Cast for two

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Canon EOS 5D Mark II : a game changer

Recently, Canon made available a new picture camera that might become a game changer. A good preview, based on a preproduction sample, is made by dpreview. The reason that this camera generates high expectations is twofold : a 35mm (full frame) sensor and the new Digic 4 processor. The large sensor means wide angle shots and excellent low light performance. The new digic 4 processor means that now you can record video from that excellent sensor with a resolution of 1920x1080 pixels (Full HD) at 30 frames per second. Hence, we might see a crossover happening from the photo camera business to the video camera's. The first results are indeed stunning. First, there's a professional made movie called "Reverie". A second movie, made with much lower budget, still captures my imagination:

Tokyo Reality (Canon 5D MarkII) from utsuru on Vimeo.

The resulting movie files are Quicktime Movies encoded using MPEG-4 AVC and uncompressed PCM sound (a total of 38.6 Megabits/second).

I asked Eirik Solheim (Project manager, development department
at the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK)), who already has an Canon Eos 5D Mark II two questions:

  1. How is the process of getting the video into Final Cut Pro. Is there decoding/transcoding going on. If yes, does that take time ?
    Answer: You don’t have to transcode, but at this point you would probably end up transcoding: the files are standard H264 and can be edited directly in Final Cut. But the problem is that you need very powerful hardware to edit full HD H264 in Final Cut. If you want to edit on a laptop you have to transcode to Apple Intermediate or another less compressed format.

  2. Video quality is amazing judging the videos that already circulating in the net. But how about audio ? How does the build-in microphone performs and what do you get if you connect an external passive microphone. This issue will determine if external audio recording is still necessary or not.
    Answer: With the tests we have done the audio is OK, but not good. Using the internal mic on the camera has serious limitations of course. Picking up the sound of all operations you do on the camera and the image stabilizer motor if you use an IS lens. With an external mic it is better, but still a bit noisy.
    For professional productions you would be better off recording audio with a separate device. For interviews and simple background audio you could do with the built in audio and preferably with an external mic.

To test how my macbook pro with a 2.33 GHZ Intel Core 2 Duo processor would be able to handle the HD files, I downloaded the full HD version of "Tokyo Reality" via bittorrent. Playback on the macbook pro was unfortunately not smooth. On an Imac, playback was perfect. Hence, I guess my macbook pro will not be powerfull enough for working with Full HD files coming from the Canon 5D. Maybe a new technology, called OpenCl (Open Computing Language), will solve this issue. OpenCl makes it possible for developers to efficiently tap the vast gigaflops of computing power currently locked up in the graphics processing unit (GPU). With GPUs approaching processing speeds of a trillion operations per second, they’re capable of considerably more than just drawing pictures. OpenCL takes that power and redirects it for general-purpose computing. OpenCl is a new powerful Snow Leopard technology.