Nikon D7000 kit

Reference

Inventory

  • Nikon D7000 camera body
  • Nikkor 50mm ƒ/1.4
  • Nikkor 35mm ƒ/1.8
  • Genus 77mm ND Fader filter
  • 52➞77mm, 62➞77mm & 72➞77mm step-up rings
  • LensPen
  • (2) 16GB SD cards
  • (2) EN-EL15 camera batteries
  • AV cable (composite)
  • USB cable
  • Battery charger & AC extension cable
  • LCDVF digital SLR viewfinder
  • D7000 user’s manual

Recommended Additional Items

Gray card

Good for consistent white balancing and exposure

Camera support

Typical handheld footage on DSLRs is terrible. Do something else.

Standard checkout
- Fluid head tripod
- Photo tripod (not recommended)

Intermediate checkout
- Ikan Recoil Shoulder Mount
- Ikan Super Fly Rig

Advanced checkout
- Cinevate Slider
- Zacuto Indie Baseplate
- Steadicam Merlin
- Redrock Micro Captain Stubling Rig
- Redrock Cinema Bundle
- Indie-Dolly Track

DIY/BYOB
- $14 steadicam
- Monopod
- Etc…

Ikan V5600 LCD Monitor

Helpful for focusing or viewing at odd angles and for sharing a screen with a focus puller.

Audio support

The built-in mic on DSLRs is also pretty terrible. Don’t think you’re going to get anything good out of it besides a scratch track to sync to later in post. If you want useable sound, you’ll need someone to help with audio.

  • Lavaliere mics
  • Shotgun mics
  • Audio field recorder (Fostex or other)
  • Clapper board / slate

USB card reader

To dump in the field. Not like that.

First, Do No Harm

Read “Caring for the Camera and Battery: Cautions” on p.289 of the user’s manual.

Do not drop

Actually listed on p.289 of the user’s manual. Common sense is uncommon.

  • Be smart about where you choose to set the camera. As My Father Always Says™, “It can’t fall if it’s already on the floor.” (Although it could get stepped on…)

  • When you pick up the camera, wrap the camera strap around your right wrist several times to take up all slack.

  • When you fasten the camera to a tripod or other camera support gear, always test the strength of the connection and the balance of the gear before letting go. Also tie up the slack camera strap to avoid accidental entanglements.

  • When changing camera operators, don’t hand the camera to another person; have the other person take it from you. This should help avoid “I thought you had it!” scenarios. And any more unfortunate, public executions.

Turn the camera off…

  • …before attaching or detaching a lens. In fact, just get in the habit of turning the camera off when you’re done with a shot or setup.

  • …before ejecting or inserting a memory card.

Lenses

  • When attaching a lens, align the white mounting mark on the lens with the white mounting mark on the camera body, then insert the lens into the camera’s bayonet mount. Carefully, gently, turn the lens counter-clockwise (lefty tighty) until it clicks. Unfortunately, the lens might be a tight fit, and it takes practice to know how much force to use. Err on the side of caution.

  • Never leave a lens half-attached to a camera body (twisted but not clicked). Yes, this has happened. Yes, you can guess what happened next.

  • Never store (or even set down!) a lens or camera body without attaching the protective caps. When you do set them down, do so on their lens caps so they don’t roll away.

  • Do not cross-thread the step-up rings or any filters. The rings are made of aluminum and can warp very easily if forced.

  • Likewise, do not overly tighten the step-up rings or filters. Unlike the lenses themselves, they follow the typical “righty tighty, lefty loosey” rule.

  • Never try to adjust the manual aperture ring while the lock is engaged.

  • Never turn the focus ring if the camera body is set to autofocus; you’ll strip the autofocus gearing. Slide the camera body’s A-M switch to M (manual). If the lens has an M/A-M switch, select M for manual).

Cleaning

  • Always check the equipment for dust, smudges, etc. before even leaving The Cage. Ask a Cage employee to clean a lens or exchange it if the issue is severe.

  • Never clean a lens or camera with anything but proper, professional equipment. Even then, use caution. You will be held responsible for any damage.

