Review: F-Stop Academy DVD’s for the Canon 5D Mark II and 7D

by planetmitch1 Comment

Some of you have seen that we have a page set up for Philip Bloom's new training series for the Canon EOS 5D Mark II and the Canon EOS 7D. Den (Philip's biz partner) sent us a copy of both and finding time to do the review has been a bit hard. But I have good news – friend of planet5D Dave Warner (@LensFlare35 on twitter) has let us ‘borrow' his review and I'll add a bit of my own thoughts after his.

Redrock Micro

Here's Dave's blog post (you can also read it on his site)

Canon 7DPart of getting either the Canon 5D Mark II or the Canon 7D is the excitement of having that 1080P HD Video capability. I know that when I got mine, I had visions of these wonderful clips just spilling out of the camera and onto my hard disk. I’d look at some commercials on TV, or some scenes in a movie and I’d turn to my wife and say “I can do that now – I have that capability in my new Canon!”

So, next stop read the manual? Yup, I did that; didn’t understand half of what they said, but thought I had everything set up the way it should be and went out and shot some video. Well, the problems started right after downloading the footage off the camera. Ok you Apple owners, here’s your first laugh – I am a PC user and the footage looked great in QuickTime, but stuttered and was not smooth, audio didn’t sync with the video and a host of other problems.

Well, let’s just shorten this WHOLE initial experience to a few words. After several weeks of trying to research on the Internet, testing different pieces of software, crunching pieces of video clips from here and there, I STILL didn’t have anything that I could put together on Vimeo or YouTube. And no, I was NOT going to post another ‘Test’ piece of 5D Mark II footage up there that was pure babble! Isn’t there enough already?

So, I was lost, disappointed, upset, and really feeling like there was no way to get any decent video footage out of the camera. I’d wasted my money upgrading because my 5D had been just fine for the landscape images I was taking with it! And yes, my wife WAS giving me ‘the look’ for spending money on yet another toy that “I just had to have because you won’t believe the capability it has and the things I’ll be able to do with it” kind of story.

During all that research, I had figured out a few things:

1. I was NOT the only one out there with this problem
2. There wasn’t much information about EXACTLY what I needed to know to make this work
3. There was no list telling me WHAT extra hardware I had to have and what it would cost
4. There was no list of additional software I needed and exactly what I would have to do with it to get a nice piece of video out of it (Apple users – the all-in-one answer for everything was Final Cut Pro)
5. There was almost NO information about what software to use on a PC and HOW to use it
6. Steve Weiss (Zacuto), Vincent Laforet, Philip Bloom and a few others were doing a LOT to help educate people and to help.

So, I tried contacting the first three names I’d come up with for interviews. I figured I would learn SOMETHING from talking to them, which would help me, as well as everyone else. So, I booked Steve Weiss and learned a lot, had Vincent Laforet booked, but then Canon told him to pull down his video of Nocturne shot with the (at that time) brand new Canon 1D Mark IV – haven’t heard from him since. FINALLY booked Philip Bloom after chasing him around the globe via Twitter, email and peer pressure from his friends. I learned EVEN more from him. During his podcast interview, he had mentioned his affiliation with F-Stop Academy and the products they were trying to create on DVD, so I thought it was worth a follow-up and here we are.

Philip Bloom

So who is this Philip Bloom guy? Well, he is widely regarded as the worlds leading authority on low budget digital film making techniques. He recently hit two million views on his blog and is regarded highly in the indie film making world as a modern ‘guru’ of digital film making practices. In recent months he’s filmed a commercial in Bulgaria for a National Mobile Phone network, he spent ten days in India shooting a Viral for Greenpeace and then he shot a promo in London with Kevin Spacey – all on the Canon 5D Mark II. He also had some VERY popular videos on the web, including Sophia’s People.

Well, Philip and his partner Den Lennie decided to found F-Stop Academy in May of 2009 to answer the most frequently asked question by film makers worldwide – “What’s the best camera for creating the film look and how do you use it?” Best news is, that same question happens to be the one many of the stills photographers were asking about these cameras.

