Adventures in Video: Part One – ‘The Kit’
A few years back when SLRs (single lens reflex cameras) started to introduce a video facility I thought that I should expand my skills into this area. After all not to do so would be a waste of an available option. So I started with one to one interviews with rugby players and rugby coaches as that was my main line of activity at the time. It was a useful starting point involving a degree of travelling and of course preparation for the interviews, but of necessity linked to the shorter winter months as rugby is a seasonal activity. Even so, practically the first thing that you discover about video is that actually what separates the good from the bad is the sound quality of the output. And that is quite another ball game.
So, the next step in the exploration of this new (for an event photographer) feature is to find out just how you can acquire these techniques. The main problem being that a single lens reflex camera usually only has a poor mono built in microphone. At the time I was using a Canon 5D Mark 2 which has a facility for an external microphone although no on board control over the recording level other than the camera’s default automatic level setting, and so a decent microphone had to be acquired. After some trial runs with other manufacturers I settled on the ‘Rode Stereo Videomic’ for music recording and the ‘Rode Directional Condenser Videomic’, which is a mono microphone, for interviews, etc. This greatly improved the sound quality but still often left shortcomings in the final audio output as a result of the less than adequate control over recording levels in the live setup, with peaking sometimes proving hard to control during sudden increases in volume when recording music. The trick really is to completely separate the audio track from the cameras audio and to synchronise the two tracks subsequently in editing. This way you have greater control over the audio at the recording stage and recording levels can be more easily fine-tuned on the job. To synchronise the two tracks manually at the editing stage is an arduous task and very time-consuming but there is a smart bit of software called ‘Dual Eyes’ (I use it on a PC) that compares the audio track produced by the camera with that produced by the separate recorder or microphone and synchronises the new audio output with the video track. I have for some time now been using the ‘H1 Zoom Handy Recorder’ which is capable of recording in various file outputs at near CD quality output as a separate stand-alone sound recorder. Some editing in Sound Forge is necessary from time to time post event, to normalise the audio track or to compensate for deficiencies in the audio at the venue, but the Dual Eyes software has made the whole process so much easier and stream-lined.
Since those early explorations SLR video has developed and newer cameras have greater control built in, even allowing zooming while retaining auto-focus when videoing, previously not possible with such cameras. However, my practice now is to utilise either micro four thirds cameras or even one of the better compacts. Such cameras now have excellent low light features almost matching that of the better SLRs and they usually come with stereo microphones built in, providing a useful back-up in the case of any failure with the stand-alone recorder. And of course they are both less obtrusive and much more portable.
Increasingly I have concentrated on music videos as, if you like, the story-line is built in allowing me to concentrate purely on the output and whereas a two camera set-up might provide greater opportunities at the editing stage (albeit at a price), I have always thought that was unnecessarily fussy and in music ‘the sound is the thing’, meaning that I am therefore able to produce a short music video of anywhere between three to ten minutes edited and output to YouTube.
For those who are interested my kit is as follows:
Cameras: Canon 60D with 17 to 70mm, f2.8 – f4 Sigma zoom lens, Canon 5D Mark 2 with Sigma 17 to 35mm f2.8 lens, Or Panasonic Lumix GF3 with 14mm f2.8 lens
Monopod or Tripod (Manfrotto)
Microphones: Rode Stereo Videomic, or H1 Zoom Handy Recorder
Software: Sony Vegas Studio HD, Sound Forge audio editing, Dual Eyes
YouTube Channel: ‘TheRugbyMatters Channel‘