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Tuesday, 18 May 2010


I noticed it. Particularly in the last scene when House was on the floor in the bathroom and Cuddy came in. The depth of field was extremely shallow, something that the Mark II undoubtedly made easier.

Huh, so that's why it looked like that. I absolutely spotted the shallow DOF, new angles and other clues but I had no idea it was a 5D production.
When house was on his bathroom floor the focus on his face was very clearly very very thin. Very Kubrick. Very cool. Wish my D3 did some of that.

The story was just plain boring. Couldn't watch it.

I don't get HD from DirectTV because it's a rip-off so everything looks just like everything else on the screen.

Turned off the TV. Read a good book. Listened to classical music on my local NPR station.

Much better.

I shoot videos as well as take photos, both as an amateur.

In short, they are two different ways of expression.

To me, a photo is about a specific moment, while a video is about a story.

Just when we were finally getting over the fad of ultra-selective focus in still photography (among pros anyhow – it still seems bigger than ever among hobbyists), now it looks like we’re in for a spell of it in video as well. No doubt it can and will be used well, but a lot of it already strikes me as contrived and annoying. Harrumph!

I did not know that that episode was shot with the 5DMkII.
I found myself commenting on how well the crew created a lot of tension through lighting and how certain scenes (not underground, in the "street") seemed to pull the viewer into it.
Way to go, House team.

Although I rarely watch television, let alone House, I happened to catch last night's show. Until I read your column this morning, though, I didn't realize there was anything special about it. So much for my powers of observation, eh?

The pink elephant in the room here is not the fact that DSLRs can shoot video, but that there isn't an EOS or F-mount (or cine Zeiss) 24x36mm sensor video camera. That's a part of the market that has a clear demand, and yet there is no product except to use a still camera that happens to shoot video.

If I'd had the choice to purchase a 5DII without the video for a price reduction I probably would have gone that way. I'm sure I wouldn't have missed the feature, but it turns out I enjoy shooting the occasional video. I'm not likely to go dig out the camcorder, but with video only a button push away on the camera I'm carrying I find myself using the feature more and more.

Far flung family love photos, but hearing the kids' voices and seeing them in action is great too. I take a lot of photos of my family, and now we've got home movies too. I'm trying to encourage my 8 year old daughter to start writing screenplays and directing. :)

It's also been a good combination with my live music photography. I'm notorious with the local bands for taking forever to process and post the photos (paid work comes first, and I'm just doing the music photography for fun and beer), but since I know absolutely nothing about video I just compress it, and stick it up on the web the next day. They love it.

I really like carrying one camera that I can shoot at 10mp (more than enough for 75%+ of my shots), 21mp, and video at the flip of a switch. I didn't think I'd use sraw or video when I was considering the purchase, but now that I have those choices I'm using them.

Wow. This is even cooler than the 80's start filter craze!

I had a 5DmkII and traded it back for a D700 (ergonomics). Now I guess I need to buy it back since work has me shooting some video as well - and use this narrow depth of field for everything, like everyone else. I love creativity!

The TV station I work for just went HD using a mix of Sony EX1R and EX3 cameras.
Yesterday I was shooting a standup and wanted to drop the background out.
Even with 2 stops of ND and the lens pushed out the background was still fairly sharp. It was OK but not exactly what I wanted.
I really don't need to do the shallow DOF look much in news so this isn't a big deal for me.
The production side sees things differently.
I wonder how long it will be before someone starts shooting video through a lensbaby?

House looked good by the way.

Well based on what normally what one needed to go with video a 5dmkii in terms of video viewer, shoulder kits and sound accessories, that it is a dSLR you use as still picture camera is irrelevant. No doubt a major upgrade as one can use F1.1 to F2.8 lens compared with in the past and that has improved. But for "proper" video/sound, it is really a different ball game.

Thanks for the link, Kevin, because I won't be able to see the full episode until it's out on DVD.

