Filming with the Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 24-70 2.8L and Sennheiser MKE-400 (with wind-muff) on a Gorillapod Focus with the Ballhead X under the shade of a tree in Bethesda, MD in 100 degree heat and humidity. Matt is monitoring 4 channel audio recording on the Zoom H4n with a Sennheiser G3 wireless lav pinned to our subject. My trusty Canon 75-300 f/4-5.6 is standing by on the bench for run and gun. Everything packs into the backpack near my feet.
Here’s a frame exported with no color correction. White balanced at 5200K, wide open at 2.8 ISO 100 or something, this is documentary filmmaking at its finest IMHO. The sensor on the 5D is sensitive enough to get great exposure and shadow detail in a no-light situation so what you see is pretty much what you get. To me, this is telling the truth not previously attainable at this price point or for this level of production quality; no lights, just a camera and a microphone (or three). Your audience is experiencing the moment about as close to how it happened as you can get, with video image quality from the Canon glass that we’re previously used to seeing only in glossy magazines.
Here’s a frame from running and gunning with the Canon 75-300 f4-5.6 (had to convert this to a JPG in order to post for some reason so slightly compressed). Before starting to shoot I try and set my ISO at a good general level, I think I kept it the same all day at around 200. While I’m running around, adjusting focus and focal length, I’m also adjusting f-stop. I think this one is somewhere around f8 and I’ve had no problem raising mid-tones in post as needed, really impressed with how the codec holds up in that regards (I know others have different opinions). I’ve found the trick is to try and expose as close to what you want as possible, realizing there are reasonable limits to what you can stretch out of your image.
I’m using the Videosmith Mightywondercam Classic Shoulderpod for stabilizing the 5D while walking around. It does a decent enough job, and of course I keep the Sennheiser boom mic for grabbing decent ambient audio. Eventually I may upgrade but on a budget this thing does the trick. Doing handheld with a heavier lens like the Canon 24-70 f2.8L can be tiring so a counter balance of some sort may be in my future.
The DNC was kind enough to grant me permission to post this article so a big thank you there. Hope this helps those of you in the field with understanding my approach to 5dmarkii documentary filmmaking, or at least gives those of you thinking about getting started a solid equipment list to choose from. I’ve erred on the side of portability and minimalism; no fancy shoulder mount with a big LCD, no focus-pulling gear. It’s a concious decision to be both lightweight and have a low-visibility factor; I’m so happy with the results. It feels like I’ve achieved a filmmaking zen state and I’m not going back.
proactively • peter
Disclosure, to comply with the FTC’s new rules
None of the manufacturers listed above are paying Peter Salvia to write this article and, so far, none have sent him any samples or demonstration items. Peter is a B&H Sales Affiliate and receives a commission from items linked to B&H and purchased through this site. Oh yeah, and he’s an Apple Certified Trainer so you can derive his bias for yourself.