This is the first entry in a series of articles focussed on video. Come back next week for part 2!
For both consumers and professionals, still photography and video have never been more connected than they are now. Even the lowliest of point-and-shoot cameras offer HD video recording, and the venerable Nikon D700 is the last remaining DSLR without a video mode that can be purchased new. The recent releases of Canon’s 5D Mark III and Nikon’s D800 have brought even more video-focused features to top of the line still cameras. Whether you like it or not, video is here to stay. For the consumer, this may mean simply ending up with extra functionality that you wish you didn’t have to pay for. For the professional photographer, there is a high chance that clients will start demanding video work in addition to stills. Wherever you fall in the spectrum, rest assured that video is not something you need to be afraid of. Hopefully, for those on the fence about adding video to your repertoire, or who may simply be curious about video, this article will shed some light to help you on your way.
For consumers, the biggest issue usually comes down to price. Customers are wary of spending money on features they won’t use, and I have heard many complaints about video functionality in regards to this. The key to remember here is that still cameras—be they DSLR’s or point-and-shoots—are still cameras first. The video modes do not detract from the camera’s ability to capture high quality photos. Secondly, with respect to inflation, over time the price points for cameras have remained virtually the same, even as technology has improved and features have been added. This means that a $199 point-and-shoot today that includes HD video is not costing you any more than yesterday’s $199 point-and-shoot that didn’t have HD video. And finally, video is just one of a plethora of features that you may or may not use on any given camera. Today’s lower end and midrange cameras are chock-full of scene modes, art filters, and other features that may never see a single use for many photographers. So, while it may be easy to point to video as “something you don’t need,” the simple truth is that there is not a single consumer who is going to need even half of what their camera provides. Different people will choose to use different features, and cameras at this level have to appeal to a broad range of interests.
Professional photographers are in a different boat. Many are being “forced” to adopt video just to stay relevant in today’s market. While stills-only photographers can still find success, pros looking to grow their business will undoubtedly have to consider video. A few years ago, this would have required learning an entire new camera system—complete with new technical jargon. However, with the advent of DSLR video, still cameras are now able to capture high definition, cinematic quality video. This means no new system to learn. Your camera behaves virtually the same in video mode as it does in still mode. Aperture is called aperture, ISO is ISO, and the creative look you’re accustomed to in stills will transfer directly to video (just remember not to shoot in portrait orientation. Seriously.) As hard as pros work to hone their craft, let’s face it: when something comes easy, we’ll take it. This is not to say that there isn’t a learning curve associated with shooting video; there most definitely is. But learning a new camera no longer has to be a part of that curve.
There are, however, several things one should be aware of when starting out with DSLR video. The foremost of these is audio. The first generation of video-capable DSLR’s (HDSLR’s) were notorious for horrible audio. Not only were built-in microphones useless, the actual audio recording capabilities of the cameras were subpar—meaning your $600 Sennheiser shotgun mic sounded more like a tin can telephone. While the new HDSLR’s will hopefully remedy this to some degree, recording audio asynchronously is still the way to go for maximizing quality. This means adding a stand-alone audio recorder, like the Zoom H4n. An external monitor is also recommended as the camera’s LCD isn’t usually in the place, or is too small, to check focus and frame the shot. Oh, and don’t forget some sort of support rig. And a new video tripod. And a light. Once all the extra batteries and cables are added in, it may feel like you’re drowning in accessories. Accessories that, as a still photographer, were previously not on your radar.
Don’t let the extra gear scare you away, however. The great thing about HDSLR’s is how flexible they are. When you need to run and gun, you can. When you need to maximize quality, you can. HDSLR’s can scale with the size of your crew, from one person on up. They may not be the perfect tool for everyone, or every project, and traditional camcorders certainly still have their place (more on that next time), but for the working photographer, an HDSLR is probably your best bet to start incorporating video into your work. And who knows, maybe you’ll even have a little fun while you’re at it.
As the industry continues to evolve, Pro Photo Supply is committed to keeping abreast of what’s new and noteworthy—in both stills and video. If you’re interested in getting more details about starting out with video, feel free to come in to speak with Brenda, Jimmy, or myself. Hopefully, we’ll be able to take care of some of the growing pains associated with the transition from stills to motion.
Daven Mathies is a sales associate at Pro Photo Supply.
You can reach him for question or comment at firstname.lastname@example.org. He also owns 4sight Photography with fellow photographer Corey Bennet. Their work can be seen at www.4sightphoto.com.