Arts and Entertainment

Magic for DSLR Filmmakers

  • Magic Lantern, a third-party software hack for Canon DSLRs, has many custom features that can help filmmakers enhance their shots
- Prajesh SJB Rana
Magic for DSLR Filmmakers

Jul 1, 2015-

Amateur videographers and filmmakers today can easily make do with affordable DSLRs equipped with the ability to shoot 1080p high-definition videos. Many famous DSLRs in the market now come with a video mode built in, and because of the high level of customisability that comes with DSLR cameras, these cameras have turned into a viable option for independent filmmakers. Many full-frame cameras like the Canon 5D come pre-installed with advanced video features, but the cheaper ones don’t. The video mode on cheaper models like the 650D are stripped of many of the features available in the more expensive models. This can be quite bothersome at times because there are moments when the camera stops shooting when it shakes too much, and if you plan to use external mics with your camera, you cannot monitor them on the screen. This lack of features is fine for shooting simple home-videos, but in recent times, DSLRs are used for professional videos as well, and the lack of features can be quite annoying for people looking to have a little more control over their shots.

Magic Lantern, a third-party software hack for Canon DSLRs, was made to overcome this lack of customisability and enable many custom features that filmmakers can take advantage of. In some cases, like the 50D, Magic Lantern also enables video mode on cameras that don’t support video and on the ones that do, it offers a plethora of advanced options that will come as a boon to many filmmakers (like focus tracking and variable frame rates). Magic Lantern supports a lot of Canon models but does not work with Nikon cameras. Nikon users will have to use an alternative called NikonHacker.

Magic Lantern is available for free at and is quite easy to install. It also seems quite safe to use, although it will void your camera’s warranty, since the programme does not overwrite any of the camera’s original code and runs alongside it safely from the camera’s SD card. The camera reverts to its original firmware once the card with the Magic Lantern installed is removed. Take care to match your camera’s current firmware version with the one supported by Magic Lantern (update if it isn’t), or your camera might not boot at all. To get it to work with your camera, download Magic Lantern files for your model and unzip it directly onto the SD card. Install the card onto your camera and navigate to the menu screen. Look for the option to update the firmware. Magic Lantern will boot once you reboot after the update process and you should have access to the software’s user-interface on your video or live-view mode.

The software comes with a lot of features that will help any DSLR filmmaker easily manipulate the videos they shoot. It comes with a Magic Zoom feature that zooms a certain part of the frame to help while focusing manually. It also comes with customisable crop marks that help video composition. One of the best features that Magic Lantern offers is probably the Follow Focus feature that helps you automatically change focus while shooting. This is a very essential feature while shooting video since subjects in frame are bound to move around: while video cameras usually have focus-tracking features, DSLRs do not have these. Apart from video features, Magic Lantern also offers its users advanced audio features like an audio-level overlay on live-view, a built-in mic booster and a wind filter. There are more features like Zebras, Focus Peak tracking and Histograms for users to explore. The software’s features aren’t officially supported by the camera, so while using many of these advanced features, the camera sensor might heat up quite considerably. The software does comes with a sensor temperature overlay on the live-view screen, which makes it easier for users to keep track of the temperature.

Magic Lantern is like a cheat code for your camera that unlocks all the features that might be hidden from you, but it also comes with a lot of features that might end up ruining your camera. It is always better to work on the features that are knowledgeable about and leave alone the options that you don’t have a clear understanding of. Do some research on all the features that are available in the software and be careful while fiddling with the various setting because it might just burn your sensor. With great power, comes great responsibility.

Published: 01-07-2015 08:51

User's Feedback

Click here for your comments

Comment via Facebook

Don't have facebook account? Use this form to comment