Magic Lantern Feature: Movie Mode

on November 28, 2014

Movie Mode

Movie Mode is going to be where you do a lot of your tweaks. As it should go without saying, the movie settings really only apply to when you are in movie mode on your dial.

CBR: Constant Bit Rate

In theory this is a great concept and feature. In practice, it can be a little finnicky. You can increase the bitrate of your images by up to three times the normal bitrate. That sounds fantastic except for two things:

The write speed of your CAMERA may be limited as to how much it can write, (the 5Dmk II and III being the fastest).

The other limiting factor is your actual CARD, which is going to be the bottleneck in many situations. If you experiment with your cards and your camera, you can find out what your card will support and how much you can crank up your bitrate before the camera stops recording. Remember here that higher bitrates aren’t the holy grail: getting the shot is. If you have a lot of clips that have a great bitrate, but it takes you 12 takes to get the shot instead of 3, you are doing yourself a great disservice.

The solution:

Get new cards and see how far you can push them: I have never seen memory as big and as cheap as they are now. Yes, they will undoubtedly go down in price in the future, as do all things. But if you have had your cards for a couple years, you would be surprised at how fast the technology has gotten. Get some UHS rated cards (if it has a little “U” with a 1, or even better, a 3, you’re in great shape. The class 10 cards that we all use are still very functional ,and most cameras that didn’t just come out will max out at class 10, but the future has higher bitrates- 4k, and RAW. Buy a couple of new cards and you will probably won’t notice it today. Keep using old cards and you will eventually have your recording stop on the one take that the actor finally got it right. That you will notice.

NB.The developers mention that the Qscale mode is constant quality but has a VARIABLE bitrate, and it can go out of control. They recommend against it for now. This is one of those cases where the CONCEPT is more important than the application, and there will most definitely be a point in the future where this feature can be used, so the groundwork needs to be laid out now.

NB You can eke out a little more bitrate if you are recording without sound. Less information in the pipeline leaves a little more room for image quality. Very handy when shooting MOS or recording sound separately.

REC key

If you want to prevent accidental start or stop functions on set, you can toggle this to require the hals-shutter pressed for a full second to start and/or stop recording.

Gradual Exposure

Again, this is one of those automatic functions that I prefer to leave off.  This will adjust your ISO to change over a period of frames you determine to make the changes in exposure less noticeable.  I prefer using an Iris Pull for this maneuver, and to control it manually.


This is the mother of all functions. Very useful for timelapse modes Magic Lantern has noted that it doesn’t work great for OVERcranking (higher frame rates), but the undercranking works great.

Optimize for:

LOW LIGHT- This is for when you are doing timelapses with LONG shutter speed exposure times (like 1 sec exposure and you are shoot ing 1fps, which means a 360 degree shutter). Also useful for faster frame rates..

EXACT FPS- This is so you can shoot with an exact frame rate ie, 24fps instead of 23.967

HIGH FPS- This lets you adjust the shutter speed to overcrank a little bit more and retain your 180 degree shutter on the 60d and 600d.

LOWJELLO- The lack of a global shutter means that DSLRs suffer from the “jello effect” when panning because of the way the sensor records information. This setting helps minimize that effect and retain a 180degree shutter when at all possible. This is my preferred setting.

HIGH JELLO this is the opposite of the last setting. Used mostly for creative effects, I rarely find use for it.

SHUTTER RANGE- This shows you the ACTUAL shutter speed range available. Keep in mind that when you use the FPS override, you will be overriding the settings that read out on your CAMERA display. Trust the settings in your MAGIC LANTERN menu. Magic Lantern also notes that you can change the RANGE of value available to you by altering the ratio between the two timer value in TIMER A and TIMER B

TIMER A- When you adjust this timer, ML will automatically change the settings in timer B to retin your desired frames per second.

TIMER B- This will NOT re-adjust timer A, so here is where you can fine tune your desired FPS.

Main Clock- This is so you can see the CRYSTAL OSCILLATOR frequency of yoru FPS circuit driver… If you are ineterested in tha kind of thing.

ACTUAL FPS- This readout show your FPS as calculated by your TG_FREQUENCY/TIMERA/TIMERB

Rolling Shutter- This will give you a mathematical display of exactly how much “jello effect” you’re getting.

Constant expo  I like the idea of this- i really do.  And perhaps if I used some of the Exposure Ramping settings, I would use it.  When your frame rate changes, your exposure can change, especially if you are keeping your shutter angle constant and hence, shortening your shutter speed.  A faster shutter speed means less light hits the sensor, and hence, your exposure gets darker.  I just don’t trust automatic exposure changes.  If I want to do speed ramping, I do it in post, not in camera.  That way my exposure is always the same.

