Teva posted our Teva Originals video on their homepage (teva.com)!
These days, with cameras that can shoot great still images as well as high quality HD Video, there has been a convergence of still photography and video. Many people have probably tinkered with the video functions of their DSLR, but have not yet fully utilized its capabilities. With this guide I hope to help novice filmmakers get on their way to better understand the equipment for shooting video on a DSLR camera.
This may sound obvious, but I’ve seen far too many new video shooters try to handhold their cameras and end up with poor looking footage. So firstly, you’ll need a good tripod and video head, preferably one with a bowl, which allows you to quickly level the tripod head before shooting. Not leveling the tripod head will make lines in the scene appear crooked, which is especially noticeable if you do any pans or tilts. You can opt to buy a tripod without a bowl (which is better suited for photography, but I don’t recommend for shooting video on a DSLR camera), and use the individual legs of the tripod to level the head instead (which is frustrating). The video head will have a built in spirit level to check for levelness.
For starters, I recommend this Manfrotto tripod and head kit.
It’s a middle-low end tripod with a decent support weight, which leaves you room to upgrade and add accessories to your DSLR camera. Starting out with too small of a tripod means that if you want to, in the future, add some accessories to your DSLR camera, the tripod and head will no longer be able to support the weight and you will have to purchase a new, heavier tripod.
Shooting video on a DSLR camera will eat up your batteries, so make sure you have a lot to use! A full day of shooting means at least 4 batteries. This goes without saying, but make sure they’re charged before you go out and shoot! From my experience, you can buy third party batteries, which work pretty much the same and are about half the cost.
You’ll need some spare memory cards. Thirty minutes of full 1080P video will take up about 16GBs, so a few 16-32GB cards should be sufficient depending on how much shooting you’re doing. Buy cards with a read/write speed of atleast 30MB/s or 200x. And if you’re buying SD cards, purchase cards that have at least a Class 10 rating. As for how many cards you should use, that’s up to you. You can have more small memory cards or fewer large memory cards. Some people like to spread their eggs out into smaller baskets, but on the other hand, you can put your eggs in bigger, fewer baskets. For myself, I choose the latter. I rather have more eggs in one basket and have fewer baskets to manage. For me it’s easier to carry larger memory cards and safeguard them more carefully than to try and fumble between more cards. If you format them properly in the camera, and don’t delete anything using the camera’s interface, you will have no issues.
At the core of a DSLR is a still camera, and that means the ergonomics of the camera are meant for still photography. There are several ways around this drawback, and that usually involves adding 16mm rails, a follow focus and gears for your lenses, maybe even a mattebox. Rigs are expensive setups and generally cost as much or more than the camera itself. There are so many different rigs you can build to fit your shooting needs that it’s impossible to cover them all here. Cinema 5D has posted an in-depth review of several rigs that’s worth reading.
If you want to shoot video on your DSLR without carrying a tripod, or can’t use a tripod in some situations, I would recommend a shoulder rig or a monopod.
I use the Manfrotto 334B Automatic Monopod and I enjoy how quickly you can setup and shoot with it. It has a trigger which you can use to quickly extend or shorten one of the sections, no levers or knobs. You can also add a tilt head for aiming the camera up and down.
If you’re looking for an inexpensive way to stabilize the camera on your shoulder, the Cowboy Studio Shoulder Support is a great, inexpensive way to do that. At $25, it’s a steal.
Here’s what a full DSLR setup might look like for filmmaking. It has attached a EVF (electronic viewfinder), a field monitor, an external battery, 15mm rails, a shoulder pad, hand grips, follow focus, a Zeiss CP.2 cinema lens, and a matte box with drop in filters.
When recording video you’re limited to shooting at a shutter speed that’s twice your frame rate. While you can shoot at frame rates slower and faster than twice your frame rate, it is generally not recommended…more on this in a future post. This means that if you’re shooting 24p, you want a shutter speed of 1/48th of a second (the closest thing on a DSLR is 1/50th of a second). Now that your shutter speed is fixed, you have less variables you can adjust to control your exposure. No longer can have a shutter speed of 1/2000th to compensate.
Without filters it would be impossible to achieve a shallow depth of field in midday sun. Shooting at ISO 160 @ 1/50th would mean you would need to stop down to f/25! With a 5-stop neutral density filter, you would be able to get back down to a more pleasing aperture of f/3.2. What neutral density filters do is darken the image without affecting the color.
Now, you can carry multiple ND filters with varying degrees of density, but there is something called a variable ND filter, which allows you to adjust the degree of neutral density just by rotating the filter.
The Fader Variable ND seems to be popular due to the performance vs price point, although I have not personally used it myself.
I have used and highly recommend the Heliopan Variable ND, the filter is made of glass instead of plastic, and it is probably the sharpest of the Variable ND filters. However the best does come with a price.
