“Dad, you’ve got to start shooting video with a DSLR!” After hearing this from my daughter, several times I decided to take a second look. I say “second look” because I was an early adopter of the idea of video with a DSLR, having bought a Canon 7D when it was first released. I took the camera out on some shoots to Africa and Thailand to film some music videos that I had been commissioned to do. When I got back to the studio I discovered that I could only use about 50% of the shots that I had taken with the 7D, the rest were useless for one reason or another, mostly focusing problems. While I was very impressed at how great the video looked when everything was perfect, I was burned so badly by the shots that hit the floor, that I basically abandoned the idea of using my 7D for video on a serious shoot, ever again!
I will be the first to admit that much of this was due to user error. I had not done my homework and learned how to shoot video with the camera before taking it out on a paid shoot. This is usually a recipe for disaster! On the other hand, I was also aware that DSLR video, especially this early in the development was very limiting, especially for the type of “run and gun” shooting that most of my work demands. The audio was useless, it was extremely difficult to keep a focus, especially on a moving target, the camera had zero stabilization, and you could not do a slow push in or out without noticeable jerks.
The next year when I went to the National Association of Broadcasters Convention, I noticed a whole new industry had emerged, selling add-ons and gadgets to compensate for the shortcomings of DSLR. I scratched my head, asking, “If I have to buy all of these extra items, carry them all to Africa and Asia, make sure that they are all attached to the camera before I jump out of the Land Cruiser to get a shot in the field, why wouldn’t I just get a good VIDEO camera where all of these things are already built in? In other words, if I am shooting video, why wouldn’t I just use a video camera? I chose to go the video camera route and invested in a Canon XF 300, and have been quite happy with my decision for the last several years.
Recently however, I had a chance to work a little with my daughters Canon 5D MIII, on a shoot that we did together in the Dominican Republic. I have to admit that I was impressed! The video from her camera looked amazing! The interviews that we shot with her camera looked like it was ready for the theater! On one occasion we were not able to get to our location until after dark. We decided to do some filming with her camera anyways.
I was sure that the video would have so much noise that it would be unusable, but I thought that it would be a good test of the camera. When I downloaded the shots in to Edius later that night and took a look I was shocked! Even though I had set the ISO to 1600, the shots had hardly any visible noise! I wasn’t quite sure how ISO 1600 compared to the db gain of my XF 300 but one thing I did know is that I would not have been able to get these shots, this clean, with my trusty VIDEO camera!
Since my 7D was dying anyway, I decided to order a Canon 6D, and this time take the time to thoroughly learn how to use the camera and see where it led. I have begun shooting a documentary in Vietnam, and have so far, shot most of the video with the 6D. I have learned so much along the way that I have decided to create a series of videos to share the things that I have picked up, and how I am using Edius to optimize the footage that I am getting. If you are still on the fence about shooting with a DSLR, you may find this series very helpful. We will go through all of the pros and cons, strengths and weakness, how to compensate, how to start with proper settings, and how to optimize and best work the footage in Edius.
Stay tuned for the first tutorials on our adventure, coming soon!