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Canon C100 Qualification – Best Practices and Common Issues

Best Practices

So you just rented a C100. Fire it up and start shooting! Just kidding. There are a few things you’re going to want to do first.

Format your media

Formatting your media erases anything that the last person to use the camera might have left on the card. Remember that the space on your card determines how long you can shoot with the camera, so always format the card before shooting. 

An added benefit is that formatting the card will generally repair any inconsistencies on the card potentially introduced by- among other things- pulling it out of the computer without safely ejecting it.

Check your batteries

The DML does its best to keep batteries charged. Sometimes it feels like our main job! But the turnover in camera rentals can be really fast, and sometimes you may end up with a dead battery. Just press the button on the Canon battery to check what percentage of charge remains. If you get a reading of less than 50% you should definitely pop that puppy into the charger before going out to shoot.

 Check your settings

It’s a mystery, but people who don’t know what they’re doing seem most likely to change the settings on the camera. Look at the information displayed on the LCD or vEVF when you turn the camera on and make sure that you’re shooting 24Mbps, LPCM, PF25. This means you’re shooting the highest quality video offered by the camera with uncompressed audio at 25 frames per second. At the bottom of your screen the shutter speed readout should be 1/50 or 180.00o (depending on whether shutter speed is set to “speed” or “angle” in the menu).

Check the ISO. Sometimes the person before you was shooting a night scene or a dim interior and ended up cranking the ISO to 8,000 or 12,800 or something crazy. Remember that the camera’s “native ISO” is 850. The camera produced the cleanest images with the most detail and dynamic range and the least amount of noise at 850. 

Does it say ND1/ND2/ND3 on the screen? This means that the camera is wearing its sunglasses. Take them off so you can see how bright your scene really is! Just turn the dial on the camera body until the ND number on the monitor disappears. 

Check the autofocus mode. The C100 has two: single-shot and continuous. In continuous mode, the camera constantly adjusts itself to keep whatever it believes is the subject in focus. This can be really useful when you’re shooting handheld or on a gimbal and can really screw you up if you’re not. In single shot mode you press the One-Shot AF button on the front of the camera when you want to engage autofocus. This can be useful for setting up an interview shot, for example. You can, of course, also focus manually by flipping the M/AF switch on the lens itself.

Check your white balance. Colors look different depending on the “color temperature” of the light source. Sunlight is bluish (5600K). Sunlight coming through clouds is more white (6500K). Street lamps (1800K) and old-fashioned lightbulbs (3200K)skew yellow. Fluorescent lights (4000K) are a bit green. To get consistent cooler across all of your shots you should always perform a custom white balance at when you start shooting. Repeat this any time the lighting changes (i.e., clouds passing in front of the sun).

Make sure you’re getting the right audio. This means putting on some headphones! The microphone built into the C100 body is terrible and only exists to give you a “scratch track” for synchronising GOOD audio to picture during post-production. The microphone on the handle is much better, but is still too close to the camera- and too far from the talent- to provide high-quality sound. In order to use it, you need to attach the handle to the body of camera AND plug it into the jack labeled EXT. You should then set BOTH switches on the handle to INT.  

Keep the lens and body caps safe

The sensor is the heart of the video camera and the body cap protects it. Do not lose the body cap: you will need it to pack up the camera. 

A scratched lens is a useless lens. Do not lose either of lens’ caps when you’re shooting.

The camera body cap and the lens mount cap fit together perfectly. Put them together and place them in the zippered laptop pocket during your shoot, along with the lens cap.  

Frequently encountered problems

What’s this thing [stripes, yellow/red lines, super close-up object] on the screen?

The C100 has a lot of features to help ensure that you’re nailing focus and exposure. The diagonal lines are called zebra stripes. They show up when you’re brightness levels are too high. (The cameras should be set to show zebras at 100%+ brightness.) You can turn zebras on and off using the “ZEBRA” button on the left side of the camera.

The yellow or red lines around the edges of objects are “focus peaking” guides. When the camera sees a sharply defined edge it interprets this to mean that the thing it is looking at is in focus. This can be really handy when you’re using manual focus. Toggle it on or off with the “PEAKING” button on the left side of the camera.

If the object on the screen suddenly looks too large, then you have probably pushed the button labeled “MAGN” (for “magnification”). This button temporarily zooms in to the center of the shot so you can make sure that fine details are in focus. This is aprticularly useful for making sure that the eyes of your subject are as sharp as they can be.

The screen is soooo dark.

First make sure your lens cap is off. Then check to make sure the ND filter is off. Then make sure your shutter speed is set to 1/50 (or that your shutter angle is set to 180 degrees). Then check to see if your aperture is stopped down to f22 or something. One of these should solve the problem…unless you happen to be standing in a catacomb.

Help! I can’t change my aperture!

Sometimes the side handle of the C100 becomes disconnected from the body for mysterious reasons. If you try adjusting the aperture and it doesn’t work- or if the joystick fails to respond when you press it- the connection is probably loose. Unscrew the side handle, reseat the cable in the jack, and screw the handle back on and you should be ready to go.

Where’s my audio?

Always double-check the settings on the handle to make sure that you’re recording audio from the right source. If you’re using the built-in mic, then both CH1 and CH2 should be set to INT. If you’re using a shotgun mic connected to CH1, make sure that the CH1 is set to EXT.

No, seriously- where’s my audio?

So you’ve set up your inputs correctly but still aren’t hearing your shotgun mic: check to make sure that the input type is set to MIC+48V. The Rode NTG1 requires a small electrical charge in order to work. The C100 provides this charge with 48V phantom power.


When you’re finished

Back up your cards immediately. Create a “Card01” subfolder in your main project folder and copy EVERYTHING from the SD card into this folder. This means the “DCIM” folder AND the “private” folder- NOT JUST THE AVCHD FOLDER or individual clips. AVCHD is a complicated format and computers expect a very precise folder structure in order to process the video clips. You can expect problems if you don’t copy everything when you back up- and very often those problems will only rear their ugly heads at the very end, when you’re trying to export your video five minutes before class starts.


The camera bag is pretty small: everything fits safe and sound inside but only if you pack it exactly the way it is supposed to be packed. Memorize the following diagram: it WILL be on the qualification quiz!

Remember that cameras are ALWAYS due back at the Digital Media Lab office on Monday morning at 9AM. If nobody is there, get the key from the front office. DO NOT leave the camera at the front office or in the Mac lab: your borrowing privileges will be revoked.


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