There’s been a long tradition of Camera readers not being particularly interested in anything to do with video. It goes back to when portable video cameras first appeared, and kept going after camcorders appeared. No matter how interesting video camcorders became, it seemed that most photographers weren’t particularly interested in them. The times that we ran camcorder reviews – which really hasn’t been all that often – readers have objected to precious space in their magazine being taken up with moving pictures. The reality now, though, is that we can’t get away from it, because every digital still camera can also record video. And, consequently, slowly but surely, more and more photographers are thinking “Well, I might just have a little dabble…”.
I’m among them, but the “little dabble” soon starts to turn into something much bigger. So, within very little time, I’d acquired the external microphone (absolutely essential if you want anything approaching decent sound), the LED light, the bracket, the spare batteries, the fluid head for the tripod and the monitor hood (another essential when shooting outdoors). Now I’m eyeing off the focus puller kit, the matte box and filter holder, and maybe a shoulder mount. If you thought still photography was heaven for the gadget freak, wait until you start shooting video with a D-SLR... the shopping list just keeps getting longer. Snag is, the more you shoot, the more you realise you really need all this stuff if you’re going to do the job properly. It took me just one short trial run to realise that the external stereo mic and the LED light were mandatory. And the fluid head. The credit card has been taking a hammering ever since.
The other snag is that making videos is really addictive. I’ve always been interested in documentaries and have been privileged to be involved in the making of a few as a scriptwriter and a stills photographer, but the gun job really is behind the camera. Once you start to understand the key visual differences between shooting moving pictures versus the definitive still, the creative possibilities are truly alluring... panning, zooming, focusing and exposure control all take on dynamic characteristics which greatly expand what you can do with them in terms of telling a story. You very quickly realise why professional productions involve so much planning. And then there’s all the fun you can have with sound tracks... music, effects, voice overs. Of course, it’s not all play because even a small video production is likely to create hundreds of digital files that need to be carefully organised ready for the daunting task of – gulp – editing. While digital video has made the editing process much more flexible in terms of marrying vision and sound, it’s still very time consuming. I’m going to have to plunge in soon, so I’ll keep you posted about how it goes. I’m expecting pain, but may be as pleasantly surprised as I have been with the behind-the-camera experience.
It’s true to say that photography and video were once mutually exclusive as far as the dedicated practitioners of each were concerned, but this really can no longer be the case. It’s still true that any photographer won’t become a videographer – actually the preferred term among the pros is apparently ‘cinematographer’ – overnight, because there is so much that is new to learn, but it’s not an impossibly massive transition because so many basic elements are shared. D-SLRs and CSCs are making shooting high-def video really accessible, even if you do need to reconfigure them to allow for more efficient operation and a more professional look. I’m actually finding the whole video learning experience tremendously invigorating and stimulating... a whole new world of visual creativity has opened up before me. And no, I don’t think it’s taking anything away from my photography. I think the two can exist side-by-side and are actually quite complementary. I do, however, have one word of warning... you won’t be able to ‘just dabble’. It’s going to be all or nothing... and once you get started, you won’t be able to stop But it is fun, and I’m pretty certain it’s going to be very rewarding. I’m still some way off finishing my first production and I know there’s some hard work still to be done, but frankly I can’t wait to see the finished thing even if it will be immediately evident that I can do better. That’ll be the next project.
Video... just think of it as 25 stills per second.
Paul Burrows, Editor