Quite aside from the qualities of this specific episode, what really amazes me is that they decided to create a season finale that looks completely different from four years of their previous work. As photographers, how many of us would nurture a project for that long only to completely change its visual language at the very end?

If using selective focus to flatten space and obscure detail truly is the artistic vision of the director, then the appropriate place to do it would be at the start of a new season - if even then. This simply feels like a publicity stunt.

For me the House episode was one of the most compelling in a long time. Early on I was struck by the high visual quality and by that I mean not boekh, etc, but the photo-journalistically real wash of color and composition. The cinematography as well was engrossing with rapid-fire cuts, etc. But perhaps the most important point about the benefit to the episode from shooting with the Canon lies in something not technically photographic -- i.e. the relationship between the authors of the episode and their attitude toward the equipment they were using, an attitude of tremendous intimacy. I can't agree with John Krill. For me and mine, it was one of the most compelling, dramatic and moving episodes in living memory.

I always thought it was an artistic misstep that Beethoven used a choral section at the end of his ten symphonies. Maybe that was it....


I don't know a thing about cinematography, however I do enjoy reading Philip Bloom's HD-Dslr site. Philip and his followers certainly enjoy shooting video with these cameras:


Here in the US of A, Olympus is airing a new commercial (full screen HD) for the E-PL1 that prominently features the fact that the commercial was made with the E-PL1.

The quality is amazingly high - and all from a dinky, unimpressive looking, little P&S-like camera.

I have to concede House is the only television series which will make me put my kindle down. We're are on the latest season here in Spain, I'll watch out and see if I'm capable noticing any difference when the final episode is aired. I'm no film buff, totally ignorant on anything cinematography wise.

This director had been paying attention to out of focus areas for quite a few episodes now - at least two season's worth. Without the benefit of the D5-MII, I noticed a number of manipulations that he had to do to achieve the effect with video cameras - shooting a pair of people talking from the chest up, with a telephoto lens, while keeping the hallway walls as far away as possible.

For example, there was a recent episode with Foreman and Taub stuck in the records room, peering at each other through a narrow space between stacked boxes. The area before and behind them was nicely blurred out - probably again using a telephoto lens from a distance. Note that the narrow hallways of boxes would have to be manipulated a lot - either by having shelves strategically cleared for those shot, or by having a "hero" shelf set aside (and identically lit!) for the conversations. With a 5D-MII, you could build one set, mostly in a normal scale (i.e. actual narrow aisles), light it once, and be done.

Clearly focus manipulations are part of the director's style, and having a tool like the 5D-MII lets him achieve his vision without having to put the set backdrop 25-35 feet behind the actors. Less set manipulation = lots more time to spend on actually filming, directing, thinking about what the actors are doing, etc.

For all the photographers who are at a level commensurate with the 5DMkII, don't think that you can just go and buy one and then you can get into cinematography and achieve the same level as you are with still photography. It's nice to take a 30 second video clip of that great scenery you just took with your 5DMkII, with the running water and the setting sun, to complement the great picture you've taken. It's a totally different story when you have to put together a 5 minutes video with continuity, sound, and some meaning to it.
The 5DMkII is a tool with a market extended to the cinematographers, not a tool to introduce still photographers to cinematography.
I believe people should buy a 5DMkII either as a still camera, or as a cine camera. Only a rare few would buy it and fully use it for both purposes.

"Geoff Wittig: "Is it just me?" "

No, you're not alone. I actually returned to still photography after a stint in film making. I very much enjoyed the soup-to-nuts of making movies, particularly the editing. (I still have a once very valuable stock of video and audio production gear.) But at the amateur level it's very much a young person's game, requiring a small army of collaborators and logistical planning to get even the smallest piece finished.

These days I measure most endeavors by a simple P/G ratio (Pain-to-Gain). The P/G ratio for filmmaking is at least 6, compared to the P/G ratio for still photography which is, for me, around 0.5. So I cheer-on the young folks as they make a new generation of zombie movies in parks and back yards.

