Below are the humbling results of my first video shoot with the Canon 7D. It’s all quite laughable, really, since I am a complete amateur in this domain – and yet somehow, it feels promising and rather exciting, like the tip of an iceberg, its mass awaiting for me to commit, dive and explore…
Please keep in mind that while the 10 minute long, 50 MB streaming video below is highly compressed and shrunk to the Flash format, the H.264 full-1080p HD MPEG4 original is almost 1 GB in size. You are only getting a cheap preview of the amazing quality now achieved by video DSLR’s. The full-size footage actually outperforms DVD quality. If some of you have an HD TV or Blue Ray player, that’s more like it…
So, this was two weeks ago. I had set out to Coney Island for an afternoon, attempting to record glimpses of the place, its strangeness, its people, the recently reopened Luna Park, the ocean nearby, all soaking in a mixture of summer and heat and seaside smells.
Apart from the camera, I do not own much in terms of video-making equipment. Obviously that’s a serious handicap because if still photography requires very little extra gear, videography on the other hand demands for a considerable load of specialized tools to even dream of perfection. We are talking tripods, dollies, lights, grips, stabilizers, LCD screens, microphones, booms, etc.
Me, I’ve purchased a very reasonable Azden SMX-10 directional microphone, not being financially ready for a Rode VideoMic – and a little disheartened by its size. That day on Coney Island was quite windy and the SMX-10’s foam windscreen fought hard to keep the sound clear. I might have to double it up. Bottom line is, I’m better off than with the camera’s on-board mono microphone but still far from great audio.
Then there is the issue of fluid panning. While my Manfrotto tripod and the ballhead are fantastic for still photography, they do not replace a video head and make for rather lousy camera motion. Practice will help. In the meantime, I try to tighten the head just to the point where it starts seizing up, back down a touch, and hold the camera firmly while panning.
Of course, I made big initial mistakes, and learned a lot from them. My clips were all too short. I was filming for the scene duration I envisioned in the final movie and did not allow for editing and transitions. Note to self: add at least 5 seconds prior and after each clip.
Also, when it came to filming the guitar player, I only shot short clips one after the other, which means that at editing time I didn’t have a soundtrack to work with. I will not make that mistake again. Any time a soundtrack is necessary or interesting, I will first shoot a long uninterrupted clip for its audio, and then short additional clips from different angles – provided of course that the audio doesn’t change in between. This means that to film a song, for instance, I should probably spend about a third to half of its duration recording sound, and the rest shooting various angles. It’s nothing like filming a scene simultaneously with two cameras but hey, it’ll have to do…
My shutter speed was all over the place, too. With frame rate set to 30 fps (actually 29.97), I was experimenting with high speeds but as expected they make the footage look very synthetic, almost stroboscopic. I will now stick to the conventional 1/60th to 1/125th and step down my aperture accordingly, which will mean somewhere down the line investing in more neutral density filters to reduce depth of field in bright light.
The lenses performed well. My new 10-22mm makes for great wide-angle shots but logically doesn’t allow me to blur backgrounds much. The 55-250mm, however, even with a mere f4 maximum aperture, does a great job at this. Some of the shots have a rather movie-like limited depth of field, and the ability to shift focus forward or backwards inside of a scene, like when I clumsily went from the hands of the guitar player to the strange man in a white hat behind him, is just fantastic.
So just give me plenty more practice, a really interesting subject, lots of time at the editing table and I should be able to keep you all entertained… For now, turn your volume up, click on the thumbnail below and smile indulgently.