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Understanding The Canon C300 Camera by Gaál László:

Received an email this week from Gaál László from Carousel asking we check out their write up about the Canon C300 camera. We loved it and hope you guys do too. Here is a little taste covering the Canon C300 cameras Sensor, Resolution, Moiré, Dynamic range, C-log, Compression, Chroma subsampling, Noise, and they even included the original files for download.

From the Intro:

We had a chance to play with the C300 a bit last week. Before that, I’ve read some blogs and forum posts where they talked about this camera, but it always ended up with commenters bashing each other with numbers, or judging the camera by watching a highly compressed video on vimeo. I’ll try to solve the second problem by posting original files, with all the important details of the given shot written on the attached thumbnail (lens info, ISO setting, f-stop, shutter speed, WB setting, and if the built-in ND has been used, or not).

This was the easier part.

The harder part was: what to do with the bare numbers? Everybody seems to recognize that in video, the higher the number, the better (8-bit vs 10-bit, 2K vs 4K), which is absolutely true in all cases. But my questions are:

– what do these numbers really mean?
– what do they do to my footage, which part of the image do they affect?
– Do I – or the production – really need to, or want to pay the price for a better codec, bit depth, or chroma subsampling? (And price doesn’t simply means money spent on equipment, storage, processing power, but also more time to transcode, edit, grade, export, and so on)

Just for an example: a lot of people wanted RAW, uncompressed video from the Canon 5D mark III. No comment.
Do they know, that this means 207 MBytes (not megabits) of data every second? Do they know that one hour footage would be 747 Gigabytes?
I don’t think so, maybe 10% of the current 5DmkII users would want that. What the others would need – not just the current 5D users – is a perfect 1080p camera, which is balanced between quality, and costs.

And this is where the C300 comes in the picture.

From the Compression section:

50Mbps is higher than what other cameras have in the price range (AF100: 25Mbit, Sony F3 35Mbit), but much less than the ~264Mbit ProRes files coming out of the Alexa. But again: these are just bare numbers, you will have to choose the best compression for your project by testing them.

CBR ensures, that the camera doesn’t go and decide which frame is important and which isn’t, every frame is “important” to the compression.

MXF is the file format it uses, it contains timecode and you get some additional files where the metadata is stored. You can edit these natively in Premiere, and “AMA” it to Avid Media Composer too. I’m not an FCP X user, but as far as I know, they will need to rewrap, re-encode these files. Abelcine blog has a nice article showing the best way to import the C300 MXFs in to your NLE.

Metadata includes lens data, ISO, shutter speed, aperture, picture style settings and a lot of other details. Right now the only application I could find that reads out these informations, is the Canon XF Utility.

One additional side-note is that the files are 8bit internally, and the outputs are 8bit too. This tells us how many luma and color values can it store. For example if we record 10bit files, this means four-times more possible luma, and chroma values compared to the 8-bit version of the same file. You will miss those extra two bits mostly in gradients but to see these, you will need display, and a system that can display 10bit files.

We super encourage you to go to Gaál László’s site and read the complete Canon C300 camera run through.

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