Still, I don't resent the HD video in my 5DII. Video camera makers were killing themselves to create cameras with large triple-CCDs that created a less video-like image. Canon itself was a bit of a leader in this tortured race for a while with its GL1 and XL1 series of cameras. So here comes the full-frame still cam guys from -that other factory- asking, "Is this what you're talking about?". Hilarious - I love it! That, itself, would make a delightful 30-second short subject.

So Geoff, I've resolved to spend a day, or at least a few hours, exploring video on my 1.5 yr. old 5DII this summer. I'll send you a note with breadcrumbs when I do.

'I kept involuntarily switching over into "seeing" only what was happening in the story'
Not a bad thing probably.

I on the other hand often find myself "walking out of the theater humming the pull focus" mangle a famous quote, but not in this.

If you have been following Sherlock Holmes , er I mean House the device of the visual isolation of a character who has no idea what it is to be human makes a lot of sense artistically.

I thought this House episode was great, and I think that the big camera look in a very tight space was part of the whole 5DII thing.

I saw the episode on SD-DVD, recorded from over the air HD, and displayed on a 26", 720-line TV.(Fox broadcasts in 720P)
Given the limitations of my display, the episode looked fine. There was no perceivable defect compared to the "normal" 35mm motion picture film that the show has been shot on all these years.
I suspect that over the air viewers using bigger, higher-resolution TV's may have seen more than I. "House, M.D.", by the way, is one of the better-shot(meaning mainly the lighting) shows of it's type. Of course, if there really was doctor that practiced as the House character does, the hospital he works for would be bankrupt in six months.

Well, the Butterfly Crush image does illustrate the pitfalls of big sensor lack of depth of field, unless it does not bother anyone that the sharpest points of focus are in the nostrils of the actors.

I am afraid that I have to put my vote on the side of decrying the sinking of still camera development resources into video development by the camera makers. Instead of better still cameras we are getting a video feature. Whee!

J Castro, I have been using a number of Pentax 645-A lenses and a few select SMC Pentax M42 mount lenses on my 5D2 for landscape work and couldn't be happier. Just be sure you get good adapters.

I can't take Hugh Laurie seriously in a straight role. Hugh Laurie in a Leather Jacket makes me feel like I've been spiked with acid and woken up in a parallel Universe. Somebody slap me and tell me I'm not in America


House episodes stream online about 8 days after airing, on both hulu.com and fox.com (I assume whether one can see it depends on what country one is in.)

Hulu streams up to 480p, don't know about fox; but it's not really about the resolution, is it?

Am I correct in gleaning that one of the more important things about the 5DMkII is that it brings the mininum cost of producing theater-quality digital video way down? And at the other end potentially increases the photographic capabilities of larger budgets?

Wasn't it Beethoven's 9th that had a large choral section?

MIke Plews - the Joss Whedon show "Dollhouse" used a Lensbaby on a Canon 7D for the opening scene of an episode earlier this year - Philip Bloom has the story at http://philipbloom.net/2009/10/19/lensbaby-composer-used-for-first-shot-with-canon-7d-in-this-weeks-dollhouse/

"I can't take Hugh Laurie seriously in a straight role."

I know, he's very funny. Have you heard the fake British accent he does in interviews? It's quite convincing.


"Wasn't it Beethoven's 9th that had a large choral section?"

Wait, you're right, it was Brahms who wrote Beethoven's 10th Symphony.


As far as the more general question of still vs. video goes, I'm always reminded that many of big names of classic 35mm photography (Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank, for example) were interested in both motion and still photography, though not many of them made the transition.

"I think that the big camera look in a very tight space was part of the whole 5DII thing."

You're the only person I've read anywhere who's pointed that out, but now that you do it seems to make perfect sense. I have little doubt you're right. They're showing off the size and portability of the camera.


And William Kline.

Ralph Steiner, a photographer I'm reading while researching another post, also made films, although he wasn't primarily known as a 35mm photographer specifically.


