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Shooting video with a DSLR

Shooting video with a DSLR

| On 06, Mar 2013

When Christina Stefanski of Sony Canada offered to lend me an alpha 99 full frame camera to try out, of course I said yes. Since reading about the A99, it seemed to be a perfect camera for shooting video. (I discuss the details in the video) I’d been working on a script for a video about shooting video with a DSLR, and this seemed like a great opportunity to shoot it.

Here’s the video:

The script started over two years ago when Adam Gutteridge at The Star suggested this as a potential topic. I did some research, attended a Henry’s seminar (excellent, by the way) and sketched out some notes. And for March Break 2011, I borrowed a Canon 60D to take to Cancun – with the aim of shooting some of the scenes for the video. The Star story never materialized, the footage wasn’t what I wanted and the idea sat on my desk. So I’m happy now to see the project finished.

Doug and I shot the on-camera scenes on February 23rd, 2013. Cold, but not freezing, overcast but no rain or snow. Six major locations: The DV Shop, Yorkville (the ice sculptures), Sony Store at the Eaton Centre (our thanks to Goldie Sharma and Ron Aitken), Bell Lightbox/TIFF, Harbourfront and my home. At nearly seven minutes, much of it on-camera, we knew it was a tight schedule. We also had two actors (Kim and Leonora) to accommodate. And we had two cameras to worry about – not only did we have to shoot the video (we use a Sony NEX VG20), we also had to shoot some sample scenes with  the A99.

I have to mention that we had lunch at the Bell Lightbox canteen, and ended up sitting next to Kurt Browning and Tracy Wilson. It’s a good spot for lunch if you’re in that end of downtown.

Although the advice and recommendations made in the video are useful, we did not fully follow them in our own production. If you look carefully you can see the auto-focus and auto exposure at work. We made the decision to use those tools in order to maintain our schedule, so that we would spend less time fiddling with settings in the cold. We’ve resolved to shoot with full manual settings from now on.

I’d love to read any comments and suggestions that you might have.

Update: March 26, 2013. I’ve uploaded a detailed video review of the alpha 99

Here are the technical details. The video is primarily shot using an NEXVG20, with the kit 18-200 lens. I use a Sennheiser ew2 radio mic kit. For voice overs I use an audiotechnica AT2020. The audio recorder is a Zoom H2N, which is most useful when recording live music in clubs, particularly if it’s connected directly to the board. As indicated, the Alpha 99 demo shots are created using the Alpha 99 with the excellent Zeiss 24-70f2.8 lens (SAL 2470Za1). Cokin 77mm filter ring with P.154 ND filter (thankfully the Zeiss lens is the same diameter as the Canon 24-105). And why don’t cameras have built in ND? Manfrotto tripod (190xb+701hdv) and monopod (679b). Indoor lighting with a single lowel totalight with umbrella. Screens are captured using an elgato eyetv hd box, using an external HD Cable Ltd hdmi to component adapter. The video is edited in FInal Cut X on an iMac, which is starting to feel friendly. Some of the camera screens are composites – I made notes of the settings on location and recreated them in the edit room using a screen capture from the camera with the original scene superimposed. I use characters from the flexi-zoo collection as models. The rule of thirds grid is added in post. For the first scene, we used the VF Market Slate iPad app. The font for supers is Myriad Pro. I “composed” the music in Magic Garage Band, using the Country setting.

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