  • The D7000 kits come with a Lens Pen, intended for light cleaning. Use the brush end first to remove all particulate matter, then lightly use the felt tip to remove smudges.

  • Never, ever, ever use compressed (canned) air to clean a lens or the camera sensor. The chemicals and resulting low temperature can easily ruin the equipment. Save the canned air for your crumby keyboard.

  • Never attempt to physically clean the camera’s sensor. If sensor dust is an issue, see p.284 of the user’s manual. If that doesn’t solve it, report the issue to The Cage.

LCD ViewFinder

  • Do not leave the LCDVF uncovered (attached or not) in direct sunlight.

  • Do not try to pick up the camera by the LCDVF.

  • Do not store the camera with the LCDVF attached.

Hacking the Firmware

Don’t.

Initial Setup

Reset camera
Recommended to undo whatever settings were changed by the compulsive button pusher who had the camera before you.

  • MENU ➞ SHOOTING MENU ➞ Reset shooting menu ➞ Yes

  • MENU ➞ CUSTOM SETTINGS MENU ➞ Reset custom settings ➞ Yes

  • MENU ➞ SETUP MENU ➞ Format memory card ➞
    • Slot 1 ➞ OK
    • Slot 2 ➞ OK
  • Press and hold +/- button and + magnifying glass button together until top LCD flashes (about 2 seconds)

Note: Please DO NOT reset the user settings (U1 & U2)

Basic Video Setup

Yes, this is as easy as it gets.

Camera body & lens

  • Set the shooting mode to M

  • Set the camera’s autofocus switch to M

  • Set the lens’ autofocus switch to M

  • If the attached lens has a manual aperture ring, set it to the lens’ smallest aperture (usually orange) by rotating the ring until the orange number is aligned with the lens’ mounting mark. Lock the aperture ring by engaging the 2-way switch (also orange) to the right of len’s mounting mark.

Camera MENU settings

  • MENU ➞ SHOOTING MENU ➞

    • Movie settings ➞
      • Movie quality ➞ 1920x1080; 24fps; high quality
      • Manual movie settings ➞ ON
    • Set Picture Control ➞ Neutral ➞ OK

Metering & Exposure

  1. Press the info button

  2. Set the shutter speed to “50” (1/50th sec) by turning the rear command dial
    Note: Once this is set, don’t change it.

  3. Note the exposure meter (+|••|••0••|••|-) on the back LCD

  4. Tweak aperture, ND, ISO and/or lighting conditions as needed to zero out the exposure meter
    • Aperture
      To adjust aperture, turn the front command dial.
      Note: Aperture cannot be adjusted in LiveView mode when using G-series lenses.
    • ND
      Use the FaderND or other ND filters to reduce the amount of light reaching the sensor.
    • ISO
      Hold the ISO (- magnifying glass) button and turn the rear command dial.
  5. Press the shutter release to take a still photo

  6. Use the Play button and left/right on the directional pad to review the image and, more importantly, its histogram. Watch for blown highlights.

  7. Tweak exposure further as needed.

White balance
Mostly lifted from p.124 of the user’s manual:

  1. Light a gray card or other reference object
    Place a neutral gray or white object under the lighting that will be used in the scene.

  2. Set white balance to PRE
    Press the WB button and rotate the main command dial until PRE is displayed in the control panel.

  3. Select direct measurement mode Release the WB button briefly and then press the button until the PRE icon in the control panel starts to flash. A flashing PrE will also appear in the control panel and viewfinder. The displays will flash for about six seconds.

  4. Measure white balance
    Before the indicators stop flashing, frame the reference object so that it fills the viewfinder and press the shutter-release button all the way down. The camera will measure a value for white balance and store it in preset d–0. No photograph will be recorded; white balance can be measured accurately even when the camera is not in focus.

Focusing

  1. Switch on LiveView.

  2. Zoom the display to check focus.
    1. Press the + magnification button.
      Can be pushed multiple times for greater magnification.

    2. Use the directional pad to maneuver around the screen.

  3. Press the magnification button to zoom out.

Shooting

  • Press the record button.

  • Make a movie.

