The DSLR as a Business Model

Sounds silly doesn’t it – “The DSLR as a Business Model”? That’s because it is silly to think that a camera can define or be a business model. But that’s what so many still photographers are doing – thinking that because they buy a DSLR capable of shooting video, they have gotten got into the business of video production.

Let’s start with the fact that in video production, the shoot and the camera is just one part of the process. There’s also sound, script writing, editing and output that one must know how to do or collaborate with people who know how. And if you position yourself as “just” a camera operator, you will quickly find out that not only you will have no ownership and control over the full process – but you will be missing out on making income on other facets of the video production process. For this reason, I position myself as a producer/director.

Even if you want to position yourself as a shooter, you shouldn’t be defining yourself by your tool – but by your vision. If you do define yourself by a camera that is very affordable and that lowers the bar on the entry level into video production – you’ll be competing with everyone else at that bottom level. Not to mention that shooting video is much different than shooting still images. I think and shoot differently when I’m shooting video – keeping my eye on the big picture and how I will get into and out of a shot.

Lastly, there are a lot of things I like about the DSLR’s, namely the extraordinary visual and the fact that I can shoot both mediums with one camera. But there are some shortcomings of these cameras that will keep you out of certain markets in the video arena.

Here are a few disadvantages these hybrid cameras have:

Audio – The built-in mic is not acceptable and the camera doesn’t have a professional XLR input. There is also no way to monitor audio with headphones. Best way to achieve good audio with these cameras is to capture it with a separate digital recorder like the Samson H4 Zoom.

Stability – With video you are shooting time in motion – not moments in time – so it’s critical to hold the camera steady. This is no easy feat when you have no brace points. Because you are shooting with the mirror up – you aren’t looking through the viewfinder and thus bracing your eye against the camera body. There are attachments that go over the LCD monitor and provide an eyepiece like the Zacuto Ez-finder.

Rolling Shutter or Jello Effect – The effect occurs when you quickly pan the camera and causes vertical lines to distort. So don’t do fast pans and eliminate anyone walking into and out of the frame quickly.

Editing – DSLR cameras record in AVCHD format using the H.264 codec. This usually means more time spent converting or rendering the files when you bring them into your editing system.

Frames Rates – 30P vs 24P – Converting your frame rate from 30P to 24P to achieve that film-like look – can be somewhat problematic with audio drifting and getting out of sync. Some cameras now have variable frame rates to choose from.

Bottom line – think beyond the camera if you’re thinking about getting into video production.  Define yourself by your vision – not your tool.

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5 Replies to “The DSLR as a Business Model”

  1. The DSLR is just another tool. There have already been some great short films made with the Canon 5D MK2. Search for Vincent Laforet’s “Reverie” on YouTube and/or read about Saturday Night Live’s use of DSLRs to film their intro. Anyone doing video knows that a tripod with a fluid head will improve quality and as far as sound; BeachTek is already making an XLR adapter for DSLR cameras. 30/24fps adjustments and time code synch are probably a generation away. The DSLR is another video production tool.

  2. Mark,
    Yes, that’s the point – the camera (any camera) is just the tool and just one part of the video production process. The problem is when still photographers think that because they buy this tool – that’s all it takes to get into video production.

    By the way if you buy the Beachtek – make sure you also download the Magic Lantern software (another company) to disable the amp in the camera or you will get a “hiss”. Better still – record your audio separately when using a DSLR. Audio is everything is video.

  3. “Define yourself by your vision – not your tool.”
    This simple statement is so perfect in describing this scenario and all other creative fields that rely on tools (like still photography), because sooner or later the tools will become inexpensive and easy to use. Look at what you can do now, with a basic digital camera and the latest version of Photoshop Elements.
    Great post!

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