Author Archives: Cine Boot Camp Team

DP Polly Morgan Joins the Prague Boot Camp Team!

Polly Morgan, Director of Photography Extrodinaire

The ASC’s Rising Star, Polly Morgan, will be on the Canon Boot Camp team during our March stint in Prague. Polly’s years of HDSLR experience are a welcome addition! She has worked many, many productions across the globe, and has been mentored and taught by some of the best pros in the industry.

Polly’s career started with Ridley Scott Productions in London, working on commercial productions and feature films with cinematographers such as Haris Zambarloukos, BSC; Caleb Deshanel, ASC; Bojan Bazell, ASC and Dan Mindel. She also trained at the American Film Institute Conservatory, receiving invaluable training from some of the world’s best:

Harris Savides, (AMERICAN GANGSTER, THE GAME, ZODIAC)Vincent Leforet's Mobius with Polly Morgan

More recently, Polly worked with Wally Pfister, ASC on Inception as well as other well known projects. Feature films she has contributed to include V for Vendetta, Hairspray and National Treasure. 

But what really interests us from the Canon perspective, is the work she has done using the Canon C300, such as the narrative short “Mobius” directed by Vincent Leforet, and numerous DSLR commercial productions shot with the Canon DSLR 5D, such as “Sonova Surfboards” and “Pepsi Lost Dog.” Then there’s the music videos. So it’s with great enthusiasm that we receive her in Prague for the boot camp!

Those interested in joining us can get an application online but best to hurry, as there is a limited number of students allowed for each class. We’ll be delivering 2 Pro Level I Classes (the basics), each followed the next day by Pro Level II (hands on filming). For more information about the Prague Boot Camp, click HERE.


Stills to Motion: Secrets of DSLR filmmaking

Palm Springs Photo Festival

GRADUATES COMMENT on our workshops

Charles Kay, Pro Photographer
(Click HERE to see Charles’ site)

(Click HERE to see Serena’s site)                                           

Gloria Baker 

(Click HERE to see Gloria’s site)

Ray Carns

(Click HERE to see Ray’s site)



Professional still photographers and filmmakers gather at the Palm Springs Photo Festival each year to enjoy the refreshing aesthetic recharge in balmy Palm Springs at the elegant Korakia Penzione.  We teach beginner and pro video workshops and simply must say that Jeff Dunas and his team organize top drawer workshops, seminars, portfolio reviews and see the work of world-class leaders in the field of aesthetic imagery.    I think I learn as much as my students each year.

- See more at:

Secret to a Clean Slate

After all these years we've got a clean slate.

In filmmaking they hold this slate (clapboard) up in front of the camera to identify the scene. They "clap" the board of the clapboard after identifying the scene.

For years we had dirty slates.  They never seemed to clean off the last scene's information. It was smudgy.


Re: Canon 5D Mark III ISO Preview #1 of 2

Did you complete the video for this one?

On Wed, May 23, 2012 at 4:02 PM, Trevor Eisenman <> wrote:

(Make sure to get video from Jeff Bauer)

Over the past few years, the Canon EOS 5D Mark II has been a run-away hit with independent filmmakers. It was one of the first DSLRs to offer 1080p High Definition video, allowing it to compete alongside more expensive, traditional camcorders. 
Now, four years later, the new Canon EOS 5D Mark III has arrived and thankfully it hosts some upgrades to the video mode. With the more powerful DIGIC 5+ processor, moiré is reduced and the rolling shutter problems minimized. On the software side, encoding is more advanced, giving you options to record in a new, higher quality ‘All-i’ compression. 
  • Moiré: When shooting a video that contains areas of repetitive detail , if it exceeds the resolution of the camera it will create a wavy moiré pattern or haze like artifacts.
  • Rolling Shutter: When shooting video on a DSLR, different portions of the frame are exposed at different times in relation to the than other portions. When the subject or the camera moves during exposure, the result is reflected in the frame as either skew, wobble, or partial exposure. This distorts your image and hurts the quality.
The 5D Mark III’s 35mm full frame sensor allows for shallow depth of field and relatively sharp picture quality. You also have full manual control over the way your video looks, controlling shutter speed, ISO, and more.
  • ISO: The measure of a digital camera sensor’s sensitivity to light. This effects the amount of noise and grain present in your video.
To determine the amount of noise present in each ISO setting, we created a series of tests on 5D Mark III’s sensitivity. For those of you who haven’t seen the results watch the video above.
1. First Impressions: After reviewing the footage for the first time, we had a near impossible time seeing any noise below 20000 ISO. 
2. Results: Once we bumped up our levels and zoomed in 200%, we started to see that there is was at least some grain present in each ISO setting.
3. Conclusions: Native ISO numbers faired the best with 160, 320, 640, and 1250 showing the least amount of noise. Not that the other settings are bad, but I recommend avoiding them. ISO up to 6400 is usable but again stick with the native ISO numbers. 
More Canon 5D Mark II ISO video tests are coming soon, this time showing the noise levels with the Noise Reduction feature turned on (Normal & High). 
Stay tuned for more video previews here at


  Click this button to Connect
Trevor Eisenman
Social Media Strategist
The Association
818.841.9660 Office
626.975.6726 Cell

Custom Video Production

There’s a huge difference between a video and a video that works.

