Video Tools for the Stills Shooter

When I purchased a new camera a couple of years ago, one of the features I was really interested in trying out was its video capabilities. Until that point, I had made due with the video features of a little point-‘n-shoot style camera or a small handheld video camera. While both of these could produce usable video, I was at the stage where I was wanting to step things up a notch and create something with a more professional feel to it. These days it seems that almost every digital DSLR that’s introduced has HD video capabilities of some description.

Manfrotto 501HDV | © www.bsop.ca

Manfrotto 501HDV with Arca Swiss Mounting Plate

When I first started playing around with the video capabilities of my new camera, I was really impressed with the high definition video that the camera produced and I was further thrilled that I was able to use my array of lenses to get the type of video I was looking for. However, like many things in this field of photography (also now videography) it seems that there are always new tools and accessories being developed. If you’re like me and looking to produce some quality video with your new (ish) DSLR, you might benefit from some of the tools I’ve found to make this a bit easier.

Manfrotto 501HDV with Arca Swiss Mounting Plate | © www.bsop.ca

Manfrotto 501HDV with Arca Swiss Mounting Plate

The first item I added to my gear was a new head for my tripod. For wildlife photography, and with large telephoto lenses specifically, I’ve come to rely on a gimbal head to give me the sort of results I like. However, while this is an excellent tool for still photography, it just didn’t deliver the results for video. I started looking for a fluid head (quality video heads use fluid to dampen movements and smooth tilting and panning) that would accept the Arca-Swiss style quick release plates that I use on all of my lenses. I was surprised to discover that the video world and the still photography world have completely different standards for quick release plates. Wanting to maintain compatibility between the two worlds, I found a solution. I purchased a Manfrotto 501HDV fluid video head and mounted a Really Right Stuff quick release plate to it. Now I can easily move between still and video photography situations without having to worry about incompatible standards.

Manfrotto 501HDV with Arca Swiss Mounting Plate | © www.bsop.ca

Manfrotto 501HDV with Arca Swiss Mounting Plate

I also realized that I was going to need some sort of software to edit the video clips I was producing. Popular low-cost choices are Apple’s iMovie, Microsoft’s Movie Maker and Adobe’s Premiere Elements. The big players at the high end of the market are Apple’s Final Cut Pro, Sony’s Vegas Pro and Adobe’s Premiere Pro software. I went with Adobe Premiere Elements and for the sort of work I’m producing so far, I’m really impressed with it and the files it produces are readily accepted by my clients and stock agency.

LP MicroPro Hybrid Flash/Video Light

LP MicroPro Hybrid Flash/Video Light

When I’m shooting stills, I can pull out my handy flash when the situation calls for it. Flash is obviously a no go with video and so I’ve looked for an alternative. I needed something that was as light and portable as my flash and wouldn’t force me to carry around heavy battery backs or make me use light stands. The solution I found is the wonderful LED video lights that are available. These units usually come with between 250 and 512 LED’s mounted into a workably sized form factor. They can mount to the hot shoe of the camera and are surprisingly good at throwing light onto a backlit subject. A company called Litepanels has even introduced a hybrid unit that has both LED lighting and strobe capabilities in the same box. Since my style of photo/video production is also a hybrid, this is a great option that allows me to switch back and forth between pursuits without changing devices.

If you haven’t started to play with the video capabilities of that newer digital SLR camera you recently obtained I’d encourage you to start exploring the possibilities. I’m finding that instead of being a brand new pursuit, videography is really now an extension of my still photography. While there’s no doubt that a strong image tells a great story, I’m finding that adding some video helps complete the essay.

Some of my video efforts can be viewed on my photography blog.

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