Advanced Video Setup

Where angels fear to tread…

Custom Picture Control

  • MENU ➞ SHOOTING MENU ➞ Set Picture Control ➞ Neutral ➞ push right
    • Sharpening: 0
    • Contrast: –
    • Saturation: 2 notches below 0

Over-cranking for Slow Motion

  • SHOOTING MENU ➞ Movie settings ➞ Movie quality ➞ 1920x1080; 30fps; high quality
  • Change the shutter speed to 60 (1/60th sec) to maintain a 180º shutter.

Adjusting Aperture in LiveView Mode

  1. You must use a lens with a manual aperture ring.

  2. MENU ➞ CUSTOM SETTINGS MENU ➞ f6 Customize command dials ➞ Aperture settings ➞ Aperture ring ➞ OK

  3. Now you can disengage the manual aperture ring lock and adjust the aperture while in LiveView mode.
    Note: You will need to undo this when switching back to a G-series lens.
    Another note: The manual aperture ring only allows adjustments in whole ƒ-stop increments, which are noticeable and distracting if used during a take. Instead, make fine exposure adjustments using the ND fader filter.

Advanced Photo Setup

First off, why are you using this camera to take stills?

Shoot Raw
The camera reset above sets the camera back to shooting JPEG.

  • MENU ➞ SHOOTING MENU ➞ Image quality ➞ NEF (RAW) ➞ OK

Intervalometer for Timelapse
The only really good reason for you to shoot stills with this camera rather than a D80.

  • Read p.155 in the user’s manual

Advanced Bracketing Options
Check out Sofortbild

  • Free
  • Mac OS X only
  • Allows for tethered shooting

Gotchas

Things to remember.

  • Battery
    • Charging the batteries before your shoot is your responsibility, not The Cage’s. The manual claims that a battery takes 2 hours and 35 minutes to fully charge. Do not leave the battery in the charger Plan accordingly.
    • Once a battery is fully charged, do not continue to charge it. In other words, don’t leave it charging overnight. Set a timer as a reminder.
  • Cannot change aperture in LiveView
    You must first exit LiveView in order to adjust the aperture setting on G-series lenses. See Basic Video Setup ➞ Metering & Exposure (above).

  • HDMI limitations
    When you plug in an HDMI cable to the D7000, the back LCD turns off. There is no way to run them both simultaneously.

  • Hot sensor = hot mess
    If the sensor has been active for extended periods of time (either recording or simply using LiveView mode), visual noise will begin to build up. Not a deal breaker, but something to be aware of.

  • If recording or even viewing in LiveView mode for extended periods of time, the sensor can overheat, requiring a break in production while it cools.

  • Shallow depth of field can make focusing difficult. Anything wider open than ƒ/5.6 should probably not be handheld.

  • The D7000’s maximum clip length is 20 minutes, assuming it does not overheat.

  • Most DSLRs, including the D7000, suffer from rolling shutter artifacts. Avoid fast camera movement.

  • Increase ISO only if necessary.
    • Stick to whole-stop increments (100, 200, 400, 800, etc.)
    • Anything beyond 400 will have noticeable noise.
  • Because of line skipping, most DSLRs suffer from aliasing or moiré artifacts when shooting fine horizontal details (e.g., bricks, waves, etc.). Lessen the effect by…

    • …not filming these types of detail.

    • …not moving the camera when filming these types of detail.

    • …using shallow DOF to blur these types of detail.

  • If both batteries in a D7000 kit are drained, you are done shooting. There is no AC adapter for the camera itself. Always keep the spare battery charged/charging.

  • Keep an eye on the memory cards. When the first one fills up, shut down, pop the card and have someone sane do the offload and backup.

Spot Metering Flesh Tones

We know what people should look like (see Stu Maschwitz’s Memory Colors). If a scene is properly exposed, an actor’s face will look “right”. While there is room for creativity, generally speaking if an actor’s face is drastically overexposed, the image looks “wrong” to the audience and can draw them out of the film. The same is true if the talent’s face is underexposed and just murky shadows. Again, there are notable exceptions to this rule (low key lighting in The Godfather and high key in Minority Report), but you’ll definitely want to develop a consistent, “normal” exposure technique.

