Join Ben Long for an in-depth discussion in this video Why shoot video on a DSLR?, part of Creative DSLR Video Techniques.
Nowadays you can buy incredibly capable video cameras at fairly amazing prices. If you walk into any big box electronics store you'll find tiny affordable video cameras that will deliver image quality that goes way beyond what was considered broadcast quality just a decade ago. So, with all of these great video cameras around, why would you shoot video with a digital SLR? Well first of all, you probably already have a digital SLR. If it has video capability, why spend money on another camera? What's more, if you're a serious photographer, you probably have very good lenses, better lenses than what you would get on a lot of video cameras.
In fact, if you already have lenses, digital SLRs might make for a less expensive video solution than a dedicated video camera, since you can get video capable SLR bodies for very little money these days. And those bodies will support any high end lenses that you might already have. With their larger sensors, digital SLRs offer better low-light performance than most video cameras, as well as the ability to shoot images with very shallow depth of field. Something that's hard to achieve with a dedicated video camera that uses a small sensor. The ability to shoot at 24 frames per second, with shallow depth of field means you can achieve a real film-like look.
But depending on the type of project you're doing, there are some caveats you should know about digital SLR video shooting. In this course, we're going to distinguish between documentary style shooting and feature style shooting. Documentary style shooting is the kind of shooting that we all do any time we point a video camera at events that are unfolding before us in real time. In a documentary shoot, you don't know what your subject will do. You may not even know what the subject of your shot is. And so you have to compose and expose and plan all of that on the fly.
In feature-style shooting, you have a script or some other plan ahead of time and you use that script to prepare specific shots. You set the camera up and you possibly light the scene, you get your subject in place, you yell action and you record those planned events. We call it feature shooting because that's the type of shooting that you do when you're recording a feature film. Now, you might be doing a project that is one of these types of shooting or both. And each type of shooting comes with its own concerns. DSLRs are difficult to use for documentary-style shooting because most of them cannot auto focus while they're recording video.
Now, at the time of this recording, that has started to change. A few cameras now offer real-time auto focus. But even if your camera does have real-time auto focus while shooting video, you may find that you don't want to use it. Because if the camera auto focuses on the wrong spot in the middle of your shot, you'll have to stop and re-shoot. Because of their weird size and shape, shooting video with an SLR handheld can be tricky. So, for documentary shooting you may want a special rig. Now none of that means that documentary-style shooting is impossible with a DSLR, but you will need to carefully consider your subject and what type of shots you need.
And then think about whether a DSLR is capable of capturing that particular action. Focus can also be tricky in feature shooting. But with a feature style shoot, you at least have the time to plug in a bigger monitor or pull test shots out of the camera to see what the final image quality really is. In both types of shooting, be aware that the ports on a DSLR, don't use the more robust style connectors that real video equipment does. If you're planning on shooting a lot on location, you may find yourself frustrated by repeatedly breaking HDMI cables, or microphone plugs. Again, don't consider any of these things as deal breakers.
Digital SLRs are great video tools, but you have to be prepared for the particulars of working with them.
- Why DSLR?
- Planning the shoot
- Deciding on gear
- Setting up the workspace
- Capturing B-roll
- Synchronizing audio
- Adding music
- Color grading footage