The Great Video Dilemma…Redux

It would have been cool to have a video clip of these Shinto priests processing out of the temple after a ceremony, but while my video rig wasn't ready, my camera was! Photo © Bob Krist

Well, my marathon trip is coming to a close in beautiful Istanbul. And one other thing (besides the weather) has been bugging me on the trip.

Whether it’s a speed dating tour like the one I’m currently on, or a more in-depth assignment like my recent city profile of Buenos Aires for National Geographic Traveler, I am having a devil of a time fitting in the time to shoot video, let alone collect audio.

I’ve seen such stunning work from younger PJs who are combining both in beautiful stories. Maybe it’s because I’m from a pre-multi-tasking generation, but I really find it difficult to do both, or all three. I’ve written about this before and it hasn’t gotten any easier since.

I think part of the reason is that, while video-enabled DSLRs produce stunning-looking video, shooting video with them still presents, shall we say, ergonomic challenges.

First you put on your Zacuto viewfinder, then you put on your mic, your mixer, and your follow focus rig, and by the time you do that, the subject you want to video is three towns away, and maybe even retired. When, I wonder, will Nikon or Canon come up with a camera with the same chip, that takes the same lenses, but is actually designed to shoot video and not jerry-rigged to do so?

For my speculation on that and other video ironies, hit the jump.

Gotta be soon, seeing how quickly the film/tv/documentary community have jumped all over the video enabled DSLRs.  What a market that is, just waiting to be tapped.

In the meantime, it really seems to me that you have to have a dedicated DSLR video rig set up all the time to get it right. And maybe even shoot video fulltime to get it right. There’s no “grabbing a few film clips” in between shooting stills.  At least I haven’t been able to pull it off.

And of course, there’s learning Final Cut….let’s not even go there.

The clouds pouring over Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in Lijiang would have made good video, but I wasn't set up for it! Photo © Bob Krist

We had a guest on the middle sector of the trip who was a former TV producer and exec.  He had a tiny camcorder, and he was always shooting. When I sat down with him to look at his work, I was blown away!  It looked like he had two to three minute edited pieces on all our stops! I asked him when he had time to edit those pieces, and then he dropped a bombshell.

They weren’t edited….they were just his clips out of the camera!  To me, they looked like those polished little soft feature pieces that they run at the end of newscasts. But he knew his business, he knew how to frame up story telling shots, pace them, shoot them in order and use simple techniques….lots of short, stationary “still” shots in a variety of wides, mediums, and closeups, and an occasional “pan” or “reveal.” All this with rock steady camera handling….no shake, no wiggle.

It was an education for me to watch him work, because he was so unobtrusive, and his technique so simple but sure, and the results so clean and watchable. Sure, he didn’t get those gorgeous narrow depth of field beauty video shots everybody loves to shoot with their DSLRs and fast lenses, but what he did have were good, clean, story-telling multimedia travel pieces that I’d have been thrilled to produce. And he did it all with a palm-sized camcorder that weighed about 10 ounces and no editing at all…you gotta love it.

I have a pro bono project coming up in the fall to document the work of a local surgeon from our community hospital who does volunteer surgical work in Senegal. He needs a short, powerful multimedia piece to try to raise money to build a modern operating room over there and continue his program of educating Senegalese surgeons.

I’m on the fence about whether to shoot stills and gather audio and produce the show with Soundslides Plus (all of this well within my skill set and comfort zone) or try to go all video, and get my son Brian, the Final Cut wizard and a fulltime editor, to make the piece watchable.

If I do the latter, though, I may do it with a camcorder primarily, and only use the DSLR for the occasional narrow DOF beauty shot. It would make it a whole lot easier on this old mono-tasker to use a machine that’s specifically designed for the job!

A final post from this trip, about our visit to Turkey, is coming soon….

This entry was posted in Audio, Career issues, Destinations, Ironies, Multimedia, Photo Techniques, Technology, Travel.

9 Comments

  1. John May 4, 2010 at 3:36 pm #

    Thanks, Bob. I thought I was the only one who could not shoot video and stills. What a relief!

    • Bob May 4, 2010 at 3:38 pm #

      John: I have a feeling we are not alone! Bob

  2. Skunk May 5, 2010 at 3:42 am #

    Hi Bob,

    Does this gentleman have a video blog? I would love to see his work. I am getting more into video but it sure is daunting. I still lack the basic storytelling skills, which is strange because for photo it comes so easily. I thought they would overlap but I really struggle with it when doing video.

    Let me know if this guy has a blog or something..

    • Bob May 5, 2010 at 3:00 pm #

      Skunk: No, Ed was on vacation, doesn’t blog, and was just shooting this stuff for his wife, who works for the company that runs these trips. I think the company, http://www.starquestandtcsexpeditions.com, is going to utilize his footage in the future, but I don’t think anything is up thus far. I’ll do a post if and when they utilize his footage. If it’s any comfort, I’m having a hell of a time with video storytelling too, even when I just concentrate on shooting video. I virtually blew a whole trip to Tanzania thanks to camera shake and polluted sound ( I couldn’t stop my fellow passengers from clicking their shutters and oohing and aahing every time we saw an animal, and it made for lousy audio!).

      • Skunk May 7, 2010 at 4:30 am #

        Bob, do you find you use your flash HD camcorder thingy much? I remember you saying you have been carrying that instead of the Canon S90.

        Any further thoughts on the S90 by the way? I think I might pull the trigger on one. I’m getting tired of lugging my D90 everywhere.

        • Bob May 7, 2010 at 5:24 am #

          Skunk: I did use the Kodak Zi8 quite a bit to grab video…with grab being the operative word. It’s very easy to use, the auxiliary wideangle I bought for it (a cell phone accessory from Hong Kong direct) is very cool, if somewhat soft at the edges. I’ve got a good Soundprofessionals mic for it, but every once in a while, I pick up a crackle in the audio….dunno if that’s just on this one, or a design flaw.

          Didn’t use the S90 much, but that’s just me. I did get the Richard Freniec aftermarket grip for the S90 (www.kleptography.com), which makes it much easier to grab and use. I like the size of the camera better than the G10 I had, but I do have trouble using any camera that just has an LCD and no viewfinder. Bob

  3. John W. Spicer, Jr. May 5, 2010 at 11:54 am #

    Hello Bob, the Red Digital Cinema Camera company builds cameras that capture video in RAW that also allow you to select still images from the video file. This type of camera may be the answer to the current problem trying to do both types of photography with the current VDLSRs.
    http://www.red.com/

    http://www.reduser.net/forum/index.php

  4. Arun Paul May 9, 2010 at 4:39 pm #

    Bob:
    Don’t give up yet – I have been shooting quite a bit of video with the D300s (in fact recorded a concert with a few of them). I will let you know when I am done with the edit.
    Zacuto has a cool video of testing the DSLRs (Canon and Nikon) with Film and has some fantastic conclusions -
    Have you tried any of the shoulder mounts or the Flycams ?

  5. Arun Paul May 9, 2010 at 4:42 pm #

    Oh and don’t give up on FCP yet.

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