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Review of F-Stop Academy's
"Learn Canon 5D Mark II Cinematography"
& "Learn 2 Shoot Great Video on Your Canon 7D
Learn Series DVD Tutorials

Reviewed by Ron Risman -- November / December 2009

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Commercial cinematographer Philip Bloom has quickly become the poster child for DSLR cinematography. Over the past year I have grown to 'know' Philip Bloom by reading his blog, following him on Twitter, and watching webisodes that he has created with Zacuto's Steve Weiss called CRITICS. Over this time I have become fond of his shooting style and am fascinated by his love for creating, and more importantly, sharing his work.

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to meet Philip Bloom during Re:Frame, a 4-day Cinematography workshop that was held in San Francisco. Aside from being taller than I had imagined, Philip was very much what I had expected - based on his online presence. I guess that speaks for how real he is on his blog and in his interviews or webisodes.   It is this easy going personality and ease in front of the camera that makes his "Learn" series (5DMKII and now one for the 7D) so engaging to watch.  

Each of these DVD's offer the equivalent of getting a private intro to DSLR cinematography from Philip.   Imagine walking into a camera store and finding someone who can answer all of your Hybrid DSLR questions regarding the best frame rates to use, which lenses to use, how to get proper focus before and during recording, how to capture the best sound quality, to demonstrate what a Matte box is and why and when you might want to use it, how to shoot in bright daylight while keeping the shutter speed low AND the aperture open, how to shoot timelapse still images and convert those images into a full motion film*, best picture settings to use for the most flexibility in post, and which software to use to edit your footage.   It's almost guaranteed that you won't every that one person, but with this DVD you have.  

* Time lapse is not covered in the 5D video

If you're a photographer who is serious about adding video into your workflow or a videographer or filmmaker considering adding a Canon EOS 5D Mark II or EOS 7D to your gear bag, Philip will give you the run down on everything you'll need to start shooting professional video.   Truthfully, aside from a couple of minutes of changing some settings specific to the 5D or 7D, these DVD's can be equally helpful even if you're shooting with other video capable DSLR models.   In just about 60 minutes you'll have a pretty good knowledge of gear you may not have understood or known about.   This alone can help you plan your spending accordingly, putting focus on the items you need most today and saving or budgeting for some of the items you would like to add in the future.  

What I really liked about these two DVD's is that Philip seems to have had no hidden agenda or commitment to promote any specific product(s).   This gives Philip the freedom to talk about products he actually uses on a daily basis, whether it's items he's purchased from eBay such as the Fader ND filter, lenses he uses from Sigma, Nikon, Zeiss, and Canon -- as well as Matte boxes, viewfinders, LCD monitors, microphones, tripod heads, and monopods he uses from various other companies.  

Screen shot from "Learn 2 Shoot Great Video on the Canon 7D"

Content Comparison
There are some minor differences between these two DVD's, but for the most part 85% of the content is similar.   If you happen to own both camera models I would recommend just getting one of them.   The question is which one?

The "Learn 5D Mark II Cinematography" DVD offers a back story on how & why Philip started shooting with the EOS 5D Mark II and how it led to new commercial work shooting both video and stills. The workflow section also seems to offer a bit more detail, though it doesn't cover the process of converting timelapse stills into video.   In both DVD's Philip provides a through-the-lens look at a wide variety of lenses, a very helpful addition as to each of these DVD's.   I think the lens demonstrations in the 7D video were a bit more helpful mainly due to the beach location he was shooting in.   This gave him a wider variety of subject distances, allowing him to demonstrate a wider range of focal lengths.   The 7D video was also filmed a couple of months after the 5D video, so Philip has some new gear to show you in this video - such as the updated Zacuto Z-Finder II and new lightweight support rigs.   In the 7D video Philip also covers timelapse photography using an intervalometer, and then demonstrates how to take these stills into your PC to create a movie.

