Everything I Know About the Canon 7D I Learned from Louis C.K.

*This is a very old blog post but I thought the information was relevant so i wanted to repost this. My apologies for the horrible formatting but it is what it is.*

So I have been getting a lot of emails and messages on Twitter asking me all sorts of questions about shooting with the Canon 7D . I am going to attempt to cover the majority of everything I’ve learned about the 7D since I started shooting with it.

The Canon 7D has limitations that have been well documented all over the web. I recently watched “A Constant Forge”, a documentary on director John Cassavettes and one line, in particular, rang true. He was talking about never wanting to shoot another commercial film because money ruined the creative process for him.
He said something to the effect of, “Limitation is the key to inspiration.”I think in the day and age we live in we have become a society with a short attention span.We want it bigger,better,faster and NOW. It’s like the bit by comedian Louis C.K., Everything’s Amazing and Nobody’s Happy.

We need to master our craft and get back to the basics. Shot composition and storytelling. I plan on working on those two myself.
Be thankful for the amazing technology we have at our disposal and stop whining like a bunch of spoiled children. Aliasing,WAHHHH. Moire,WAHHHH.
12 minute limit WAHHH, No Audio Control WAHHHHHHH. What do you want Canon to give you for $1700 ? Should it come with your own personal DOP to set all the shots up for you too? Do you remember what it took a few short years ago to get this type of look for a film? It would have been impossible to do what you can now for this type of money.
So, instead of this RED vs. the Canon DSLR civil war that is erupting in the filmmaking community, How about this ?
Take whatever equipment it is that you have the good fortune of owning and go shoot something amazing. Let your limitations be your inspiration.
Force yourselves to think in a way you never have before. Can’t afford a 7D ? Go get a Flip HD, shoot it on your iPhone. Just do it.
Sorry. Now back to the original point of this whole post.
What do I know about the Canon 7D that could be helpful?
Something simple yet one of the most important steps when shooting with the Canon 7D , Canon 5D MKII, and any other camera really, is flattening the color.
It may seem pointless to you. Why would I flatten the color? I want it to come out of the camera with rich vibrant colors. No you don’t. That’s why God invented color grading.
My weapon of choice for color grading is Red Giant’s Magic Bullet Looks . It is an absolute necessity for me. The things I can do with it in post are absolutely fantastic.
It’s one of those things where you can download the software and begin using it almost immediately. A very intuitive interface, and the ability to save your own custom
looks actually makes color grading fun. Who knew? Here is how you Flatten the Color on Your 5D (also works on 7d ) Thanks to Stu from ProLost for this.

Turn Auto Lighting Optimizer OFF. I haven’t seen this documented anywhere but I hate this feature. It basically sucks to me. Should be called Auto Make picture look crappy
IMHO. So disable this feature. Period.

You need one or all of the following. A tripod, a monopod, Glidetrack , Glidecam , Zacuto Rapid Fire or Tactical Shooter . Get yourself something to stabilize your camera.
There’s nothing that turns me off more then shaky handheld footage. It looks amateur.
With HD video it is very noticeable and rolling shutter is not kind to this type of shooting.
Not saying handheld shooting can’t be done with a Zacuto Z-Finder and sniper like breathing tactics it was actually done quite well as demonstrated in this post by John Moon of Northernlight Filmworks .
However,for the average shooter, myself included, shooting handheld is a good way to end up with a lot of useless shaky footage.