Sync w/shutter- If I was doing a longer exposure, this would be a good idea to turn on.  The rolling shutter on DSLRs is notoriously difficult at slower shutter speeds, so keeping in sync is a good idea.

FPS Ramping- I prefer to do this kind of effect in post, with a large, powerful computer, instead of the tiny one i have in my camera.

Ramp Duration- This is how long you want to set the FPS Ramp, if you choose to do so.

NB changing your FPS does not change the way your camera records the HEADER for each clip. That means that if you set your camera to record at 24p, and you use magic lantern to record at 60fps, the file will playback as if it were 24fps in the metadata.


There was a time not too long ago when HDR was all the rage. HDR, or High Dynamic Range, is a way of altering the perceived dynamic range of the image- getting more color from the highlights and more color from the shadows. In still photography, this is done by exposure bracketing and then combining the two exposures in photoshop. In ML, this is done by alternating the iso for every other frame, and then using a plug in that will help you combine them in post.  The theory is very similar to the DUAL ISO setting, but this uses a different method by only using alternating frame ISOs.  You can set the limits of the top and the bottom ISO to give you your range.  Don’t go too crazy here- remember that the key to pulling this off is subtlety- so don’t max out your ISO on the high end and end up with a picture that looks like it could sell at a kiosk in an abandoned mall.)

For HDR management, Magic Lantern recommends several post-processing methods:

GingerHDR- Available as a plug in for Premiere Pro and After Effects.  Last I checked it was $149.

Magic Lantern HDR Compose generetoar– If you use Final Cut X, and it’s free.

There are many other methods and more are being developed daily. Check the Magic Lantern forums to see if someone has developed an ingenious way of using this.  The best I’ve seen is Luke Neumann over at Neumann Films.

It is my experience, however, that the sensors in cameras are getting more and more advanced, yielding larger and larger dynamic ranges- with some cameras even outpacing film. The postproduction process of HDR is time consuming to say the least, and has fallen out of favor a little bit since the introduction of RAW recording in Magic Lantern. Still there is a huge following for this style, and the end results are hard to argue with.


This is probably useful if you are shooting with a very wide angle lens and want to change the optic of your picture a bit.  It adjusts the Bias Algorithm from the center, to more in the corner, to heavier in the corners.  If you want to get creative, you can put in a negative value to increase the vignetting effect.  Again- this is something i prefer to do in post on a big machine.

Image Fine Tuning-

ML Digital ISO- This let’s you do a “pull” on your ISO.  Supposedly, your highlights will “roll off” a little better.

Black Level-  Green shadows can be a bit of a problem with digital images.  This lets you control your black level to keep them at bay.

Shutter Fine Tuning- This seems like a promising feature.  It lets you adjust your shutter in 20-microsecond increments so you can really dial in your shutter angle

Absolute Zero Sharpness– This is a cool function- especially for 5D mkii owners.  It has been remarked that the mk iii is not as sharp as the mk ii, and this was intentional on the part of Canon.  they realized that a lot of shooters were using the camera for video, and you do not want an over sharpened image in-camera.  Most workflows use some sort of selective sharpening, and an image that is too sharp is just ugly.  If you want to get your image below the Canon limit and have ABSOLUTE ZERO sharpness, this is for you.  Just make sure you clean it up before output.

Edge Emphasis- This will darken the edges in very bright areas that you might have otherwise blown out, letting you retain a little bit of detail in the highlights.  The jury’s still out on how well this works in camera- it could make moire worse on patterns.

Noise Reduction- You know how I feel about in-camera processing.  Do yourself a favor and get Neat Video.  It is by far the best noise reduction program out there and can do a lot more for you than the processor in your camera.

Creative Effects

This lets your put on some creative effects in your shot while still using your selected picture profile. It’s neat but, skip it. Your camera has a DIGIC processor that will bake the effect into your footage, while your computer that you edit on has a MUCH more powerful processor. Still, they are fun to play around with:

Desaturate- This gives you a grayscale (B&W) image.

Negative- This swaps the values in your image so it looks like a film negative

Swap U-V- Red becomes Blue, and vice versa

Cartoon Look- you need to make sure that youre sharpness setting is anything above 0 for this to work.



If you had one of the older Canon 50D models, you will probably lament the fact that it didn’t record video. Not only will it record video with Magic Lantern, but it is also capable fo rrecording RAW (more on this later).

