DSLR Video is Changing the Landscape for Photographers

While I’m primarily a still photographer, I’ve always had a love for motion and have been fortunate enough to shoot video for many clients. With the release of the Canon 5D Mark II and other video capable DSLRs, shooting high definition video is become cheaper and easier. And while DSLR cameras can’t do everything a high-end video camera can do, they do have unique capabilities that are giving video cameras a run for their money, namely variable frame rates and incredibly shallow depth of field with fast prime lenses.

Shrinking budgets and the proliferation of video on the web have created a situation where clients are asking photographers to shoot video along with stills on a single shoot. Sometimes the video is used as the stills would be used – for advertising, etc – but it’s often used to capture behind-the-scenes footage.

I recently did a behind-the-scenes type shoot for my friend, photographer Jim Hughes. You can see the video here. Jim is very talented and could have shot the video himself, but stills and motion require very different ways of shooting so it’s always best to have two shooters: a photographer and videographer. Not to mention that he was plenty busy with stills and never would have gotten all his shots if he had to stop to shoot video all the time.

Along with the growth of these cameras an entire industry devoted to developing accessories to shoot video on DSLRs has sprung up. These cameras are primarily still cameras and are the most ergonomic for that purpose, not for shooting video. To do it right you need things like follow focus, shoulder rigs and monitors to get the shots. And don’t forget microphones! Mediocre sound is the surest way for your project to come off as amateurish and the built-in mics on these cameras are only good for reference tracks, at best.

I’ve done a lot of research on this gear and the choices keep expanding all the time and so have the tutorials on the web to teach photographers about it all. Some of the best resources are the sites of Philip Bloom and Vincent Laforet. These are filmmakers who have fully embraced DSLR video and have great reviews and resources on their sites. Laforet’s Gear Page is one of the favorites.

One of the best sites I recently found for information on gear is the Canon website. There is a whole series of tutorials on DSLR video production and they are very good. Check them out here.

Currently I’m working on a long video project using the 5D Mark II and a 7D. I’ll be using various rigs and mounts and other fun toys – stay tuned for a behind-the-scenes post about that!

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