It’s been an insane two months (and it’s not over) but I thought I’d try to pull my head up from the computer (what country is this?) and check in. I’ve been covering two, back-to-back, 3 week-long charter jet tours for National Geographic Expeditions and TCS&Starquest Expeditions. Covering them entirely in video (fortunately, I don’t have to edit all this stuff!)
These tours move like lightning, spending no more than three nights per location and going all over the world. It’s like a Whitman Sampler of world culture. And for a rookie video shooter, it’s a challenge…you get one crack at a location or activity, it’s brief, and there’s no going back for reshoots, there’s no assistant, no soundman, no second cameraman.
I shot the first 24-day trip with Nikon gear…two D7000’s, a battery of lenses, and a bit with the late, lamented Sanyo Xacti HD 2000 handicam. The gear behaved flawlessly, but it was a heavy load slogging two bodies, 5 lenses, a little LCD light and a soundkit, on and off buses, landrovers, small charter planes, etc.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the pros and cons of using an HDSLR in fast breaking documentary coverage.
The pros: Nikon optics…can’t beat ’em, ability to grab stills if need be, familiar form factor. Built-in intervalometer makes doing timelapses very easy. Easy access to all controls and a very complete and logical menu system.
The cons: Attaching and unattaching an LCD loupe is a hassle when things break so fast…and you can’t fit a body already fitted out with one in any camera bag that I own. So you end up not using one a lot of the time and it’s hard to see in bright light.
Onboard sound, even with a good shotgun mic, is okay at best, there is no live histogram to judge exposure (and it’s very hard to judge exposure on an LCD, if you can’t see it!).
And the weight of the bag became daunting (of course, I am not getting any younger, so that’s a factor:-).
In the next post, I’ll talk about the second trip, which I shot with a completely different setup.