So they set about creating a course that would break down all the elements that would allow you to create images and films that mimic the look and feel of film using your video camera. Their first two DVD’s are a great chance to start answering some of the questions that myself and many others have had about shooting video with these types of cameras, AND in particular the 5D Mark II or 7D from Canon.

After my interview with Philip, I contacted him and asked if I could review the two DVD’s. He kindly said yes, and I downloaded the digital version of the one for the Canon 7D and Den sent me the 5D Mark II DVD via Priority Mail.

I’m going to focus my comments on the 5D Mark II DVD, since Phillip said they were very similar. Here’s the table of contents for the DVD:

Main Program (57 minutes)
1: Main Titles & Introduction
2: My 5dmkII history
3: Shooting with the 5dmkII
4: What kit do you need?
5: Setting up the camera to shoot video
6: Setting your ISO
7: Creating the best in camera picture style
8: Getting the correct exposure
9: Lenses
10: Lens discipline
11: Using a Macro Extension
12: The Mattebox
13: Follow Focus
14: Using a video monitor
15: Monopod & view finder
16: Variable ND filters
17: The IS Lens
18: Shooting handheld
19: Avoiding the “Jello effect”
20: Shutter speed
21: Getting the depth of field YOU want using the Fader/Vari ND
22: Shutter speed in artificial light
23: Sound
24: Best way to learn? Go out and shoot!

Workflow (17 minutes)
1: Bringing your footage into your computer
2: Converting to a format you can edit with
3: How to convert to 24p or 25p
4: Using Cinema Tools to change frame rate
5: How to sync sound

The Plus Side

The packaging is great, the DVD is professionally designed and put together, and the video footage (of course) is high quality and edited well. I think that many people will get bored right off the bat with chapters two and three, but I personally think they are essential! I wanted to know about Philip’s history and how he got started with all of this. Yes, I didn’t learn anything about using the camera, but it did give me some perspective on who he is and why he got into using these cameras. I also liked the next chapter where he talked about actually going out and using them and showed examples of his more popular ones. It gives you additional perspective if you can hear about it and watch it at the same time.

The remaining chapters were excellent, as they piece by piece explained different aspects of how to set the camera up, additional equipment you can/must use, and how to shoot with it. After watching this, it is a wonder I got anything out of the camera at all! I think I had all the settings incorrect (after actually reading the manual).

One thing to remember though is that this is a beginner’s introduction to all of the material. It just begs the question – is there going to be a MUCH more in-depth version of the DVD coming out? One that covers some of the same title areas, but goes deeper with examples of how it was shot, downloaded, manipulated and then finally edited?

The bottom line is that unless you are already successfully using the camera and getting great video out of it, this is a must-have DVD. It will save you SO much time right up front when you get the camera. I wish I’d had it weeks ago…

The Downside

Occasionally, Philip uses some terminology in the DVD that he doesn’t explain. For instance, what the heck are rushes? You eventually figure it out, but for those starting out, you don’t know what he’s talking about!

The menu settings – he went through them WAY too fast! I’m familiar with the camera and the menus, but not to THAT level! He was clicking and changing screens so fast, that even with extensive use of the Pause/Play button, it took me a bit to mimic his settings.

The Workflow section – kind of just an introduction, so there MUST be another video on the way. It clearly left me wanting, and for PC users – you will be lost. It doesn’t answer a single thing for you. You will know how to get your settings correct in the camera, and shoot some great video, but you won’t be able to do a thing beyond that unless you’ve already figured it all out.

And Finally Price – I think the pricing on the videos is WAY too high; $135.00 for the Canon 7D video and $120 for the 5D! Whether you get it on DVD, or download it digitally, the price is the same. There should be some kind of price break for the digital download, since there is no postage, handling, physical packaging, or anything else involved. I think I’d rather see $59.00 for the DVD and $49.00 for the digital download. I think they’d actually make a LOT more money with the better pricing – hard to say no to those amounts!

