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Cinematography : Production with a T3i by James O'Hagan

James O'Hagan

Production with a T3i

I am producing and directing my first film project in August and we have a really non existent budget. I am using a Canon T3i for my main camera. Is this something that is possible for a quality indie? I might have access to other equipment, but it's just a maybe and I might have to fall back on the Canon. Any thought?

Steven Lyons

Hi James. Most of my film to date has been shot on a Canon 550D T2i , like yourself our budget had been mostly non-existent. I would stress invest the monies you have on good quality lenses either buying or hiring. As Frank suggested do test shots and experiment with the setting to find which best suits your needs. The only limit you really have are the ones you impose on yourself, having an inexpensive camera does not mean your results will be bad, use the tools you have to the best of your abilities. Below is a link to our current trailer all shot on a T2i..good luck with the film. https://vimeo.com/69980263

Hugh Michael Brownstone

You know what? The T3i is WAY more camera than you need to shoot outstanding films. Heresy, right? Fact of the matter is we have so much more technical capability even in our SMARTPHONES than brilliant movie makers of a couple of generations ago had in their top-of-the-line equipment that we need to stop making this a question. One recent proof point: the Bentley spot done with the iPhone 5 (for a behind the scenes look, check out http://appleinsider.com/articles/14/05/17/behind-the-scenes-of-bentleys-...). Then again, they had a very, very expensive stabilizer (the Movi) and real expertise. Think of the T3i as a sensor that credibly gets you into Canon mount optics -- and then focus on everything else: story, acting, audio, support, lighting...you get THOSE things right, you could shoot on a cellphone and it would be great. Another proof point: 28 Days Later -- done in STANDARD DEF (but the story worked with lower def, as lower resolution matched well with the feeling the filmmakers wanted).

Tim Newhouse

Here is a link to a few of my buddies who filmed with a T2i http://youtu.be/sEnMN02d1E8 It is Very possible to make your movie on such a camera.

Hugh Michael Brownstone

Congrats to your buddies, Tim! Ambition is a cool thing!

James O'Hagan

See this is why I'm so glad I signed up to this site. Information from experienced filmmakers like yourselves. Thank you for info guys really helps out till I get my hands on something with more kick to it. Right now I have a Bower Cine prime t1.5 35mm, a 18-270 f3.5, kit lens 18-55 3.5 and a 50mm macro 1.5, any thoughts on those lenses?

Jonathan Krimer

This guy ONLY shoots with a 2ti...and he has custom settings too. IT"S AMAZING. gooogle "Kendy Ty".

Jonathan Krimer

dont forget to get magic lantern

James O'Hagan

I had ML on my T3i but I wasn't up to snuff on what everything did? Any idea of some of the features I should use for my basic shooting?

Karl Martin

Just be extra careful to shoot well lit scenes, otherwise you'll get a nasty amount of noise. But other than that, T3i should be plenty enough to do amazing stuff. And ur lens set is more than OK. If you get any budget for the project, I'd get some lighting equipment, check on ebay, there are some über cheap CFLs that work wonders for the price!

Jasmin Egner

Hi James, have a look at crowd sourced feature film 50 Kisses: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Qmqx9tWdrw The segment 'Close Encounters', which I'm in has been shot using a Canon T3i. It was shown in a Cineplex in Birmingham, UK and I've personally seen it on the big screen twice in London. I'm no tech wiz -not even close - and can't advise you on that side. I did think the technical quality of some of the other segments shot on REDs and Arris was better, even I could tell, but it is possible to have a T3i shot film on the big screen and make it watchable. But again, I'm no tech wiz :) I wish you the best of success with it!

Oriel Kerr

Yes. It isn't about the equipment but the story. I'd focus on blocking and staging of your characters and get/build whatever other equipment needed (dolly, slider, etc.). If you can get other's to help you out who may have equipment, even better. Rent any lenses you need to amp up the quality.

James O'Hagan

The only things I'm missing are quality lighting, and maybe a couple more lenses. I would love to have a better camera on deck, but right now that's just not possible. Although I have some crew that may be helping out that have better equipment. So it might work out.