A video that works actually helps the marketing and sales effort.  Many videos fall far short of helping.  Mos ha

A good video engages the viewer by showing pictures they find appealing. This can be a picture about something they like, and/or a picture shot in a way to be aesthetically pleasing.

The test of a good video is:  "Does it hold your interest if you turn the sound off?" If your video doesn’t, you’ve got some work to do.

Where do ideas wait to be thought?*

This is almost a fully baked idea.

Have you ever wondered where ideas wait to be thought?

I mean, you sit there with your mind running.  It's like a phonograph needle
(except we don't have those anymore, so let¹s call it a laser beam on a CD
or a DVD) playing thoughts for you to think.  It never seems to run out,
this stream of thoughts.

So it's this uninterrupted stream of "Jan was nice to Herb. My cat looked
fat. Shoes don't match. Isn't Maui too expensive for Christmas…and rainy?
Must lose weight. Kevin was sweet.  What's on sale? These pens are empty.
Going to be eighty today. Was Martha Stewart really THAT guilty to go to
prison? That prick cut me off………………………"

A lot of thoughts are triggered by what we see. We call these ³outside²
thoughts. Other times we¹re deep in ³inside² thoughts.  We don't even see
what we see.  We're just "playing thoughts" completely disconnected from

Well, I pose my question again.  Where is this stream of thoughts
warehoused?  There's never a gap between them. It's like some vast US Mail
warehouse with a conveyor belt of mail coming through – each one to be
inspected and "thought" instantly, one after another, and on and on until
eternity.  Some are logged to be sent back to the warehouse so they can be
thought again.  Others only get sent to the "thought once and only once" bin.

There never seems to be a let up, unless we're looking at the ocean and
hearing the roar of the breaking surf…inhaling and exhaling…like the
calming of our mother's breathing.  Or looking out over the Grand Canyon.

By the way, I don't have the answer to this question.  It is a complete
bafflement to me.  It's just like the other bafflement.  How can I remember
a thirty second moment on the coast of Kauai, and suddenly I can smell the
smells again, feel the sand between my toes and feel the salty air on my
skin and the warm breeze wafting my shirt? Or looking out across a fertile
prairie in Spring where the wheat is a soft green, so wispy they blur
together as the breeze undulates their feathery plumes.

I think we¹re just phonographs looking for something to play (or laser
pickup heads if you insist on being modern).  We play content from outside
sources, or our own oldies, or new stuff we¹ve whipped together.  We¹re just
walking jukeboxes (they don¹t make those anymore either).

And this is why I like going to the ocean. I just watch the swelling of the
waves, the pelicans, who are once the most awkward looking but efficiently
designed fish eating machines. But there¹s nothing to think about.  Even
when I¹m not thinking, I am thinking, ³Why aren¹t I thinking about

And thank goodness, this Aristotle session is sometimes interrupted by a
seagull that¹d like my sandwich while I ponder the meaning of life, which my
son, Thomas, told me when he was eight.

The meaning of life is something to do.

Alright then. Let¹s get thinking!  Maybe we should get some ice cream.

