Monthly Archives: October 2012

A Few Favorite Things from the Canon Boot Camp

Graduate Feedback on Recent Canon Boot Camps

Favorite Things from the Canon Boot CampSeveral years ago we started the Canon Boot Camp as a way to impart practical Canon 5D & 7D instruction to Los Angeles filmmakers. Since then The Association has traveled as far as Prague, Czech Republic, to deliver training to hundreds of DSLR Filmmakers of all levels of experience.

We’re already the longest running DSLR training boot camp of it’s kind. But that’s not enough. We constantly work to improve the instruction so that each participant gets the skills they need. But what are those skills exactly? More importantly, what skills do GRADUATES actually feel they obtained after shooting in the field again?

A recent survey of several classes revealed the top three most valuable skills graduates feel they got from attending the Canon Boot Camp (hint: the list doesn’t include crisp apple strudel):

  1. Camera Operation
  2. Lighting
  3. Application of what was learned by shooting with the camera (2nd day of the Boot Camp)

Here’s some specifics for each category:

Camera Operation

  • Setting up the camera
  • Going thru the steps, to register the “C1″ so that I’m ready to shoot.
  • how to set the Menu settings
  • off loading video
  • Controls
  • Learning how to operate the Canon 5D for optimal video results in only one day.


  • Talking about lighting and white balancing
  • Histogram reading. I will never go without reading the histogram again
  • Lighting Techniques
  • Different types of light, angles, & intensity.
  • White Balance

Practical Shooting Experience

  • Shoot 2nd Day (Pro Level II)
  • Actually having to shoot the second day.
  • Live shooting
  • Getting in there and applying what you learned was great. I learned about different types of gear, shot type, lighting, patience, etc.

To read more about what graduates are saying, visit our blog page dedicated to input from our students. Better yet, come join us at our next Canon Boot Camp and experience for yourself! We can get you up and running with your Canon in just two days – we’ve done it for hundreds of other DSLR Filmmakers, we can help you add the video edge to your repertoire.

Of course, if you’re reading this before November 8th, 2012, join us at Canon USA for the World Premiere of The Rose, the DSLR short film created by our Prague Boot Camp, along with several other DSLR short films also created by Boot Camp Students. Many graduates will be in attendance and would be happy to share their experience in person.


The World Premiere of Canon Boot Camp Films

DSLR Film Premiere Event Invitation


Our Canon Boot Camp HDSLR workshops are an intense 2-day session that include shooting scenes for our short films. We’ve been prepping them to go on the web, but felt that it didn’t do justice to the amount of time and hard work our Canon Boot Camp participants put in. We made a call to the Canon Hollywood Professional Technology and Support Center and they agreed to host a screening event on November 8 for all of our previous films shot during the Canon Boot Camp. Please RSVP to be put on the guest list!

The event will feature the world premiere of “The Rose”, which was filmed as part of the Prague Canon Boot Camp in March 2012.

prague students

“The Rose” brings the historic Prague Train Station to life and plays a major role in this love story. We will also be featuring six other short films shot by Canon Boot Camp students. Expect comedy, drama, and thrillers.

We are also taking this opportunity to make this night a filmmakers’ mixer where passionate storytellers can meet and mingle. Canon will have some cameras and gear available for you to test. We will also have a sponsors’ table where we will display various accessories, gear, and rigs from our lovely sponsors: Marshall Electronics, Alzo, Zabolights, Manfrotto, CamCaddie, JuicedLink, and more! We’ll be creating “the dream package” out of our sponsors’ equipment, come see it for yourself!

Join us Thursday November 8 for refreshments and light snacks and enjoy the short films that the Canon Boot Camp participants have worked so hard to create. Our post-production team of experts will also be present to answer questions. Please RSVP to be put on the guest list! We will also be raffling numerous prizes such as a $200 gift certificate, $100, and other bling. Have I given you enough reasons to join us? See you soon!

