Lessons Learnt: The Video Edition

Lessons Learnt: The Video Edition

I’ve been shooting a fair amount of video of late and I’ll be the first to admit I am having to scale quite a learning curve.  Aside from the obvious, there are a lot of differences between shooting still and moving images.

Some of this might seem a bit obvious, but if your experiences with video are anything like mine they aren’t obvious until you come up against them. Hopefully by sharing a few of my epiphanies, I can save you some time or money. Here we go:


Shoot lots of footage

Shoot more than you think you could possibly need. Then shoot some more. It’s called coverage and you need a way to bridge the gap between pieces of similar footage. Let’s take my recent efforts filming at Gymkhana Grid as an example. I might have two great bits of footage of the same car on two different parts of the course. When it comes to the edit, I can’t just stick those sections back to back, it’d be jarring and just doesn’t fit with what the viewer is used to. Cutting to someone in the crowd intently watching or cheering between the two clips would work nicely.

Frame it right in camera

I shoot my photos a little on the wide side. I know this will give me flexibility in post, especially if I am delivering them to a client who might want to overlay text. When you are producing 20+ megapixel images, cropping in 10% after the fact isn’t going to be a problem.  With video though if you are shooting at 1080 you plan to show it at 1080 so there’s no room to crop. You need to get it right at the time of capture – something I am still trying to retrain my brain to do. If only the 5D shot 4K

Leveling is a pain

I knew I had to get myself a fluid head to be able to do smooth pans and tilts so I got myself a mid range Manfrotto one and mounted it on my existing tripod. It works a charm if you’re on level ground but as soon as you need to adjust it, you are into the hell that is tweaking three legs one by one. Not a speedy process!


Mic check one two

Good audio is essential so I got myself a Rode Video Mic Pro. It’s a great bit of kit that hooks straight into you DSLR’s mic jack and sits in your hot shoe. It’s got three modes, standard, -10db for loud situations and a +20db mode designed for DLSRs. The theory is you drop the gain in-camera to a very low level and let the higher quality circuitry in the mic boost the levels. This works great, but bear in mind for loud sources, perhaps a drift car 5m away, to flick it back to the -10db mode! And of course… Remember to turn it on!


Get an LCD viewfinder

These are fantastic gadgets that allow you to hold your DSLR in live view mode up to your eye like you would a more traditional video camera. At about £20 from eBay it’s no brainer and a good place to start before you hook up and external monitor and build a whole rig. I’ve never used one of the more expensive models like the Zacuto Z-Finder but I don’t know how much more they could offer to be worth more than 10 times the price. Except maybe a lanyard… that’d be handy as I repeatedly lose mine buy putting it down and walking off. Lucky it keeps finding it’s way back to me.

So that’s it for now, no Earth shattering revelations, but a few things that I’ve encountered on my adventure in video. I hope they save you a little time and aggro.

It’s all about the gear, until it isn’t

It’s all about the gear, until it isn’t

Have you ever noticed that when you don’t get the shot you were trying for it’s always because your gear let you down, but when you do nail it, it’s all about your talent and gear had nothing to do with it?

It’s ridiculous when you see it in set out in black and white isn’t it, but I bet it sounds familiar. Why do we do it?

I think it’s a self defense mechanism. It’s much easier to blame our gear for our shortcomings than to actually admit we screwed up or, even worse, to admit that we reached the limit of our knowledge or ability.

Sure, there are times when gear will get in the way but is it really the gears fault? The camera missed focus, your flash didn’t recycle fast enough or the stupid ISO jumped to 128000 all on its own. All those are gear related but still your fault. Modern cameras are clever and can do many things, but they don’t know what you are trying to achieve. You are driving the bus – it’s your responsibility. Taking the examples/excuses above; The camera won’t change your focus point for you if you are locking on to a distant tree instead of your model. You should know how hard you are asking your flash to work and time your shots accordingly, or crank your ISO so it needs to pump out less light each time. And if you think settings are changing by themselves, you need to sit down with your camera and the manual for an hour or two.

Then there’s the other reason: GAS, or Gear Acquisition Syndrome. In the back of your mind you know it was you that stuffed up the shot, but there’s an insidious part of you brain that keeps whispering “It’s not your fault, you’re awesome! You’d have totally nailed that if you had 2.8 glass and a D4/1DX!” I’ve definitely suffered from this on a few occasions but I like to think I have learned to tune out that little voice inside my brain now. Now it just tells me to try harder!

Of course you should be confident in your abilities but you also need to admit to yourself that you don’t know everything. None of us do, or ever will. Photography is all about constantly educating yourself and pushing yourself creatively. If you think you know it all, put you camera on eBay tonight, photography is not for you.

So stop blaming your gear, own your mistake and learn how not to make it again.