Small Size, Big Value: The Canon 5D Mark II As A MovieMaker

The Canon 5D Mark II is approximately 2.5 pounds with a still lens, 4.5″ high 3″ deep and 6″ long. Wow!

It is nimble and inexpensive so you can have multiple camera bodies working in different configurations simultaneously. Not being stuck with a traditional shoulder mount allows you to create a new visual language.

The 5D Mark II Goes Anywhere

The 5D Mark II Goes Anywhere

We used the 5D Mark II to shoot the fight sequences in my current feature project for the Navy Seals directed by Scott Waugh and Mike McCoy and produced by Bandito Brothers, Legendary Pictures and Warner Brothers. The versatility to get into places that were previously impossible to reach with a camera of this quality is exciting. Capturing  incredibly low angles is now easy.  Overhead shots that usually required a crane or jib arm, now need a speed rail menu arm or a c-stand.  You have to keep on thinking out of the box, break free from traditional thinking and embrace the size and weight of this little movie maker.

  1. Rudy Labordus 6 years ago

    How did you work out where to put those 2.39:1 white lines on the LCD screen? Is there a quick way to work it out?

  2. Shane 6 years ago

    Rudy we shoot a framing chart. Then I put some white paint on the sides of the screens so depending on the project we can remove or put them back quickly. We also took the framing chart and laminated it to our pelican cases so that we could line it up on location if need be.

  3. Charles Harrold 6 years ago

    Hey Shane,
    Regarding media storage, have you found that the “rolling shutter’ or “jello cam” issue has been somewhat resolved by a faster mb/s CF card? For example the Sandisk Extreme IV or the new Extreme Pro (at 90mb/s)

    • Author
      Shane 6 years ago

      Charles Harrold, The “rolling shutter” or “jello cam” issue that everyone has been talking about, I can only go on experience. If you whip the camera around just to see if the image turns to jello then yes the problem is there. You could not do this with film camera either. There is a specific speed of panning with a film camera, and if this speed is to fast then you get strobing and image stepping. Same applies to video, except the image bends. I feel with the right style of image capture you can minimize this problem. Going with an Extreme IV UDMA card is your best bet. It will not alleviate the rolling shutter issues, it will just give you a cleaner compression.

  4. Justin Cerato 6 years ago

    Hi Shane,

    I just noticed what looks like 2.35:1 frame guides on the back of the pictured 5D’s screen, am I correct? Reason I ask is that I am shooting a feature using 5D’s where I need to frame for this aspect ratio. The 2.35:1 bars will just be overlaid in final cut. I will be running the HDMI output into a splitter, with one end feeding into an Ikan V5600 monitor and the other into an LCD video directors monitor. Do you have any advice for a work around in this area? As you know, the image size changes during recording on the HDMI output so that will make things even harder. I have been looking into the Magic Lantern custom firmware [which supports custom aspect ratio guides] but I have read on that it is not completely accurate.

    On a lighter note, I watched this behind the scenes video and saw that you were using a head-mounted display with the 5D, very creative!. What was that like to shoot with?

    • Author
      Shane 6 years ago

      Justin Cerato, Yes those are the white lines that we put on the back of the camera to compose for 2:35. The magic latern software is not accurate and it is buggy with this weird flashing thing that happens while recording. I would advise the workflow that I used on the Navy SEAL movie. The directors trusted me as a Director of Photography and as an operator so I used the back LCD screen to frame and then after we felt we got it we would check it on a playback monitor for focus and performance. The two directors on this film would be right next to me to view the performance. This was so much faster than all the hassle and problems that come from a video assist set-up. It was liberating for me as a cinematographer. Another suggestion is my lighting monitor rig. If we were in studio mode I would mount the HP 2450 monitor on the dolly and frame with that. I made a 2:35 matte cut out of B & B fomecore that velcroed to the monitors face that was set for Live View mode, and then another matte that was cut for Playback. The HP monitor zooms in so that you don’t have to deal with that little picture when you hit record. I set my matte for that. You can be free to operate in any mode that you want. Studio, handheld, action cam mode, man cam mode, etc. Try not to build the camera into a monster. It defeats the purpose of this camera and slows you down. The heads up display is cool but you have to imagine you 2:35 lines and frame in the middle. It takes a little getting use to.