 ©2012 Fletcher Murray


Focus tips for Canon HDSLR users


All of us filmmakers want to make films that are “delicious for the eye” to watch.  Being in focus is crucial.  But, we have a funny dichotomy in our love of sharp focus.  We want our lenses sharp as a tack, but not too sharp.
Before I go any further, let’s state that there are many types of filmmakers.  Each with their own rules.   I’m approaching this topic from my own filmmaking background and style.  Most of my career has been shooting cinéma-vérité style, even the luxurious films we did for Princess Cruises.  We had a small crew that moved fast. We had to get all the great shots of the shore excursions done by 6 p.m. when the ship sailed.  And the shots had to look pretty.
I’ve not shot feature motion pictures, but I have shot extra exciting footage that producers cut into their sizzle reels to take to Venice and Monte Carlo film festivals to get funding for their movies.  I’ve shot commercials and music videos (when they actually paid you).  So, I’m not a still photographer, I’m not a union cameraman.  I own my own production company, The Association and I teach a Canon Boot Camp for filmmakers wanting to use the Canon HDSLR to make their films.
Now, let’s talk about the wierd world of sharpness.
When I helped film Z.Z. Top’s videos (“Viva Las Vegas” 3,338,202 hits)
viva Las Vegas aerials
and  “Legs”) we would use Cooke Zooms on our 35mm film cameras because they were absolutely the sharpest.  Then, the first thing the director would have me do was put a black, french silk stocking on the back lens element and a 1/4 Black Pro Mist on the front.  Same thing for the Coors Light commercials of the beautiful hard bodies frolicking in the surf at St. Thomas.  The director wanted things sharp but also dreamy/creamy.   At that time, only geeks or amateurs shot sharp film.  Yuk.
Fast forward.  Today film is dead (or at least dying) for most of the projects I do.  But some of the film attitudes and edicts carry over among filmmakers.   We discuss them in our Canon DSLR Training workshops.  Digital filmmaking is racing toward the sharper and sharper image….more obnoxiously sharp.  (I keep waiting for the first D.P. to whisper to his tech to “soften that look a bit”.  Or better, “Can you put one of those black, silk French stockings on the back of the lens?” ) 4K, 6K, 12K.  Should we go sharper just because we can?
The thirst for sharpness, in my view, should be tempered with the pursuit of beauty and aesthetics.  Sharpness has its place.  Having a snap to the picture is good, but please just give me the glistening eyes, not the glistening pimples on the left cheek. We don’t want our beautiful actress having a coronary as she sees every single blemish and flaw in her complexion being crystal clear for all to see.  Nor will the smart director allow it.
The sharp image is good, but the sharper image may be too much.  So we return to the middle path approach.  A film that is sharp but dreamy too.  And this is what guided me as I wandered through the bargains Canon threw our way the last few weeks.  I bought the 70-200mm f 4.0 (some of the highest microcontrast and resolution ratings on the MTF graphs of all Canon zooms, higher than the f 2.8 version of the same lens.)  The salespeople went nuts.  “The 2.8 will blow the doors off the f 4.”
Yes, for a still photographer delivering 9,000 wedding photographs.  But all I care about is resolution, color rendition, bokeh and contrast.
But, to be fair,  I felt I should try the 70-200 f 2.8, one of Canon’s most worshipped lenses and see if it was that much better.  They both went to 200mm.  One was a f 2.8 and the other an f 4.  Maybe there’s more under the hood for the sports still photographer  who’s shooting thousands of stills a day, but for the filmmaker there’s not much else to the lens except is it noticeably sharper and handles color better.  I bought the f 2.8.   I’ll admit after I bought that lens, people treated me like a god.  I felt like a god.  I wanted to light two candles on either side of the L 2.8 lens.
But I needed the strength of a god to handhold it all day.  I began to wonder if I was getting a pound of sharpness for the extra pound of  weight.  Why pay twice as much if it’s not twice as sharp?  I did some tests and alas, it is not better, slightly warmer but certainly not twice as good.  I think the money went into the focusing mechanism and housing that could shoot thousands of exposures a day for ten years for the still photographer and be knocked over on the sidelines etc..  Digital filmmakers like me perhaps hit “ROLL” six times an hour.  This lens will last me six lifetimes.
From this example, I hope when you buy a lens you’ll remember you’re a digital filmmaker and not a still photographer.  The sales people will present lenses that still photographers will cut their arms off to have but really don’t bring much to the party for a filmmaker.  Then, again, you’ll have no trouble selling your 70-200mm f 2.8 L is II USM lens.   So there is that.
I know I must sound like the guy sitting at a table where escargot lovers are slurping down their escargot and I’m asking for a steak.   But I’m a steak guy.  Sorry.  I found the Canon EF 70-200mm f 4 L is usm lens an utter delight…flawless…incredibly sharp at night wide open.  (see results on our Vimeo page. )
And while I’m at it, if I’d shot night traffic at a f 2.8 wouldn’t my depth of field been shallower and the shot more out of focus? So I would have stopped down the f 2.8 lens to f 4 anyway.  So why lug around an extra pound for one f stop that I probably won’t use?

Camera DSLR Rigs for your Canon

There are DSLR Rigs and there are DSLR RigsThere’s a new gold rush.  It’s filmmakers taking up the Canon DSLRs to shoot 35mm quality films.

In the gold rush to Alaska, approximately 100,000 people rushed up to strike it rich between 1897 and 1899. Those who landed at Skagway encountered many merchants eager to sell them gear that they “must have” to insure their success.  Few bothered to tell the prospectors that the real gold fields were another 550 miles away. Or that it would probably take 30 trips, carrying 65-pound packs on their back to transport enough supplies to last a year, which is what the Canadian authorities demanded. Skagway was full of conmen who would set up a telegraph office to send messages back home.  The wires were strung out of town and stopped.

