How to Shoot Video with a DSLR
A DSLR is not a video camera. I hope I got your attention because this subject is huge. Apart from the total difference in shape, feel, size, capabilities, strengths and weaknesses, there is another big difference. "What you need to be thinking".
An area of concern for many stills guys, who I know are wanting to start shooting video with their DSLR's, is the different skill-set and thought process that goes into shooting video.
The way I try to explain it, is, with still photos you are trying to tell your story with one shot. Even though you may take many shots, the final shot has to tell the whole story. The skill is not just with the camera, it is with your mind, and learning how to tell your story with one shot.
On the other hand, when you are shooting a video it is about trying to take a series of shots to tell your story. A sequence of well thought out, well framed shots of various sizes, so that they can be edited together to tell your story. Telling your story with lots of shots.You also need the various shots to cover the carriage of time in your story.
Why you Don't Know What to Shoot with your DSLR
As I see it there are three main groups of people buying DSLR's to shoot video.
- Stills shooters who want to be able to shoot video.
- Video Camera shooters who are extremely impressed with some of the results they have seen come from DSLR's.
- Professional shooters from either a film or video background.
Each of these groups has totally different skills and needs, and I will try to cover them.
Still Camera Operators.
Generally you will have developed your eye when it comes to composition and you will feel comfortable with the feel of the camera in your hands. You should have no problem with learning the controls and functions. Depending on your experience you will also have some understanding of depth of field and how that can be controlled and what will effect it. If you don't understand these things then work on learning them.
However the bigger problem for you could be that you may have no idea of how to break your story up into the shots needed. This will result in a lack of confidence when starting to shoot your story. Try to think about a sequence of shots of various sizes that can be edited together. Shots to think about are,wide shot, long shot, mid shot, closeups, cutaways and point of views, high shots, low shots, etc., etc.
With a good still photo you will be able to look at it and have a good idea of how it was shot, and then go out and shoot something similar.
However with a good film, or documentary, or short film, or video you get caught up in the story and miss most of the shots. That is the whole idea, the camerawork should never distract you out of the story. The shooting, editing, directing, action, and music should all work together to make the story flow so well, that you are never aware of all the shots that have gone into it. That is the reason why you don't know what shots to take. This is what you need to be thinking about.
When you are watching any program try to force your self to become aware of all the shots and how they are fitting together.
If you want to speed up your learning process, learn to edit, and start to try to cut your footage together. You will soon see where you are not getting the shots you need to tell your story. Try to take every opportunity to shoot a story. The sequences of shots needed, no matter how small the story. Then edit it up and see how it works.
Video Camera Operators
Your thought process for shooting video should be more developed and your understanding of breaking your story into the different shots needed. You will be used to the action moving in your frame while you are shooting.
For you though, the DSLR can be a big jump. These cameras will feel totally different in your hands. The controls will be different and much will need to be learned. If you have been using your video camera on Auto, you will need to practice shooting with everything in the Manual setting. When you are not in Auto Mode you need to take control of everything you are doing with the camera. Many of the things you should have done to improve your footage with a video camera.
Also, shallow depth of field means just that, if your subject moves around too much they may go out of focus. You need to practice and improve your skills and think about well composed, well framed shots.
Many things will have to be learned but the results can be beautiful, and if you do learn and practice, the rewards are great.
The DSLR may just force you to be a better shooter.
Professional Camera Operators
You are the problem, you have shot so many gorgeous stories using these cameras, you are partly responsible for this monster. You have mixed your experience at visual storytelling, your practiced eye for beautiful composition, your lack of fear of learning to use a new camera, and shown the world what these little beauties can do.
People like Philip Bloom and Nino Leitner have been part of a revolution in visual storytelling that has spread around the world.
I should also mention the legions of talented, amateur, but still great storytellers, who have also embraced these wonders and moved the world of storytelling into a new arena.
Thank you to everyone who has carried this wave forward. It won't matter if your next camera is a DSLR or a Video camera it will be a much improved camera due to this wave of public opinion, and we will all benefit.
There is a lot of helpful information in some of my other blog posts listed below, and check out the Online Video Camera Course.
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