In this edition’s Hints & Tips feature, RSC Advisor, Gordon Millner, introduces you to an increasingly popular way of capturing film – not with a video recorder but with a camera.
With the cost coming down and the increasing ease of recording and uploading video to a computer and the internet, video is now a popular media for education, for business and for fun.
You can use your smartphone, you can use a compact camera, you can use an expensive video camera.
I’m going to pitch something at you though that is becoming increasing popular and gives you mid-price control over the recording of high definition (HD) video.
That’s the use of a Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera.
Want to use a DSLR for video production?
DSLRs up to a couple of years ago took photographs. Now it is rare to find a camera that doesn’t take video as well.
One of the significant strengths of the SLR camera, whether it’s film or digital, is that it uses interchangeable lenses.
This gives considerable flexibility for a whole series of different styles of photography, for landscapes, for portraits, for wacky wide-angle fisheye cityscapes, and telephoto long lenses for sports and wildlife photography.
One of the best features of the interchangeable lens for video photography though is the ability to vary the aperture and control the amount that is in focus in your shot and so isolate your subject from the background to create a nice artistic blur in the background.
Combine that with the small size, lower price, and portability of a DSLR and lens and you can start to see why it is finding favour over conventional large and expensive video cameras used for some mainstream TV, video and film production.
So what do you need to start being a DSLR videographer:
- A new camera? – DSLRs start at around the £400 mark with a standard zoom lens. Canon and Nikon are the leaders in DSLR cameras. When shooting video with a DSLR, I use one with an articulating (twisting) screen rather than a fixed screen as it allows you to see your shots from high, normal or low angles without having to stretch, bend and get yourself in some awkward positions to take the shot.
- A steady camera – you’ll need something to keep your camera steady. This could be a tripod, a decent one would be about £50 upwards, nice and steady but they can restrict you a little in movement. You can get a variety of brackets that stabilise your camera whilst shooting. Perhaps one that fits over the shoulder, or one that is a simple u-shaped handle arrangement which is great for getting down low, both of these are available for around £30. Or if you want to use what the professionals use for TV/film then get a “steadicam” but whilst great and really do stabilise the video footage, they can be expensive at around £600. Cheaper, inferior ones are available for much less money.
- Microphone – this is needed if you intend to record the talking of your “actors” or to record the ambience. The internal microphone on DSLRs is usually not great and will often pick up wind noise too. So having a proper external microphone gives you better quality sound at around £70 upwards. You need to have a mic connection on your camera or record it separately to an audio recorder (again more expense). If you intend just putting background music on your video then a mic is not required.
- Lighting – unless you’re taking video outside or inside a well-lit room, then it is likely you might need some lighting. At around £35 you can get a 160-LED lamp that can be camera-mounted and that may suffice for most close shooting of your subject. For larger rooms then you need to be thinking more on the lines of some continuous lighting system using daylight-balanced fluorescent lamps. Much more expensive though.
- Video editing software – proper recording of video footage into a story film format usually consists of short clips of scenes rather than one continuous record. If it’s just the recording of a demonstration or a presentation/lecture then the one-take approach will work, but could be a little boring to watch. Either way, you will still usually need some software to do the editing, sequencing of clips and topping and tailing the finished video with titles and credits. Free software like Windows MovieMaker or Apple iMovie for the Mac will suffice for the beginner. For something more sophisticated then products like Adobe Premiere (Elements) and Apple Final Cut, start at about £70 but finish off considerably higher priced for the full-featured software.
For more help on using DSLRs to take video please get intouch with me on 01509 618120 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alternatively our sister organisation, JISC Digital Media, have a plethora of resources around digital media and also provide a free support desk for anything you need to know on this topic.
Have you used DSLRs in your organisation?
What has been your most successful method of capturing and using video?