June 21st, 2010
I love shooting tethered. Viewing my photos on a large screen *while* shooting makes critical evaluations of exposure, focus, and composition much easier. Clients love it, too. They get a confidence boost from being able to see the photos as they’re taken. On commercial shoots, tethering is a must. You can’t have the client, art director, and make up artist all crowding around a tiny 3″ screen on the back of the camera.
As much as I love shooting tethered, sometimes it’s just not practical to lug a computer around, especially on remote location shoots. More gear means more crew. And more crew means bigger budgets (something that’s sadly lacking in the industry these days). On a run-n-gun shoot, even tethering to a laptop is awkward at best. Imagine doing a “walk a-about” photo shoot where you are tied to an assistant with a 10 foot rope. That’s ONLY convenient if one of you happens to fall into a crevasse.
Here’s a better solution. Wireless tethering to an iPad. No wires, no worries; portable and practical.
OK, onto the technical milieu. There are a few variations on the following workflow, but for the sake of simplicity, I’m just going to share what I’m using to go from my Canon 5D MkII to the iPad.
First thing you need is a little app called ShutterSnitch. It’s $8 and available in the app store. ShutterSnitch creates a landing point for the photos that are getting sent from the camera. There are some other great features built into the app, but rather than write about them you can read about them here.
There are a couple ways to get the photos out of your Canon dSLR wirelessly. Canon makes several WFT (as in, Wireless File Transmitter) devices for their various flavors of dSLRs. But, one look at the price and you might want to rearrange that acronym to WTF (as in, WTF!?). The cheaper option, and the one I’m using, is a wifi card from Eye-Fi. Eye-Fi makes SD cards that have a microscopic wifi antenna hidden inside. These cards can connect directly with ShutterSnitch. But there’s a caveat with Eye-Fi cards and the 5DMkII. The camera won’t recognize the newer X2 version so you’ll need one of the older classic pro models.
Now, at this point you’re probably thinking,”WTF! How am I supposed to use an SD card in a CF-only camera like a 5DMkII?” Gotchya covered there, too. You simply need an SD to CF card adapter. Yeah, I didn’t know those existed either. Eye-Fi does not officially support CF adapters for their cards, but I found one that works well with my MkII. The CF multi from Syncrotech. Some adapters will cut the wifi signal strength so be sure to find one that has been tested for use with Eye-Fi cards. The CFMulti seems to have no effect on the Eye-Fi’s ability to transmit. So far I’ve used it successfully up to about 25 feet with no file errors.
To make all of these photo transfers work, both the card and the iPad have to be connected to the same wireless network. Not a big deal if you’re shooting in a studio or any place there’s power. But if you’re on location you’re going to need a way to create an ad hoc wireless network. I cannot officially condone jailbreaking your iPad (nor does Apple), but it will allow you to install an app called MyWi. Yes, MyWi is the same app that people are using on their iPhones to share their 3G connectivity with other devices. Running the app on the iPad will create a network for the Eye-Fi to use for transferring photos. The great thing about this solution is that you’re carrying your network with you. Which means wireless tethering will work even if you’re deep in the jungle or on top of a mountain.
Just to recap, here’s what you need:
1. Older model Eye-Fi card
2. Synchrotech CFMulti adapter
3. MyWi app
4. ShutterSnitch app
One last tip on setting up the camera. Be sure to set your camera to shoot RAW+JPEG (small works best). The RAW files stay on the card, the JPEGS get transfered to the iPad for reviewing.
Big props to Matt Jeppsen of FreshDV for turning me on to this idea. We shared a few tweets back and forth on the workflow and Matt pointed me in the right direction. Check out FreshDV.com for tasty snippets of video industry news.