Video and Stills #4 - Quick tip for Nikon users

I currently use Nikon D750 bodies - for what I do they offer a cost effective solution. They give me what I need at a good price point and are great little cameras.

To use the Nikon D750 for video you have switch to video liveview then you depress the red record button next to the shutter button to start filming. The red button is annoyingly small and easy to miss. A quick Google will offer the solution to customise the controls to allow the shutter release button to start recording whilst in video liveview. This is briliant and much easier for those not trying to multitask like us hybrid video and stills shooters. But and it is a big but for me - if you have the liveview switch in the video position even if you don’t have live view activated the shutter release button will not operate the shutter. This means if you are shooting stills and video you will have to keep alternating the liveview button from video to stills. Not a solution when we want to be able to seamlessly flick from video to still photography. 

 Anyway the point of this post and I appreciate it has taken me a while to get there! If you shoot video and stills but not at the same time then customising the controls is a good idea. If however you are like me then leave it as it is and get used to that little red button. 

Video and Stills #3 - The run and gun approach to audio that will make sound engineers cry

As photographers we generally don’t care too much about audio but with video it is a totally different story Good sound will make or break your video but more annoyingly there is no simple fix all solution. I remember seeing TV news companies with their camera man and also a guy running around with a bag holding his recorder a pair of headphones and a boom mic. The reason for this is audio is a specialism, a discipline all of its own. It needs to be lovingly monitored and tweaked which is why they employed the sound guy. Move on a few years and I now see local news teams where the cameraman now has to do the sound as well. And then there are us … who take pictures, record video and sound.

So what is the answer? The simple answer is there is no simple answer.  It is going to have to be a compromise.

I have started using an on camera shotgun microphone. There are various options out there, I have a Takstar SGC-598 - it is great and brilliant value for money. I also have a Rode Videomic pro which gets lots of good reviews. They are both good pieces of kit but as always it is not what you have but how you use it that makes the difference.

Shot gun mics are directional and work really well if you are within a few feet of your subject. The first issue you will have do deal with is setting the level, ideally you should have a set of headphones and manually set the record level. This is easier said than done if you are run and gunning and you might have to resort to using the auto gain setting on your camera. This is probably the audio equivalent of putting your camera on P for Program. It is not ideal and will not always work or give you good results but trying to set audio levels with camera one on your monopod and camera two round your neck is not an easy option.

If you are recording someone talking then it is best to get your microphone within a few feet of your subject or better still to use a lavalier mic attached to your victim. I have an extension lead so that I can get the mic off the camera and closer to the subject but this presents another set of issues - once off the camera what do you do with it. It would be nice to have a boom stand or something convenient but that is unlikely and the best advise I can give is improvise. Perhaps there is a convenient table or wall, or a willing volunteer lightstand or last resort give it to the person talking.

Trust me getting the microphone close to the subject is very, very important. Do not think you can just leave the mic on top of the camera and ‘get away’ with it. If you don’t believe me take a look at the following video. I was at this event taking pictures for the charity - one that I have supported for a number of years. As always my main objective was good stills to be used in press releases etc. I also offered to make a little video. The event was fairly fast moving and very, very noisy. I was quite happy with what I had filmed until I got home and started editing. The sound was awful and most of the problems could have been avoided by getting the mic off the camera and closer to the subjects. I thought it was too inconvenient or that I didn’t have time. This demonstrates why you have to make time! The video is still quite nice but could have been so much better with decent audio.

Learn from my mistakes.

And this is some of the pictures in the press release.

Video and Stills #2 - Initial Problems

My aim is to provide video coverage whilst carrying out my primary role which is taking pictures. I must stress again that video is secondary for me but if I am going to do it I want it to be as good as possible 

On a normal day, be it press, PR or a wedding I typically carry two bodies. One has the 70-200 the other either a 24-70 or 17-35, this body always has a flash mounted. That said sometimes particularly at weddings I use a pair of primes - 28mm and 85mm usually but we will park that for now.

For video use I am going to need an ND filter if any of the filming is outside and a microphone as good sound is a requirement. So immediately I have a problem … 

Problem 1 - Should I add mics and filters to both cameras or just one? For the time being I have decided to use the camera with the shorter lens as my primary video camera. So on this camera I normally have the ND filter and microphone. There is still nothing to stop me using the other camera for video too but it won’t have the mic and filter.

Problem 2 - How do you attach a flash and microphone simultaneously. I looked at various rigs and brackets but stumbled upon the. This effectively is a hot shoe doubler that maintains full TTL functionality. I have used it once, it seems to work and is incredible value for money!

The cheapo hot shoe doubler

Problem 3 - Stabilisation. Any video training course would advise using a tripod but that really is not an option for me. I have gone for a video monopod (Manfrotto 560b) with a lightweight fluid head (Manfrotto 128rc). This works well but can be cumbersome especially when carrying two cameras. Problem 4 - How the hell am I going to carry all of this, and move around - and take pictures which is the main task. I am not going to answer this now but will follow up in future installments.

Video and Stills #1 - The start of the journey

Video is becoming part of my working life. I am a photographer first, video man second. Expectations of customers is changing rapidly and more and more clients now want some sort of video alongside their pictures.

Where do I stand on this? It is easy to kick back and say it is difficult or not possible. It is very difficult but it is possible. If you are working alone what you can provide will be limited. My intention is to provide a rough and ready offering. If you are looking for beautifully produced video then I am not your man. If you want something similar to VLOG work then perhaps I can help.

Over the coming weeks I will be blogging the challenges of run and gun video alongside normal event photography. I will be talking about equipment, best practice and editing and sharing lessons learned along the way. 

In the meantime here is one of my first event videos, This was filmed by me whilst taking pictures of the event. It was edited and delivered on the day. Far from perfect and lots to talk about but this is the sort of thing I am producing.

Using Format