At first glance with the Canon 5D you notice one thing, the minute you plug a mini HDMI cable or a 1/8” mini plug into the outputs on the camera, your LCD screen disappears. It is like a sick magic trick that for some reason, not one person can figure out. Manufacturers around the world have jumped on this phenomenon and offer many products to solve the visual issue. One of the leaders has been Marshall Electronics. In the necessity to try and keep things small they have upped production on smaller lightweight monitors to try and keep ahead of the curve. Stay tuned because smaller ones are coming soon. The 6.5” Marshall monitor that I use in the Moviemaker kits has given me my eyes back. There are many ways to give video village a signal and I want to take you through all the ones that have worked for me and then you can make the decision on what makes the most sense for your production requirements. I would love to hear your ideas and what works for you.
1.SDS (Standard Def made simple)
Marshall on-board monitor, you feed that monitor from the AV out of the camera with the 1/8” mini plug to RCA, then RCA to BNC barrel. You are now GTR (good to roll), you can jump out of the Marshall monitor with a BNC cable to a wireless video transmitter or go wired straight to the video village monitor. I power my wireless video transmitter as well as my 6.5” Marshall on-board with a Anton Bauer 90 Dionic battery with p-Tap power ports.
PROS: KISS (keep it simple stupid) not many things can go wrong with this. It requires minimal extra gear to the camera other than the Marshall monitor and an Anton Bauer power supply. The more gizmos you put on the camera, the more the equipment tends to fail. Keep a Z-Finder on your camera so that you can unplug and get color and exposure so it becomes your viewfinder. This works perfectly for a business as usual Video Village. The playback person can record, playback, edit, etc.
CONS:Standard Def image, very soft and hard to see focus. You can not judge color, contrast or exposure. You will need to use the mini HDMI port and a lighting monitor to see or a Z-finder and the back LCD screen.
2. HDSDI (High Def made difficult)
Mini HDMI cable out of Canon Camera to BlackMagic HDMI to HDSDI converter. Out of the BlackMagic BNC cable to the input on an Marshall on-board monitor. From there you can go to a wireless transmitter or be wired. Now you can go HD wireless or SD.
PROS:You are able to get a sharper picture to the on-board Marshall monitor and can view full HD when playing back with the camera only. It is a little better on judging exposure, color and contrast if Marshall is calibrated correctly. Still advise having the Z-Finder on camera so that you can pull out the mini HDMI connector and get exposure dialed in.
CONS:Lots of added gear that has the potential to go down very often. The BlackMagic box is built to live in a rack with an air-conditioned environment; not dust, heat and slamming it around on a daily basis. The first thing to go is the box. Remember you will never see HD until you playback and if you have a video playback person recording all of this you will never show HD to the client or agency. The only way you will with this set up is if you assume the job of video playback at the camera itself. Then putting all this extra stuff is worth it. More power requirements with the converter box. Makes camera heavier, larger footprint.
3.HDMI (Good for a Cinematographer, Cable complicated)
I have been trying to perfect this approach for the last 5 months with all the commercials that I have been doing recently. HP 24” Dream color monitor is mounted to the dolly or near the sticks or at the remote head console. I needed to be able to adjust exposure when the camera was 50’ in the air. I could not rely on an SD monitor or light meter because it does not compute. So, I set out on a mission to solve it. When I started I fell in love with having this beautiful image to look at, manicure, maintain and polish to a perfect exposure. It also brought about a transformation with the client and agency relationships. Now this obviously only works if you are not doing hand-held camera, but I will get to how this works brilliantly in a minute.
**** DOLLY SET-UP:You come out of the mini HDMI port of the camera to 6’ mini HDMI to Reg. HDMI cable then into a HDMI splitter box that you send one HDMI lead to your on-board 24” Dream color that you mount onto the dolly, then the other HDMI lead that has to be a professional grade HDMI cable to keep the signal strength then this goes to video village where another 24” HP Dream color monitor awaits. If you want to send that a distance than I would use a 25’ cable to get it down the dolly and then to a HDMI signal repeater that requires AC power; then you can go another 50’ to 100’ with the professional grade HDMI cable. The video playback person is eliminated. You are the video playback person. As a cinematographer you now have to operate off the HP dream color that is mounted to the dolly with a black hood over your head.