  5. Justin Cerato 6 years ago

    Hi Shane,

    I’m looking for a framing chart today like the one you mentioned, would you happen to have one that I could print out or know if there is any online?

  6. Justin Cerato 6 years ago

    I made a 2.35:1 framing chart in Photoshop and got it printed / cut / laminated. Seemed to do a pretty good job so I put the link on here for anyone that is interested [Photobucket has resized it, so it would be pretty hard to use this one but it gives you the general idea]. If anyone knows where to buy these kind of charts I would be very interested. I wish Canon would enable custom frame guides in a firmware update!

    • Author
      Shane 6 years ago

      Justin Cerato, We downloaded ours off the internet just like you did, then we printed it on thick sticky paper and put it on the back of all of our pelican cases. Depending on the project we had 1:85 as well as 2:35 frame lines, we would shoot a still frame of it and then use the thin white tape, that you saw in the picture to mark the top and bottom frame lines. Using the thin white lines and not black taping the whole frame is the best because, if you do that you lose your info area at the bottom of your LCD.
      A quick fix to all of this is that when we were doing the frame lines for the Navy Seal Project we noticed if you moved the little box that is in the center of the video frame to the bottom, the top of that box would be the bottom of the 2:35 frame line and then you would move the box to the top of your frame, the bottom of the box would be the top of the 2:35 frame line. This was something that we stumbled onto. I hope this explains it.

  7. Justin Cerato 6 years ago

    Thanks for the help, I really appreciate it. That quick fix with the focus box is gold!

  8. Justin Cerato 6 years ago

    Thought I’d follow up one of my previous comments regarding the video split set-up. For “Bad Behaviour” a feature film I’m currently shooting with three 5D MKII’s I initially got a 22″ monitor to use as a spit. To get around the camera monitor blanking out, I took the box that the monitor came in and cut out a section of the front then put the monitor back inside which provided some protection and also allowed me to pack an active hdmi splitter inside the box to make an all in one unit with single power cable. Two HDMI leads come out the side [one going into the splitter, one going back out], the two leads were taped together neatly and then connect to the camera output and to an Ikan V5600 monitor. This setup was very easy to use on set however after the first week I noticed that the singal would drop out constantly, after much testing on multiple 5D MKII’s I discovered that the metal connector on the cable gets damaged from the camera if you are constantly connecting it and disconecting and slowly wears away at the cable with very heavy use. When we changed to a new cable it started working perfectly again. Our work around for this was to get a short HDMI cable for the camera with a coupler on the other end which meant that it just stayed attatched to the camera avoiding the wear and tear from the cameras end. Even after all these work around, I still found that simply using the cameras on board lcd monitor is excellent in all conditions and I have pretty much ditched the video split / external monitor set-up completely [with the exception of steadicam / jib / crane shots] which speeds things up during production. On a side-note, I found that the Ikan V56000 monitor is of very poor image and build quality and is only barely useful for framing. I don’t have a light meter with me on this job so I am relying on the monitor heavily for exposure and the Ikan is completely useless in this area. My focus puller also prefers using the built in lcd and we can both share its display quite comfortably even during complicated shots. As I don’t have a light meter I pretty much always have a 5D on me to use a finder and to evaluate exposure which is very useful and lets me explain shots very simply to the steadicam operator, I would quickly shoot the kind of camera movement I want and then play it back to my camera / lighting team which meant there were no suprises during complicated takes [which there is an abundance of on this shoot!]…There is so much more I want to share with everyone on here and other blogs, but hope this will be of some use. I will try and post some more info about all my experienced with the gear I’m using and it’s application on set.

    No website for the film yet, but will post when things become available. Here is an article which may interest any Australian visitors to this blog about the project

  9. Justin Cerato 6 years ago

    Sorry about the poor spelling! =P Three hours sleep and about to head back out back out for another 10hr day!

  10. Peepo 6 years ago


    Thanks a lot for being so generous with sharing – it really helps! On the 2.35:1 lines – is it best to shoot with your LCD marked like this, and crop out the top/bottom in post to give you 2.35:1 OR use an anamorphic lens?


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