Frequently Asked Questions

Ultimately I would like the Canon 5D but money is tight ... Do the same points you speak of with the 5D apply to the consumer rebel T1i model? What about audio?
The T1i is a good "starter" DSLR for video, but it's not well-suited to demanding shoots, as it has a tendency to overheat when shooting video. It doesn't allow for manual control of audio, so you will have more issues with hiss and noise. Also, it records onto SD cards, which are not as robust as CF cards. Basically, you get what you pay for, but if you're just getting started, a DSLR is going to give you better image quality than ANY comparably priced video camera.

I'm interested in upgrading from a Sony HV series video camera to the Canon 5D Mark 2 for a project to be shown in cinemas, but I'm not sure that's a good option if there's a limit at 1080p. Is there any way to make use of the 22 megapixel sensor to get higher resolution video?
The short answer is that the 5D Mk 2 footage looks great on the big screen, but that there are issues, and the 1080p resolution isn't actually the limitation you should be concerned about.

This is a great explanation of the functional resolution issues of the 5D Mk 2 that I've seen: ProLost Blog post Be sure to read the essay he refers to, as it goes into greater depth.

Technicalities aside, the fact is that 5D footage looks fantastic on a big screen check out these Film vs. Digital videos that discuss how the footage looks on the big screen, compared to 35mm film: Zacuto Shootout

Here's an interview with the director of hit show "House," about shooting the season finale with 5Ds. This answers the pros & cons question nicely.

Should I trade in my old video camera for a DSLR?
If you primarily do events (weddings, etc.), then you might want to look at the HDV format, which will give you long record times, in an inexpensive, tape-based format that makes for easy and convenient archiving (so that when someone calls you five years later for another copy of their video, you can pull the tape off the shelf, rather than start shuffling through an enormous stack of hard drives).

If you need to capture sports or news footage, you might be better served with one of the Panasonic P2-card based cameras. You'll have the autofocus, autoexposure and deep depth of field that will help you "get the shot," all stored in a high-quality digital file. And, if long-term archiving isn't necessary, you can simply format the cards and use them over and over. Whatever you want to keep, you simply store on a hard drive.

If you do commercial or narrative work - commercials, marketing videos, short films - then there is no question that HD-enabled DSLRs are the best bang for your buck available today. Is it a perfect system? Absolutely not. Is it amazing quality for the money? Absolutely yes. DSLR video is much more like shooting with motion picture film than video. It takes more work and knowledge up front, but the results look amazing.

I shoot with a 7D/Nikon/Olympus/other DSLR. Is there anything here for me?
I specifically designed and FilmSchool to be extremely useful to users of ANY video-enabled DSLR. Classes 101 & 102 add up to 132 minutes of content. Of that 132 minutes, less than 12 is spent on the menus and specific functions of the 5D Mark II. That leaves two solid hours of instruction on the many, many aspects of filmmaking that remain the same regardless of what camera you're using! 5DFilmSchool is long on technique, and short on gear-head jargon. My goal is for anybody who watches the videos to be able to walk away with all the knowledge they'll need to tackle any type of motion picture project, be it narrative, documentary or experimental, NOT to spend a bunch of time demonstrating the 5D instruction manual!

Do I really need to know all this stuff? Can't I just buy gear to do it for me?
The philosophy behind the 5DFilmSchool is that you don't need a big crew or a lot of expensive equipment to do a great job. You just need to know what you're doing. While no 2-hour program is going to teach you everything you need to know in order to make a Hollywood blockbuster, the information on 5DFilmSchool will give you a huge head-start on the creative process. By understanding the basic principles and "best practices" of film/video production, you'll be able to get right to work on your own projects, execute them more smoothly, and be happier with the finished product. Ultimately, you're getting thousands of dollars of knowledge for a few bucks. It's a great deal!

Do I need to be a photographer to understand 5DFilmSchool?
The concept behind 5DFilmSchool was "teach photographers how to make movies." Since the vast majority of DSLR owners have some knowledge of photography, viewers who are totally new to the concept of photography as well as filmmaking may need to watch some sections of the DVD - such as "Understanding Exposure" and "Guidelines for Shot Construction" more than once to get a handle on the process. However, the program has been carefully designed to be valuable for viewers at any level from complete beginner to intermediate/advanced.

I've been looking at kits that basically convert the 5D into a full-up video camera. I see that none of this equipment is in your recommended list. Why is this?
It's great to see manufacturers designing products to assist DSLR filmmakers, and if your budget allows you to incorporate third-party equipment, it's certainly something you should consider. There are three reasons I don't specifically endorse any of these products:

1) Part of the stated 5DFilmSchool mission is to teach people how to make great projects without a big crew or expensive equipment. Therefore, it doesn't feel appropriate for me to recommend high-end gear.

2) I strongly believe in learning to walk before you try to run. For example, if you learn how to pull focus manually (as I demonstrate in Class 101), you'll have a much better understanding of what you want from an automated focus-pulling mechanism, and then - if you decide you want one - you'll be able to make a better, more informed purchase. The same goes for lighting with small photofloods - once you know what little lights can do, you'll be in a more educated position to purchase larger lights.

3) Class 101 and 102 are only the beginning of the 5DFilmSchool. If there's sufficient interest, I'll be glad to do a "200 level" DVD on third-party camera support equipment and accessories. Until then, though, I'm only recommending the level of equipment that I demonstrate in the program.

Who are you?
For every Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis whose names are known by the general public, there are thousands of highly-accomplished professionals who get hired by corporations and agencies because they stay behind the scenes and make their clients look good. I'm Alex Fox, the founder of, and the creator of 5DFilmSchool, and I'm one of those professionals. Unlike the big-name directors and producers, the world that I work in - professional video production - can be surprisingly close to the world of ultra-independent film production. Just as you probably don't have a crew of skilled technicians to take care of everything for you, I've had to learn how to do every job on the set. And, because of that, I'm in a fairly unique position to share with you the down-and-dirty techniques of making a project look good, without spending a ton of money.

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