Comfort those closest, entertain the rest.

Taking the time to try and do it right

I’ve had my Canon DSLR for almost a year now and I’m embarrassed to say how little I still know about how to use it properly.

So much of what I do is run and gun stuff; interviews, B roll, etc. The kind of stuff that doesn’t always lend itself to sitting down and really creating a look in-camera. That’s how I’m rationalizing how bad some of my stuff has looked lately, anyway…

Today, though, between other projects, I was able to sit down and spend some time with my camera. Specifically, I took it outside (in preparation for a project I’m shooting for our Christmas Eve service at Crossroads) and really focused on shooting in sunlight.

The first thing I did was put a polarizer on the lens. From there, I spent some time on white balance and setting my ISO and shutter speed properly. All of this time spent tinkering in the camera was also helped along by downloading and installing Technicolor’s Cinestyle color preset, so that when I did start shooting, I’d end up with a nice flat image that would give me a lot of latitude for color grading.

Here’s a shot I took of my friend Tim:

Totally flat. Now, here it is after I’ve gone in and done some color grading:

The look of the second picture is pretty close to what I’ll be going for in my Christmas Eve project (and yes, it’s purposefully dark and un-Christmasy. You’ll just have to trust me on this one). Starting with a really solid, flat image gave me tons of room when it came to grading.

Nothing groundbreaking happened today and I definitely didn’t do anything I shouldn’t always do when starting a project - but when you finally do take the time to take steps towards doing something right, it feels good. So I’m putting this here to remind me; the next time I hit record without taking the time to properly set up a shot, I’m ultimately undermining what I’m trying to do.

Work journal: less than ideal audio setup

I’ve decided to start documenting some of my setup and work with the new dslr. Why? I really don’t have a good reason. Maybe it’ll be helpful to somebody else. Probably not.

This week I’ve done two different video shoots with the new camera. This video shows the hoops I’m currently having to jump through in order to record audio during these shoots.

Game Changer

The biggest part of what I do at Crossroads, the part I love most, is video work. While I am a professional in the sense that I get paid for what I do, my technique, style, and work flow all pretty much betray me for the amateur, that I am. I get paid to communicate ideas on a very quick deadline (less than a week, usually), not create masterpieces, so a lot of the time, craft is sacrificed for accessibility and speed.

And that’s good, because I’m self-taught and really can’t speak much to “craft.” That being said, I’m about to talk craft for a second.

One of the neat things about the video world is that it’s really being affected by leaps in technology.

Like the DSLR camera.

DSLR cameras are digital photography cameras that, like most digital cameras, can also shoot video. These cameras however have a light sensor that’s surface area is 20 to 30 times larger than a similarly priced digital video camera. That means you can shoot beautiful HD video with variable depths of field with a camera that cost well under $1000.

By way of comparison, here’s a chart of various camera sensor sizes:

That smallest one? That’s a $9000 professional grade video camera. The others are all DSLRs, most between $500 and $2000.

How good is the video quality? Well, they used DSLR cameras to shoot parts of IRON MAN 2. And BLACK SWAN. And an episode of HOUSE. So, yeah, they’re capable of pretty professional images.

Today, after some saving and some Christmas cash, I bought my first DSLR.

I bought Canon’s T2i.

It’s described as a great entry level DSLR. I haven’t had a great chance to play with it yet, but I’m pretty excited nonetheless.

Because this is still primarily a photography camera, there are hoops that have to be jumped through to make it work. DSLR’s have crappy audio inputs, so I’ll be recording audio separately and synching it during editing (which is really easy thanks to software like Pluraleyes). I’m also limited to 13 minutes of recording at a time due to file sizes, but that’s really not that big of a deal with the kind of work I do.

The other big hurdle is lenses. Having a huge light sensor isn’t really that big of a deal if you don’t have a lens that can keep up with it. The T2i came with a kit lens, which is better than nothing, but I’ve already started saving up for something a little meatier (and have had some very gracious friends offer me loaners).

Of course, Crossroads video screens aren’t HD, so you really won’t get the FULL effect if that’s where you primarily see my stuff - but hopefully you’ll see a big difference in my online content soon.

So stay tuned.