****HOT GEARS ON THE DOLLY SET-UP / ON TRIPOD:You come out of the mini HDMI port of the camera to 6’ mini HDMI to Reg. HDMI cable to a HDMI barrel connector. From there you go 50’ Professional grade HDMI cable. It needs to be professional grade to carry the signal with out a repeater for that distance. This then goes to a HDMI signal repeater which require AC power. Out of the repeater I go 6’ HDMI Cable to a HDMI splitter box which requires AC power, where one lead goes to the HP Dream color lighting monitor that I have positioned at the HOT GEARS wheels console, then the other lead goes to another 24” HP Dream color monitor for the agency and client to view. You operate off of the Dream color at the HOT GEARS console with a black hood over your head.
****CRANE SET-UP: You come out of the mini HDMI port of the camera to 6’ mini HDMI to Reg. HDMI cable to a HDMI barrel connector. From there you go 50’ of High end HDMI cable. It needs to be professional grade to carry the signal with out a repeater. This goes to a HDMI signal repeater for that distance. Out of the repeater I go 6’ HDMI Cable to a HDMI splitter box which requires AC power, where one lead goes to the HP Dream color lighting monitor that I have positioned at the remote head wheels console, then the other lead goes to another 24” HP Dream color monitor for the agency and client to view. You operate off of the Dream color at the remote head console with a black hood over your head.
**** TRIPOD SET-UP: You come out of the mini HDMI port of the camera to 6’ mini HDMI to Reg. HDMI cable then into a HDMI splitter box which requires AC power that you send one HDMI lead to your on-board 24” Dream color that you mount onto a Jr. Low Combo Stand near your tripod, then the other HDMI lead goes to video village where another 24” HP Dream color monitor awaits. If you want to send that a distance than I would use a 25’ cable to get it down the sticks and then to a HDMI signal repeater which requires AC power, then you can go another 50’ to 100’ with a professional grade HDMI cable to the video village. The video playback person is eliminated. You are the video playback person. As a cinematographer you now have to operate the 24” Dream color that is near your tripod with a black hood over your head.
PROS: I either prefer to go (SDS Standard Def SImple) or (HDMI Cable Complicated) as a Director/Cameraman. Now why would I go choose this route when all the others seem so much easier? They are but the weakest point of this camera is the HDMI aspect. The cables are a nightmare because they break easily and the little hair thin pin connectors get twisted easily. I prefer to go with this system because it increases my speed and what you see is what you get. You can judge all color, contrast and exposure. You do not have to check it with a lighting monitor and then disconnect, then re-connect. If the sun goes into the clouds it is not a problem to adjust the exposure because the HP monitor becomes your film camera viewfinder. Everyone sees the best possible image while we are lining it up and rehearsing because you can roll a rehearsal and watch it back in Full HD. No added weight and a smaller camera footprint. You can judge focus off the monitor.
****Going Handheld- not business as usual
When I shoot hand-held, I view it through a Zacuto Z-finder while shooting and do not link myself to anything. Then after I have done several takes that seem to be amazing, I go back to the agency and client and we plug into their HP Dream color and review. I am there with them, looking at their faces as they view the takes. The feedback is immediate and personal; we talk together and discuss changes as a team. This is absolutely essential as a Director or Cinematographer. Now you have a direct connection with the agency and client.
CONS: Nightmare to deal with all the cables running everywhere, broken connections, signal noise. Operating off a large monitor on dolly can restrict your moves, then you have to punt to HOT GEARS if it does. That requires more gear and so much for the smaller footprint. No wireless option. Requires AC power for splitters and repeaters. More connections to go down and power issues.
What are your ways of solving these issues? I would love to hear you comments and ways that you have cracked the video village egg!