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Andy Karkut

Using a DSLR as a Director's Viewfinder + Lighting Visualizer Tool

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Lately, I’ve been thinking about the best way to quickly frame shots and check my lighting on set. I know there are apps such as Artemis, etc that help with this, but I wanted something more tactile and on which you can physically mount lenses.


And I did not want to buy a dedicated Director’s Viewfinder because of the expense involved, and also because I cannot use it to take pictures as reference and check my lighting, contrast ratio, etc.


So I thought how about a Canon 7D with a PL-mount? It’s APS-C sensor is close to Super35mm and it will give me the abilities to snap pictures (even after the mirror has been removed for the PL modification).


Obviously I would have to get one via Hot Rod Cameras in Hollywood or FGV in Munich. And it’s not cheap—anywhere between $2750 to $4000, depending on if I supply my own camera or not.


Once again, my need is not only to frame up my shots, but also check my lighting *and* take still pictures on set…all with the same device. I know DPs such as Grieg Fraser use the PL-mount 7D on set, so it’s not just me being a bit ridiculous!


Anyway, I thought I’d share my thoughts with the community here and ask for the collective wisdom of this fine forum.


I am curious to hear what you have done to achieve the same results I have in mind? Are there other DSLRs (APS-C, mirrorless?) that you’ve used?


Thoughts, ideas, suggestions? Thank you.

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A bit silly, but I've been doing this lately with my 7D. Works fine since I got the Duclos multi-mount mod for my Canon Cine zooms. You'd have to get your 7D PL modded to work with a wider variety of lenses.

post-5721-0-27665100-1405218960_thumb.jpg

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A bit silly, but I've been doing this lately with my 7D. Works fine since I got the Duclos multi-mount mod for my Canon Cine zooms. You'd have to get your 7D PL modded to work with a wider variety of lenses.

 

I was under the impression that a 'director's viewfinder' was intended to be less than setting up an actual camera... with rails and a tripod, that sort of thing seems to fly in the face of the mobility of the director's view finders that I have seen, and at a few K bux for camera+rails+tripod... well why not buy the official director's view finder?

 

On the other hand, having an app on the iPhone like Artemis app, allows one to see approximate angle of views, which pretty closely match the DSLRs that I've had access to, and so, does allow for a light mobile viewing of the location in terms of what the capture camera will actually 'see', as well as record location shots while scouting, with time of day and GPS location info included 'for free'.

Edited by jeclark2006

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That's not a camera! THIS is a camera 😏:

 

All silliness aside, it's really not much bigger than the standard Kish UDF finder with a lot more functionality. The prices are pretty comparable too, both around $3500-4000. The PL 7D is way cheaper if you just want to mod a camera that you already own.

post-5721-0-37190300-1405385826_thumb.jpg

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I put together a similar setup for about $1,000. I did it as a Bcam for my FS100 for a documentary and later found out it worked great as a viewfinder.

dvf.jpg

I mostly use a real viewfinder during shoots but this setup is great for scouting and blocking before the shoot cause I can shoot video with more stability than my phone and get a more accurate idea of the framing and ISO. For evaluating lighting setups it's only useful if you're recording as the live standby feed in video mode doesn't show the accurate ISO.

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I'd recommend a mirrorless camera over getting a 7D, such as that Sony NEX-7. Not only do they do better video quality than a 7D (for little tiny personal projects or for lending out to a buddy, or whatever) but they're easier to adapt to all kinds of mounts.

Personally I'd recommend the Sony A6000, as not only is it very affordable, it is also one of the best DSLR/MILC for filmmakers who do that kind of thing (thus making it a tad more dual purpose than just as a directors viewfinder).

 

http://www.eoshd.com/content/12428/surprise-sony-alpha-a6000-video-mode-huge-improvement

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