Getting started with Magic Lantern: Live View screen

on October 21, 2014

By now you have Magic Lantern installed on your DSLR and you want to know what the hell you’re supposed to do now.
Not to worry. This guide will take you step by step through the features so you can see how everything works.
The basic setup is this:

Use the “TRASH CAN” button to bring up the Magic Lantern Menu. (If you have an EOS-M, you do a “two-finger tap” on the screen.)
Use the “Q” button to go into submenus. (If you don’t have a “Q” button you have to the alternate button: 5Dmkii- Picture Style button; on the 50D- FUNC button; 500D- LiveView Button.)
If you ever don’t remember what a setting does- press the INFO or DISP button to bring up the little Magic Lantern help file.

Now you have the Live View Layout

At the top of the screen are your Audio Meters.
As a rule of thumb, I like to keep my levels between -24db and -12 db, with sound peaking at about -6db.
If your levels are less than -12, your bars will be GREEN.
If they get past -12db, they turn YELLOW.
If they get past -3db, they turn RED.

You want to avoid red.
At 0db, you get clipping.
Clipping is when the audio starts to sound “crunchy” or “crackly”, it usually happens when someone screams or raises their voice past where you set their normal recording levels.The sound is unrecoverable when it gets to this point and it can ruin a take. It’s the audio equivalent of blown highlights.

In the top right hand corner you have your Storage indicator and your frame rate.
Storage indicator is handy on event shoots so you can gauge your memory card swaps. Best practice is to only fill your cards half-way before offloading. I’ve certainly shot past that and not run into a problem, but the memory cards as cheap as they are, spend s few extra dollars on some extra cards and save yourself from losing footage from a shoot. It’s well worth it.

The FPS indicator lets you know what your frame rate is. This is very handy if you have been going back and forth from Slo -Mo (60fps) to regular and back. You need separate shutter speed and exposure adjustments for each style of shooting, so if your picture seems off, check this first.

At the bottom of the screen are some values that should be self-explanatory: Focal length, aperture, shutter speed, iso, and white balance.
After that is the Green/Magenta shift, if you have adjusted the color in your picture, the focus distance (if supported by your lens), and then your battery indicator and exposure compensation.

Its the stuff in the MIDDLE of the Liveview that is really interesting.

Histogram
The histogram is a feature that I use constantly. Since you are going to be adjusting your exposure manually, and you have a fixed shutter speed (for a 180 degree shutter) you have to adjust exposure either using aperture, iso, or through an ND filter. If you have the time and the manpower, using a dedicated lightmeter for all your setups will give you a consistent exposure from one shot to the next. The more your shots match each other, the easier it will be when you have to edit and color correct your scenes in post. Don’t “rely” on your histogram to give you your correct exposure, but use it as a guide- this is especially important when shooting in one flatter picture profiles. Correctly exposed, Techincolor Cinestyle- (or any LOG style picture profile) will look too bright to your eyes in the lcd screen. This is the intent- you want to capture as much information in the shadows as possible- you can always crush the blacks in in post production, but if a pixel is PURE black, there is no information to recover. It’s a good idea to adjust for exposure using a “normal” picture profile and then switch over to the flat style to record. Getting used to the histogram as your guide will help you greatly in mastering your light.

Clipping
You’ll notice that there are little dots on the histogram also- this lets you see if there are parts to your image that you may be clipping. Just as you cannot recover completely “black” information, you cannot recover completely “white” information either. That’s not to say your picture can’t have absolute black and absolute white- just make sure it’s a choice and not an accident.

Focus peaking
Clearly my favorite feature in magic lantern. This lets you adjust focus and see exactly where you Depth of Field is in focus. It shows up on your screen as little dancing pixels on the edge of objects. I like to set mine to green- green means go- but you can choose whatever color your heart desires to aid your focus.

Zebra stripes
I use this usually only when I am setting up the shot in the first place- it can be a little distracting when left on all the time. The zebra stripes will show which areas are blown out of exposure and contain flatlined information- clipping. The more dynamic range your camera has, the more you can get darkness and highlights in the same shot, but at some point on many shots, you have to decide what to keep and what to let go. The zebra stripes will show you exactly what parts of your image you are losing in exposure.

Spot metering: the little pip in the center of your screen is where your spot metering point is. You should keep this on your subject that you want to be the focus of your shoot.