Some notes from the Magic Lantern team: While this hack will enable movie recording, remember that this camera was not DESIGNED for that purpose, and you might be pushing the tolerances for this particular camera. It can be unstable, and you should disable this mode when not actually using it. The battery will drain VERY quickly and has a tendency to overheat. The 50d will also not record sound- because there are not any inputs or circuitry in the camera for that. Likewise, the camera is not able to playback movies either in playback mode. THESE SETTING REMAIN ACTIVE IN THE CAMERA EVEN IF YOU BOOT UP WITH STANDARD FIRMWARE, so just remember to clear your settings to disable this setting when you are done. Removing the card and rebooting without ML is not enough. This is a great feature set to have if you have a 50d, but it really pushes the camera beyond its intended usage. Proceed with caution.


LEAVE UNCHANGED- does just that

BLOCK DURING REC taking picture while recording videos doesn’t work- you will get an ERR99 error. Unfortunately, this also disables Image stabilization, which brings us to-

HOLD DURING REC (IS)- ML will automatically keep the shutter button depressed halfway while recording video so that you can use the Image Stabilization,  HOWEVER- you need to MANUALLY press the shutter button halfway down at the end of your clip in order to STOP the recording.

EXPOSURE LOCK for the 50D-

This will lock your exposure in the MOVIE setting- or alternatively, just press the * button without having to hold it down.

Movie Tweaks

Time Indicator-

This is a small counter in the top right hand side of the screen. You can have it either say:

Elapsed- which is how much you have recorded in you clip currently

RemainCard- which tell you how much you have left on the card

Remain4GB- how much time you have remaining until you have only 4gb left in the card. Remember you do NOT want to fill your card all the way up to the brim! It’s GREAT if you can dump after halfway, but leaving at least 4gb gives you some buffer before you know that you absolutely HAVE to switch cards now.

Movie Logging

This is useful if you want to compile a spreadsheet of your shots. Magic Lantern will write out a Metadata file for each clip name such as MVI_3024.LOG that has your lens and exposure information along with a time stamp. Now here’s the cool part: You can rename the “.LOG” file to CSV and then import them into an excel document. If you have someone doing a shot report for you, or you might be doing reshoots, this can be VERY handy. This kind of attention to detail when shooting run n Gun can be a little cumbersome however, so I usually just turn it off.


The roughest thing about DSLRs is the recording time limit of clips. This is the reason why a lot of videography companies still shoot with camcorders- they can record an entire event continuously and not miss a beat. If you are shooting at least two angles, and stagger your starting times, you can use the MOVIE RESTART function to cover your bases. After the clip is full, there will be a second or two while the camera starts back up again and resume recording a new clip. As long as you can cut to another camera to cover those lost seconds, you should be able to cover an event. I’ve used this method successfully using three cameras. I would start recording on a wide master, run to the side and start a tighter shot focused on the more “stable” actor, and then run over to the other side to man the camera on the more dynamic actor, possibly with a slider. If you can spin plates, you can successfully do a three-camera shoot with just one person. However, I don’t recommend it. Get some film school students to just stand behind the camera. They will get real world experience and you can trust that someone doesn’t lean out of the shot, leaving you with ten minutes of the back of a chair.

Rec/STBY notify

This is a custom notification screen for how you want to see that your camera is recording.

RED CROSSOUT makes it obvious that you aren’t recording when you see it on the screen, but it can be a little distracting when framing

MESSAGE show as STBY or REC, and is pretty straightforward if you are used to the vanilla firmware that came with your camera


START & CPULens: This will force Live View at startup no matter what lens you have attached. Then it will enter live view once you have a “chipped” lens attached. To be honest, I have not had much use for this function.

ALWAYS: this lets you start recording if you are using an unchipped lens or no lens at all. This is useful for “lens whacking” where you hold an unattached lens to the camera body and shift the image in and out of focus for a creative look. Keep in mind that when your camera is on, there is an electrical charge to the components inside, and this will attract dust and you risk getting dust on your sensor.

Shutter Lock

This lets you LOCK the shutter from the external controls so that it doesn’t get accidentally bumped during the shoot. You can still change it through the Magic Lantern Menu, however. Since the majority of your shooting will be done at 1/50 if you are shooting 24fps, this can come in handy. But if you aren’t able to change your shutter speed through the dials and you want to know why, check to see if you have this mode enabled.

RAW Video (MLV)- Be patient.  We’ll get to that.