This month, Michael Freeman explains how to use your camera’s red button without (too much) pain…
Your Nikon doesn’t just take photos, it shoots video too. Michael Freeman explores the basics of making your own movies, from the kit you’ll need (basic and advanced) to the techniques you need to master
Video shooting came to be featured in D-SLRs more because technology meant it could be, rather than because photographers had ambitions to become
moviemakers. A lot of development work had to go into making this possible in terms of processing, but the hardware, from sensor to lenses, was already there.
The difference between pressing the black button and the red button on a Nikon may be very small in an operational sense, but they unlock different worlds. Any of us interested in shooting video with our D-SLRs needs to make an important decision: how seriously are we going to get involved? You can take it very far, of course, to the point of abandoning your still photography and making videos professionally, but the cost of any extra equipment can then be several times the cost of the camera. Over the next few pages we’ll assume an interest that stays secondary to stills shooting. Even so, we’ll present two levels of kit and involvement – basic and next-step.
Preparing your camera for shooting video takes a little longer than for stills, for one important reason: you do not have the safety net of shooting RAW. While elsewhere [see issues 40 and 44] we’ve stressed the value of RAW, and how easy it is to adjust settings like White Balance long after you’ve taken your shot, in videoland what you shoot is largely what you get; there’s no ability to make serious changes in post-production to recover blown highlights, for example. As a result, you have to think as if you were shooting JPEGs that have to be spot-on, with no safety net in the processing. This is also a good reason for using the camera settings to keep contrast and saturation low, as it’s easier to increase these later in processing than it is to reduce them.
As stills photographers, we all start out with a great advantage when tackling video – we already know how to frame and compose, plus we understand lighting. But then there is also a new visual language to learn, one that includes smoothness, stability, continuity, and a particular kind of variety between shots to keep the flow of imagery interesting. Finally, editing is important; so much so that one of the mantras of video production is ‘shoot for the edit’ (see Shoot for the edit, page 91).
Making a simple video of a guzheng player in Chongqing, China, with sound: camera locked off, fixed focal length lens, mic with windshield mounted on camera and sound fed to camera