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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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  • If companies made products that functioned fine, people such as this guy would have nothing to do in their spare time.

    Sounds complicated and admittedly, I know very little about this, but congrats anyway.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by carlmenezes ( 204187 )
      And companies won't make products like that unless they're willing to abandon their business strategy and relinquish control. A company makes products for the company's sake. Its the same thing that governs the product's features (implemented, locked in and otherwise). If a company was willing to create a product for the product's sake, they would have no control of it because it would be so many different things to so many different users. How many companies do you know that are willing to take that risk?
  • Why would anyone use this camera to make an independent film? It's an SLR still camera that only has a video mode thrown in as an afterthought (meant for taking a few minutes of video). You could get a real HD video camera, much better suited for filmmaking, for the same price.
    • by Hijacked Public ( 999535 ) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @09:56AM (#28438239)
      The larger sensor, and the ability to use lenses one already owns.
    • 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.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Chuffpole ( 765597 )

        > The 5D Mark 2 is 5616x3744.

        Maybe for stills, but the video output is 'only' 1080 lines - and it seems to achieve this by skipping 2 out of every 3 lines of sensor data leading to aliasing problems. But there are ways around this and it's certainly becoming an extremely popular camera for amateur (and some pro) filmmaking.

        • Sounds like we're still a generation from still/video convergence, but IMHO it's inevitable. Several years ago I bought one of the earlier consumer digicams with high-def video (Canon S80, 1040x768 video) and I've found that often a still from that video is acceptable as an image - especially when the alternative is most likely missing the shot. For instance, it provides a way to take action shots of yourself. I really have to wonder how much longer sports photographers will be taking still images instea
          • While sports photographers may technically be taking 'still' shots, most of them are shooting burts of 8 frames per second or better.
            • A more pointed question is, how much longer will the SLR design be with us? The slapping mirror has been with us for some time, but even the 5D Mk II's 150,000 shutter cycle durability rating is only 4 hours of 10 fps "video". (Obviously it doesn't operate as an SLR in video mode).
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by temojen ( 678985 )
          "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 nattt ( 568106 )

            No, not binning. Binning wouldn't look as bad as it does. It must be skipping entire lines to look as bad as it does. If you analyze a zone plate image through the camera, you can see this quite clearly.

            The only way this aliasing can be reduced is to mis-focus the camera, or put aggressive filtering on the lens (or replace the existing OLPF with one designed for the video mode).

        • 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.

        • Does the 5D Mark 2 do RAW video? If so, that leads to my next question - what is the max storage size it supports?
      • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) *
        According to the specs it only shoots video in 1080p, not 5616x3744. And, regarding the "why not" argument, that's kind of like saying "If you can drive a nail with a wrench, why not buy a wrench to drive your nails?" when a hammer costs the same price and would be much better suited to the task.
        • by nattt ( 568106 )

          It might record 1080p (1920x1080) but the measured horizontal resolution is much more like 1400 or so... So not even full 1080p. If you actually try to shoot something with high detail so you can actually see that resolution, the result is ugly because of the line skipping, you get false colors appearing, and it sort of twitters and jumps as the detail falls into the rows that got skipped.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by dargaud ( 518470 )

        I, for one, welcome custom camera firmwares

        I would too. I'm a photographer and a pro embedded software writer, but I have no idea how to write (or, better, 'correct') a firmware for a camera. I have written out long lists of suggestions to the makers of my cameras [], obviously to no avail. Some things would be trivial one liners in the firmware code. But how do you get started ? Can you decompile a firmware update ? Probably not. Can you get the source code of a Nikon/Canon/Ricoh/etc firmware ? Probably not.

        • by dargaud ( 518470 )
          And to reply to myself, it's easy to tell why they don't want to open-source the firmware code. You take it and change it, but then you deadlock the mechanics of the mirror or lock the diaphragm open and it fries the CCD or whatever... That's a nightmare for the company and the user to deal with.
    • Well, you may not think it is good for filmmaking, but the indies and the big names are flocking to this camera like moths to light. Check my blog, [] for lots of posts from indies making movies, to big films like Harry Potter and Iron Man II and several TV shows using the 5D mk ii. The sensor is amazing and the DOF is killer when done right.
      • I read a BBC blog that the present HD video equipment they have can only do single-plane focused images, and that good depth of field is difficult because of sensor noise and sensitivity. So to have a good set of lenses and a highly sensitive low-noise frame (and good sound recording) at the price of a 5DmkII would be a tremendous asset.

