5D Mark II Video, Part Two
Digging deeper: Exposure Control Under Daylight Conditions
By Bruce Dorn | December 23, 2008
Cinematography, photography, and videography are undeniably machine-based crafts. Just as a painter needs to understand the character and limitations of her brushes, so too do we need to understand the nuance of our camera systems. A mastery of technical craft doesn't assure the ascension to Art but it certain helps to smooth the path. While the mastery of our craft can become a fascinating obsession in itself, my preference is to take the long view and treat technique as an enjoyable means to a gratifying end.
Cursing a tool won't change its nature. A hammer excels at driving nails and a saw can't be beat for cutting wood. Understanding both the capabilities and limitations of our tools frees us from foolhardy usage and helps us along the path to creation. Let's apply this philosophical stance to the Canon 5D Mark II as we work our way towards our ultimate goal, the motion picture storytelling narrative.
This is little more than a long-winded but heartfelt way of saying that while this camera isn't likely to replace a fully-featured, single-purpose video camera, it does have incredible potential. Yes, I do think that one could tackle a long-form project with just the 5D Mark II and a collection of well-chosen accessories but let's not get ahead of ourselves. Nothing stands without a sound foundation so let's continue to analyze and understand the characteristics of this nifty new tool. Artistically running amuck will have to wait âtil laterâ¦
Now that we've had some time to play with the 5D Mark II's HD video feature, several things become obvious. One little Catch 22 concerns the limited range of shutter-speeds available while in Movie Mode.
While this camera is eminently capable of gathering exquisite imagery in low light situations it is somewhat limited in bright light conditions. Don't jump to negative conclusions, though; we're going to approach all technical challenges with a "glass half full" philosophy and before this column ends I'll offer suggestions to turn lemons into lemonade.
Let's back-track to some basic photographic knowledge to set the sceneâ¦
To over simplify a bit, ISO ratings - formerly known as ASA - are based upon the proper rendering of an 18% gray card in direct sunlight at an aperture setting of f16. If shutter-speed of 1/100th results in a "perfect" exposure then the ISO rating is 100. This is the basis of the so-called "Sunny 16 Rule" which states that if you are shooting in front-lit midday conditions, simply setting your aperture to f16 and your shutter speed to the fractional equivalent of your ISO will result in a good exposure - no metering necessary.
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