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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Mistakes Still Photographers Make When Shooting Video With a DSLR

  • They don’t understand the importance of audio and don’t use external microphones. Audio is everything in video.
  • They think in “moments in time” and start shooting video too late or stop shooting too soon. You need to let the camera linger longer.
  • They don’t shoot sequences with a beginning, middle and end.
  • They don’t think in “storyboard mode” – You should ask yourself  “How will I get into and out of a shot and what’s next in the story?”
  • They don’t shoot enough B-roll with variations in angles and focal lengths – very important in the editing process.
  • They move the camera instead of letting the motion take place in front of the camera.
  • They turn the camera vertically. There aren’t too many vertical TV sets and monitors.
  • They don’t use a tripod forgetting that video is “time in motion”.  It’s one thing to hold a camera steady for 1/60th of a second and quite another to hold the shot steady for 10 seconds.
  • They don’t consider the frame rate and how that will affect workflow and editing.
  • Aren’t careful keeping their sensors clean from dust.  Retouching video is a lot more involved than spotting still images.
  • They “throw” some video clips in with the still photography job, not putting an added value on them and thus setting a bad precedent with clients.
  • They don’t consider the output and the type of file to be delivered.  There are dozens of formats and codecs in video.  Choose according to your target audience and viewing platform or device.

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