Hyperdeck Shuttle II recording on [ML] Canon DSLRs?!

Cinematographer to Colorist

Being a Director Of Photography these days means that you’re working with any number of digital sensors of various sizes, formats and looks. Usually we shoot or work in LOG color spaces if we desire film based looks and advantages (assuming so for our readers), so a bunch of other factors come into play. But, we’ll fast forward to the fun stuff.

 

Street shooting. Literally.

Street shooting. Literally.

External Recording On the Digic-4 Canon DSLRs

The biggest issues with the Canon last-gen line of sensors are their codecs and resolution quality loss. However as DPs have learned to use these small cameras over the years, you learn to work around the weaknesses and in some cases, make them strengths (for instance, their tendency to look like Super 16mm film; see: Mathew Libatique ASC’s work for “Black Swan” as once core example).

 

Updated rig w/ Blackmagic Design's Hyperdeck Shuttle II

Updated rig w/ Blackmagic Design’s Hyperdeck Shuttle II

Another older issue was the inability to record “uncompressed” to an external recorder, due to Canon’s default placement of the framing box. Thanks to Magic Lantern, that’s been long solved.

In this personal project and episode of Model Profile, I set aside the RAW DNG work in trade for ML 60D’ed ability to record DNxHD 10-bit 422 to a 256GB SSD drive with the Blackmagic Hyperdeck Shuttle II.

 

THE DEFAULT IMAGE

Here’s the deal. Canon [Digic 4] DSLRs do not actually record in a full HD resolution, even with the sensor binning/downsampling being done before the image outputs to the LCD or HDMI feed (which is also an 8-bit 420 native output). What actually happens is that while there is a 1920×1080 output happening, the image itself is recorded within a window. By default, this all happens internally, with the video being upscaled to a 1080p frame onto your SD/CF card.

Still with me here?

Now, when recording to an external device, the upscaling obviously doesn’t happen as it’s up to the user to do so on their end. So in Premiere, a small bump in scaling remedies this. The final difference is that while there won’t be any resolution advantages, the benefits lie in color rendition being increased slightly and chroma noise being less muddied due to not being bonded to the Canon codec.

 

 

a slight bump in 18.5% scaling

a slight bump in 18.5% scaling

...and voila, there you have it. Matched resolution of an original Canon DSLR file.

…and voila, there you have it. Matched resolution of an original Canon DSLR file.

A SOFT IMAGE

So why shoot a piece on a less compressed codec with a soft resolution? Simple, because it fit.

Shooting RAW on various formats has made me appreciate the Super 16’ish quality of the Canon video format and now instead of looking at it as a setback, it’s become an artistic choice. After all, as cinematographers, what are we without our choices in tools?

 

the lovely ZEN SKYE in top form

the lovely ZEN SKYE in top form

Another reason was the need to shoot high-speed (on a shoestring budget). With the 60D’s sensor and the right processing, it can work wonders! Of course a higher spec camera would’ve faired stronger, but then I wouldn’t have achieved the aesthetic I wanted. So it fit the bill.

WORKFLOW

It sounds complex but each step within this workflow has benefitted me greatly recently.

  1. Record in DNxHD 422- the HDMI signal out of the Canons is an 8-bit one
  2. File ingest into Premiere
  3. Edit footage
  4. Export in Cineon LOG format w/ adjustments in either 16-bit DPX files, 10-bit TIFF or 10-bit DNxHD 422 RGB

 

I’ve found that the maximum latitude of the image shows through here, even beyond filming on the native Cinestyle LOG profile. There will be some initial abnormalities though (such as odd gamma stretches from fade in/fade out portions). All that there’s left to do here is color though, which solves them easily in the end.

EXTERNAL RECORDING IS A GOOD IDEA?

…in certain instances. While I wouldn’t shoot w/ an external recorder in the Subway for guerilla shots, it serves its purpose in controlled environments (much like RAW). It all just totally depends on what you’re going for and the circumstances allowed.

What are some unorthodox methods of filming that you’ve found works for you?

5 thoughts on “Hyperdeck Shuttle II recording on [ML] Canon DSLRs?!

  1. Jason Bowdach says:

    Truly innovative workflow! Essentially reverse ML RAW. Question #5 : What technique to you do to convert the curve to cineon? An AE effect or a LUT conversion? Did you find this workflow\ shooting easier or harder compared to ML RAW

    • Kahleem Poole-Tejada says:

      Hey Jason, thanks for posting here, man!
      So as far as difficulty, the RAW will always take longer, but that’s the benefit for its output. Not matter what, much like film stock- ya can’t beat RAW.

      This workflow however is actually FASTER than internal recording though, primarily because no transcoding is involved. But, as mentioned up above: it isn’t the most compact setup and if you’re needing audio, this is NOT the way to go. Canon’s HDMI output doesn’t contain an audio feed unfortunately.

      • Jason Bowdach says:

        Aha! Thank you for mentioning about audio, as thats SUPER important for me (to at least have a reference track). However, this is looking like a VERY worthy competitor to RAW when you dont need that level of data \ dont have time to process the workflow. Could you mention you method of reversing back to cineon for your HQ source master? Are you using a LUT for the gamma curve, an AE effect, or color spaces in AE?

    • Kahleem Poole-Tejada says:

      For the Cineon LOG output, I always use the Cineon converter within Premiere OR the cineon “effect” in AE. Both do the job, but most importantly, you need to adjust the gamma and highlight levels. Otherwise the image becomes too gamma-compressed.

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