    • Just throwing this in: a friend if mine was a DP on the last season of CSI and he'd demoed the 5dmk2 to see if it was usable for what they were doing. His opinion was that the image looked great, but it NEEDED a 24P mode (it only shoots 30fps nominal right now). Also, it only records MPEG-compressed movies, and there's no way to get a raw feed off it or at least something with less/more pro levels of compression.

      I'm a sound guy, so my main complaints are that it doesn't have balanced wiring for the au
      • ...or any conception of timecode, for that matter.
      • If you want the best sound when shooting in consumer/prosumer land, run your own recorder and stripe* timecode []. While balanced inputs would be nice, you still would be stuck with cheap A/D converters and 16 Bit recording. On-camera sound is a convenience: it's second place to price/ video quality with most manufacturers.

        Unless you can drop 50 grand on a multicamera Genlock setup, drift will always be potential issue with multicamera shoots. In my experience even the cheapest usable cameras may only drif
        • With regard to striping: This has actually come up in an experiment, and mpeg-compressed audio simply doesn't capture SMPTE timecode. It smears out the data words and you just end up with a tonal mush. Also, you can't insert edit on these cameras, so you can't pre-stripe or do record-run; you can only do free run.

          So, even if you can get the recording to work, you'll need about 5 seconds of leader before a slate at the head of the take for the synchronizer in the online bay to rechase, which is a finicky p

      • Why not just use a balancing transformer at the input just like the mic has inside to create its balanced outs anyway.

        Further balancing really only helps on very long cable runs, and for using 48V phantom, which can be done by injecting at the above mentioned transformer.

        An XLR is a relatively heavy large connector with a few disadvantages when used including damage to the device it is attached to due to its weight.

        • It wouldn't need an XLR connector, just something with three conductors. Balanced wiring on the chassis is sorta minimum standard requirements for professional gear. It's not my biggest complaint though, the lack of SPDIF or AES input or timecode are the dealbreakers.
    • It depends what you're doing, but you're not going to get the depth of field with a real HD video camera that you can with a dSLR. And additionally, it's easier to chop down the image size to HD than it is to turn and HD video camera into something that takes decent photos.
    • by caseih ( 160668 )

      The current trend is very much to do high-quality photography and video with the same camera body. I expect that in the range we're dealing with (mid-range), we'll soon see a complete convergence with the sale of HD-video only cameras disappearing entirely. It makes sense if you think about it too. The quality of lenses available for SLR cameras is very good and readily available. So while today the 5D has video as an afterthought, the future cameras will be natively built for good, high-quality, HD vid

    • Why would anyone use this camera to make an independent film?

      the sensor size of 5D is the same as a piece of 35mm film, meaning you get much lower noise in low light. Most importantly, you get a film-like depth of field in your shots. This 'film-like' depth of field is a big deal for low budget filmmakers. Also, using SLR lenses gives the film maker far more flexibility and control of their shots, and a SLR lens will give you significantly better results. less barrel distortion, less chromatic aberration, and sharper pictures.

      The Canon 5D mark II is a game changer

  • DSLR video... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mansa ( 94579 ) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @09:53AM (#28438197)

    Wow, sounds like you've added some great functionality. Interesting read.

    I have a T1i- the little brother to the 5d Mark II. Any thought on firmware for this model?

    Aside from not being full frame, it also only does 1080P video @ 20FPS... I understand that it *can* do 30 but Canon crippled it as to not encroach on the 5D market. Has anyone seen any "updated" firmware to crank the frames for the T1i? :)

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      It's not a firmware problem for the T1i, it's a processor power problem. The only way you're going to get 30fps at 1080p is by adding more processing power.
    • Aside from not being full frame, it also only does 1080P video @ 20FPS... I understand that it *can* do 30 but Canon crippled it as to not encroach on the 5D market. Has anyone seen any "updated" firmware to crank the frames for the T1i? :)

      I wouldn't be surprised to see CHDK come out with an un-crippled 1080P video mode for the T1I/500D. There's unfortunately a hardware-based dealbreaker for that system, though: no external mic input at all. Ugh. Making it pretty much useless for anything beyond home videos, as the on-camera mic is mono, noisy, and low-quality.

