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Monday, 25 May 2009

Canon 5D MkII Audio Hacked

5D Mark Free audio meters from Trammell Hudson on Vimeo.

Well, its happened. The audio function has been hacked on the 5D MkII to allow an override on the automatic gain control. This is superb news and my congratulations go to Hudson for this.
There's a thread on the Cinema 5D forum exploring this update to the camera's firmware.


  1. Now this is a headscratcher...why are people expending huge amounts of effort trying to overcome the 5D MkII's massive video shortcomings, when they can spend far less money and just go out and buy a video-cam that does the business?

    Most if not all the hyped DSLR-vid I've seen is only possible because of a huge number of bolt on accessories/lights/models/external audio gear/helicopters/replacing the ambient audio with music etc...and it STILL doesn't look like 'cinema'...and why are we trying to ape cinema anyway?

  2. I agree a little that a descent £3000 video camera will make life easier as it will have full manual controls and also XLR mic inputs, and be in a form factor that is designed for shooting video.
    However, models in this price bracket, and even much more expensive video cameras, cannot come close to producing the visuals that the 5D MkII can produce. This is where the strength of the camera lays and this is exactly the reason why so many people are finding out ways to overcome the camera's other shortcomings.

  3. Don't get me wrong, it's a lovely machine and a dynamite combo-camera but I suspect Canon is deliberately limiting it to 'persuade' people to eventually move sideways into using their excellent series of camcorders.

    The old saying is that good video is mostly audio...the 5DmkII has poor audio (that drifts according to some complaints)and I think a lot of photographers in particular are being (understandably) sidetracked into considering visuals only, when video is a combination medium.

    In 'visuals' terms, the camera is only strong when its used in combination with specialist or fast aperture lenses which you have to obtain in addition to the camera body, unlike a lot of camcorders, and as long as the 5D MkII shoots 30p and not 25p, it's never really gonna have that elusive 'cinematic' look which seems to be what everyone is going for.

    In the actuality/doco/photojournalism sphere, lots of great (and great looking) reportage films have been shot with out-of-the-box cracking little (and relatively cheap) camcorders like the old-skool Sony PD150's, Panasonic DVX 100's and newer cams like the Sony HVR A1E and Canon HV20.

    The 5DMkII seems to be forcing people to make compromises in pursuit of something they can't really get with the basic camera, when perhaps they should be either exploring what they CAN get with it, or using another camera...but if photographers are just stuck on thinking 'cinematic' and figure that means bolting on a steadycam worth twice as much as the camera and shooting every scene at F1.2, then I guess Citizen Kane isn't cinema...most of that movie is sharp as a tack from front to back ;)

  4. why? three letters: DOF. It's not reporters who want this, it's filmmakers. It's people (like me) who want the sensor size and the glass on front, inconvenience be damned.

    We've been inconvenienced in this prize range for years, bolting crap on, putting on 35mm adapters....the works. Why? Because we want selective focus; we want to be able to control what is in and what is out in our visual field.

    So, to Deadleg's comment: "buy a video-cam that does the business" one must ask what kind of business does a "video-cam" do?

    Most video cameras are very poor storytelling devices that limit the shooter in numerous ways especially video-cams with stock lenses.

    As to the comment that it's about trying to "ape" cinema: I would argue that it's about wanting particular ways of telling particular stories. If that's trying to ape cinema, so be it. Not all cinema is crap, right? And not all cinema deploys a shallow DOF (Citizen Cane, etc.). It's a broad range. Give it some credit. Ape away.

    One of the comments above uses the phrase "combination medium" which is apt. If you are working a great script, you can still get great sound (via external recording), and with a camera that allows you a range of visual choices (which is the promise of these large sensor CMOS cameras--who cares what model, what brand, etc.) then that promise is REALLY INTERESTING to a DP or anybody shooting that script.

    It's not about making life easy. It's about making compelling stories. And sometimes, a tool like the 5dm2 looks promising for particular kinds of things. Yes, of course, sometimes it's the wrong choice. I think it's exciting to have these choices.

    And of course most of us who own these cams are DPs or shooters highly biased towards visuals and the 5dm2 puts some gorgeous images (given the right glass).

  5. DeadLeg, I'd say that bpj has more or less answered using my thoughts!
    I think for the money, there simply is nothing out there that touches the 5D MkII in terms of visual quality and ability.
    You're right in that audio is extremely important. I totally agree. However, speaking with most people who are seriously into audio, they would use an external recorder anyway. This audio hack by Hudson will hopefully be available and also will hopefully convince Canon to bring out their own firmware update, and will make this camera even more capable.
    I think its a stunningly creative tool, perhaps more suited to film making but also not bad for news coverage (with an accessory or two). This is the first time I've had an interest in shooting video, and its purely been as a result of this camera.
    As far as Canon's strategy, I can only speculate. My thoughts are that they have been taken by surprise at the way the 5D MkII has been taken up by film makers. I think that they would naturally love to sell more video cameras, but this form factor has opened up a whole new sector-perhaps the answer is a video camera form factor with the chip and EF mount of the 5D MkII. Stick on a couple of XLR inputs, full manual control on everything and maybe even AF and they would be hard put to keep up with demand!

  6. "one must ask what kind of business does a "video-cam" do?"

    As you say, that depends who's using it, but in the context of the visual journalism business (which is both Ed's and mine), I'd say you'd want it mostly to do the visual journalism business.

    For the most part, this will tend to be one man band, non-scripted ENG/doco work, so a camera that does that effectively and reliably out of the box, with no hacks and no workarounds would seem the logical choice. The 5D Mk II is not that camera.

    "perhaps the answer is a video camera form factor with the chip and EF mount of the 5D MkII. Stick on a couple of XLR inputs, full manual control on everything (etc)"

    I'd agree...and that's why camcorders like the Canon XL H1 range would strike me as far more cost effective, versatile journalism and film-making tools (if thats your thing) than a hacked-up 5D MkII with all manner of accessories hanging off it, because they fit most if not all of Ed's criteria.

    Obviously we all want to produce lovely imagery, but photographers don't shoot all their pics at F1.4 all the time, so I'm a bit mystified why they seem to be fixated with doing that in video.

    My 'aping cinema' comment was aimed towards this trend - the look, not the medium and sometimes not the message either.

    At the current rate of (over) use, cine-look-micro-DOF is in danger of becoming the tobacco-grad filter of DSLR video.

  7. journalism and filmmaking are not the same thing, which you seem to be forgetting