What does this have to do with camera rigs for the Canon DSLR?

Well, there are so many rigs invented and introduced that are perfect I think it’s Skagway all over again.

In our Canon Boot Camp we take the position that the shot should determine the mount you use. Not the other way around.

HAND-HELD SHOT - The shoulder mounted rig is just one option.  It’s good for the hand-held look. There are many beautifully-built rigs…Redrock and Zacuto lead the pack in strength and quality.  But only one rig really fills the bill if you have to hold the shot steady for longer than thirty seconds (that’s about how long a cameraperson can hold their breath.)  It’s the MultiRig by DvTec.  They have a rugged support pole descending from the main rig to a waistbelt which transfers the weight of the whole rig to your hips and your legs become your tripod legs so to speak. This liberates your hands.  You can drink a Guinness with your left hand and still shoot smoothly, which is why we call it the “Guinness Cam.”

I shot with it for 5 days at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. We shot the street theater and other events in the venue. ALL hand-held. ALL day long. Starting 9 am. to 2 a.m.

SMOOTH, TV COMMERCIAL PRODUCTION SHOT – The professional dolly (Fisher or others) really shines here, when you’ve got a stable scene with pro actors who’ll hit their marks as you move the camera on the smooth dolly.  The downside is having to lay track. But on a stage the floor may be smooth enough.  Otherwise you can use 1 by 12 inch boards if the move is short.  But when we’re flying to a remote location and the budget’s tight we’ll just take a doorway dolly (using boards we buy at Home Depot for track) OR if the location is outside, we’ll rent a Chrysler Stow and Go. Your whole video production crew can ride to the shoot with the equipment.  Then, you offload, stow the seats and set up your camera platform (speed rail or 2 by 12 with a C clamp and tripod head.  This allows us to shoot out the side or the back tailgate. Let a little air out of the tires and it’s really pretty smooth.  We used it shooting on the airstrip for a pilot training video.

In a pinch you can use a wheelchair. We found this very effective on the cruise line shoots we did.  On land, almost any hotel has one you can borrow or rent for your shot.

LOW ANGLE (or tight quarters) – The CamCaddie rigs are great for these.  Designed and manufactured by Daniel McElderry, so he could shoot skateboard films, it’s a rugged compact rig at a great price.  The Alzo’s Transformer cage is tough, light and adaptable and low cost.

Cheapest and lightest Canon DSLR RIg availableCHEAPEST & LIGHTEST  & SMALLEST – This rig wins the day.  It is for short moves and tight quarters. Maybe you’re the last person on earth to hear about it but it’s great.  It’s the Canon cloth neckstrap that comes free with the camera.  If you pull the strap tight around your neck and press outward, you’ll find you have a pretty steady shot. You can tilt up and pan.  It’s good for short shots.

I didn’t begin to use it extensively until I was in a small plane trying to shoot.  There was no room for a shoulder rig (I’m 6’7″) and it wouldn’t have worked anyway because planes (and cars) hit little bumps and the camera lifts on its own.  So I slung the strap under my thigh and pulled up.  Now I had 260 pounds of mass (my body) stabilizing the unexpected bumps from the plane.  The shot came out smooth and controlled.  On the subway loop the strap through the handgrips and pull down, then brace yourself against a vertical pole and you’re solid as a rock.   I sometimes substitute a nylon strap with multiple loops in it  (get it in a climbing shop) and carabiners running into heavy tie-wraps into the Canon DSLR body so I can quickly lengthen and shorten the attachment points.

STEADICAM – Of course, the Big Daddy is the Steadicam.  This rig is out of most Canon DSLR filmmaker’s reach. And it’s actually too light for the rig.  We have a policy of not commenting on rigs we haven’t tried.  However, if you promise not to tell anybody, we had an old Steadicam Jr. we rigged to the Canon 5D Mark II and it works pretty well.  It’s lighter than the Glidecam.  Balancing is really easy because it has knobs to move the tray.  You’ll probably want to get an arm brace to save your arm.   Steadicam does have newer rigs but again, if we haven’t tried it personally we don’t comment.

The Gold Rush to Alaska was over in two years.  The Gold Rush to use the Canon DSLR 7D, 5D Mark II and Mark III is still going strong.  New gear is always appearing and we’re always willing to take a look but we suggest to mock up the shot first and then pick the rig to get the shot.  Not the other way around. And if you’re not sure a rig will work, rent it and see. Then, invest in it.  Too many filmmakers feel they have to buy first and then try it out.  You can rent from EVS in Burbank.  All the salespeople are actually camera operators and they can give you the straight story.