  • 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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by corsec67 ( 627446 )

      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.

      • 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.

        I won't deny that the 5D2 has a significantly larger potential depth of field range. However, I do doubt that that thin depth of field is all that usable. Your example, the 85mm 1:1.2 will have VERY thin depth of field wide open - basically,

      • True, but a counter argument is that if you want larger DOF, the sensor size advantage of the 5D will be offset by the need for a smaller aperture which puts pressure on either the sensitivity or shutter speed.

      • by dfghjk ( 711126 )

        Yes, the 5D2 is a groundbreaking camera in the area of incredibly shallow DOF video. Otherwise, it sucks. Up until now, videographers haven't been hamstrung lacking the ability to shoot 35mm frame sizes with a 85 f/1.2. It's just an excuse to trumpet a Canon product.

        • by yo_tuco ( 795102 )

          Putting a Letus Ultimate 35mm adapter on your video camera gives you the same DOF capabilities.

      • The greater depth of field of the GH1 is by no means a disadvantage. The idea that a camera like the GH1 is somehow crippled because it's DOF is wider is just an internets camera measurebator myth. The lenses needed for a sensor of the size of the GH1's are large enough to produce perfectly fine background blur, and you'll get more of your subject in focus thanks to the greater DOF. The larger sensor cameras shallower depth of field is in nearly every case a disadvantage, though one that they make up for

    • Sure, it's not the same price point, but the 5D2 just beats the crap out of the GH1 for anything that should look professional.
      Take a look at Reverie (TFV), and tell me if it would have been possible with GH1's sensor size.

    • Will the Panasonic GH1 run free software firmware like the Canon 5D Mark II apparently can? If not, I don't see the advantage. The story says that these hackers added features Canon didn't; that's added value to me. That makes me want to consider a Canon 5D Mark II for a camera purchase. Thanks to their work, I am not dependent on Canon in the way I am dependent on a proprietor for other hardware which lacks free software firmware. Even if these hackers stop developing that firmware anyone willing to l

  • Related story (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Megane ( 129182 ) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @09:58AM (#28438253) Homepage

    This wasn't automatically picked up by slashdot's "related story" thingy: []

  • by Chuffpole ( 765597 ) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @10:15AM (#28438431)
    If you a 5D-II forum with a lot of activity, see []
  • As awesome as these hacks for the Canon cameras are, as a 40d owner I'm feeling a bit left out. I have the CHDK firmware for my S3IS which is awesome; multiple exposure bracketing, RAW support, and scripts galore. And now extra movie support functions for the 5d. There was a guy a while back who hacked the 40d to shoot video, but he ended up getting hired by Nikon and couldn't release his code. Anyone know of any efforts to hack these cameras as well?
    • by Malc ( 1751 )

      I'm not quite sure of the point of chkdk. I have an S5 (next model up from you). It makes the start-up ridiculously long, and it comes up in preview mode. I tried it for RAW on my last holiday, but found it used ridiculous amounts of space (not surprising) and increased my post-trip processing time immensely. I only used two of the RAWs. These cameras have such noisy sensors that it's to much work dealing with it afterwards and the in-camera processing is generally good enough. If you want better, get

      • How is the PowerShot S5 considered to be a step up from a semi-pro dSLR?
        • by Malc ( 1751 )

          I didn't say it was. Read the parent. The camera he mentioned has a better sensor, but in all other ways is a predecessor of the S5.

          • "In all other ways?" I'm still not sure where you are getting that from as the Canon EOS 40D is a semi-professional dSLR camera that is quite often carried as a backup camera (or as a primary) by professional photographers, where as the PowerShot S5 is strictly a consumer level camera. Given that the 40D support interchangeable lenses I'm even sure you can fairly compare the cameras, thus, this really is a situation where you are comparing apples to oranges.
            • by Malc ( 1751 )

              You might want re-read the parent post. It contains the following: "I have the CHDK firmware for my S3IS which is awesome;"

              • Reading comprehension failure, apparently I need to have another mug of coffee. On the upside, at least I'm not the only poster to make the mistake.
      • The 40D MSRP is $1100. The S5 is $350. Your camera is nowhere near a step up from a 40D.
    • Not only does Canon let the consumer play around with the firmware they encourage it, as far as CHDK goes there are tons of parameters if its not working the way you want it to its your fault. I have taken shots of lightning where the motion detection script responds in 110ms. To take advantage of RAW (CRW file format) you have to be a borderline pro photographer and know how to convert them to DNG, preserving the 10 bit color, and then I use RawTherapee and possibly GIMP.

