A recent documentary and wedding shoot thrusted me front, dead center on one of the important issues confronting a serious videographer- video monitoring away from the camcorder. We are all used to looking at the viewfinder or LCD monitor up close, but Im referring to monitoring what the camera is seeing- AWAY from from the camcorder- the way the professionals do it.
In my documentary shoot I was using a new product from CoolJib that allows you to extend your camcorder or DSLR as much as 6 feet away from your body, and control the camera with true jib tilting/panning mode. A provided 5-in HD monitor was tethered to the camcorder by way of the HDMI cable. While the HD monitor was good for showing me what the cameramy HD camcorder was shooting at, I wished it had been slightly larger, like 7-in diagonal. And I only got about one hour of monitor on-time using brand new AA alkaline batteries! Luckily, I had spare batteries, but it was just too inconvenient to exchange them that frequently. There must be a better solution, I thought!
With the proliferation of DSLRs that can shoot HD video, you might wonder what is the future of standalone HD camcorders. Is the new generation of DSLRs better than traditional HD camcorders? And what are their limitations when compared to the legacy HD camcorders?
Hands-down, the greatest benefit of DSLRs is that of interchangeable lenses, and with that, the control they can bring to the look of the video you are shooting. And by control, I dont mean just in the dazzling variety of focal lengths from super wide angle, to long telephoto that are available to achieve different film looks. I was referring to subject isolation. Look at any major film release and notice how in many scenes the subjects are visually isolated from their background. The subject is sharply in focus, while the background is blurred out. This isolation is achieved through selective depth of field with the use of faster wide aperture fixed focal length lenses, not zoom lenses. A traditional HD camcorder may have a good zoom, but its widest f.stop or aperture (typically f/5.6) cannot compete with a fixed focal length lens- typically f/1.8 or better.
I love shooting video. I love achieving perfect composition and capturing great sound. It's really satisfying to bounce light around for perfect exposure. When I'm traveling with family and friends, it's important to me that we take home some great images that capture the moment. The problem is, I have a really hard time stepping away from the action to set up my gear. Like many shooters, I've come to the conclusion that in order to find that sweet spot between enjoying the moment, and capturing the moment, sacrifices need to be made.
I'm interested in getting serious with filmmaking and I'm planning on purchasing a DSLR to upgrade from an HD Camcorder. For the past month or so, I've been looking at the Canon T3i. It's not overly expensive and the tilting LCD is a big plus (coming from a camcorder user). The only thing that's making me hesitate is the new T4i which features autofocus. I've been using a camcorder for three years and it's all autofocus, so I've never had to use manual during filming.
I currently own a Canon Gl2, and have recently seen some test footage from a T2i which has significantly better than the footage I can get from my Gl2, probably due to the smaller sensor on my Gl2. My question is would it be wise selling my Gl2 and buying a T2i to replace it, and possibly purchase an additional lens for the T2i? I will mainly be using it for Narrative shorts. Thanks!
If you spend much time on Twitter or the blogosphere, you've probably noticed the extreme number of time-lapse videos that are going viral around the web. What's the deal with their sudden popularity? I chalk it up to a number of factors. The first is that modern digital cameras can shoot time-lapse photos without a need for an external control device. Second is the recent popularity of compact camera sliders. Third is the fact that HDR (high dynamic range) photography is easier than ever to accomplish. Finally, the nature of the internet dictates that once a number of these videos goes viral, more and more people will jump on board.