A safe practice is to expose “typical” caucasian skin (whatever that means) to about 60–70 IRE, which is just above the middle of a camera’s dynamic range. You can do this by taking a meter reading off the talent’s face. Depending on the lighting, the talent’s face may have deep shadows and bright highlights. Meter on the side of their face that’s closest to the key light. This is also known as exposing the skin tones “at key”. This practice should keep hot spots (you did apply some powder to the talent’s face, right?) from completely blowing out, and if your contrast ratio is sane, the shadows will still hold some detail.

  1. Press and hold the metering mode button (1), then turn the rear command dial (2) until the top LCD screen show that it’s set to spot mode (3).

  2. Set camera body’s focus mode to manual (M).

  3. Look through the diopter and tap the shutter release button to activate the exposure meter.

    Note: The exposure meter shuts off automatically after a few seconds. Tap the shutter release button again to reactivate.

  4. Frame the image so that the focus point is aimed at the key side of the talent’s face.

    Optional: In the above image, the focus point is in the center of the viewfinder. To move the focus point within the viewfinder, use the multi-selector (it’s a D-pad, kids) while the exposure meter is on. If it does not move, check that the focus selector lock is set to “•” (not L).

  5. Note the exposure indicator’s reading.

    In the above image, the exposure indicator shows 3 ticks towards the “+” side. The camera is set to ⅓ ƒ/stops, so this means the scene is currently overexposed by 1 stop.

  6. Adjust exposure so the exposure indicator shows an “optimal” exposure.

    Adjust via aperture, ND or ISO, but not shutter speed (keep it at 180º — 1/50th sec. for 24p, 1/60th sec. for 30p and 1/120th sec. for 60p).

  7. Trust but verify
    1. Shoot a still.
    2. Press play to view the image.
    3. Press down on the D-pad until 4 histograms (RGB, R, G & B) appear on the right.
    4. Press the “+” magnification button to zoom in on the image. Use the D-pad to pan around. Note that the histogram updates to whatever is shown in the viewport. The flesh tones that you exposed for “at key” should fall very close to the center of the histogram.

Exposing for Movement

If the lighting and/or actor’s marks can easily be controlled such that no changes need to be made to the camera’s exposure, go that route. Managing camera movement, focus pulling and exposure adjustment simultaneously will test your resolve.

If the camera’s exposure must change during the shot, use a Fader ND filter to gradually change exposure over time.

  • Attach the Fader ND filter to the lens.

  • Determine the optimal exposure at each beat.

  • Mark the beats on the Vari-ND filter using small pieces of gaffer’s tape. Please be careful not to get gaffer’s tape on the filter.

  • At its minimal setting the Fader ND eats up around 1 to 1½ stops of light. You’ll have to make up for this by…

    • …opening up the aperture. This will decrease depth of field. There’s already some kind of movement in the scene, so you’ve got a focus puller (right?). You just made his job more difficult. Apertures at ƒ/5.6 or smaller keep focus pullers non-stabby.

    • …increasing the ISO, which of course increases the noise level. If that puts you above 800, rethink it.

    • …increasing the amount of light in the scene. Do you have the extra lights and amps to blast a couple more lights at the ceiling to raise the overall light levels in the scene?

Why use the Fader ND instead of adjusting aperture or ISO?
Our lenses with manual aperture rings adjust by 1 full stop per click, which is quite noticeable during a shot. Cinema lenses ($$$) do not have these issues. Rent some Zeiss primes if you really need to.

ISO bumps are less noticeable and could work in a pinch, but odd ISO settings tend to produce more noise than the standard 100, 200, 400, 800 settings (not so on the Canon 7D however).

What if the exposure changes are minimal?
The audience will forgive temporary over- or under-exposure. In fact, talent walking through pools of light and shadow should likely be a goal in your cinematography.

What if the scene does not require an actor?
If the scene does not require an actor, a 18% gray card could be used (see also: Custom White Balance).

Nerds Only


More to come:

  • Why shouldn’t you use it
  • Underexpose rather than overexpose
  • Links to Chase Jarvis
  • D7000 groups on Vimeo
  • Avoiding ballast flicker
  • Loading custom profiles