From still photography to videography…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Shooting a promo movie for ASK – All Special Kids (Geneva)

Two months ago I was asked to make a promotion video for ASK (All Special Kids) during their Summercamp. ASK All Special Kids is a Geneva based NGO, aimed at helping kids with learning difficulties. Since I have a warm heart for this organization, and because I like technical challenges, I immediately said yes.

I quickly discovered that making videos was a completely different experience than photography. Photography comes intuitively to me; I immediately seem to feel which pictures I want make in terms of angles, light, composition, etc., and I never have to think about the technical aspects (aperture, shutter speed, exposure, iso settings, etc.). Contrary to this, making professional videos almost feels like a scientific process to me.

So far I produced one more or less professional video, but that was only for internal communication purposes for the organization I shot it for. This video would be published on You Tube, and be one of the highlights of the jubilee the organization will have later this year.

In this blog post I will share the different technical difficulties I encountered during my first steps in the field of videography. Perhaps you can learn something from it.

Camera

In order to capture my footage I used my Nikon D750 DSLR. Although it is the perfect camera for shooting stills, it is not ideal for shooting videos. The reason is that shooting video with this (and most other DSLR camera’s) requires focusing with the Live view screen at the back of the camera. This is very slow, and if the subject moves, re-focusing is necessary, which looks awkward if this is done during the same shot.

The workaround I used was to use Autofocus-Single before making the footage and using a small aperture (wherever possible f8 and up) in order to get a fairly large depth of field. The disadvantages were of course the fact that I needed to use a higher iso setting (which created more visual ‘noise’), and I had a less interesting bokeh.

Another disadvantage of the fact that the camera worked in Live View mode all the time, was that it consumed battery power like a young (unsupervised) kid candy bars.

Despite these disadvantages, the technical material was impressive. During the premiere of the movie it was displayed on a huge movie screen and I was impressed with the sharpness and resolution.

Lenses

When I filmed on a Tripod (and did not use Vibration Reduction) I used a Tamron 28-75 2.8 Zoom lens. This was perfect because it has a constant aperture over the whole zoom range.

For handheld footage I used my Tamron 35 1.8 SP Lens due to its Vibration reduction capabilities. The results were impressive, I was surprised at the high quality I could achieve when using this camera for interviews where I held the camera in my hand and used a simple shotgun microphone.

Sound

To record the interviews, I used an external recorder from TASCAM (the DR-05) with a Rode Smartlav+. Getting this to work was not exactly easy. The Rode Smartlav+ needs an adapter to work on the TASCAM, and some settings need to be adjusted on the TASCAM to make the Rode Smartlav+ work. Of course Rode does not explain this anywhere on its website or on its documentation, and neither does TASCAM. All in all I spend more than an hour to make this combination work.

I was also very disappointed in the quality of the Rode; after two days of filming the Smartlav+ did not work anymore. Fortunately Rode has a good & quick return policy, but I was very embarrassed when I discovered that the mike stopped working halfway through the project.

The Rode VideoMic pro I used to record interviews outside worked pretty well, although the background noise was not very effectively filtered by this microphone, despite the special functionality it claims to offer.

Editing

I edited the movie in iMovie 09. This turned out to be a drama. Several times during the editing process iMovie crashed, all in all destroying 10+hours of work. I became so desperate that I seriously considered to switch to Adobe Premiere Elements, and even downloaded the demo version of the package. At the end though I think the crashes occurred when I imported video material made by other filmers, because iMovie stopped crashing when I threw this material out and only used my own.

Synchronizing the video footage and the audio files made with the TASCAM in iMovie took a long time, despite the fact that I used my hands as a clapboard. I also found handling audio in Imovie cumbersome in general.

I was impressed by the user-friendliness of the ‘Picture In Picture’ functionality and the functionality to insert pictures in iMovie. This works incredibly simple. A disadvantage of iMovie is that it will only import pictures that are imported in iPhoto, which was not ideal for me since I keep my pictures in Adobe Lightroom. For this reason I needed to import all the pictures I wanted to use in iPhoto first.

Music

Finding Free Music also proved to be a challenge. Despite the impressive number of hits you see if you type in ‘free music’ in Google, most of this free music requires a payment or comes with other restrictions, especially if you want to upload it to YouTube. In the end I used music from bensound.com, which is very straightforward regarding credits.

The result

You can watch the movie on YouTube. Let me know what you think about it!

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