Last weekend, I had to opportunity to participate in the production of a small movie entirely shot with a 5D. We had a lot of gear to play around, including a SmallHD DP1 field monitor.
It was my first time shooting with an external monitor and it quickly became a key item on the set. As you can see in the picture below, the camera was installed inside the car and it was near impossible to focus by looking at the LCD. Also, the director had to stay at the back of the car so the monitor was very useful for him to see the actual composition and the actors performance.
I never worked with a field monitor but now that I have, I don’t see how I could ever shoot/direct a project without one!
The SmallHD is an incredible gizmo. The image quality is excellent and seeing footage on a big screen makes any small details pop out so you know if you have to retake a shot or not. The screen is also very light and portable so it was never a problem to move it around.
Just be aware that while the feed off the 5D is 1080i while reviewing clips or watching the live view, it degrades down to 480i once you press the record button.
Now the bad part
Working with this monitor had to be a very frustrating experience. First, who is the guy who had the idea of putting the buttons at the back? It might make the screen look good but I dont remember how many times we must have pressed the power button or any other buttons for that matter by accident! If you want to put the buttons at the back, fine. But please, put a cover or something to protect them!
The second issue we had was with the battery system. The battery plug nicely at the back of the monitor which make it very practical until you see that you have to plug a small cable from the battery to the monitor. Maybe we were just clumsy, but we must have accidentally unplugged this cable a few times too! We had to tape both end of the cable to make sure it stayed put.
While both of these problem can be frustrating, you forget everything once you see the feed on the gorgeous screen. I am seriously thinking about getting one and I would do some DIY modifications to fix these two issues!