Canon 5D MKIII + Magic Lantern = Raw Video that works!

For years, I've been curious about the folks at Magic Lantern. They develop and test firmware for Canon cameras to liberate cameras to their full potential! Rather than recording to a codec that compresses video and reduces sharpness and image quality, users can install the ML firmware and not only shoot in raw, uncompressed video, but can see zebras, advanced audio levels, histograms, and much more. What's better? It's free. And it gets better every day.

Maybe I'm a little late to the party - after all, Magic Lantern has been around for nearly as long as DSLRs have recorded video. So why try it now? Most of the time I'm a little leery of running with the early adopters of new tech, especially when it could endanger the warranty of my camera. But after shooting for many years with my 7D and now 5D MKIII, I see the limitations in the quality of image it can produce on its own. 

I'll list the steps I followed below (as well as limitations I encountered), but want you to see the footage for yourself to believe it. Beautiful detail and blue skies, you are mine at last!

Disclaimer! I am not liable for any unfavorable outcomes you may encounter (for example, the utter demise of either yourself or your camera). However, I do hope that you find this information helpful in your raw video journey.

Here's what I did. Note: "the unhappy way" is optional.

THE UNHAPPY WAY

Step 1: Read a few blogs (skip most of the content)
Step 2: Try to make it work (utterly fail)
Step 3: Start over. (head hung low in shame)

THE HAPPY WAY

Step 1: Gather all necessary pieces.

This is a new workflow and requires a new set of tools. You will need:

Step 2: Read these articles.

This article from Cine 5D is comprehensive and very helpful. has more links to recommended products and workflow for mac and pc. 

This article from No Film School has tips on shooting and working through all the post-processing using DaVinci resolve and his LUT.

Step 3: Downgrade your Canon firmware to v. 1.1.3.

I could not do this step in camera because I was already running a newer firmware. In this case, connect the camera to the computer via USB cable and run EOS Utility 3. You can manually "update" the firmware using that software to the previous version (that you downloaded earlier from the link above). 

Step 4: Install & Activate Magic Lantern

  • Format both you SD and CF card in camera before doing this.
  • Copy Magic Lantern files (all 3, including the folder and all its contents) to the root folder on your SD card.
  • Insert your SD card containing the Magic Lantern firmware into the camera
  • In the camera settings, find your firmware and update it to Magic Lantern
  • After it installs, turn off your camera and insert your blank super-fast CF card
  • Turn on the camera and set the CF card to be the card that the camera records to (through normal Canon settings)
  • To activate Magic Lantern, press the trash can button. This is the button you'll use when you want to access this menu in the future. Use the "Q" and "set" buttons to make selections within the menus

Step 5: Turn on RAW recording

Magic Lantern does not record in raw by default. Go to the ML menu (trash can) and scroll over to the squares menu (Modules). Activate the following modules (they'll turn green once they're active):

  • mlv_rec.mo
  • file_man
  • mlv_play

Step 5: Start shooting! 

Using the camera's normal controls to adjust shutter speed, iso, and aperture, you can capture video with the perks of Magic Lantern's zebras (which will show automatically). I didn't really go in-depth through the ML settings, trying to keep my process as simple as possible.

Step 6: Copy .MLV files to you computer and convert them to Cine DNG files using RawMagic

Step 7: Import your DNG files into DaVinci Resolve and color grade to your heart's content! I followed this video tutorial.

So there you have it! Now get out there and shoot some beautiful raw video.