Lenses. Lenses. Lenses.
A very common question is what lens should I get? Well that is a difficult one to answer specifically,it depends on what you are shooting, but I can offer some guidelines. The 7D works with a 1.6
Crop factor so here is your simple math equation to figure out what a non APS-C lens becomes effectively on the 7D. Take the lens (i.e. 50mm ) multiply by 1.6. Here are a few lenses
already figured out for you.
16-35mm = 25.6 -56mm
35mm = 56mm
50 mm = 80mm
24-70mm = 38.4 -116mm
85mm- 136mm
70-200mm= 116 -320mm
Now which lens do you want to buy? I am a bit of a lens snob and also one of the key reasons I shoot with the 7D is for low light capabilities. So I personally would avoid buying a lens higher then a 2.8. Unless,you will be shooting in well lit situations or it is a lens to compliment the prime lenses you already have.
I have heard the 70-200 F/4 is sharper then the 2.8 but it also can’t shoot in low light so, I like the 50mm 1.4  as a very cheap workhorse lens. At a little more then $350 if you’re just starting out it’s a good lens to get you up and running. The 24-70 2.8 has a great range and is one of my favorite lenses.
Let’s say you shoot weddings, or you want to get close ups of people/things but from far away the 70-200mm 2.8 is absolutely wonderful. As far as the rest of the lenses go I haven’t had much experience with them so I can’t say a lot about them.
Here’s an idea though. Either rent the lens first or better yet see if any of your friends who are photographers already shoot with Canon. If you are out shooting something and you ask very nicely they may just let you try one
of their lenses. If they aren’t that nice? Maybe you will have to go out and shoot a little behind the scenes piece for them in exchange for some of their knowledge on lenses and to try out some of theirs.You not only will gain valuable insight but you may also make a great business connection and perhaps even a friend.
So there you have it. Hopefully that helps someone. It’s not everything I know about the Canon 7D but it’s a start.

5 Easy Steps to Become a Successful Filmmaker

1) Buy Camera with shallow DOF.
2) Buy Batteries.
3) Buy Media
4) Shoot Something.
5) Upload to the Interwebs.

I kid, I kid. If only it were that easy.

In all seriousness though. This is what we all strive for right? We want to be successful filmmakers. The good news is that while not a comprehensive or exhaustive list these 5 easy steps can be applied to almost any area of your life.

1) Determine what being a “successful filmmaker” means to YOU.
This may be the most important, yet most often overlooked, step of all. If you spend your time chasing someone else’s idea of what a “successful filmmaker” is supposed to be you will find your resources drained, your creativity zapped, and a general unhappiness that will just be a roadblock to your further development. Does your personal measure of success come in the form of financial security? Do you need accolades and awards? Are you just as content to know that you produced a quality film that tells a great story? You need to set a goal first, only then can you take the necessary steps towards achieving it.

2) Find YOUR Voice.
The key is to find your voice and your own style. Figure out what kind of a filmmaker you want to be. If you are not passionate about your subject matter your work will in turn suffer. There is nothing wrong with studying other peoples work and adapting techniques to fit your own style. The key here is to not just copy what someone else is doing. Try to push yourself. The most unique thing about you is that you see things in a way that no one else on the face of the planet does. We all have an inner monologue going on that no one else does. Everything that has happened to you in your life, the good, the bad and the ugly, has shaped you into a unique individual with a distinctive view of the world-at-large. It would be foolish not to tap into your greatest resource. Yourself.

3) Show Up.
The biggest difference between people who are successful and those that fail is simply showing up and trying.
It seems stupid to say but unless you have the best luck in the world no one is going to come knocking down your door throwing piles of money at you. You have to get out there and do it.

4) Accept Criticism.
You don’t have to agree with it. Take it all with a grain of salt but be receptive. Don’t get defensive, just think about it and see if there is any validity to it. If you don’t agree by all means stick to your guns but don’t do it in a stubborn and blind manner.

5) Never Stop Learning.
If you think you know it all you are probably wrong. Devote yourself to being a life-long student. Only a foolish person thinks there is nothing they can improve. If you are constantly learning and trying new things you will be on the right path. In order to evolve we need new information. We need to shake up the status quo. Education is our greatest weapon and information is our best ammunition.

Have your own tips on how to be successful? Leave us some nuggets below.