When buying filters, I always recommend that you get one of the larger sizes. If you’re shooting primarily with DSLR lenses, the biggest filter size is normally 77mm. So I would buy 77mm size filters, and then get step-down rings to fit your smaller lenses.
Video is a multi-sensory experience, where the audio actually accounts for a large part of the entire experience. Audio is an overlooked aspect for DSLR videographers who are just starting out, so be aware of this important component.
DSLRs have very poor on-camera mics. For any serious audio recording, it is always better to use an external recorder. The recorder most DSLR shooters are using is the Zoom H4n.
The Zoom H4n coupled with the mic of your choice will give you great results. For a general purpose shotgun mic, the Rode NTG-2 is a good choice.
If you’re doing a lot of voice recording or interviews, a lavalier mic would be ideal.
This is just a start, recording good audio in different situations is certainly a challenge, and I omitted a lot of the setup and how to use the audio equipment because it has to be so much more in-depth. I will write a separate post on how and what sound equipment to use in a given situation in the field.
For a simple way to get professional, cinematic camera movements, you could purchase a slider dolly. I’ve used the Konova K5, which is fairly cheap compared to other high-end sliders, and produces excellent results.
One of the huge reasons people have turned to the DSLR camera for filmmaking is the ability to change lenses. Up until this point, every video camera below $5000 had one lens fixed on the camera which you had to shoot everything through. However, with your DSLR this is not the case anymore! Many people ask me, what’s the best ‘all-purpose’ lens to buy? I tell them, there’s no such thing. You probably have flip-flops for the beach, boots for hiking, and trainers for running. Just like you have different shoes for different situations, you need different lenses for different situations.
If you’re making a narrative film you probably want fixed focal length or ‘prime’ lenses. If you’re shooting documentary style, you might want zoom lenses for more flexibility. Whatever the case, you’ll need to give some thought into what you shoot the most, and buy lenses based on that. In general, I recommend prime lenses because of they’re generally faster (talking about aperture) and cheaper. Prime lenses also force you to think about camera positioning and put thought into each shot instead of just reaching for a zoom lens, which is a great learning tool for a filmmaker who’s just starting out.
If you’re on a budget I highly recommend that you buy used, and buy lenses that are the same brand as your camera. If you’re a Nikon shooter, buy Nikon lenses, if you’re a Canon shooter, buy Canon lenses. There are some exceptions to this, as there are a few really good third party lenses. I would say most are not built to the same standards as the big manufacturers. Third party lenses also don’t hold as much value, if you do ever want to sell them back in the future.
Those three lenses would cover a lot of bases, and all are have full-frame coverage, in case you want to upgrade from your crop sensor camera to a full-frame camera in the future.
In 1999 very few businesses had a website. Because a web-presence was so rare, any businesses that had a website enjoyed an automatic advantage. The same advantage existed four years ago for businesses producing online videos. By simply offering an explainer video or a product video on their website, they stood out amongst the competition. While this opportunity has since passed, a new opportunity has emerged. With the rush of businesses producing online videos, quality has taken a nose dive. Businesses that publish highly “watchable” web videos will be rewarded handsomely.
Over the last six years of planning, producing, and distributing online videos at Venture Visuals, I’ve noticed 3 common potholes into which many businesses stumble. Even worse, most business tend to make all 3 mistakes together, creating the snoozer trifecta. Fear not, I’ve outlined these common mistakes below.
As you already know, our mantra here at Venture Visuals is “Stories Matter”. Humans are programmed to communicate with each other through stories. Don’t take my word for it. Ask any parent if their child enjoys story-time. Stories add interest, intrigue, and context to an otherwise dull message. Most web videos lack a decent story. Since online video should rarely exceed 3 minutes, your story will need to be simple and clear. Not sure how to incorporate a story into your online videos? Here’s a crash course. Also, this may help too.
This problem is so pervasive, it even has its own acronym: TMI. Most businesses cram as much information as possible into their videos. This results in information overload. In other words, even if your viewer sits through your video, they won’t remember much of what you said. To avoid this common pitfall, decide on one primary piece of information, and then drive it home. As I learned in my first college writing class, “Tell them what you’re going to say. Say it. Then tell them what you said.” When presented in the context of a story, your viewer is then more likely to understand and remember your message.
Online videos often lack purpose. When writing your script, you’ll need a clear understanding of what your viewer will gain when all is said and done. Will they be informed of a big sale? Perhaps you’re offering a Christmas coupon? Regardless of your intent, if the video doesn’t state your offer in clear terms, your viewer can easily miss the point entirely. It helps to remember that your viewers are often multi-tasking while they watch your video. Will your viewer remember your message if they have their TV on in the background? If so, you’ve done your job!
As I said before, simply publishing your videos online is no longer sufficient for driving engagement. However, because this is where most businesses stop, there is a great competitive advantage to be won by those who go the distance. Take heart, these three common pitfalls are easily dodged. Just remember, your web video needs a story, a message, and a point.
Struck a chord? Get in touch with us to begin planning your online video right away.