Q We all know that when we attach a monitor to a DSLR, the screen on the camera goes black and the image is shown on the monitor. But what if I want the director/producer to see the footage without having to follow the DP around? Is there a way to attach a second monitor and maybe even make it wireless? I’ve been looking around for setups, but it doesn’t seem anyone has a low-cost solution for this technique. The closest I came across was the CPM wireless monitor, but it doesn’t explain how the DP will see the image. I currently have a Canon EOS 7D and Marshall seven-inch (M-LCD-HDMI-CE6), and I’m getting the Zacuto EVF. What would be great and ideal is if there’s a way for the DP to use the EVF (or even a second Marshall), while the director can sit back with the Marshall and view the footage as it happens.
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A When I get into conversations with people about SLRs vs. camcorders, invariably I’ll say, "As long as you realize that an SLR is not a camcorder, you can make it work for video." And then I see their head tilt to one side (channeling Nipper of His Master’s Voice fame) as they wonder what that really means.
Camcorders feature professional connectors (and by professional I mean connectors that can take some abuse), ergonomics that are made for holding the camera for long periods of time rather than just for the duration of a shutter release, and more.
Camcorder monitoring is also a big differentiator. A camcorder will have some type of viewfinder and a video-out connector just like an SLR. The difference, as you’ve noticed, is that on many SLRs, you can use either the LCD display on the back of your SLR or the HDMI output, but not both at the same time. With a camcorder, the two aren’t mutually exclusive.
Assuming that the LCD display isn’t going to be used, if you want to attach a second monitor, you either need a monitor with a looping output or you need to use a splitter.
Technically, the output isn’t really looping. Looping implies that there isn’t any processing of the signal, just a mechanical splitting of the signal—a throwback to the days of analog composite video. In reality, the signal is amplified and split, but it’s commonly called a loop-thru.
You mention that you’re getting a Zacuto EVF (electronic viewfinder). This will help you with the looping output. It has an HDMI input and output so you can send the feed to your Marshall display. Unfortunately, the video will stop there. That particular display doesn’t have a looping connection (they have other units that do), so you’ll need to use a splitter, and that can be a bit tricky.
The dirty little secret about HDMI is that it really wasn’t designed to do all the things that people are making it do. It was designed, first and foremost, as an interface for consumer electronics—connecting a set-top box to a television, for example.
These days, HDMI is being used well beyond that original concept, including as a recording connection on some video input/output devices. Just because it wasn’t designed for this kind of use doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. It just means that you might find that not all things that are labeled HDMI will work in these "off-label" situations—like splitters. It’s important that you test any splitter that you’re going to use. Test it in all the modes that your camera can be in—standby and record. Check out Jag35.com for a splitter for your 7D.