Oriel Kerr

You can also do your own quality lighting. China balls are cheap and great for creating soft light and eye lights. Not sure the locations of your film, but you can also utilize bounce boards made out of materials from the hardware store. You can also buy a light reflector for cheap off of Amazon along with a few c-stands. Try picking up some clamp lights at a hardware store or Walmart and getting proper bulbs for lighting. You would be amazed the quality lighting you can get from using cheaper equipment. You might also have to buy some black tape offline for diffusing. If you want to add texture you can also buy a cut able grid (forgot the name) from the hardware store and attach it to your lights for diffusion as well. Using white sheets/material also helps with bounce light. A quick tip if you're working outdoors and needing to find where your light source is coming from, get a black shiny marble and direct it towards the light. This will help you with determining your key light for filming outdoors. You want the light to be between 2pm or 10 pm. You can also use practicals (lamps, candles, etc.) to help light the background of your scenes etc. Start thinking about what you want to say with this film and don't get so caught up in gear. Being able to work with less is an advantage and will make you a stronger story-teller. Just remember, the lighting will add to each meaning of every scene of your story along with the shots. I hope this helps you and wish you well with your film.

Ryan Atkins

Short answer: yes. A DSLR really relies on the lens used, not only the image sensor. The camera will have it's audio limitations, but use camera audio for reference. I think you'll be happy with the imagery the camera will produce

Jon Nichols

The T3i is a very capable camera for its price range. The lenses that you're using are critical. Use a separate device for audio (I recommend a Zoom H6). Place emphasis on your lighting, and you'll be very happy with the results. If I'm not mistaken, the T3i has a touch sensitive capability that allows you to rack focus, which is great for moving subjects. Good luck!

James O'Hagan

I actually am using the Tascam DR-60 with a Rode NTG-2. I eventually want to add the BMC URSA when it is available.

Katherine Blakeney

I have been using a Canon Rebel T1i on my films for a few years and I have been very happy with it. I do stop motion animation, so everything is in miniature, but I have to deal with some of the same issues as a live-action production (lighting, exposure, resolution, etc.). I am actually planning a live-action/stop motion film right now and I want to try shooting everything with the same camera.

Andy Sparaco

You should look into Magic Lantern firmware hack. { http://www.magiclantern.fm/features.html } It is better to have two cameras then one. For the obvious reasons -you get twice the coverage with half the number of takes but more importantly -if one camera craps out -you're still shooting with the second.

Oriel Kerr

If you shoot with more than one camera you're going to have to account for lighting differences. You are also going to want to make sure your camera specs are the same. You do not need to hack your camera to film a good project. You can have an extra one if your camera malfunctions but having a couple extra batteries is more sufficient.

James O'Hagan

I've tried Magic Lantern and it's pretty useful. We will have about 4 cameras available for the film. All Canon's, 2 t3i's, 1 60d, and a 5D mark II, although the main will be the T3i, because they others are borrowed for limited times. I think this will come out great if I can put it together. I guess I shall see. :)

Andy Sparaco

If you are shooting with a mix of camera's use the 5D for wide shots-the extra resolution will pull out details in the wide shots. If you cut the 5D and APS-C cameras-7d/6oD/T3-4-5. The difference in sensor size will be obvious on screen. You may have to soften the 5d files in post to have them match. There are many advantages to Magic Lantern-Selecting CBR (constant bit rate) over VBR (variable bit rate). You can increase your data rate by a factor of 1.5 without much problem this helps the H264 files.- less aliasing and moriee. The zebra stripes and false color display for exposure and the focusing peaking-these features give the Canon DSLR cameras features you find on PRO camera's. If you shoot with two camera's you will make your editor a friend for life.

James David Sullivan

@Oriel - you are 100% correct. That's why outdoor multi-camera shoots are a big headache. In a studio setting, the cameras can be color-corrected (white and black balanced) so that the picture have the same colors, and "shaded" so that the light works best on whatever subject each camera is on.

Oriel Kerr

@James David Sullivan, not to mention the expense of outdoor shoots just to get the right balance.

James David Sullivan

@Oriel - That's another very valid point.

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