In addition to size issues, I think that using a penlight and a cellphone screen for the light sources was probably something that would have been hard to do on film for anyone other than Stanley Kubrick.

And speaking of photographers turned filmmakers, Kubrick switched over from stills to cinema pretty successfully.

And that reminds me of a joke.

Steven Spielberg has just died and he's being greeted at the gate by Gabriel and Gabriel says: 'God's really dug a lot of your movies and he wants to make sure that you're comfortable. If there's anything you need, you come to me, I'm your man.' And Steven says, 'Well, you know, I always wanted to meet Stanley Kubrick, do you think you could arrange that?' And Gabriel looks at him and says: 'You know, Steven, of all the things that you could ask for, why would you ask for that? You know that Stanley doesn't take meetings.' He says, 'Well, you said that if there was anything I wanted.' Gabriel says: 'I'm really sorry. I can't do that.' So now he's showing him around heaven and Steven sees this guy wearing an army jacket with a beard riding a bicycle. And Steven says to Gabriel: 'Oh, my God, look, over there, that's Stanley Kubrick. Couldn't we just stop him and say hello?' And Gabriel pulls Steven to the side and says, 'That's not Stanley Kubrick; that's God -- he just thinks he's Stanley Kubrick.'

I was pleasantly surprised about how good the exposure was. i has half-expecting blown highlights. OF course they have an excellent DOP doing the lighting on House.
I was disappointed with what some are calling "selective focus" but what looked to me like "out of focus". I am familiar with selective focus techniques but there were many scenes in this episode that looked like they just didn't get anything in focus at all. Some shots also had the classic "eye closest to camera is soft, eye away from camera sharp" and so on.
I also felt shallow depth of field was used inappropriately at times, especially in scenes where I wanted to see more detail in the background.
I was amused to see a Nikon commercial aired during the broadcast, proclaiming how the entire commercial was shot on a D5000. It looked pretty terrible.

I know, he's very funny. Have you heard the fake British accent he does in interviews? It's quite convincing.

All British accents are fake, Mike. We only do it for yankee chicks

Was on a shoot in Marrakech earlier this month, saw a full crew shooting a feature in the main square, one normal camera on dolly and 2 SLRS [5DS?] on tripods in use simultaneously .
Looked odd at first!

"All British accents are fake, Mike. We only do it for yankee chicks"

Well, that's certainly why I do it.

Mike eh wot?

"I kept involuntarily switching over into "seeing" only what was happening in the story." - your statement and several other comments only re-affirm what the video and still pixel peepers don't want to hear. If what you're showing is compelling enough, it doesn't matter what it was shot with or what the MTF of the lens is. People will stop and look.
On a side note. One of the main reasons we as video professionals are really flocking to the cameras, is while you are stepping down to APS-C and hating every minute of it we have been shooting with the equivalent of 110 for decades with our 1/2 and now 1/3 inch image planes. If we were really lucky we go to use 2/3 inch chips but those cameras start at $10k plus just for the camera and another $5 for a lens. The idea of a full frame 35mm equivalent that is actually larger than a 35mm motion picture frame is outrageous and to cost 2500 dollars is insanity.

To Hugh Crawford: very funny!!

Dear Mike,

It was Bacon who wrote Beethoven's 10th Symphony.

Brahms was the guy who wrote "Shakespeare's" plays.

Just setting the record straight.

pax / clarifying Ctein

Add Eggleston to the list of photographers who made movies. And as far as I'm concerned, Jim Jarmusch is a still photographer even when he's making movies.

I think full frame is overkill for TV. APS and m4/3 sensor cameras, especially in camcorder form factors, will probably be the sweet spot for small- and mid-screen video. And those sensors should work nicely with old 35mm movie lenses (not to mention most other lenses out there).

But this is a nice historic full circle, eh? From the first "miniature" still cameras adapting 35mm movie technology, to a generation of digital movie cameras developing from 35mm-format still cameras.

