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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Straight To Video

The newest evolution in D-SLR technology has finally brought us high-definition video and stills in one camera. Here’s a look behind the scenes.

This Article Features Photo Zoom

HD, SD And Still Capture At The Sensor
Still images are composed of pixels, tiny squares measured by microns. Put together, they make up the jigsaw pieces that complete the larger puzzle—the image. Digital video is a series of these images, captured and displayed through continuously scanned horizontal lines. While image resolution is represented by pixel count, lines represent video resolution. Standard definition (SD) consists of 480 horizontal lines from top to bottom. High definition (HD) is available in 720 or 1080 lines, with crisper, sharper detail in the 1080 format.

Because digital video images have a specific aspect width-to-height ratio—16:9 for HD, 4:3 for SD—each video line resolution is accompanied by a corresponding number of horizontal pixels. An SD video frame consists of 480 horizontal lines by 720 pixels wide. A 720-line HD video image consists of 720 lines, each 1280 pixels wide, and a 1080-line HD video image consists of 1080 lines, each 1920 pixels wide.

HD resolution is available in progressive (p) or interlaced (i) display. Progressive provides a smoother picture experience because the image is drawn on the screen one line at a time, from top to bottom. Interlaced video is drawn in two fields, first by odd-numbered lines, followed quickly by even-numbered lines.

In general, 1920x1080 HD video is interlaced (1920x1080i), though 1080p is becoming more and more common, while 1280x720 HD video is progressive-scan (1280x720p). Both the D90 (1280x720p) and EOS 5D Mark II (1920x1080p) use progressive scanning for video capture. With progressive capture, output to any device can be downconverted easily. The EOS 5D Mark II, for instance, adjusts output automatically.

Camera Supports For Video D-SLRs
While a tripod or other camera support is most useful for much pro still photography, it’s a necessity for pro video work. Any unintentional camera movement during a video clip will result in a jumpy on-screen image that distracts viewers and can even make them woozy. Image stabilizers in lenses and camera bodies work wonders for still photography, but really aren’t steady enough for shooting videos.

You can use your still-camera tripod to shoot videos, but you’ll need a special video fluid head. Ballheads are great for still photos, making it easy to orient the camera just straight to videoas you want it and lock it there quickly and easily. But ballheads (and three-way pan-tilt heads) don’t allow for smooth panning and other you don’t need an all-out pro fluid head, which can cost thousands of dollars. But you do want a fluid head with a built-in bubble level. If the camera isn’t camera moves. To produce professionally smooth pans, you’ll need a fluid head. This uses hydraulic damping to provide smooth panning and tilting moves. But level, a panned shot won’t work. Good fluid heads for video D-SLRs start at around $350, and are available from such manufacturers as Gitzo and Manfrotto.

If you want to work handheld, you might try the WristShot camcorder support system from Hoodman, the DSLR rigs from Zacuto, the Aviator from VariZoom or (if using a lens under three pounds) the Steadicam Merlin from Tiffen. These are ideal for moving-camera shots, but a tripod will provide best results when the camera point-of-view isn’t meant to change.
(RIGHT: Manfrotto 701HDV Fluid Head)


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