Chapter Information
Learn Canon 5D Mark II Cinematography
  • 1 - The Evolution of the Canon 5D MK II
  • 2 - Philip Bloom's 5D MK II History
  • 3 - Shooting with the 5D MKII
  • 4 - What Kit do you Need
  • 5 - Setting up the camera to shoot video
  • 6 - Setting your ISO
  • 7 - Getting the best in camera picture style
  • 8 - Getting the correct exposure
  • 9 - Lenses
  • 10 - Lens Discipline
  • 11 - Using a macro extension tube
  • 12 - The matte box
  • 13 - Follow Focus
  • 14 - Using a video monitor
  • 15 - Mono pod & Viewfinder
  • 16 - Variable ND filters
  • 17 - The IS lens
  • 18 - Shooting Handheld
  • 19 - Avoiding the "Jello" effect
  • 20 - Shutter Speed
  • 21 - Getting the depth of field YOU want using the Fader/Vari ND
  • 22 - Shutter speed in artificial light
  • 23 - Sound
  • 24 - Best way to learn? Go out and shoot.
Learn 2 Shoot Great Video on your Canon 7D
  • 1 - Introduction
  • 2 - Sound
  • 3 - Setting up the menus
  • 4 - Setting up extended ISO
  • 5 - Creating a more filmic picture profile
  • 6 - How to focus
  • 7 - Follow focus
  • 8 - Using a monitor
  • 9 - Using a viewfinder
  • 10 - Shutter speed
  • 11 - Remapping the buttons*
  • 12 - Controlling the exposure
  • 13 - Using a Matte Box
  • 14 - Lenses, Converters, & Nikon Adapter
  • 15 - Camera Supports
  • 16 - Frame Rates
  • 17 - Slow Motion
  • 18 - Recording Sound
  • 19 - Rolling Shutter
  • 20 - Avoiding flicker from artificial light
  • 21 - Shooting at night
  • 22 - Timelapse
  • 23 - Summary
Bonus Workflow Chapters
  • 1 - Bringing your footage into your computer
  • 2 - Converting to a format you can edit with
  • 3 - How to convert to 24p or 25p
  • 4 - Using Cinema Tools to change frame rate
  • 5 - How to sync sound
Workflow Extra
  • 1 - Importing
  • 2 - Getting slow motion from 50 and 60p
  • 3 - Creating timelapse video from stills

These DVD's teach you how to best use and optimize your video DSLR to shoot video and are NOT lessons in filmmaking or videography. The incredible image quality, low-light capability, and relatively low price of the EOS 5D Mark II & EOS 7D are the reasons why many broadcasters, news organizations, and filmmakers are buying these camera's by the thousands, however they do have limitations. In these DVD tutorials Philip provides the knowledge on how to get around these limitations to get the best possible results. He covers focusing, controlling depth-of-field even in bright daylight, avoiding or minimizing the 'rolling shutter' effect, stabilization techniques and advice, lens choice, capture settings, audio recording, post-capture workflow, best conversion settings, time-lapse tutorial (not on 5DMKII DVD), and more.

If you want to quickly get up to speed on using your Canon EOS 5D Mark II or EOS 7D to shoot video there is no quicker and better way to do that than with one of these videos. If you own both camera models I would suggest just getting the latest 7D DVD. Actually, even if you own the 5D Mark II I would still recommend getting the 7D DVD. The information contained in it is relevant to both models, aside from a couple of minutes that cover some specific 7D frame-rates and button configurations.

I really enjoyed watching these DVD's and feel that anyone new to video DSLR shooting should pick up a copy. Philip is a very likeable guy and has a very easy going, laid back style that makes it easy to watch and learn from him. He doesn't just talk the talk - he's out there everyday, with camera in hand, shooting, trying new ideas, editing short films, and then sharing them in his video's and on his blog.

Purchase Information
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Full Disclosure
F-Stop Academy provided us a copy of each of these videos for the purpose of this review. The findings in our reviews are based on the results of hands-on testing. This often means that the Manufacturer has sent us a sample or loaner or that we went out and purchased the product for the review. Our opinions are never influenced by these factors and are always based on the discovery process during the review period.

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