Filmmaker Takes on Digital with our Canon Camera Classes

I have been a Filmmaker for 5 years (Short Films/Docs/Music videos) and had just purchased a Canon 5D Mark III and needed help with it. I travel all the time and The Association (Through highly capable and professional Celine) was able to schedule me on a one on one private class with Fletcher Murray their main instructor for day one and a week later the normal scheduled day for day two. They did not dissapoint. Mr. Murray is a filmmaker with decades of experience and a natural teacher his explanations were clear, informative and delivered promptly and good naturedly.Suddenly the 5D was no longer a stranger, but a trusted friend. On Day two we all applied our recently acquired technical knowledge filming a narrative short film with professional Actors and a bunch of “camera operators” (Students with their cameras) 4 Locations including mounting the camera on a car and and old Cemetery set…Throughout I and the rest were treated kindly, patiently and most importantly PROFESSIONALLY. I highly recommend this bootcamp for those like me who are new at DSLR filming or old hands in need of refreshing their shooting skills.

Digital Filmmaker Pablo Lewin gets hands-on training on Canon DSLRs


Murder, but Never Divorce

Our August Pro Level Two HDSLR workshop’s filmmakers got to shoot a short film that Hollywood loves to produce – sexy killers at each others throats.

The original title “Marriage?” is changed to “Killer”.

It’s the story of a husband telling a hired killer that he can’t stand another day listening to his over-talkative wife.   The hired killer takes the job not realizing that the husband is a police officer tired of seeing killers getting away with murder.

woman seduces killer












The police officer’s wife loves to punish the evil men in the world.  She likes to tantalize them until they drop their guard.  Then, she kills him.

the fly checks out the spider












knife to the throatMomma's unhappy

It’s not a family picture but we sure had a great time shooting it.  Tarantulas, silk stockings, guns and knives.  That’s a great day of shooting.



Oh yes, we also teach you how to use your HDSLR, new DSLR lighting techniques and sound recording.

Hope to see you at our Pro Level Two shoots.  It’s scary how much fun they are.

New Lighting Methods for HDSLRs

DSLR Lighting Techniques and Existing Light

Most D.P.’s will agree that lighting makes the shot.  But lighting evolves with the filmmaking tools we use.  We’ve come a long way from the  “Paramount (butterfly) lighting” that was popular for the female stars in the black and white days.  A butterfly shaped shadow appeared under the nose.

Paramount (Butterfly) Lighting Example




Today a woman’s closeup lit with a butterfly lighting set up would shock the audience, even though we saw plenty of that in “The Artist“, which portrayed the silent era in pictures, and won the Oscar.






Prague Woman


The HDSLR, specifically the Canon 5D MK III, the camera is so sensitive to light that it has opened a broad palette of lighting setups…often using soft daylight from a window or just everyday lamps.




Woman asleep

For a “moonlight” shot, we had a shiny board outside the window, reflecting sunlight through a blue gel. With the Canon 5D Mark III we could shoot at a high ISO, which gave us a deep depth of focus so that the woman’s profile stayed in focus as the jib arm lifted up into the ceiling of this “dream” sequence.

New LED lights bring a easy solution to situations where you need a soft, skylight fill.   The ones with adjustable color temperature like the Zabolight give you a spectrum of color at your fingertips.  No more pesky gels to deal with…except one.  You may need to add a minus green to take the excessive amount of green spike you’ll see in almost all LED.

And so we focus a larger part of the Canon Boot Camp Pro Level Two workshop on lighting with different fixtures in different lighting setups.  This is so you can exploit the power these Canon HDSLRs give you to shoot virtually anywhere there is light.

In the new Pro Level Two classes, students practice solving different lighting challenges and explore new lighting fixtures you’ve never used at higher ISO’s.  The Pro Level Two class is a great workshop to sharpen your filmmaking and lighting skills.

Hope we see you there. It sheds a whole new light on things.

Should I Shoot Flat and Underexposed?

Has anyone ever told you that you should shoot flat and underexposed? If you have time in post-production to do color grading, shooting flat and underexposed is not such a bad idea. Doing so would allow you to retain as much detail as possible in your image. Being underexposed allows you to avoid letting your whites blow out, meaning that it would be overexposed and detail would be completely lost. Shooting flat would retain the blacks because overly saturated colors would result in the blacks being crushed. Once the blacks are crushed and the whites are blown out, there is no going back. The details would be lost and the option to control them in post would be lost as well. Stylistically, some lean toward a blown out look or a crushed look, but many DPs choose to create the look in the editing room.

To achieve a flat look in your Canon HDSLR, play with the Picture Style where you have the option of shooting Neutral instead of Faithful for a less saturated image. You can also download “flat looks” such as CineStyle (here is a blog with more info about this look).


