This article will walk you through the process of installing and using Magic Lantern firmware on your Canon DSLR in order to add a wide range of extra functions that are not usually available as standard on your camera.
Canon DSLR cameras are some of the most popular video cameras used in the filmmaking industry today. With the increase of DSLR cameras being used for recording video add-ons are also becoming an effective way of enhancing the features of your DSLR.
Magic Lantern is a popular choice and is an open-source firmware add-on that works on top of Canon’s DSLR firmware to provide additional features that most users would expect to find on a professional video camera.
Magic Lantern gives you much more control over your camera and the video that you are capturing. The creators of magic lantern have added on-screen audio scales and microphone monitoring options giving you much finer control over your audio levels.
Chroma Key work has always been an area of filmmaking that has frustrated filmmakers due the complexity of lighting the background correctly and the level of accuracy required to achieve a believable effect. Magic Lantern has an on-screen wave form allowing you to adjust the lighting to create an accurate Chroma Key effect.
Other features of Magic Lantern include the ability to; overlay a zebra pattern that highlights the overexposed areas of the frame, you can also add custom crop marks and set up programmable focus options.
Magic Lantern will turn your Canon DSLR camera into a professional filmmaking device with a multitude of options to choose from. You can check the compatibility of your Canon DSLR camera by visiting the Magic Lantern Wiki.
Installing Magic Lantern on the Canon 5D Mark II
Magic Lantern is compatible with a range of DSLR cameras but the firmware was originally designed to be used in the Canon 5D Mark II.
Always check the compatibility of your DSLR camera before installing Magic Lantern as an incorrect installation could cause irreparable damage to your camera. In addition to checking the compatibility of Magic Lantern with the model of your camera you also need to be aware of the firmware version, as Magic Lantern is software that runs alongside the existing firmware of your DSLR camera.
To download the correct version of Magic Lantern you may need to visit more than one site. The Magic Lantern download page features versions 0.1.6, 0.1.5 and 0.1.4. Alternatively, the best place to look for other versions of Magic Lantern is the Magic Lantern Google Group.
Once you’ve downloaded the correct version to your computer you’ll need to unzip the download file.
From this folder you need to copy the magiclantern.fir file to the root of your CompactFlash or SD card and load it back into your DSLR camera.
In your camera menu navigate to the settings where you can upgrade your firmware. Select your current firmware and choose the upgrade option at which point your camera will restart.
Congratulations! You’ve correctly loaded Magic Lantern.
If you’re waiting more than 10 seconds and your camera fails to load, remove your battery and then put it back in as something has gone wrong.
Using Magic Lantern
Once your camera has reloaded after the upgrade you should instantly notice a few changes such as the earlier mentioned audio signal meters at the top of the frame and the zebra patterns that overlay overexposed areas of the frame.
To change these settings you’ll need to press the Picture Style button, which is the button below Menu on the left of your camera.
You can navigate though the following settings using the joystick on your camera.
Magic Lantern was originally created to resolve the audio problems faced by filmmakers using the Canon 5D Mark II as Canon did not provide any audio controls until later versions. However, the control options of the Canon are still superseded by those enabled with the installation of Magic Lantern.
Magic Lantern allows you to set the audio output volume on your camera, increase the gain, set the gain for the left and right audio input channels, you can turn auto gain control (AGC) on or off and you can define the source of your audio allowing you to toggle between your cameras’ internal microphone and the 1/8” external input source that is on the side of your camera. To make things easier for you, Magic Lantern ignores the internal microphone of your camera by default.
The Video section of Magic Lantern gives the user ultimate control over the zebra patterns including the ability to turn them on, change the threshold and turn them off. In addition to this, you can specify crop marks for different aspect ratios and toggle the histogram and waveform displays on and off.
Bracketing is commonly used in HDR photography and allows you to take multiple exposures with a single press of the shutter.
The Canon DSLR 5D Mark II will take three exposures by default; normal, underexposed and overexposed. The default Canon firmware allows you to specify how over and underexposed each of the shots will be by selecting a range. However, Magic Lantern enhances this by allowing you to not only specify a much wider range but also to take more than three exposures.
The focusing features are a key part of Magic Lantern as they allow the camera to rack focus automatically (rack focusing means to move the lens focus from one point to another). The focus panel lets you select a start and end focus point with the ability to enter the time that it should take to move from one point to the next. The camera will then perform the rack focus operation for you, saving you time and giving you a degree of accuracy that is extremely difficult to achieve manually.
Debug, Boot and PTP
You should maintain a safe distance from these three sections as they are primarily for the developers of Magic Lantern, so take care with what you mess with in these particular settings.
All finished! You’ve now successfully installed and configured Magic Lantern with your DSLR camera and you have a professional video camera with features that can aid and improve every aspect of your filmmaking.
Article by Kayleigh Brindley