How To Shoot Stock Footage With Canon 5D Mark III cDNG RAW

One of the most overlooked and underrated video camera on the market is definitely Canon 5D Mark III. Even if it shoots only FullHD, nobody can deny it is still a valuable piece of equipment. It can also shoot 4K, but with few drawbacks and no 100% guarantee that it would always work. It is a 2012 photo camera with many interesting features thx to un-official hack – Magic Lantern. Even if we write about it in 2017, this camera is reborn every year. If you are not looking for a good 4K 60fps camera, this could be a great deal.

If you don’t need a reliable 4K and you can find a good used and cheap Canon 5D Mark III, it would be a great investment. Even for professional projects. It’s a full-frame, there are many great lenses on the market and shoots superb photos. We too made tourism films, commercials and many stock footage with it and the quality was great. It just took some time to get accustomed to new workflow and bugs that might show up. We only needed two fast CF cards and a USB3.0 laptop to copy footage while shooting.

High quality HD1080p cDNG video files

One of the biggest Magic Lantern updates was the ability to shoot RAW. Not Prores, or MPEG2 or H265. Pure cDNG frames with 14bits of data. Every frame weights over 5MB. You can be sure that the 64GB card is filled in just 11 minutes. There is so much data available, it can almost be used for HDR filming. Files can be edited in Adobe After Effects CC or in Davinci Resolve. It will probably be easier in Davinci Resolve because they have better GPU support and video files are played in real-time. You can also edit video the same as an image from DSLR camera – setting white balance, exposure, shadows, and highlights. With no quality loss.

But all of this have a few drawbacks. Every camera has some.

  • Shooting in cDNG RAW will make a lot of data
  • Not every CF card is compatible for shooting RAW
  • Every clip is saved in specific container and takes some time extracting
  • Magic Lantern may freeze or skip frames
  • You can’t always shoot long takes
  • Starting the record mode takes about 2-3 seconds lag
  • You can’t preview real-time recorded files
  • Working with files in Adobe will probably cause strange flickering in video
  • Not suitable for quick gun&run shootings

We found that cDNG shooting in HD1080p was about 95% reliable, only in rare occasions happened that it started dropping frames. But luckily it stops recording. In such cases, there are few buffer settings to avoid further drop frames.

Possible 3.5K cDNG video recording in crop mode

Coders of Magic Lantern hack have always stated that 4K won’t be possible on 5DMK3. But this year they proved themselves they were wrong. This 5-year-old photo camera can shoot a 4K video, but with many more drawbacks. The hardware of the camera just isn’t suitable for such huge bitrates. That is why the workable recorded size is about 3500×1440 and 10bit quality. This brings more noise and less dynamic range, though. You could also use 14bit lossless with a lot of compression. From our experience working with HD, you could upscale it to 4K and you almost couldn’t see any critical quality loss. That is why 3.5K can easily be upscaled to real high-quality 4K video.

  • Live-view isn’t real-time anymore, you can see a black-white image.
  • Exporting recorded files get even more complicated
  • Freezing and skipping frames are more often
  • Completely experimental ability

But, we must admit that this camera has received a lot of attention for their cDNG RAW recording abilities. Canon has surely got a lot of fans thx to Magic Lantern magical improvements.

Internal time-lapse controller

In most cases, you need to buy a remote controller with time-lapse ability. But with Magic Lantern you have it included for free and it is very advanced. We’ve done tones of timelapse videos with Canon 550D and Canon 5D Mark III. It is such a simple but effective feature. This controller inside the Magic Lantern even calculates you how long the video will be and how long it will take to shoot it while setting the number of pictures taken and the pause between them.

Focus peak, audio levels, histogram and exposure compensation

Being a videographer requires some basic information while shooting video. Always trusting the screen won’t work. That is why Magic Lantern added histogram, focus peak, audio levels when recording sound and very nice exposure compensation – this uses ISO stepping for compensating a change of shutter or aperture. It won’t bump up or down when changing this two settings while shooting but it would smoothly darken or lighten the shoot. A very rare feature.

Magic zoom video recording

When using Magic Lantern cDNG RAW video recording you can hit the zoom-in button and you can record a cropped version of your shot. That means you’ll get a 3x zoom (not the full 5x) recording in high quality. Great for cases when you don’t have time to put on a telephoto lens or you want even more zoom from a telephoto lens. Useful for macro too, because it’s not affected by the depth of field. A 200mm lens will get you about 600mm view.

HDR video recording

For the last we recommend is the High Dynamic Recording. This feature is not great for any very dynamic shots. But can be great for landscapes or inside the apartment shooting when there are very high differences in light. If you don’t want to see overexposed windows while shooting inside, you can use HDR feature. What it does is records one frame with inside exposure and another with outside exposure settings. In post-production, you combine these two frames and make a HDR video. Like mentioned in the beginning, it is not great for shooting movement, because it uses only 30 frames for both exposures. The finished video will be theoretically 15 frames per second, but if you shot with little movement, it will look just as natural as if it’s shoot in 30 fps. If something moves too much in the shot, it will be noticed as “ghosting“.

Under the line, Magic Lantern is still a great hack, which we hope will get its way to Canon 5D Mark IV too. Then it may catch our attention because it would bring some use to our work. But until that happens, we are just happy with Canon 5D Mark III. There are many more features included in the Magic Lantern (you can even play games such as Pong), but to cover all of them would need a thick book of text.

To be honest, when we look at 4K stock footage sales against HD size, the HD video is still our main source of income. Yes, 4K could be a future-proof standard, but not for internet commercials and many television productions. Reason for shooting in 4K is also easy framing in post-production.

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