The demands of shooting news stories, often in difficult situations and under considerable pressure, makes news cameramen highly inventive and they’re constantly looking for new solutions to their particular challenges. Often these solutions come from unlikely sources.
“New toys are probably my downfall,” Matt admits. “I was doing some research online and found this tiny new camera called the GoPro that you can put on vehicles, boats or helmets, and use underwater or anywhere… and it only cost US$120. I’ve used it to shoot at some protests in Malaysia and put it on the end of a boom pole. One of the producers was walking around with it up at 12 or 15 feet and shooting with its virtual fish-eye lens. It doesn’t matter if it gets doused by the water cannons or tear gassed. There’s now a full HD version that sells for about US$300.”
Matt’s work has so far taken him to more than 30 countries, covering everything from major sporting events to major conflicts. As well as using the Canon EOS 7D for some video shooting and for still photography, Matt also has a Sony A900 D-SLR along with two fast Zeiss zoom lenses. He has subsequently acquired three new lenses for the Canon; a Tokina 11-16mm f2.8 wide-angle zoom, Canon 135mm f2.0 prime telephoto (equivalent to 216mm on the 7D) and a Canon 100mm f2.8 macro.
“Nobody else [in the network] has bought a D-SLR for video shooting at the moment, but a lot are talking about it. I’ve always been interested in making things look different and previously the only way – if you didn’t go the $125,000 film camera route – was to buy a film-to-video conversion kit for US$12,000 to $15,000.
“The trouble with the D-SLRs is that they create a more complex process for editing and post-production. They record a Quick Time movie file that is not really compatible with anything so you have to import the files into the computer and transcode them into another format and then put it into Final Cut Pro. However, Canon has released a plug-in for Final Cut Pro which helps here.
“Then, to get any type of decent audio quality, you need to record the soundtracks separately. The D-SLRs have an automatic gain control which, as soon as it hears a bit of noise, it amplifies it. So, if you’re doing an interview and somebody stops talking, it amplifies the background noise and renders the interview useless.
“A few people have done documentaries on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan using D-SLRS and there are still photographers imbedded with the troops who are dabbling with video so it’s something that’s only going to get bigger.”
Matt Allard’s favourite segment filmed on the Canon EOS 7D D-SLR can be seen at http://vimeo.com/8646010 His blog is at http://blogs.aljazeera.net/profile/matthew- allard, and a report on shooting with the GoPro HD camera can be viewed at http://www.dslrnewsshooter.com/tag/gopro-hd/
More information about the GoPro helmet and sports cameras can be found at www.goprocamera.com. An interesting Website for anybody using a D-SLR to shoot HDV footage is DSLR News Shooter which can be found at www.dslrnewsshooter.com