Video geeking

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 26, 2012, 12:04 AM | comments: 0

Aside from shooting some overcranked shots of Simon using his nebulizer (because the mist coming out looks really cool in slow motion), I haven't really shot anything interesting with my new camera. I've been busy, the weather has been poor, and really the little guy is just now getting back to his normal self anyway.

That said, I love being able to use my Canon lenses on that thing. The relatively inexpensive 50mm f/1.4 that I bought way back in the day with my 5D produces really beautiful moving pictures. I never thought that some day I'd shoot video with it, but there it is. If anything, it benefits from being on a smaller sensor camera because the slight vignette that it normally exhibits when wide open is masked because the camera simply doesn't see the corners.

The sensor size is something I'll have to work out in the long run. It's just a little smaller than 35mm motion picture film, so the focal length of lenses obviously aligns with that. Where 50mm is the "normal" for still photography cameras, a 25mm is roughly equivalent on this camera. That means my 50mm is effectively a telephoto lens. That's not a huge problem at all. Working in the f/2 or f/2.8 range on people six to eight feet away gives you a good close up and a nice looking, shallow depth of field. However, if you want more, you need to move back a bit.

This is where being a traditional video guy is hard, because I'm so used to zoom lenses. The average $15k ENG camera I used 15 years ago (with fancy "new" digital tape!) typically shipped with a nice Fujinon lens that could zoom up your subject's nose. Now, I'm relearning how to shoot with prime lenses, mostly as a practical matter. Zooms that have wide open apertures are really expensive, and you want that because all of that light on that big sensor means less noise and gets you the cinematic depth of field you desire.

Canon makes some sub-$500 prime lenses ranging from 20mm to 35mm, with apertures from f/1.8 to f/2.8. They only make one zoom that goes that wide and f/2.8, and it's crazy expensive. I got a 14-42mm cheap lens with the camera that gets the coverage I want no problem, but at full wide it only opens to f/3.5. That's great for shooting landscape type stuff (that's why I bought it), but not as great for shooting indoors or where you want shallow depth. So in the long term, I'll have to think about what I want to do.

My trusty 24-105mm f/4 L is fantastic as ever on that camera. It's really heavy when you're doing handheld, but zoomed out it gets that "normal" field you want. I just wish it opened another stop, to f/2.8. The 70-200mm f/4 L I have also looks pretty good, and that poor lens doesn't get a lot of use other than for sports, which I rarely shoot. I can't wait to take that one to the zoo. I fully expect to capture some great stuff that way.

There's also the issue of handheld shooting and using the tripod. If you're shooting planned films, tripods and prime lenses are awesome. Run-and-gun documentary style stuff is a lot harder, and that's where having a zoom sure would help, especially indoors.

So immediate goals are to do shorts with zoo critters and a music video with Simon. Those little projects will really let me put the camera through its paces. I'm also working on a plan for a documentary that I'll start shooting very soon, and will probably release as a series of three or four episodes. That will be a really cool project. It'd be better if I can get Morgan Freeman to narrate it, but I don't think he does pro bono work for dorks like me.


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