In summer 2012 we had the chance to get our fingers on the brand new Canon Rebel T4i (EOS 650D). We went on a trip to Thailand and I thought this would be a great way to test the camera for the first time. We flew to Bangkok to shoot a commercial for a few days. In our free time we traveled through the city and also took the opportunity to visit the countryside.

All we had was the camera body itself and a Canon 18-135mm lens (not the new STM version). All-in-all it’s a nice lens and the zoom range is ideal if you don’t want to carry a bag full of lenses with you. What I also like is the image stabilizer which is reliable. The downside is of course the sharpness. At the wide end the shots sometimes seems out of focus but are not, the image is just not that detailed. If you’re shooting close-ups the sharpness and detail is totally acceptable. But the biggest deal in the end is the non-constant aperture of F/3.5-F/5.6: You can’t use that lens at night or any kind of low light situation. So I decided to take the very little but powerful Canon 50mm F/1.8 lens with me.

We rented two scooters and drove through the countryside often not even exactly knowing where we are. Thailand is a really beautiful country with wonderful nature and very nice and relaxed people. There was no hectic and no compulsion to film something. I tried to capture as much as possible with the little T4i and most of the time I got some shots I liked. At this point of time I didn’t knew what would happen with the footage so I shot all kinds of stuff mostly in daylight. When driving with the scooters I wanted to have some point of view shots but it was hard to get steady footage. I mounted the camera on a small and cheap plastic tripod and put it on the floor where your foot belong. But when driving it was still shaky and as you might know the rolling shutter is still pretty bad, also the streets weren’t the newest. In the end I just used two or three shots while driving a scooter. We stabilized the shots with the Warp Stabilizer in After Effects CS5.5. The result is stunning but of course your image will be scaled so it doesn’t look as sharp as before. In the video below you can see a side by side video of these shots. If you haven’t tried the Warp Stabilizer you should definitely check it out. I tried a few other stabilization tools but none of them were as good as the one that comes with After Effects (it’s also available in CS6).

Stabilization: Side by side comparison

Warp Stabilizer: Premiere Pro CS6 tutorial

When filming in the “jungle” or the countryside I used the plastic tripod most of the time. What was really annoying is that I couldn’t pan or tilt the tripods head because the shots would have looked horrible and not smooth at all. So I just locked the tripod. Another unexpected thing happened: The ND filter of the 18-135mm lens was stuck so it couldn’t be removed. That meant that shooting with this lens was limited when it was getting darker. The thing is that the sun doesn’t goes down in two hours. It only took around 20 minutes so capturing the sunset was great because you didn’t have to wait a few hours but when filming the nature the light changed too fast. So I ended up shooting at ISO 1600 while the sun went down because I couldn’t remove the filter. Otherwise I had to change the lens but 50mm on a crop sensor isn’t ideal for every kind of shot.

One night I was driven in a little boat and the weather turned bad. The sea was really turbulent and I wanted to capture this crazy ride but the camera got really wet. In the end none of the footage was used because it was too dark and the shots were too shaky and out of focus. The interesting thing is how much water splashes the T4i can actually handle. As you might know the camera wasn’t built for that kind of situation. That impressed me the most! But who knows how much more the body could have been handling.

Most of the time I just shot stuff while walking around like a tourist. I also shot some timelapses at night but unfortunately the timer (remote control) didn’t really worked. It always stopped after 50-90 pictures (which would be only two or three second videos) so I couldn’t use many timelapses in the short film. When we came back I had no idea what to do with the footage. While working on some other films I came up with the idea of showing the big difference between the countryside and the loud and polluted city Bangkok. I started with the countryside in daylight and then switched to night and Bangkok. Why? Because there are a lot of lights from traffic and buildings in Bangkok at night but on the countryside there were really no lights at all except from the vehicles driving by.

While editing the film I noticed that I couldn’t use the sound from the internal microphone so I decided to use some stock audio. I took some time to find the right sounds for the shots but in the end it worked out for me. Editing and color grading was done in After Effects. We used different presets for day and night shots. Some of the presets can also be found in our free presets gallery. Below is the final short film “Thailand’s Diversity”!

Thailand’s Diversity

Written by Moritz Janisch