My Love/Hate Relationship – Shooting Video With a DSLR

I’ve just spent the last 2 weeks intensely editing my footage shot on my 99-day journey around the world, shooting my passion project, Opening Our Eyes.  I wanted to get a trailer ready for the PhotoCine Expo that I’ll be speaking at this weekend in Los Angeles. I knew that I couldn’t possibly go through all 2900 gigabytes of content (145 hours), let alone cull it down to a finished sample in two weeks time.  So, I took a friend’s advice and decided to focus on only two of my ten subjects that I interviewed and shot b-roll on.

Even with going through only 20 percent of my footage has been a grueling and exhausting two weeks.  But it’s also given me a much better sense of working with and analyzing the files that come out of the Canon 5D Mark II and 7D.

Some of my loves:

  1. I love the picture quality
  2. I absolutely love the picture quality
  3. You can’t beat the picture quality

It’s true, the picture quality is stunning and worth putting up with SOME of the workarounds, depending on what type of job I’m working on.  If I’m shooting a corporate event and I need to record longer than 12-minute intervals, which is the case when someone is giving a talk, then I would opt not to use a DSLR because of the limitations on the duration of a clip.  And, regardless of the type of job I shoot, editing the files from these cameras is tedious because I need to transcode them into a file that will play well in Final Cut Pro.

Some of my hates:

  1. 12 minute clip duration – this really needs to change in the next generation of these hybrids in order to make it a more       workable camera
  2. Audio – Canon really needs to come up with a more professional solution for capturing good audio with the video on           one card.  I have used a JuidedLink pre-amp with a gain disabler on it but it’s still not as good as the audio I get when         I capture it to a separate digital recorder – in my case the Samson H4N Zoom.
  3. Having to transcode all the files into a codec like Apple Pro Res so that I can edit in FCP without stutters, stops and             drop frames.
  4. Stabilization is an issue but a solvable one thanks to rigs from Zacuto. And of course you can always use a tripod – and       really should if the situation warrants.

I’m sure I’ll come to other conclusions as I dig deeper into my content and I’ll share my thoughts as I continue to immerse myself in the post production part of this film.

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5 Replies to “My Love/Hate Relationship – Shooting Video With a DSLR”

  1. I agree with all of those, minus the editing. I built an editing machine that can handle the footage now that it’s running 64-bit version of Windows, unless it’s doing a ton of crazy effects on the timeline. Has anyone had any luck using Blackmagic gear with DSLR editing workflow?

    I especially agree with the audio portion. I’d even settle for mono recording if they’d implement MTC or something on the other channel that we can use to sync in post. Have you checked out PluralEyes at all? I hear good things about it:

    What i’d love to see is recording straight from the camera HDMI. At least on my camera, it always shows the menus and such over the HDMI connection, which is bogus. At least let me toggle everything off. Haha.

    I had a question about power. I’m guessing when I go to Africa, i’m going to need to get some kind of convertor. How did you handle your power needs? Multiple batteries? Did you plug everything into a single power strip or something?

    1. Chris,

      I travel with a multistrip that I can plug numerous American (110) devices into and it’s also a transformer.

      I too have heard great things about plural eyes – haven’t gotten a copy yet though.

      One more thing I forgot to mention in the “hate” list – These cameras don’t have timecode!!! Please Canon – give us timecode.

  2. I’ve been shooting video with a Canon 550d for six months now and with the right lenses the picture quality is excellent. The 12 minute recording duration is a limit, but it helps focus my interviewing. I record dual audio into my Tascam DR-07 (for interviews) and use an on board RodeMic for everything else; it is a hassle synching, but with a single clap recorded at the start of an interview it’s fixed in less than 30 seconds – and more than worth it for the superior sound quality.

    In other words, there’s been lots of experiments and cockups especially with frame rates and transcoding, bu overall I’m a very happy DSLR user 🙂

  3. I shot on the Pani HVX200 for three years before getting my hands on a 5D and I have to say, I’ll never go back. I think we forget what we left behind: Tape–or expensive proprietary mediums, small chipsets, Long Transfers in FCP (P2 had to get converted to a ProRes format anyway), and horrible low light. I wont say that I’m thrilled with the rolling shutter, or that I haven’t lost part of an interview because I forget to turn on the audio recorder or the camera timed out. It’s all happened, but I can still move faster with that camera than anything else I’ve used because I can scale it up and down to fit my needs.

  4. Thanks for sharing your experiences @ PhotoCine Expo, it was inspirational for an emerging doc filmmaker. Looking forward to seeing the finished product!

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