Canon C100, 5D Mark III, Atomos Ninja 2

From Brian

I have always had a soft spot for video.  I got into doing video shortly after my son was born in 2007 and found that video was great to use in my real job.  My first real video camera was a Canon HF10 AVCHD camcorder I purhcased in 2008 and it was great (at the time!).  It offered HD video, including 1080p24 which enabled me to encode 1080p Blu-ray and AVCHD discs.  Fast foward to know and things are very different with the advent of HDSLR video.  But, the last few weeks have been exciting for me as three things happened: (1) The Canon 5D Mark III Firmware Upgrade (2) We added Atomos Ninja 2 (3)We added a Canon EOS C100 Cinema Camera

Photo Credit:

#1 and #2 went hand in hand.  What some people don't realize is that as beautful as the video that comes off the 5D Mark III (and the other DSLRs) is, it's very heavily compressed using the H.264 codec.  (Codec is just a fancy word for format, similar to JPEG or RAW).  H.264 is a great codec and has enabled a lot of things previously unheard of, especially in the area of internet video.  But, it has two major drawbacks.  The first is that compression ends up throwing away information and the compression process has a detrimental impact on the video and this is especially true for low light video.  If you need to make adjustments in color the compression process got rid of some of the addtional color information so you're limited in what adjustments you can make.  The second is that if you really want to work with footage that was originally recorded in H.264, you've got to change it into a format that is easier to work with than H.264 such as Apple's ProRes or Avid's DNxHD.  While these formats take up considerably more room on you hard drive, they save you a ton of time and processing power in the editing process.  The problem is that the process of converting the footage from H.264 takes time, time you could be using to edit.

When the 5D Mark III came out it didn't offer clean HDMI out.  What that means is that if you hooked a display up to the the 5D Mark III's HDMI port you'd see the same image as you'd see in the back LCD of the camera, one that includes exposure information, time, etc.  Needless to say, you didn't want to record that.  The 1.2.1 firmware update added this clean HDMI out, which means that you can now record directly from the camera using an external recorder because all the other overlay information can be removed.  That's where the Atomos Ninja 2 comes in.  The Ninja 2 let's you record directly from the HDMI ouput on a camera and into either ProRes or DNxHD format on 2.5-inch hard drives that mount into the Ninja 2 itself.  This saves you a lot more color information thereby giving you more flexibility in post-production and saving you time.  Plus, you literally pull the SSD drive out of the Ninja and insert it into a dock that connects through USB 2.0/3.0 or Firewire and download the footage and you're ready to go - no more waiting for your footage to transcode.  

Photo Credit:

#3 - The Canon C100.  A few months ago a client of ours asked if we'd be interested in carrying a Canon C300 camera.  After some research, we realized that we weren't ready to take that plunge, but the very capable C100 might be an option.  I had been looking at the C100 for a while and finally pulled the trigger on it.  The C100 is the little brother of the Canon EOS C300 and C500 cameras and uses an identical sensor and offers traditional video features.  If there's a downside to the C100 vs the C300, it's that the C300 can record in a 50 Mbps MPEG-2 4:2:2 codec (if that means nothing to you, don't worry) where as the C100 records in AVCHD which uses a 24 Mbps MPEG-4 AVC 4:2:0 codec (AKA not as good).  While AVCHD isn't bad, it doesn't give you some of the flexibility that the more robust codec in the C300 gives you.  But, the C100 has clean HDMI out and can be used seamlessly with the Ninja 2.  What this means is that you can combine the C100 and the Ninja 2 and get, as one person described it, "A baby C300 at a fraction of the cost".  I haven't had a lot of time to work with the C100 yet, but what I have I've been very impressed with the image quality even straight out of the camera.