What kind of camera do you need to shoot good motion-tracking footage?

Hallo all,

I’ve been experimenting with motion-tracking within Blender and I’m thinking about buying a camera to shoot my own footage, but I’m not really sure what to look for…
I have done some research but most of the topics I found were outdated or very unclear.
This are the requirements that I could collect
>> it should be full HD (1080p)
>> Avoid HDV or DV cameras
>> HDMI- or HD-SDI output with a capture card with HDMI input
>> Avoid camera’s that do ‘Image stabilization’ cause they distort your frames and make tracking impossible.

I know Andrew Price uses a photo-camera (Canon 550D) with movie-mode to shoot his footage. Is that better or worse then a movie-camera?

All tips would be most welcome.
What kind of camera do you guys have/use?
What kind of frame-rate would be recommendable?(I mean Blender normally uses 24 fps…)

And maybe even more important: What kind of a budget am I looking at?

Thanks in advance!
Max Berends

For efficient tracking, more important than the camera is probably well thought-out camera move. It is hard to get good 3d track from small moves (rotation on tripod for example doesn’t solve into 3d) and wild wiggling. What ruins most tracks is the so called “rolling shutter” effect which is caused because camera scans image sensor line-by-line and by the time it reaches bottom, camera has moved. Result is distorted image and wobbling “jello” effect. Only cameras with CCD sensors are free from this but they are the minority. Most cameras have CMOS sensors and thus also rolling shutter (even expensive movie cameras). Optical image stabilization is good and makes image more trackable, not sure about digital stabilization though, wouldn’t count on it.

Resolution gives you more detail to track so fullHD is better than DV and HDV. Canon DSLR-s are good and cheap but don’t do fast moves, rolling shutter creeps in. Frame rate depends on your needs, what you should be aware of is shutter and thus motion blur. Heavy blur makes tracking difficult.

Good question, i was wondering the same thing myself…
i was look at regular Cameras and movie Cameras for this kind of stuff.
all the options and numbers on the cameras are kinda overwhelming.
and the price differnces between them etc. sheesh…

i have a feeling that the answer is going to be that a camera is not a “one size fits all”
Meaning if you really want to get into photography and things you will need more than 1,
for different things.
this one does this, but it doesn’t to this… etc…

I read over at hdri labs the guy likes Cannon’s for for making his panorama images,
he’s got pros and cons to the cameras comparing them with Nikon.

Andrews footage with the 550D looked and tracked pretty good,
and blender does have the preset for it.
A bit expensive on ebay and Amazon thay are around $550

here is a review of the 550D(the video portion)


You can save a little money by getting a factory refurbished one.

Thanks for your advice, it’s really helpful! Since CCD-sensors seems to be only on the mayor professional camera’s CMOS will have to do. But since you recommended a Canon photo-camera does that mean you say that for motion-tracking a photo-camera is better then a video-camera?

DSLRs can suffer from issues with rolling shutter which can cause problems with motion tracking http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rolling_shutter

So do camcorders with CMOS sensors.

So does anything with a CMOS sensor. 99% of the time, if you have a nice® camera though, you’ll never notice it.

So it has been a few hours of more research and this is the result thanks to you great guys!
but I’m still fighting with myself over “if a videocamera/camcorder or a photocamera is best” considering the amount of money that goes into a CCD camera and the fact that all preset’s in the motion tracker are from photo-camera’s.
well these are the candidates, What do you guys think?
JVC-GZ-515 http://www.pricerunner.co.uk/pi/8-2788346/Camcorders/JVC-GZ-V515-Product-Info
The Canon 1100D or 600D
The Nikon D5100

Any advice or Critique is appreciated.

I’d pick up the 550D or the 600D. It really is one hell of a camera, and will get most of the job done almost up to the professional level. If I recall correctly, some popular TV show had an entire episode shot with the 600D not too long ago.

^^^The final episode of “House” in 2010 was shot on a Canon 5D MkII, maybe that’s what you’re thinking of? The episode was about a collapsed building, and they could get the DSLR into some really tight spaces. No idea if they had to do any match moving or tracking with the footage, or how they dealt with H.264 compression artifacts for 1080p broadcast.

Main difference between video camcorder and photo camera that shoots video is ergonomics and functions. Video cameras are meant for holding in hand while shooting video (different shape and weight distribution), have autofocus, zebras etc and, as name suggests, are meant for shooting video. Photo cameras (550D for example) are meant for photos but do video on the side. They don’t do autofocus while filming, usually don’t have on-screen shooting aids (zebra, focus peaking and so on) and recording time is limited (for 550D it is 4 minutes per file, something to do with memory card file system I believe). But on the other hand, professional movie cameras don’t have autofocus either. You can put Canon DSLR-s on steroids with Magic Lantern soft that runs on top of camera firmware and opens up new possibilities like custom framerates and ISO settings, on-screen zebras, cropmarks, better audio and so on.

Presets in motion tracker are probably the last thing to look at because you can create your own presets for every possible camera.

this 550D is decked out with all the Video Accessories. (2days left on the bid)
$550 US


To alleviate the skew or rolling shutter effect you can always increase the shutter angle and shoot above the 180deg rule. Less exposure but less skewing of the shot too.

The 550D while good for motion capture is not great, as it’s picture is quite soft meaning that there is less resolution than the 1080 lines advertised.

I run Magic Lantern on it for all those pro features and it rocks. It allows free timelapse too!

From my understanding of how the stabilization feature on canon lens’ work, is that it image you see during a bump actually gets distorted… it may make it easier to track if its small bumps, but large scale bumps may give the tracking engine grief.

Digital stabilization… will punch in and pan left/right/up/down depending on the bump… and this could also introduce more problems as it is a 2d transformation ontop of the image…

Pretty much from my understanding and experience… it is best to turn all stabilization off… and stabilize the footage in CG if its needed.

Just chiming in about the Canon 5d. I own several video cameras, from consumer grade to pro-sumer. None of them can touch the quality of footage that I get from my 5d. Its a remarkable camera, and will be for years to come. If you are thinking of spending $500-$600, take that money and save it to buy a 5d when you can. A bunch of indie film producers are using 5d for some serious work.

http://blog.planet5d.com/ -a nice resource to see what can be done.

Thank you all for your great advice! I’ve just returned from town with a Canon 600D in the pocket, and it seems to work perfectly!
now let’s start experimenting with the tracking!
Thanks you all again for the good advice and tips they’re really helpful.

LOL 5D $2999 !!!


Cool… record some footage like Andrew did, and upload it so we can play with it too. :stuck_out_tongue:
use mediafire or something. i dont have a camera…
well… i have access to a really cheap one, but its not worth trying to track that mess. LOL