Magic Lantern: First Impressions

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Magic Lantern is a custom firmware available for Canon EOS line of cameras that unlocks a plethora of useful options. Be forewarned, while this hack has worked without issues for the large majority number of users, installing custom firmware could damage your camera or even leave it completely inoperable. You may be asking yourself, why take the risk? For the majority of users, Magic Lantern is not necessary nor needed, but for power users or professionals looking to squeeze every drop of performance from their rigs, Magic Lantern unlocks the true potential of these devices, especially for video recording. A list of the features the firmware offers is available on their homepage along with a helpful user guide.

At ADS we have been toying with the notion of installing Magic Lantern on our Canon 5D MKIII for some time now, thought we were hesitant to risk damage to our main shooting rig. I recently purchased a much more inexpensive Canon Rebel 600D (T3I) and with that decided to take the plunge.

Installing the custom firmware was surprisingly simple. First ensure you are running the recommended firmware version for your camera. A list of supported cameras and firmware version can be found here. From there, you simply download the latest stable version and unzip the contents to the root of a freshly formatted SD card. Next, insert the SD card into the camera and using the cameras menu system, navigate to the option to update your firmware. A screen will prompt you to restart your camera and tada, you are finished. The whole process took only a few minutes.

At first I couldn’t tell a difference and thought perhaps the installation had failed until I consulted the user guide and discovered how to access the ML Menu system. I was surprised at the number of options I had available for this entry level camera, more than I knew what to do with. Unfortunately this camera didn’t support RAW video encoding as with the higher tier cameras, however a few choice options stood out for me. I could control the bitrate of video recording, increasing the quality of the file and reducing compression. I could enable overlays for my LCD display including audio meters and zebra stripes. However the feature I’ve found the most useful so far is the waveform monitor. This display allows me to check my exposure in terms that made sense to me as a video editor, which will allow me to shoot better and spend less time correcting in post.

There are a ton of other options I haven’t even experimented with, but for the few I’ve checked out, the installation has definitely been worth the effort and we’ll likely be applying the firmware to our other cameras in the future. While I would recommend Magic Lantern to anyone else with a Canon EOS camera, I do caution those wishing to try. Again, installing custom firmware could potentially damage your camera so make sure you read the documentation prior to installing and be prepared to take responsibility for a worst-case scenario. Once we’ve tested more extensively we’ll post again with further impressions.

www.magiclantern.fm

Happy 2014

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Happy new year to you all. We hope you celebrated the start of 2013 in good spirits with family and friends. Now that we’re a few days into the new year, it’s good to look ahead and think about what this year may bring us. Wishing for a Prosperous and successful year to all. -ADS Team

SACKED!

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It’s here… The moment you’ve all been waiting for, Our Christmas video of 2013!

Jeff and the rest of the ADS Media team goes on a crazy ridiculous adventure to get Ken’s kids Christmas gifts this year. It’s an Epic Adventure!

Thanks for another exciting year and we look forward to working with you in 2014!

Also, featured… [LISTEN] FREE FROSTY (from Wyoming) an original song for this year’s video. Performed by Amie Vandevrie, Composed by Ken & Amie Vandevrie, © 2013 Jeff Cuneo/Ken & Amie Vandevrie, Lyrics by Jeff Cuneo.

It’s an epidemic: Video editors mixing audio

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This entry may come across as tooting our own horn and a shameless plug for our services [and it is], but it really is a trend that needs some attention brought to it. It’s an epidemic: Video editors mixing audio.
It’s not that video editors can’t mix, some are quite good at it. Some electricians can do plumbing too, but wouldn’t you rather hire the professional trained for the job? As far as I can tell there are 3 main reasons why producers get their video editor to mix the audio for them.

Reason #1: Time
Time is money, and having to wait days for the audio to be completed is just not an option for most projects. We know this. But the truth is, 90% of our project mixes are turned around in 24h or less. Also keep this in mind: the time when the audio is away being mixed is time the editor can spend colour correcting, touching up titles or compiling credit rolls, instead of spending time on the audio.

Reason #2: Money
Didn’t I just say time is money? A video editor will take twice as long (at the same or more hourly rate) to mix what an experienced audio editor can do. (I won’t even get into the quality differences). Bringing back the electrician analogy: A trained plumber can, say, install a toilet in 1 hour. Why? because they install them every day. How long would it take an electrician to install a toilet? If you are paying the same amount of money for services, why would you have the less experienced and slower person do the job?

Reason #3: Ignorance
I don’t mean it in a bad way, but a lot of producers simply aren’t aware of what proper audio post can do for a project, or they don’t know what is involved, or they don’t know an audio mixer they can use (you’re here already, so that’s a good start). Audio is 50% of the picture after all…

I’ve talked to many video editors over the years and the overwhelming majority are of the same opinion: they don’t want to mix the audio, but do it because they have to. The editors I work with love being able to leave the audio alone and have me fix everything. So do your video editor a favour, stop getting them to mix your projects!