A Cinestyle Look

To shoot underexposed, the Canon HDSLRs have a built-in light meter that shows you whether or not you are properly exposed according to the sensor. In Manual Mode, lightly tap your shutter button to see the exposure bar along the bottom of the frame. For a proper exposure, set the bar to the middle, for an underexposed exposure, scroll your big wheel to the left to move two clicks to the left so it is slightly underexposed.


This technique isn’t a must, but many DPs, such as Shane Hurlbut and Eric Schmidt, have said that they do this to have more control in post production. So, grab your camera and do some test shots with flatter looks and a slightly underexposed setting to see if it suits your workflow. If you are shooting something with little to no time to edit, this may not be for you.

Here is Eric Schmidt at our Canon Boot Camp talking about histograms and the importance of not letting whites blow out.

We’re in Love with the DVTec MultiRig!

What’s your favorite toy as an HDSLR Filmmaker? Is it a shoulder rig, a remote focus puller, a slider, or perhaps, you’ve already discovered the Guinness Rig? The man who dubbed it “The Guinness Rig” has an affinity for drinking Guinness. Imagine the day he was hired to film the Edinburg Fringe Festival when his producer told him to have a Guinness. He said “Sure, if you don’t mind the shots being shaky”. Little did he know that he was about to make the discovery of his life. With his camera mounted on his shoulder rig, he let go of the handle to grab a pint, yet his rig effortlessly balanced on his shoulder. Perhaps it was the support pole attached to belt that was doing all the work.


Line Producer Cathleen is getting ready for a cold one.

This innovative system allowed him to shoot with one hand and drink with the other, thus creating the beloved Guinness Rig. The rig is manufactured by DVTec and is actually called the DVTec MultiRig. We got ours over at EVS where Cody did a demo that made our jaws drop. Since then, our Canon Boot Camp students have had a lot of fun taking it for joyrides.


Stunt Coordinator Garrett gives the rig a major workout

The man who coined the infamous nickname for the rig, Fletcher Murray, is none other than the President of The Association and Chief Instructor of the Canon Boot Camp where he continues to spread the joy of the Guinness Rig.

To all Canon Boot Camp Grads

Hey all you Canon Boot Camp Grads!

First off, congratulations on completing the Boot Camp! Second, if you think you know everything…think again!

If you've only attended Day One (formerly known as "Pro Level I") you're missing half of the Canon Boot Camp experience.

Here's an example for you: Lynn Thurman, DP and Still Photographer, attended Pro Level I about a year ago. Now that we've revamped our workshop into a two-day fun and informative extravaganza, she decided to come back to finish what she started. She came back to attend Day Two, but we wanted her to come to the first day as well, where we cover the basic and the nitty-gritty info on cinematography and the Canon HDSLRs. So we threw in Day One as a "refresher" so she could refamiliarize herself with the technical data and meet everyone she would be working with on Day Two. This "refresher" plus Day Two package came out to $399, that's quite a deal! 

Here's what Lynn had to say about her second experience at the Canon Boot Camp:


So on Day One, Lynn learned how to set up her Canon 1D's menu properly for video, learned cinematography and lighting basics, tested out gear, and met a bunch of great filmmakers. On Day Two, she helped shoot a PSA on safe driving, which included 5 set-ups. That's a full weekend of learning and doing! 

These days the Canon Boot Camp is only available as a 2-Day class, as Pro Level I isn't available a la carte (unless it's a private Boot Camp). If you are a Pro Level I only Graduate, come join us for Pro Level II in October.  You may attend Pro Level I as a refresher just like Lynn did, and get your hands dirty on Pro Level II.

Smooth Shooting in Rough Seas

Good Ol’ John

Intolerable Working Conditions

Relax John

Panama Canal

We’re Still Working for Them

In the last 20 years or so I’ve produced over three hundred videos for Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Carnival Cruises, Crystal Cruises and a variety of others. I’ve spent well over three years of my life, one or two weeks at a time, shooting films and videos on various cruise ships all over the world. I know it seems like an ideal occupation, full of blonds in bikinis and martinis in Martinique…and, uh, well, sure there is a lot of that.

But it’s hard work too! Really it is!

I’ve had my share of adventures (and misadventures), moments of breathtaking beauty in far away places and panicky mornings when nothing seemed to be going right. It’s pretty tough to have a major mechanical malfunction when you are hundreds of miles out at sea and the nearest camera rental agency is a continent away. It’s also not so great when you’re hauled in front of the Captain because one of your “elder statesman” actors has been harassing an assistant purser. So you have to really expect the unexpected and be extremely flexible to come back with the goods.

