Controlling the C300 via your smartphone, tablet or computer

These days, many videographers are one person shops, meaning you are the talent, the camera operator, the director, the producer, the editor and the person who has to clean up at the end of the day.  If you are working under time constraints or if your camera is in a difficult to get to location (say up high on a jib), you can end up with a lot of useless footage of you going back and forth to start and stop filming, or even for adjusting focus.  Canon has elegantly addressed this.  Let's see how.

When I started to get more serious about videography, I took a number of classes to learn more about the skills and techniques but also how to avoid falling down the rabbit hole of gear.  One of the classes I took was led by Alex Buono, the Director of Photography (DP) from Saturday Night Live.  I am no cinematic genius by any stretch but I wanted to learn how to be better and I was frustrated with the great capabilities of DSLR video being constrained by its limitations.  To get really high grade video, you needed an external recorder.  To get decent audio, you needed external preamps and microphones.  Documentation and training on DSLR video was limited, compared to today.  So I made the decision that I should invest in a proper high quality video camera, with interchangeable lenses.  I looked at lots of options and ended up buying Canon's then relatively new C300.  Since I have owned it, I have done the Dual Pixel AF upgrade and while it does not shoot 4K, it's never really been an issue for what I am doing.

The C300 has a remote control connector, but as I continued to learn, finding compatible gear was a bit of a dice toss and Canon's own remote was crazy expensive at well over $3,000.  Then I learned that I could use the WFT-E6 WiFi adapter that I had bought for my 1Dx with the C300.

I've ranted before about the stupid price points assigned for these external WiFi adapters for pro gear when WiFi comes built in to many consumer grade cameras.  Functionality was ok with the 1Dx but the same as tethered to the EOS Utility only slower.  I wasn't in the practice of shooting JPEGs at events and then pushing them through my smartphone to a web server somewhere, although that's an interesting use case, and I started to see the WFT-E6 as a bad buy.

Then I was looking into remote start/stop and minor focus control for the C300.  There were lots of tools to do this with DSLRs, but a much shorter list known to work with the C300.  Many of these offerings took on the form of LANC controllers, usually attached to the pan arm of the tripod.  Good idea, but no help to me since I am in front of the camera for the shoot, and only behind it for framing, initial focus, start and stop.  As I surveyed options via our friend Google, hits kept coming up for Wifi control of the C300 using the WFT-E6 adapter.  

I was skeptical because the stills implementation left a lot to be desired.  I downloaded Canon's supplemental documentation on the use of the WiFi connection and tried it out.

I am impressed.  While the WFT-E6 can be an ad-hoc AP when you need it, what made this excellent for me is that I did not have to create a new wireless network, I could connect the C300 to my secured wireless network in the studio directly.  Then once I had an IP address from the router, I simply typed that address in to a browser.  I have done this on an iPhone, an iPad and on the Mac Pro that I am building this post on.

First, Canon does not require you to install ANY applications on any of your devices to be able to connect to the C300.  This is awesome.  When you connect to the IP address, you hit a small web server on the camera/Wifi adapter itself and then login.  Yes, you log in because the C300 is multi-user from a profile perspective so you can have different logins going.

Once logged in, there are two primary interfaces.  Advanced has a landscape layout with a large window for live view streaming and a series of buttons for focus, iris control and other settings.  There are also a series of "buttons" to go to specific f stops or to make changes to other parameters.  It's a nice simple layout not overly cluttered that let's me make the setting changes I need and to remotely start and stop recording from a laptop or tablet.  

For when I am shooting a video as a one up, I just put my connected iPhone on the tabletop and I can do much of the same thing, on the Basic interface that is designed for the layout and screen real estate of a smartphone.  No more running back and forth to make basic changes or to start or stop a take.

In fact the web service is so useful, I wonder if the Canon stills WiFi team has ever talked to the Canon video WiFi team, the gap in usability is that big.  The video guys have done a really nice job.

You'll note that there are no zoom controls.  While my C300 has the Canon EF lens mount, and I can (and do) mount zoom lenses to it, these are all manual zoom lenses so a power zoom control would be superfluous without that capability in the lenses themselves.

On a side note, with the Dual Pixel AF upgrade done to the C300 it's autofocus is very good indeed, so to keep the noise down, I tend to stick with EF-S STM lenses when using AF.  The stepper motor lenses are very quiet when focusing.  I use the 18-135/3.5-5.6 IS STM predominantly but also have the 55-250/4-5.6 IS STM for longer shots and the 40/2.8 pancake STM for lower light scenarios.

I have been told that the Canon RS-60 E3 switch can plug into the remote jack on the C300 for start/stop control but I don't own one and could not check.  I did try some third party wireless controllers that have the proper connection but none of them did anything.  Reality is I love that I can have live view on the smartphone or tablet and see in real time the impact of remote changes to iris and focus.  So while the WFT-E3 is still in my opinion ridiculously expensive for what it does, if you are dropping the coin on a Canon Cinema camera and need wireless remote, this solution works, is easy to get going, and is very elegant and usable.

Thanks for reading and until next time, peace.