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This weekly course covers the most common questions videographers encounter when shooting and editing with DSLR cameras, from choosing a frame size and frame rate to understanding moiré. Authors Rich Harrington and Robbie Carman will also help you understand the impacts of compression and the difference between cropped (or micro 4/3rds) and full-sized sensors in cameras, and much more. This continual FAQ guide is a handy way to find the answers to the questions that plague you the most.
Richard Harrington: So, when you're looking at DSLR cameras, they typically only have one way of actually monitoring the HD signal, and that is the HDMI Port. Tell us about it. Robbie Carman: Well HDMI stands for High Definition Multimedia Interface and it's common on almost every DLSR that I can think of, and it's usually just found on the same place that you find other ports on the camera, and HDMI of course is a very popular way of connecting devices, right? You can connect video and audio through one cable from your camera to say a monitor, but you probably also use this at home, maybe from a Blu-ray player to your HDTV.
Richard Harrington: Yeah, or Apple TV devices, even computers sometimes will have HDMI ports to connect the computer monitor. The thing I think to remember is, one, people don't include cables in the box anymore, so you are going to need to buy a cable, probably a long enough cable so you don't put that port under pressure, and then you're going to need a cable--there are two sizes, so we have the full size and we've the little size like we have here, most cameras use-- Robbie Carman: Use the small size, yeah. Richard Harrington: --the mini size plug, and that will connect to the camera and then the full size will go into your device. Robbie Carman: Right. And just to be clear, one of the reasons that we want to be able to access this HDMI port is so we're not viewing things on the small little LCD in the back of our camera, right? We're going to eventually, probably as you do more shooting, want to attach to an external monitor, to an EVF, and so on.
Richard Harrington: Okay, so, pretty straightforward. Now I think one of the things people get hung up on is, you know, I'm just going to go ahead and attach this here, and when I do that, you know we've already got this connected to a few monitors. We'll just flip that on and we'll start to send a picture through. Robbie Carman: Here you go. Richard Harrington: There's all sorts of stuff all over that image. So you know, I can go into my Menu system, I could play all day long and try to turn that stuff off, but you really can't. It's going to always have some overlay and this depends on manufacturers. When you're recording, it might just be a record dot.
Robbie Carman: And you actually brought up an interesting point, right now we're actually seeing overlays from your camera itself. In this case, we're actually looping through your EVF and sometimes depending on the HDMI port, sometimes it will display overlay information and sometimes it won't. So like for example, on your EVF, we're actually not seeing any overlays from it, and this is actually really kind of interesting point, because a lot of-- Richard Harrington: Well, there is one giant one, the big red box in the-- Robbie Carman: Oh, of course, yeah. Richard Harrington: And on your Canon, it's going to be a giant red dot in the corner. Robbie Carman: Right, and this is my point, is that for years since the DSLR has now really sort of come to the forefront, people have been searching for ways to get a clean signal out of the HDMI port on the camera. They want to do this for couple reasons.
One, just from an esthetic point of view when they're monitoring, they don't want all this other junk in the way, but two, they've been trying to output sort of a clean uncompressed signal from the camera to record to a digital recorder, like a KeyPro or other devices that are out there, so they can do higher bit rates, better chroma subsampling, and so forth, by recording to those recorders. Richard Harrington: And this problem has been solved, but it's not what you're hoping. A lot of people have been looking for firmwares or hacks, and this is pretty deeply ingrained in the cameras because let's just be honest here, there is no technical reason to watermark the image. It's a financial reason, which is that when they have that HDMI port unlocked, they have to pay different licensing fees to use it as a transport.
Robbie Carman: Well, also in the case of companies like Canon and Sony for example, who make very nice high-end video cameras themselves, they don't necessary want to infringe on that market, and there are cameras that are coming out, some of the newer sort of digital cinema style cameras, you know C300 and stuff like that and the D4-- Richard Harrington: Even the Nikon--the new Nikon D4 doesn't have a watermarked image. Of course, you are getting into a $5,000-$6,000 camera, so this tends to be the highest-end pro feature. So if you're like boy, I wish I had a clean unwatermarked image, so I can go out my DSLR camera into my $2000-$3000 digital disc recorder, I'll let you in on a secret, you are a pro, therefore at least you're working in a pro world, you're going to pay more for that sort of functionality. Robbie Carman: Yeah.
And the last thing I'll say about the HDMI port is that it's a very kind of fragile connection. If you notice here on your viewfinder there, if you kind of just wiggle that cable a little bit, it moves around quite a bit, right? Richard Harrington: Yeah. This special cable is actually designed to rotate and bend and this is a special DSLR cable that rotates in two directions. It bends in two directions. Robbie Carman: Which is really nice, because a lot times if you put even just some modest amount of pressure on these HDMI cables, they can bend the contacts, they can pull out of the port itself. So if you're using just a straight HDMI cable, just be a little extra careful about how it's actually physically connected and the pressure that you're putting on the cable, because the last thing you want to do is actually cause damage to your camera or the monitoring device that you're using.
Richard Harrington: And they do make camera cables that are designed to be more flexible. So you know, it's all and what you look for, but make sure you have a long enough cable, so you're not putting that under tension on the port, otherwise not only can you lose signal while monitoring, you can actually damage the port. If you damage the port on the side of the camera-- Robbie Carman: That's a lot of dough. Richard Harrington: Yeah, you are going to have to send it in for a repair, and it's amazing; that little port is basically like hardwired directly into all the electronics in the camera, so it's not like, oh I broke the port, replace the port. It will like, oh! Let's replace the motherboard. Robbie Carman: Right, right, exactly. Richard Harrington: So it's going to run you some coin.
All right, so that's why you would use the HDMI signal to pull something off. When we come back, we're going to take a look at ways of adapting this, so you can use a professional monitor and get higher-quality output.
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