DSLRs for Video

Our Tool of Choice for Today’s Imaging

You know the look so popular today - shallow depth of field combined with key cinematic elements that make video look more like film. Nikon started the whole video from DSLR movement with the release of the D90 in August 2008 although Canon really popularized it among shooters with the release of the 5D Mark II a month later. Fast forward five years and it’s clear these single chipped pioneers have created an entirely new class of HD video capture devices - a development that we have certainly welcomed. The low light sensitivity of these cameras combined with depth of field control enables us to capture stunning images.

But using cameras designed primarily for stills photography for video work, as opposed to traditional video cameras, does come with a laundry list of hurdles that must be overcome in order to capture quality footage. Generally, DSLR audio will be useless and provisions for connecting pro audio gear simply do not exist. So this mandates the use of outboard mic’s and recorders to capture location sound that must be synchronized with the visuals in post production. Secondly, autofocus is less than reliable, particularly when using large apertures creating very shallow depth of field, and it doesn’t exist at all when pairing manual 35mm film camera lenses with these new DSLRs. So that means you have to use a follow focus to manually pull focus on just about every shot. For daylight shooting, you’re stuck manually swapping neutral density (ND) filters to blunt the brightness of the sun instead of being able to rely on any type of auto-ND mechanism as is built into most professional video cameras. And then there’s the whole lensing issue that forces shooters to plan most shots ahead of time because of the inability to rely on the focal length flexibility of a 13X to 23X onboard powered zoom lens common to most professional video cameras.

Even with all of these drawbacks, we still find we prefer using DSLRs for the bulk of our work - although sometimes a true videocamera is the only tool for the job. Some members of our production team have shot 35mm for over 30 years, cutting their stills teeth on manual everything cameras which predated the auto-everything Canon EOS system. So we are right at home with using DSLRs for video acquisition in just about any type of environment despite their inherent shortcomings. Contact us to discuss how we can use these large sensor cameras to bring a modern look to your production!

About Aaron J. Courtney

Aaron J. Courtney is the Director of Technical Production at CenterStage Media. He brings media production, marketing, web development, and graphic design skillsets to the firm. He began working with film cameras at age nine and has served in various media post production capacities for over 15 years. Connect with him on Google+ and LinkedIn and follow CenterStage on Twitter and Google+.

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