Lessons from the Road: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love to Film

Yes, the title of this blog post is a ridiculous take on the great film “Dr. Strangelove,” but I’m feeling a bit saucy today, so sue me. On second thoughts, please don’t sue me. Seriously 😉
Sorry for the hiatus, but spending 42 days straight on the road for the #CFLive Tour with Philip Bloom stretched our resources a bit thin. We are back at it now, and we hope to continue to evolve with all of you this year.

Lesson #1
The best thing about DSLR’s has nothing to do with technology.
For me, the best part of the entire tour was the meet-ups afterwards. Meeting so many like-minded people was inspiring and reinvigorating. The whole “civil war” that goes on, via Twitter and forums, about what camera is best, and why people with DSLR’s are inferior, etc. is a useless self-mastabatory exercise, that I want nothing to do with. Seriously, I wish people stopped wasting their time being negative, and got out more and created something great. There are no more acceptable excuses. The only thing stopping you… is YOU. That being said, there is a contingent of amazing talented people from the nations capitol of D.C. to the dusty streets of Albuquerque. Local DSLR groups were sprouting up behind us like Fight Clubs as we weaved our way across the country. That made the whole trip worthwhile. So seek out fellow filmmakers in your area and get to it. People are our greatest resource not technology.

Lesson 2
Don’t ask what, ask why?
Philip Bloom made this point and it is a great one. If you ask someone what camera they shot something on, follow it up with “Why?” Why someone chose a camera or lens is more important then what camera or lens.

Lesson 3
42 days is a long time to be away from home.
That may seem like an obvious thing but my point is that sometimes until something is taken away from you, you never fully appreciate it. So, if you have a roof over your head, friends, and loved ones at home, don’t take them for granted. I’m really trying to be more thankful for all that I have in life. Also, if you have a bulldog named Bruiser, he may get so excited when you finally do get back that he pees all over the kitchen floor, so have some 409 and paper towels handy.

Lesson 4
Don’t ever let your ego get too big. Always stay humble.
Philip Bloom has a huge following. He was the headliner of the tour, but when the bags had to get loaded up, and equipment had to get schlepped around. He was right there with us. That’s how it should be.
Someone came up to me at one of the events and said, ” I’m really glad you guys are so down to earth. Don’t take this the wrong way but, I kind of thought you might be dicks.” I was taken aback at first, but then he went on to explain how he had been to other events and some people get a following on the internet and then treat other people like they are better then them. He told me I was “famous on Twitter.” I laughed and said, “I do the same things everyone else does. I eat, sleep and put my pants on one leg at a time.” The minute you start to think you are better then everyone else, even if you are super talented, is the minute you start to lose respect from people when they actually meet you. Plus it’s just a dick move, so let’s keep it classy.

Lesson 5
No matter what the show must go on.
The show can be anything. Work. Life. Whatever you happen to be doing. There will always be snafus, snags, and pitfalls. You just have to keep your head down and keep it moving forward. Whether it was technical problems at venues, delayed flights, or getting sick, we just kept going. You can’t just throw your hands in the air, and say, “This problem is too big. I give up!” The biggest difference between people who are successful, and people who fail in life is just showing up. Talent is obviously important, but persistence is imperative.

Lesson 6
No matter how big the idea, if you put your mind to it and work hard, you can do it.
When we finished the workshop at the last stop in L.A. it was bittersweet. However, I have never been as proud in my life. Philip obviously worked extremely hard on the presentations,helping lug around gear, promoting the event, and we never could have done it without him. That being said: the team behind the logistics of the tour: answering emails from potential attendees, designing the website, contacting sponsors, booking hotels and flights, finding venues, finding meet-up venues, buying all the necessary cables/projection equipment, contacting local video associations, promoting, and countless other tasks we didn’t foresee consisted of Cristina and myself. It was a process that spanned 6 months and consumed countless hours of our lives. It had it’s ups and downs. At the end of the tour, though, we did it. We successfully pulled it off. We made up our mind that we were going to do it, and we saw it through. If the two of us were able to do that, it is proof that if set your mind to it, and are determined, you can do anything you want.

