Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Worlds In Collision
What the intersection of still photography and HD video capture means for camera technology and the photographers who use it
A tricked-out Canon EOS 5D Mark II ready for full-blown motion-picture shooting with accessories from Redrock Micro.
Britt: Take a look at the public moving-image campaigns like the one-sheets for Step Brothers and Mall Cop. These ads pretend to be still images, so we allow them into our realm of perception right about the time that the image moves suddenly and makes us do a double take.
I’d define a living poster or moving art as still images that move to enhance the story. For example, an innocuous still poster for Step Brothers comes on screen, and then the still image moves as Will Ferrell reaches over and touches John C. Reilly’s chest inappropriately. The message is that this movie is funny. A scripted story that has been cut and edited together becomes a video or a commercial, and that’s a related but very different medium. Adding motion to an engaging image without turning it into a video montage creates a moving ad or living art.
DPP: Many of the ads have a vertical orientation. How does that end result get incorporated into the workflow?
Britt: There are two reasons I want to be able to shoot vertical footage as part of a moving-image workflow. Magazines and other print media display images mostly in a vertical orientation to fit a single page. Being able to freely move between video and stills means being able to shoot vertically. Another reason is file size. To maximize the video still as a photograph, you want the highest resolution possible, and this is achieved by using the entire width of the video frame. If you shot a horizontal video and needed a vertical crop from the center, you’d have to crop to the shortest side of the sensor and throw away a lot of the remaining frame.
DPP: What’s a basic kit that a photographer should have to utilize a D-SLR for video?
Britt: Good lenses, a follow-focus attachment and a fluid tripod head. We created the Redrock Micro Image Mechanics VCS Kit as our version of the basic kit. If you’re using the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, you can use any of your existing lenses and filters. That’s the beauty of going with a single-camera system. Shooting cinema style doesn’t require autofocus lenses, so the choice of glass you use is open to pretty much anything that will fit on your camera. Zeiss is making some amazing lenses in several different mounts, and companies like Hot Rod Cameras are making PL lens-mount adapters for the Panasonic GH1. Most photographers already have filters for their lenses, so a matte box is more of a luxury than a necessity. Using a Hoodman Loupe is going to feel familiar for most photographers as they make this transition. ikan has some very affordable high-resolution external monitors that photographers can put to great use on both still and hybrid shoots. You can get the ikan V8000HDMI 8-inch HD LCD monitor for under $1,000.
DPP: What other cinema protocols and techniques will still photographers need to learn—such as follow focus—to play in this arena?
Britt: When shooting video, you sometimes need to adjust focus as the subject moves around or rack from predetermined positions. The position and gearing on the Redrock micro-FollowFocus smooth out the motion and put some physical distance between you and the lens. Add a whip to the end of it, and you can easily rack focus without shaking or moving the camera.
Still lenses have no built-in gearing and have a shortened movement from zero to infinity to speed up autofocus mechanisms. This makes a slow-focused, cinema-style focus change much more difficult to achieve. Motion-picture lenses and some still lenses like the ones from Zeiss are made with a wider range of motion for moving from zero to infinity. A photographer just needs to pick the right lens and add accessories such as the Redrock microFollowFocus and microLensGears to enhance his or her cinematic shooting style.
DPP: How do shutter speeds play into the scenario of still and video shooting with a single camera?
Britt: The choice of shutter speed has a lot to do with how you want to use the footage. If the primary focus is stills, with the video being a nice side product for the client’s website, you’d shoot at a higher shutter speed, something like 1/90 sec. or higher, in order to stop motion for crisp stills. That shutter speed still looks pretty good for web video clips, as well. Keep in mind that movies want a little blur between frames to smooth out the action in the scene. If every frame is crisp with no motion blur, the picture seems hyperreal.
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