Hey! Christopher Marlowe* wrote Shakespeare's plays, everybody knows that.


*Along with his secretary, the Earl of Oxford.

P.S. After all, only a well-traveled man could have written the plays. As every reader of science fiction knows, you have to have firsthand experience of the places you write about in order for it to be convincing.

I've seen some good stuff with the Pentax K-7, which has a nice high bit rate and does better than 720p. I'm not that interested in motion myself, but with tech like this on hand, why not give it a try?

robert e,
I believe a 35mm movie frame was originally 24x18mm. The standard 35mm still frame is the old movie frame doubled, and in the other orientation. (I'm sure others know more about it than I do.)


Christopher Doyle, the cinematographer for many great Chinese and Hong Kong films such as "In the Mood for Love" and "Chung King Express" as well as working for Gus Van Sant was a good photographer before he began shooting for many of these great directors. I prefer his intimate films such as "Last Life in the Universe" to his more grandiose epics. "Hero" is probably better known to western viewers. All of them have gorgeous cinematography. Why wouldn't an eye for the still translate to motion? For some of his projects he has shot and published behind-the-scenes photo books that show some of his gorgeous still imagery.

I'm a fan of House, Hugh Laurie and cinematography respectively, so last night's episode was an especial treat. Although I was aware going in that it was shot w/ a 5Dmkii, I wasn't exactly sure why. In retrospect, I think it was that it offered a physically smaller camera and lighting package for the claustrophobic sets. As far as I know, prior to this episode the series has been shot on 35mm motion picture film (although I am convinced an episode from the previous season featuring House hallucinating CB aka Amber Voulakis aka Wilson's then-dead girlfriend was shot on some form of digital capture, as it had a different look.)

As regards phtogdave's comments re: actual focus points, I would only say that it amazes me how often I see missed focus or outright out of focus shots in TV and theatrical films.

What I was wondering while watching was which lenses were used? Since I am sure they would not have been using autofocus, that raises the question of which lenses are easiest to focus with a camera on a proper rig. Who knows, maybe they went with Zeiss Canon mount EF lenses...


"It's nice to take a 30 second video clip of that great scenery you just took with your 5DMkII, with the running water and the setting sun, to complement the great picture you've taken."

That's cinematography. Although it does require a different mindset than still photography, I don't think it is so different that a photographer couldn't learn it relatively fast.

"It's a totally different story when you have to put together a 5 minutes video with continuity, sound, and some meaning to it."

That's film making, a different endeavor. A cinematographer may or may not be a film maker, much in the same way as a photographer may or may not edit, design, and write books of photography.

I can't remember if you already had a post on this, Mike, but Zacuto (sellers of accesories to help in using SLRs as video cameras) has a terrific series posted online (2 installments so far). It compares standard film movie cameras to several SLRs shooting the same scenes with the same lighting. The shots were then screened for a bunch of movie directors and other industry folks in an actual theater (at George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch in one case). In my opinion (and some of those in the videos) the SLRs come off very very well.


Philip Bloom, mentioned on other comments, was involved in setting it up, and Zacuto folks themselves tried to stay neutral, though they have a vested interest in the SLRs looking good. Well worth watching in my opinion if you're at all interested in SLRs for video (even just from a tech standpoint like I am).

Excellent distinction between cinematography and filmmaking. Thanks.

I say I don't have any interest in video, but I wish I had some videos of my son when he was little. I would especially like to have some recordings of his voice. Those things have great sentiment to a parent.


Video with shallow DOF looks so very 2010.


That's more or less correct, though Edison's frame was a hair larger and standard academy format is a couple mm smaller.

Thus, lenses made for 35mm movie cameras can be expected to work well with the common APS-C size sensor, which is close in size to the 35mm movie frame, and of course with even smaller 4/3 sensors. Meanwhile, it's questionable whether they would cover "full frame" (double size).

So one advantage of these sensors over "full frame" for filmmaking is compatibility with many more lenses, especially cine lenses, including anamorphic lenses and adapters.