Here are the links to purchase either of these:
Learn Canon 5D mkII Cinematography with Philp Bloom ** Add to cart**
Learn 2 Shoot Great Video on your Canon 7D **You can buy the DVD downloads here**

Review of the Canon 7D DVD

After going through the 5D Mark II DVD, Philip then asked me to take a look at the one for the 7D. He said that he thought it was much better. I went through that DVD as well, and would have to agree with Philip. I think it was more polished, they answered more questions and gave the information out in a much better fashion, and they added a time-lapse section as well, which was pretty cool. Other than some minor settings for the 7D, you could use the information in this DVD and apply it to shooting with the 5D just as easily. So, you make the call as to which one to buy, but at least one of these is a must for getting started with video.

Ok (back to planetMitch now), that's pretty complete… well, I do have a few thoughts!

I do tend to agree with Dave that maybe Philip and Den have priced these a bit high, it seems that something a bit lower would get more sales. Especially when you get a digital download option (that is currently on the 7D disk). Without having to deal with shipping and a physical DVD, you'd hope to get a little discount (but then again, you seem to pay close to full price for songs on iTunes don't ya?). However, I realize that there's a lot of value in these discs and if you were getting live training, you could pay a lot more than this.

Ok, so what are my thoughts on this training? Especially since we've just reviewed a similar disc (5DFilmSchool's Canon EOS 5D Mark II 101 and 102). It seems to me that both of these may have a place in your library depending on your current skill level. If you're an absolute beginner when it comes to video/movies, you'll want to get the 5DFilmShool as well as Philip's discs — the 5DFilmSchool is 2 discs and covers more materials – including the movie basics. Philip assumes you already have some video/movie skills and you're looking to tweak your knowledge for the Canon EOS 5D Mark II. Sure, there's a bit of overlap, but each brings it's own set of good information to the party and eventually, you'll probably want both.

Philip brings a lot of his knowledge to this training. He gives a lot of tips and tricks that specifically apply to the Canon EOS 5D Mark II and the Canon EOS 7D. Especially things tailored to “creating the film look” – you'll get a lot of information you won't find in many other places.

One negative I remember about the 5D2 training is that some of the chapters feel a bit short. You'll get a title for the chapter and you're looking for a lot of information on that topic and in 2-3 minutes you're already into the next chapter. Both of Philip's training discs are over 60 minutes, but you keep wanting a bit more in several of the chapters. That's probably more true in the 5D2 than the 7D disc. I think Philip learned quite a bit between making the 2 and it shows in the 7D training.

Philip is very enjoyable to watch – there's not much boring about him. I especially liked the introduction on the 5D2 disc where he talks about how he first got the 5D2 and fell in love with it. I was wishing that was included in the 7D training (since they're so similar). The 7D training is cool because every scene is shot outside. He even includes info on the flicker caused by different artificial lights and even doing a time-lapse. The 7D download also comes with a separate file that is 12 minutes on Philip's editing workflow tips including slow motion and time-lapse.

So, I like all of these materials and feel you'll get good value for your purchase. I'm sure Philip will be working on additional titles (especially with the Canon EOS-1D MKIV coming soon) and we'll look forward to the lessons he's gained while working on these titles.

Philip also highly recommends a couple of products we recommend as well…
pluralEyes (a Final Cut Pro plugin) for syncing the sound (and he covers some of the use of external audio with the Zoom H4N)
the z-finder from Zacuto.

So there you go – some more great training available for you learn how to make cinematic movies with your Canon EOS 5D Mark II or Canon EOS 7D!

(Note: We're using Pretty Link Pro to split the affiliate traffic to Philip's training between Dave and planetMitch 50/50)

(Photo credit: snap from Philip's 7D DVD)


  1. I do think Mr. Bloom gives away so much knowledge to this industry and if he decides to sell a bit more organized block of that knowledge in the form of a DVD or a download, he should charge what he wants. After all David Warner says he spent a few weeks trying to learn this material on his own, and he gets all that handed to him in a DVD that cost him a bit more than $100(what’s the value of a few weeks?). It’s not even the cost of the material that important(vs. a download)), it’s the intellectual knowledge that holds the value and saves him the frustration. Phillip Bloom gives a wealth of knowledge away, I hope he makes a fortune on what he sells.

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