Rumors for a 7D firmware update? I have some suggestions…

Out of the blue in the days of NAB we get rumors from Canon Rumors that the 7D will possibly be getting an “extensive” firmware upgrade. Since Canon and most other manufacturers has so far mostly treated firmwares as spelling-error-fixes (and fucking with hackers-upgrades) I’m not convinced about anything until we see the final outcome. But as the mill starts churning I’ll throw in my own suggestions in this here blog that no-one reads anyways.

Things I would like to see in a firmware update for the Canon 7D that rarely, if ever gets any mention (in no particular order):

  • Oldschool film-trigger: In the olden days of small-gauge film (8 and 16mm) running time was expensive. So home-filming cameras were equipped with a very conservative feature. The camera would only record while the record-button was pressed. This made for short bursts of filming and never were we faced with the situations of people forgetting if they were recording or not. If your finger (or thumb) were pressing the button, it was filming. PERIOD. And while it’s not optimal for many occasions, I would like to see some camera manufacturer provide it as an experiment. I think we would waste far less recording space with this option.
  • Funky Frame-sizes:
    This might sound silly, but in todays day and age, we shouldn’t be shackled to the standard 16×9 format. And sometimes we would probably benefit from some other frame-sizes. Like:
    3:4 full sensor-filming. When we want to capture the whole sensor for some reason. This would probably mean more line-kipping, but sometimes it could be useful.
    2.4:1 cropped filming. I don’t know about many other people, but I find that only filming what I would get would be very intriguing.
    4:3 full sensor-height filming. Why? Well, both for filming old school academy standard ratio like they did in the olden days and also for…
    Anamorphic filming. Shoot with an anamorphic lens that with clever Pixel Aspect Ratio’s automatically maps out and uses all available pixels. Which brings me to
    Well, I’m glad you asked. I imagine several ways. If the hardware is wired for 1920×1080 and refuses to budge for a compromise to give, like… 2232×929 2.4:1 video that has actually slightly less number of pixels per frame than a 1920×1080 frame that we now have to crop to obtain 1080×800 2.4:1 . or likewise 1660×1249 for 4:3,  while still leaving us with far more pixels to work with in the final image. If something like that isn’t possible for technicalities, then maybe do:
  • Funky Pixel Aspect Ratio’s: In the middle ages of video the standard we had to live with was 4:3 and most of your widescreen DVD’s are actually only 4:3 when you count the pixels in each direction. The magic happens when we start to mess about with the shape of the pixel. A 4:3 image with 1.33:1 pixel aspect ratio widens it to full wide-screen. But nowadays the standard is already 16:9 (or 1.77) so why not sample the image from the sensor in 4:3 and store it using the full width of the 1080p-standard using 1:1.33 pixel aspect ratios? A cinemascope sample likewise could be stretched to fit the 16:9 format using the very same 1.33:1 PAR that the DVD’s used to use! Same datarates! Same everything! but in post we suddenly have quite a few more pixels to work with. We even get a slight vertical oversampling going on when we export to regular square pixels! Hooray! Or how about…
  • Funky Framerates! Let’s just dump the old shackle between recording-speed and playback-speed. Sometimes we just want to mess with it a bit. Sometimes we want to film a fight-scene in 22 or 20 fps, and then play it back in 24fps for a slightly sped up look. It’s barely noticeable. But it can make a difference. And with the afformentioned stuff about frame-sizes I also want to put forward a proposition to crop frame to get higher framerates. Right now, the 7D is capped at 30fps in full HD mode. But what if we only shot a 1920x800p frame? Then maybe we could increase the frame-rate while keeping the data-rate in check? Maybe 1920x800p 48fps and using funky pixel aspect ratios, 1920x400p 96fps? Should look much nicer than a 1280×533 fps crop at least.
  • Shutter in BOTH angles and fractions and make it lockable for projects!!!: Ok, the exclamation-marks might be uncalled for, but we have all had the problem of someone nudging the shutter and suddenly the dream-takes are unusable because it became a smeary mess or distractingly staccato for one shot. So this one is simple. Give us the option to lock the shutter at an angle in menu and then make the wheel do something else. And the greatest reason for making us able to shoot with degrees instead of fractions of seconds is that we need much less math on set to make the motion-blur match. Most of the time we want the 180degree rule. And if we lock that in the menu, that will look correct no matter what framerate we’re using. Right now it’s in seconds and we have to change it accordingly when we move from 24 to 60 fps recording-modes. It becomes one less thing to worry about on set. And it would make it much easier for the film-folks to just pick up the camera and shoot.
  • Push-auto record button option: Now this one is a crazy one in the same vein as the old-timey film-button mentioned earlier. But hear me out. The usual manual way is normally preferred, but there are times when we just want to pull the camera out and shoot. But auto-settings tends to screw with us because as the shot progresses it will adjust accordingly. Closing aperture while panning over a window, messing with white-balance because a blue truck drove past the scene. All that fun stuff. It’s fixable in post, but very time-consuming. So my proposal is to have a functionality that samples the first images, adjusts the exposure and white-balancing parameters and then locks them until the next time I press record, when it goes over the calibration again. It should be done within a fraction of a second and since it’s probably in live-view already it should be able to do it while I’m not filming. Just lock it when I press the button. This would make it more suitable for run&gun-filming. And if it gets it wrong it’s a steady exposure and white-balance. It’s a quick fix instead of nudging keyframes to counteract the effects over time.
  • Crop Marks: Just in case we don’t get the other frame-related features (pff, I wish). Then at least give us USEABLE crop-marks for video. Right now there are basically none. There are some sort of crop-marks that are all basically square and they rarely help. And when filming all that goes away. The 4×4 grid actually is pretty close to a scope-crop-mark. but again it goes away. We can tape the screen for recording but some a****** made it so that the recording image is off-set vertically compared to the playback-mode.
  • USEABLE peaking: It’s the ultimate focus assist in my eyes. Just look at the Sony PD150’s… copy that. end of entry.
  • LUT’s: A lot of people are using picture-profiles but find it hard to actually work with them on. Some even resort to flipping back and forth between CineStyle and a more graded look. This is unnecessary. Because, if the camera would just let us choose a style for recording and a different style for viewing it would make for far less mistakes and post-wrangling of colors. 
  • Project Setups: Why not have a feature that makes it so that when you want to start a new project you enter the parameters for that project. This would include shutter-settings, playback-speed, viewing and recording-styles (see LUTs above) and other stuff that is likely not to change during project. This could then be saved out to the CF-card and when a card is inserted and the Project Setup file isn’t present a dialog would appear to ask if you want to A. save current project setup as a file on the disk or B. set up a new project.
  • USB-interface for keyboards and other funky things:  Most cameras have USB-cables for interfacing with computers. But I have yet to see a camera that lets you hook up a keyboard to quickly input metadata. Why is this? With this we could have the camera assistant enter in current take and scene numbers as file-names or other things. Like controlling things with simple mouse-scroll-wheels. There’s a lot of possibilities here.

I’m sure I come up with more as time goes on. But of course, I wouldn’t be mad at them if they implemented in-camera ProRes 4:4:4 too. 🙂

For now, we’ll all just wait and see.

Oh and PS…

Stop worrying about hackers customizing firmwares… if it bricks… then just refuse to fix it under the warranty. Let them do some crazy things. We will all benefit and you’ll sell more cameras. 🙂


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