Anyway, that’s a few lessons we learned on the road. Hope it didn’t come off as self-important, it is just a few things I needed to remind myself of, as much as anything. If you happened to attend any of the #CFLive workshops, we’d love to hear what you learned. If you didn’t attend the workshops, we’d still love to hear what you think, so leave a comment and let’s keep the conversation going.

Canon Prime Lens Comparison on the 5D MKII

We just got back from a great educational workshop called IN[FOCUS] in New Orleans.
Some people have asked us why we continue to go to workshops? We strongly believe in practicing what we preach. One of the things we harp on about is the importance of education,hence our putting together the Canon Filmmakers Live Tour.
However, throwing events is simply not enough in my humble opinion. Once you think you know everything, you may as well quit because, you my friend, are finished before you even started. Regardless, of how you choose to continue your education, in this ever changing industry, it is an absolute must. Anyway, if you are reading this: I am obviously preaching to the choir.
Here’s an NDE (Next Day Edit) that the very talented Michael Gebben put together from this great event. We had a blast!

Here’s the Canon Prime Lens Comparison on the 5D MKII that Michael Gebben made. It is very helpful and informative and is a great way to see the differences in various lenses.

Managing Presets in Magic Bullet Looks

I have said it before but we absolutely love Magic Bullet Looks and do all of our color grading with it. I came across this tutorial where Apple Certified Master Trainer Simon Walker shows you how to quickly create and manage custom presets when using Magic Bullet Looks and Magic Bullet PhotoLooks, and how these are automatically shared across the host applications.

Canon 60D 1000 FPS with Apple Motion Tutorial

You have all seen the 7D 1000 fps BMX video by now I am sure. The guy that made the video slowed it down to almost a stand still with incredible results using Twixtor. Here we have a tutorial from Crumple Pop for achieving good results just using Apple Motion, which if you are using FCP, it already comes bundled with.

Here’s the tutorial:

Here is the final result:

This should work fine with any of the Canon DSLR’s that shoot 60p i.e T2i, 7D, 1DMKIV.

DSLR Multi-Cam Workflow in Final Cut Pro

Thank you to Eric Kmetz the winner of the Canon Filmmakers Live contest for Chicago and a great friend of ours for putting together this amazing tutorial. His winning entry can be seen below. This is very helpful for anyone who does multi-cam shoots not just weddings.

This tutorial was originally done for [IN]FOCUS a multiple day workshop/seminar/networking/educational/party/all around good time that Cristina and myself will be attending in New Orleans later this month. If you have not signed up for it yet, definitely check it out. Special thanks to Chris Jones for letting us post this tutorial video and again Eric Kmetz from Epic Motion who is the embodiment of kmawesome.

Audio Sync Issues with FCP

So, over the last two days, I had two friends run into the same problem while editing DSLR footage in FCP. The problem was that even though the sequence settings matched up with the footage from the DSLR,the audio that was recorded separately was mysteriously drifting out of sync. This is a very frustrating problem that I personally lost quite a few hours over. I tried literally everything I could think of. I thought it was the recorder I was using, my sequence settings, etc. I literally checked everything that logically would make sense. To no avail. That’s because the solution defies logic. For some inane reason unknown to mankind FCP ships with a weird “quirk”. Even though when editing DSLR footage there is no “capture” happening, the Capture Settings have to match your footage/sequence settings or you can get Audio that drifts out of sync, Hope that saves you some headaches and helps you get back to editing.

What I am referring to here is that the frame rate in your Capture Settings, not Log and Transfer, needs to match the frame rate of your footage and your Sequence Settings.

Getting Started with Magic Bullet Looks in Final Cut Pro

Everything we cut in FCP gets some level of color grading using Magic Bullet Looks. Here’s a cool video to help you understand the software a bit better.

Would anyone be interested in a more in-depth tutorial on grading with Magic Bullet Looks? I was thinking of doing one but wasn’t sure if it would be helpful. Also if you have any tricks or tips feel free to share them in the comment section.