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This weekly course covers the most common questions videographers encounter when shooting and editing with DSLR cameras, from choosing a frame size and frame rate to understanding moiré. Authors Rich Harrington and Robbie Carman will also help you understand the impacts of compression and the difference between cropped (or micro 4/3rds) and full-sized sensors in cameras, and much more. This continual FAQ guide is a handy way to find the answers to the questions that plague you the most.
Robbie Carman: Believe it or not, there are a couple of reasons for why recording length limitations exist on DSLRs, and the first one is something that you would say to yourself, really? They really did that? And that first one is sort of a legal limitation, right? In lots of different markets across the world, devices, electronic devices such as cameras are classified for tax reasons, right? So if you have a camera that is a photo camera, it's taxed differently than say a video camera.
And in a lot of regions across the world, that demarcation line is how much video or the length of video that a camera can record. So in certain markets, manufactures like Nikon and Canon, Sony and that kind of stuff have purposely handicapped and purposely limited the recording length for tax reasons. So they can make more money is basically what it comes down to. Rich Harrington: Well, and the thing that you have to realize is that finally enough people gave them feedback that they are starting to make this a choice. Now the issue here is if the camera gets classified one way or another it's going to affect import taxes, it's going to affect the fees that they have to pay to get that in the country.
Now this is a valid reason because the video features initially on a lot of these cameras were sort of a, oh, well we could throw that in or the associated press is asking us to add video record capacity so their news photographers out there could get short clips to put on the website. Video on DSLRs was really an accident. It was driven by consumer demand and the low-end of the market. Now what was surprising is how the high-end of the market and the mid-range of the market embraced it as a creative tool to empower them.
Robbie: That's right. Rich: I am not saying that this is going to replace the need for an ALEXA or RED, but this is a highly disposable camera that gets used on lots of film sets, lots of TV sets, and for a lot of folks on budgets doing things like music videos or spots, this opens up new paths for creativity. So fortunately, manufacturers have responded. Yes, you actually may pay a little bit more for that camera and keep in mind we are not talking like, 30 bucks it's like, oh, it added $2 in taxes, so it adds $10 to the street price. But they are making that an option that you can get longer record times.
But even though you can get longer record times, there is still--you say, well, why can't I record forever? Well, there is still a limit for some technical reasons, right? Robbie: Yeah, totally, and these technical reasons are actually multifaceted. The first one is really the simplest, and that is sort of the file system that the camera card, that's being employed in the card, uses, so whether it's FAT32 or some other sort of format for the card. Now, a lot of manufactures for a long time used sort of the FAT32 file system and what this did was it meant hat you could only have a file that was 4 gigabytes in total size or duration, right? And because it was 4 gigabytes, depending on the camera that you were shooting, that might have only been 10, 12 minutes, maybe 13 minutes, something like that, and recently a lot of the camera manufacturers have switched away from FAT32 or they are doing other things in the camera to sort of remove that 4-gigabyte limit.
Rich: You are right, Rob. And to keep things simple, one of the things that's important to realize is that as you change different frame rates and frame sizes, that affects how much data. So you would think naturally, oh, I am shooting 720p/24, I will get a longer limit. Well, it was easier for the manufacturer to not have to do that dynamic math and say, oh, this is the frame rate, this is the record limit, this is this. They just said, oh, what is the maximum record time if somebody is doing 1080p, 30 frames a second or 60 frames per second and they set the cap.
Well, it also varies upon the subject matter. If it's a real simple locked off shot, like something like this, interview on a simple background, it's a lower data rate, but they just simplified it and because the worst thing that would happen would be for you to hit that limit and then you would have a corrupt clip and lose everything. Robbie: Right, that's a good point, Rich. And then another technical reason that this happened is because a lot of the camera manufacturers realize sort of the limitations of actually recording video. What I mean by that is that these camera bodies are nice and small, they are compact, they don't have huge heat sinks, or fans and things of that nature, so early on one of the reasons that these recording length limitations were put into place is because the camera simply could not stand up to lengthy recording. The cameras got too hot.
I had a Canon 7D for a long time, but every once in a while recording continuously for a long time, even if I stopped and started, I'd get this sort of heat warning, right? It was getting too hot and I should stop recording and turn the camera off and let it sit. And I have actually even read stories online of people doing things like wrapping icepacks around their camera and that kind of stuff. So another technical reason besides sort of the file formatting on the card itself was that the manufacturers wanted to try to give the user the best experience and that best experience often meant limiting that recording length time so the camera didn't do things like overheat.
Rich: So the good news is, is that as you upgrade firmware or as you look at newer cameras, the record times in general have been pushed out. Robbie: Absolutely. Rich: Nikon started doing this, Canon stared doing this, it's not uncommon to find record lengths easily in the 20-minute mark, although I would say for the same reasons we talked about earlier, don't record for 20 minutes if you don't have to. It's just hard on the camera, you increase the chances of a corrupted clip, and you make it that much harder when you get into post. So I think some very good straightforward things here, understands the limits of your camera.
This might mean taking out the manual. I highly recommend that you do actually try some test shooting where you run the camera all the way up to that limit and see what happens, does it stop, does it shut down, does it corrupt the clip? Robbie: Yeah, and I mean the other thing I just want to point out again--and this might not be a popular thing to say on a DSLR show-- but just keep in mind when you do need those really lengthy record times, you might consider a different recording device that's not a DSLR. Rich: Or you could attach an external recorder to some of the newer DSLRs because for example some of my newer Nikons, I could take a clean HDMI out and I can go to an external record device.
But, yeah, not every camera is the right one. Sometimes I am using the GoPro, sometimes I am using a RED, it depends on the budget, it depends on the shoot. Now we love these cameras, these cameras and many others do have record limitations. A lot of times the way they are getting around that is they are now starting to write multiple files, but then it gets stitched back together when you import. So make sure you get familiar with the tech that you have. My name is Richard Harrington. Robbie: And I am Robbie Carman. Rich: And we'd like to thank you for joining us.
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