I’m sure it isn’t a secret that we are quite fond of Magic Lantern here at GeekRev. Magic Lantern is a third-party (not Canon sanctioned) firmware upgrade for certain Canon DSLR cameras, giving them incredible new features that take the capabilities of these cameras far beyond their “stock” capabilities. The net-result is the ability to pull cinema-quality footage from these relatively inexpensive cameras. After the break, I’ll explain why I think this is so important for smaller churches who are trying to do amazing things with video, within limited budgets.
The DSLR difference. First, I am sure many of you are saying something like, “Hey, I bought a pocket HD video camera, and it does just fine.” Or, you might be saying, “I just bought this mid-range HD camcorder, and it does great” – and you’d be right. But, you’d also be wrong. These cameras are great, and being designed specifically for video capture, they are right at home with capturing video – like recording your events, or streaming video to your live video service. But, they are not necessarily the best tool for creative video – like creating commercials for your church, or sermon illustration videos, or worship visuals. Why? Because the kinds of video cameras generally available to smaller budgets lack two things needed for more artistically appealing video: low-light performance and lens selection. Low light performance is crucial for capturing low-noise, high-fidelity video. The large sensors in these DSLR cameras give you that performance. Lens selection is crucial for capturing amazing atmospherics, like depth of field and wide/tight field of view, with the same hardware. DSLRs, with their interchangeable lens make this possible.
Inexpensive Hardware. Before DSLRs had become so capable, capturing amazing video required cinematic cameras (hugely expensive) or adapter systems to combine DSLR lenses to camcorders. The first option is outside the budgets of most churches, and the latter option unwieldy and frustrating. To put this in perspective, not counting lenses, you can get a camera that works with Magic Lantern for as low as $500. By the time you modify a camcorder, you could spend twice that. And if you go cinematic, you can easily spend over $15,000 dollars. I’ve left out lenses from these numbers because it is a wash when using DSLRs or modded camcorders, and cinematic lenses are vastly more expensive.
High Quality HD video. Right out of the box, these DSLR cameras provide incredible video. Combined with a decent lens, you will pull some awesome footage. So, just by themselves, DSLR cameras are crazy capable of providing the kind of video that one would want to call “art.” What Magic Lantern does is take this to an even higher level, giving your relatively inexpensive DSLR the tools and capabilities found in cinematic cameras. Now, I’m not suggesting you’ll get RED EPIC quality video from a DSLR, but you can get video that rivals mainstream HD cinematic cameras. You get onscreen tools that help you monitor focus, color, and light, as well as access to new settings that bring up the quality of the video itself, like compression quality, fine ISO and shutter adjustments.
Summary. Magic Lantern puts incredible tools in the hands of smaller budgets, making incredibly high-quality HD video accessible to your church. Of course, the tools don’t make up for creativity and talent, but having those tools enables your creativity and talent shine more brightly.