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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Live From New York It's...

The line that distinguishes still from video cameras is blurring.

Since the digital age subverted film, the real difference between a video camera and a still camera was merely the external shape of the camera. Now even that has changed, or been rendered moot.

Internally digital still and video cameras accomplish the same mission. Light travels through a lens and hits a sensor, which converts the information into electrons, and then a computer processes that information and records it onto a memory device.

Most point and shoot digital still cameras have afforded the option of making short video clips for many years but the ability to make serious hi-definition video with sound has eluded the manufactures. That is, until now.

The advent of high-speed large capacity memory cards and multi-megapixel sensors has opened the door for camera designers to create still cameras that can record video with phenomenal quality.

This was proven recently as the new season of NBC's Saturday Night Live debuted not only with an a new cast, but with a new look for the opening title sequence shot using Canon EOS 5D Mark II and the new Canon EOS 7D digital SLR cameras.

According to the Canon press release: The creative concept behind the opening sequence was "portraiture". The director and crew looked to capture "living" portraits of the City, illuminating the cast and the unique characters that make up the New York City nightlife.

SNL Crew Shooting outdoors at night
SNL Crew shooting outdoors at night.

The crew wanted to capture the city nightlife in as natural a look and setting as possible. This meant minimal additional lighting, and making those on-camera feel comfortable to act naturally. Their solution was to use the video capabilities of the Canon EOS 5D Mark II and Canon EOS 7D Digital SLR cameras.

SNL Crew shooting in a bar
The SNL Crew shooting in a NYC bar.

Both machines offer amazing low-light performance, small form factor, extensive choice of lenses, some providing superb depth-of-field. A combination that enabled the crew to shoot in predominantly ambient light thus avoiding big lighting gear and the additional manpower needed to operate and power it. Another added benefit; the crew also found it easy to covertly shoot around the city without drawing a crowd.

Filming at night, the new stars of the hit TV show were shot in various New York City hotspots by a small crew discretely capturing the cast as they participated in select New York happenings. The entire segment was captured and edited in a week's time, incorporating 30p footage from Canon's 5D Mark II as well as 60p footage used for slow-motion segments shot with Canon's EOS 7D Digital SLR camera.

SNL Crew
The SNL crew viewing a take.

The end result was that the cast and crew were able to shoot in any location - from the Brooklyn Bridge, which has limited ambient light, to a dimly lit street corner, to a more controlled bar interior - using only an on-camera Litepanels MiniPlus for most of the exterior shots and two Kino Flo lights for an interior shot that required some illumination enhancement.

Yuichi Ishizuka, senior vice president and general manager, Consumer Imaging Group, Canon U.S.A. stated, "We have seen a shift in HD video capture toward a simpler and easier HDSLR workflow, and now with the EOS 7D shooting in standard NTSC and PAL frame rates, customers are realizing an even easier HD video workflow, using some of the largest HD video image sensors on the market at a fraction of the cost of competitive equipment,"

The Canon EOS 7D and EOS 5D Mark II empower cinematographers with a high-quality HD video solution featuring full manual exposure control and more than 50 Canon EF lenses to chose from, shooting on two of the industry's largest HD video sensors. The EOS 7D also features selectable cinematic frame rates. The EOS 7D features Dual DIGIC 4 Imaging Processors and a large APS-C-sized CMOS sensor, while the EOS 5D Mark II features a single DIGIC 4 Imaging Processor and larger Full Frame CMOS sensor, helping to render stunning color reproduction, amazing depth of field and fine high-definition detail.

The Canon EOS 7D records video in one of three modes - Full HD and HD in a 16:9 aspect ratio and Standard Definition (SD) in a 4:3 aspect ratio, all at selectable frame rates: Full HD at 1920 x 1080 pixels in selectable frame rates of 24p (23.976), 25p, or 30p (29.97); 720p HD recording at 50p or 60p (59.94) and SD video at frame rates of 50p or 60p (59.94). The EOS 5D Mark II features 16:9 Full HD video capture at 1920 x 1080 pixels and 30 fps as well as 4:3 standard TV quality(SD) video capture at 640 x 480 pixels and 30 fps. The EOS 5D Mark II features 16:9 Full HD video capture at 1920 x 1080 pixels and 30 fps as well as 4:3 standard TV quality (SD) video capture at 640 x 480 pixels and 30 fps.

Both cameras record video up to 4GB clip length, depending on the level of detail in the scene, a 4GB clip can record approximately 12 minutes of video at full HD resolution or approximately 24 minutes in standard definition. For both the Canon EOS 7D and EOS 5D Mark II, sound is recorded either through an external stereo microphone or a built-in monaural microphone.

Since Saturday Night Live has taken the leap I'm sure other filmmakers will follow suit. And as this is only the first generation of these hybrid machines one can only imagine what we're in store for in the future.

I'd like to add that while it is news that NBC's Saturday Night Live has chosen Canon to shoot their new intro, the first person to produce a short film with the Canon EOS 5D Mark II was photojournalist Vince Laforet. Watch it below.


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