  • Hi y'all If you're interested in the 5D mk ii, you should check out my blog and wiki - [] - the best 5D information on the planet! We have had several posts on this story since it was 'announced' several weeks ago (yesterday's formal announcement was the first 'release' of the software to the public - but we've been covering it before that).
  • Can anyone explain to me what exactly is the fascination with QuickTime MOV format?

    Kodak's cameras record video in MOV. Apparently Canon's cameras also record video in MOV.

    It's a PITA because Apple is so stingy about licensing the codecs for its QuickTime formats (no, I don't want to buy QuickTime Pro). It makes it a major inconvenience if I want to actually edit the clips. So, why do I have to put up with this?

    Sorry if this seems like a rant. If there's some reason why MOV seems to be favoured, I'm honestl

    • My Canon S3 records in AVI format, but my old Olympus camera recorded in .MOV.

      I always figured that Apple has a relatively cheap and easy-to-implement authoring code API or something that makes it easy for the bean counters to approve of.

      Some cameras have basic editing functionality built into the firmware, but yeah it sucks that it's not in a more open format.

      • AVI and MOV are just containers. They have no bearing on the codecs used, which is what actually differentiates quality of encoding. AVI can contain MPEG, MPEG-2, DivX, MJPEG, H.264... whatever. Saying you have an AVI means almost nothing.
    • .MOV is actually a fairly good format. It may not be open but NOTHING in the higher-end video editing spectrum is. Personally I used to do some small time recording of a local bands with a few DV cams. Just like some bands who wanted live demos, then often link it up with a stereomix. While I brought along 3 DV cameras with me, I'd often have people who'd recorded it on their digital cameras email me there videos and these were more often than not in .MOV format. Most amateur editors/producers use Sony Vega
      • MOV is actually a fairly good format. It may not be open but NOTHING in the higher-end video editing spectrum is.

        Why? It's just a container. What's inside is what's significant (as Anonymous Coward pointed out below), so how is MOV better than any other container format?

        I'd often have people who'd recorded it on their digital cameras email me there videos and these were more often than not in .MOV format.

        Thus illustrating my question. Why do so many cameras record in MOV?!

        Me thinks you should stop putting videos of your brilliant nights out on Youtube

        Actually, YouTube had no problem transcoding the videos my camera recorded, but if I wanted to edit them first, I'd have had to buy a video editing package that would have been serious overkill for my purposes.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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.

      • VLC plays/converts it out of the box.

        I had no end of trouble trying to get VLC to convert my Kodak's MOV videos. Trying to convert into MPEG 1, mp1v/mpga just gives a ffmpeg error.

        I seem to remember finding a 2-step conversion that actually worked (I was able to successfully convert them into some absurdly large format, can't remember which one, then convert that into MPEG), but I can't remember it any more and if I had to convert one of them today I'm sure I'd have no end of trouble figuring out how to do it again.

      • by Krupuk ( 978265 )
        I recently got a MOV file from a 5D Mark II, which played fine on a Macbook.

        I tried to play it on a Windows machine (I don't own a Mac) and I only got a "-2048" error that "QuickTime doesn't understand the file format". I tried installing every codec package I know of and used different players (Windows Media Player, Media Player Classic, VLC...). I did the whole thing on different PCs without success.

        On some forums I read that there are problems with playing HD QuickTime under Windows. Does anyone kn
  • With Canon, we can.
  • I own the 5D Mark II and I love it, especially since Canon recently released the firmware to enable ISO, Aperature and Shutter Speed control in video mode. I work on indie film and professional video and I can tell you that even though this isn't a "video" camera, the full-frame sensor and the Canon line of lenses, especially the high-end primes, are a wonderful combination. Such shallow depth of field, such great color reproduction, and great low light sensitivity.

    Most prosumer / consumer HD cameras can't

  • I seem to have stumbled into the Slashdot Classified Ads section. And I didn't even know that Slashdot had a Classified Ads section.

    But given that its GPL code I will mute my criticism that this post is put up by the author, and not a more neutral review site.

I THINK MAN INVENTED THE CAR by instinct. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.