Venice Video Tour with a Canon 5D Mark III

Venice is a splendid city, there is no doubt about that. I recently took a two day trip to this famous historic italian city. 118 smalls islands spread over a lagoon. A labyrinth of narrow alleys, canals and bridges linking the islands together. If you ever visit Italy, Venice is certainly a worthy stop. And like most italian cities, there are many things to enjoy in Venice: great architecture and art, delicious restaurants, real italian coffee (and yes, Italians do make way better coffee than anyone else). Many pleasures that will keep you busy if you are prepared for a bit of walking.

Taking the Canon 5D Mark III on a Venice Video Tour

Having recently gotten myself a Canon 5D MkIII, this was my first opportunity to take it out for a little filming test. Filming a little Venice video tour seemed like a perfect opportunity for that. Now, those of you who enjoy filming but also take the occasional family trip, will be aware of this common dilemma: Unless you are traveling with like-minded photographers/filmmakers (people willing to spend some time to get the right shot), you will be under quite some timing pressure. Your friends and family usually hate waiting for you to find the perfect subject and angle, set up your gear, finding the right camera settings, etc. By the time you are ready to shoot, they are already rolling their eyes and pulling on your sleeves to move on… Do that once or twice, they will cope with it. Do that all day, and they are ready to ditch you in the next canal with your camera gear tied to your feet… mobster-style!
So you can either enjoy the scenery and other visual delights your trip has to offer, snapping a few souvenir shots here and there, or, separate from the group to do your own thing, which, let’s face it, would really be a shame on a family trip!

Venice Canals

The 5D MkIII setup

So, on this trip I decided I would take no pictures at all… just be filming. And I would have to do it in what I call “tourist mode”: Move-snap-move-snap-move… (or move-shoot-move-shoot to be more precise). I would try do the filming by moving along just as briskly as if I was just taking pictures. In practical terms that meant no setup time, no tripod, no external monitor, no multiple takes, no scheduling flexibility… and yet, in spite of that, hoping to come out with a half decent souvenir.

The setup was therefore very simple:

The editing was then done in Final Cut Pro X (FCP X) and graded with Magic Bullet

Venice boats and gondolas

Lessons learned

Every shoot brings new learnings or reminds me of things I knew but had forgotten.

I wanted to film everything in slow motion so I set my camera to NTSC so that I could benefit from 60fps instead of the 50fps PAL offers. I had forgotten that, under artificial lights (illuminated shop displays, interiors), you have to match your frame rate to the country’s electrical system (PAL 220V/50Hz – NTSC (120V/60Hz). Italy being a PAL country, my 1/60th shutter speed was therefore conflicting with the 50Hz frequency, resulting in visible flickering. For those shots I should have set my camera to 1/50th. Well, luckily it only happened in about 3 shots since all the other ones were exterior day light shots. A good reminder nevertheless.

I should also have brought along my ND filter to give me more flexibility with the harsh sunlight in all my exterior shots. This might have prevented the overblown skies I got in a number of shots.


The result is the movie above. Considering the pace at which I had to shoot, the fact that all shots were handheld and this was my first hands-on experience with the 5D MkIII, I am quite happy with the result. It also is a personal souvenir movie, not a client project, so I take it as practice more than anything else. Hope you will enjoy this Venice video tour nevertheless.


I also would like to thank my friend Joe Sabbagh for allowing me to use his piano improvisation for the soundtrack.

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  1. Fernando Estevao says

    Jan, thank you for your insight, real value and congratulations on a great piece of a documentary.
    Well done!

  2. Becca says

    Great video! Can you tell me what rig or stabilizer you used?? I am going to Italy later in the year and am trying to decide the best way to shoot smooth steady video :) I’m working with a 5D Mark iii too!


    • says

      Thanks Becca.
      I actually get that question a lot and, well, this was ALL handheld… I didn’t use any stabilizer. But I shot in 60 fps and converted the footage down to 24p which helps a lot in making it look smoother. Also quite a few shots were taken from the boat so the smooth cruising along the canals account for a big part of it. If you have a stabilizer like the Steadicam it would help a lot, just be warned that it takes a lot of practice to balance first and to handle during a shoot. But you can get awesome stable footage from those rigs.
      Best of luck in your travel.

  3. Shivani says

    This is one of the most soothing videos I have ever seen before!
    I really did get a free tour of Venice right in front of my computer screen..
    The piano is the perfect final touch to this amazing filming, do you happen to have the mp3 version of the piano?
    I’d really like to have it.
    You should shoot more videos, this one was breath-taking, the next ones would be jaw-dropping! 😉

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