Rules of the Road

I’ve developed some golden rules to minimize these rogue waves you run into when doing oceanic production. The first one is: Always contact the Captain beforehand so he knows you are coming and what to expect, and always meet him as soon as possible when you get onboard. The Captain is the complete dictator of the ship. His word is law. I’ve met some Captains who were the nicest people in the world and some who were incredible jerks. It doesn’t matter. You need to make friends with him as soon as possible. If something goes wrong or you really, really need something done, you have to have the Captain on your side. The Purser is the one you deal with on a day-to-day basis but the Captain is your trump card if you really need it. Case in point, the “elder statesman” actor mentioned earlier.

Good Ol’ John

This guy looked like a million dollars but was completely nuts, something I didn’t find out until we were well underway on a cruise that took us through the Panama Canal. I actually had my doubts after the first day of shooting which involved our actor just lounging around in a splash pool with a beautiful co-star, sipping colorful drinks with umbrellas in them. The next day he refused to come out of his room citing “intolerable working conditions”! This wasn’t a warning sign; it was a gale force winds-hurricane flag! Fortunately his co-star conspired with me to keep him under control between the hissy fits and tantrums. My Assistant Director and I shuffled the shot list so that all of the scenes where we absolutely needed him were shot first. We walked on eggshells for several days including shooting some beautiful scenes as we went through the Canal requiring our actor to lounge on a balcony and point to selected parts of the passing jungle. At the end of this day he announced that he just couldn’t continue such a horrific schedule without a significant upgrade in pay. I had suspected this was his motive all along. I was reviewing our shot list when I heard the Public Address System call me to the Purser’s Office. That is where our Captain, the Purser and a Purser’s Assistant all confronted me with the charges of sexual harassment committed by one of my “crew”. Ulp!!

The Meeting

The Captain was very upset and threatened to shut down our shoot. Of course this would have been a complete disaster and ruin any standing I had with the cruise line not to mention dooming our shoot. Fortunately, I had made the effort earlier to meet with the Captain and assure him I would be responsible for all of the actions of my group. Now was my chance to prove it. The Captain was at least willing to listen to my story. When I explained that we were having all kinds of trouble with this guy as well, everyone became more sympathetic. When I told them I had essentially shot all of the scenes I needed with him, everyone smiled. Long story short, the actor was off-loaded in Panama City with a plane ticket home and we continued shooting all the way up the coast to Acapulco. Fortunately, my gaffer had a similar head of silver-grey hair and so we shot several scenes where all you could see was our actress and the back of her “husband’s” head. No one at the cruise line ever noticed and we have continued to shoot for them for years.

Daniel Pearl ASC Evaluates the Canon Boot Camp

Daniel Pearl, ASC. Canon Boot Camp Survivor

Possibly the most well known Daniel Pearl movie is “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” Daniel’s very first film after completing his Masters at the University of Texas. That legendary horror flick was followed by a very productive career including music videos (the Billie Jean music video comes to mind) as well as commercial photography.

Daniel came to the Canon Boot Camp to learn digital video capture and catch up with the latest advancements. He’s the kind of guy you’d love to have coffee with and just shoot the breeze for a couple of hours to hear all the filming horror stories and adventures that went along with the actual films.  But here’s what Daniel Pearl, ASC, had to say about his experience at the Canon Boot Camp:


Daniel Pearl, ASC Reviews the Canon Boot CampI thought the class was really good. I thought it was very – you know – the knowledge was very through. You guys were quite good about answering every question I had. I’m a guy who just, you know, I’ve come from a sewing machine and a black box that runs at 24 frames a second. I don’t know – almost nothing – about the digital world.

There’s a lot of things I don’t know, and you guys, it was great! I mean, I would say although I’ve got quite a lot of experience as a cinematographer, I understand a lot about cinematography, I know very little about digital capture, and you know, it was great. I was never in a fog [which] you guys were very good about, it was very clear. And [the instructor] was very good about answering my questions.

I absolutely would recommend it, yeah, absolutely. I thought it was very through like I said – there was no doubt, everything was quite clear and no hesitations to answer my questions. I can’t even imagine what could be missing…

Daniel Pearl, ASC