Magic Lantern (ML) for 7D and with that… CROPMARKS! :D

I’ve been shooting video with my 7D ever since I got one from the Marianne-shoot. But as with most people, there are a few things that have always bothered me with Canons stock-firmware. And it’s been ignored so far by their development team (in order to, it seems, protect their video-departments).

Enter Magic Lantern.
A firmware add-on that has been releasing the full power of Canon Cameras since the first hacks of the 5DmII. As of a couple of weeks ago the 7D’s infrastructure has been deemed unhackable by the developers because of the dual Digic CPU-system employed by Canon. But then, suddenly. Seemingly from out of nowhere. A user named g3gg0 posted that he cracked the code. And now… an Alpha firmware add-on is released.

If you’re wondering why I keep calling it a firmware add-on, well. It’s because it is. In order to use it. You have to update canons firmware to v2.0.3 and then load a file-structure into your CF-card and then for each time you power up the camera, you go into the menu and do the update again with the modified .fir file. This won’t actually write anything new to the cameras firmware-flash-memory. Instead it’s just a way for ML to launch it’s code into RAM. For more details about that… look up the site: http://www.magiclantern.fm/whats-new/104-releases/140-first-7d-alpha-released

Why am I excited? Well. Because, even while it is a limited feature release. It still has two of the main draws for me of the ML features. 1: Custom Crop-Marks and 2: Live View Contrast and Saturation adjustments.

I’ll explain:

  1. Custom Cropmarks. I love Cinemascope in all it’s forms. From the anamorphic origins on 35mm 4 perf film to the not so distortion-heavy simple Techniscope and Super35 crops. But shooting for a scope crop in mind has been quite a hassle. There are some workarounds. I have tried taping scotch-tape onto the display to mask out the top and bottom. But that backfires when playing back since the playback is off-set vertically from the recording. And another aproximation is to use the 4×4 grid, since it’s rather close to what a Scope-cropmark would be. But it disappears when recording and doesn’t show at all at playback. In other words… useless.

    Then I installed Magic Lantern. It has the ability to load custom BMP files as cropmarks. And while the ones provided did have Scope variations. I wasn’t all happy with how they were made. Luckily at ML there’s guides how to make functional BMP-files yourself and following those guides I made a set of crop-marks that has solid blacks outside of what I want to frame. This lets me concentrate fully on what I’m filming and ignore everything outside of it. Because I’ll just crop it out later.

    Added bonus: In the menu there’s the ability to show the cropmark in playback. I’m so happy! And it’s properly adjusted to match up with the playbacks vertical offset too! Wee!

    I have however noticed that a few times. The cropmark won’t go back to proper vertical position when switched back to recording mode. But re-launching the cropmark usually remedies this.

  2. Live View Contrast and Saturation Adjustments Since a lot of us are shooting with Technicolors Cinestyle PictureStyle or other super-flat versions. A good preview of what the final image will look like is sometimes a hard job to do mentally. One workaround so far has been to have a second picture style set up that looks like a graded image and then switch to CineStyle manually before recording. While this works. It does create an opportunity for errors if you forget to switch styles. And you don’t get to see the contrasty image when recording

    So in ML there’s a feature that allows us to adjust the contrast and saturation of the live-view feed. This means that we’ll get to see the image with more contrast and still shoot with the gradeable Cinestyle without having to switch between them all the time. 

There’s also Zebras and Peaking. Though I haven’t had too much success using the Peaking in this version. I do however love the Zebra. Using the Luma-range and only showing what’s over 99% I get instant feedback of what’s blowing out.
Then there’s the Waveforms and histograms. Great features. Especially since I can even adjust it to show what channels are blowing out and how many pixels are blowing out in each channels. I keep these on constantly now.
I am not very fond of the option to hide menu-items using the menu-button. Mostly because the first dozen of times I pressed it it just went dark and things started dissapearing. Since I saw no indication that this was the intended behavior I was ready to report it as a bug. But I saw the tiny text. I still accidentally press it. But at least, now I know what it’s doing. I don’t like it. But according to the replies in the ML-forum they’re keeping this function.
Also. I think that it’s very confusing of them to sometimes use SET to enter sub-menus and sometimes I have to use Q-Menu (also making me accidentally hit Menu some more) for the same deal when it only shuts of the feature instead of letting me adjust it. Again. Judging from the ML-forum. This is unlikely to change. And I guess I’ll just have to live with it and relearn my button-habits for each and every menu item.
I might be sounding negative about those aspects. But overall I love this release! 😀 It’s not perfect… no… and it’ll improve greatly when they enable ML to load automatically during bootup. What are you waiting for?! Get it! (though remember that it probably isn’t covered in warranties).

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