The other advantage, IMO, is DOF. Shallow DOF is a useful tool, but the extremes we often see from FF DSLR's are distracting, problematic, and 99% of the time aesthetically unjustified. Slightly smaller sensors can provide a less ridiculous DOF when shooting wide open for max light-gathering.

By the way, 35mm film has been a worldwide movie standard for 100 years!

I bought my first camcorder two years ago and did a two month Europe trip shooting both stills (Canon 40D) and FHD video. I soon discovered that switching cameras and mindset at the time was a real pain. Stupid, really. Yet I want both.

I want video for (a) slide shows I make using ProShow; (b) capturing really interesting action (such as street music performances, organ music in cathedrals, film crew working on a pro movie shoot, etc); (c) capturing the sound of places; and (d) documenting my travel for my own future memories, especially shooting the forward view while driving and shooting continuously on a boat on a Venice canal or the Thames in London. I did all that and I'm extremely glad did.

For me, HD video in an SLR allows me to switch immediately between stills and video without taking my eye from the viewfinder, and not having to carry both cameras, one in the crook of my left arm.

But more importantly, SLR video means I can shoot wide angle! My camcorder went to 43.5mm(e) at its widest, nowhere near wide enough for me. I bought the Canon wide adapter which took it to 35mm(e), but the barrel distortion is terrible. I was not happy.

I also tried a few pull focus shots with my camcorder, but it was so difficult focusing using a tiny joystick it was a waste of time. It should work well with an SLR lens.

Add in the much bigger sensor and much better low light performance of an SLR and I'm convinced. I can't justify a 5D, but a 550D (T2i) is definitely on the cards for me. For travel purposes.


Edwin wrote: "The 5DMkII is a tool with a market extended to the cinematographers, not a tool to introduce still photographers to cinematography."

I think this is the most likely reasoning that Canon had at the time when they conceived the feature set for the camera. But I imagine a lot of still photographers are quietly appreciating the fact that a new opportunity presents itself by virtue of the fact that the camera does open the door to something extra for such a low price.

The obvious success of the camera guarantees a continuation of the trend. Additional support from other parts of the cinematrography fraternity only fans the flames of enthusiasm for the concept. Zeiss are now making a new range of prime cine lenses for use on Canon EF mount cameras like the 5DMkII and 7D:


These lenses are a better match for all the usual cinematography accessories such as focus pulling gear trains, etc.

Back when I was shooting with a Minolta X700 I used to imagine holding onto the shutter release and capturing long impressions of a scene. I would pan along with a subject, cut to a new framing, and would imagine how fantastic it would be that, if instead of individual frames, entire clips could be contained within each negative. As I learned to develop my own film I realized how impossible this was and how foolish I had been for imagining it.

Actually, I knew nothing about the 5D involvement in the episode of "House". I was aware of the difference in the photography and atmosphere of this episode compared to others but I attributed this to seeing the series in HD for the first time. We had just bought an HD antenna for the TV (Dish Network does not beam the HD of local channels, damn them!) and we watched "House" in HD for the very first time.

It's interesting to find out the episode was done with a digital SLR. For my money, it was a successful endeavor. The wife and I watch "House" regularly so I have some reference to compare. Without prior knowledge, the different "look" was obvious and it contributed to the whole package.

Does this mean much to me in the long run? Not really. I'm a still photographer. I have a couple of digital cameras with video capability but I've never had any interest in using the feature. Still, the fact that a 5D in video mode can be used for shooting a major TV show is an interesting tidbit of information to stash away.

I'll second the recommendation above for the videos at http://www.zacuto.com/shootout. So far I've only watched the first, and it shows pretty clearly where DSLR video can't match up to film, but it also makes the case that DSLR video is pretty impressive, and if you know its limitations and match the lighting to the exposure range of the sensor, you could cut DSLR video into a movie shot on film, and it wouldn't necessarily stick out like a sore thumb.

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