing 2 signal conductors. Otherwise the mic must be run off a battery giving much less output.

    I have at times had to use balanced XLR mics with
    an unbalanced input, and whilst needing a little more gain, performance was virtually the same.

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