(Photographs above by Paula Echevarria: firstname.lastname@example.org)
If you are a still photographer, you’re probably moving toward incorporating motion into your arsenal of marketable skills. If you’re a videographer, you’re probably exploring the myriad possibilities opened up to you by the new 35mm DSLR video-capable cameras from Canon and Nikon.
Chapter Two of my continuing work in Overtown, one of Miami’s poorest neighborhoods – Jovan “Bonna” Lamb finds redemption and a calling as a self-taught photographer, becoming the Eye of Overtown. This video was shot as the rig evolved.
Shooting stills, I used Nikon gear for twenty years, but switched to Canon when I went fully digital in 2004; now that I’m shooting motion I use Canon’s 5D Mark II. Colleagues use Canon’s 7D and Nikon’s D3s and swear by it, but since I’m not sure of the technical differences I’ll not get into a comparison of one system with the other. My purpose here is to simply share my particular methodology for working around the most troubling shortcoming of the 5Dm2/7D/D700 – poor inboard audio capture.
I’ve had very good results while working with the system shown here and the 5D, and I believe my ideas will also apply to other DSLR systems as well. If you like what you see here, please share a link with your colleagues, and post links to your work in the comments section. I will add those to the links section of the blog.
Here are the inherent issues with shooting high quality video with the 5Dm2/7D/D700:
- The inboard audio system on the cameras suck. Even the folks at Canon/Nikon would probably agree with this statement, if a user’s goal is to create professional level video pieces;
- It is virtually impossible to determine critical focus using the cameras’ built in LCD screens;
- Handheld camera stabilization is difficult.
My system has the following advantages:
- Critical focus at wide apertures, in my opinion essential for quality videos, is possible;
- Four channels of audio are available for input allows sound to be captured as stereo ambient, mono shotgun, and mono wireless lav;
- Mics are not in direct contact with the camera body, and thus capture less camera noise;
- The wireless lav allows excellent audio capture from a subject;
- The C bracket doubles as a shoulder mounted stabilizer.
I honestly don’t know how I would’ve produced my recent pieces with any rig other than the one I use. I think it’s that good.
So here are the ingredients, costs, my recipe for great video, and links for your reference:
- Take one Canon 5DMarkii DSLR ($2500)
- Add a Canon 24-70/2.8 USM zoom ($1300)
- Stir in a Hoodman Hood Loupe and Cinema Kit ($115)
- Add a Sennheiser EW112-p G3 Camera Mount Wireless Mic System w/ ME2 Lav ($600)
- * Secure a Custom Brackets CB Folding-S ($90)
- Throw in a Senheiser M66 mic ($460)
- Prepare a pistol grip by removing the handle
- Mix in one Zoom H4n Handy Recorder ($300)
- When necessary, use the corner of the bracket as a shoulder brace ($0)
- Use proper technique when holding the camera/lens ($0)
- Hit the streets, make great videos with awesome sound, and share with the world!
* Because the upper 90º angle doesn’t lock in place, I’ve stabilized mine with a small L bracket, purchased at a hardware store, and gaff tape. You may not find this necessary, but it allows me to carry the entire rig in various ways without concern that something’s going to flop about.
As I said above, I’ve found this rig to be incredibly efficient for the kind of work I do – shooting and producing short documentaries suitable for web and DVD distribution. Depending on your style of shooting and your goals, this system may not work for you. As they say, your mileage may vary.
(I do not have a fiduciary relationship with any of the companies linked to this post.)