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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Misinformation: Video-Tech

In the HD video arena, the steepest part of the learning curve for still photographers is the realm of sound

The decisive moment aside, to say that video is an entirely new concept to photographers is a misnomer. While there are certainly differences between the two mediums, the convergence of video and still imagery wasn’t unexpected at all. Technically and aesthetically, video and film always have been extensions of still photography. The same basic principles apply to both mediums, and you’re using similar technologies to tell a story via visual means.
Myth: Video Is A New Frontier For Photographers
There’s one aspect to video that’s an entirely new ground for still photographers, however, and that’s sound. On a professional television or film production, cinematography and sound duties are divided for many reasons. While the two certainly complement each other, good cinematography and good audio are entirely different arts that require entirely different technologies. Good sound requires a sound person with specialized equipment. Audio recorded independently of video also means that there will be additional sound-level mixing and editing involved, which can end up being especially difficult, thanks to the variety of available video frame rates.

It’s an entirely new world that very few photographers have had to deal with. Not surprisingly, while many photographers have continued to look at video as merely an extra feature, it instead has been the cinematographers and videographers who have embraced video-capable DSLRs as a viable professional option. DSLR sensors are much larger than the sensors of camcorders, and coupled with the abundance of available quality lenses, they’re able to provide moviemakers with a much more film-esque depth of field at price points that are far below expensive pro-level camcorders. Cinematographers rely on others in production environments, too, and to them, the “stock” audio on HD DSLRs isn’t a problem because they’re used to working with sound as an independent aspect of video.

While HD DSLRs are lacking in professional-level audio capture, camera manufacturers hardly can be criticized for not including it. Video-capable DSLRs were designed for event photographers and photojournalists who only need to record ambient environments and produce behind-the-scenes videos. Pro microphones require a large XLR input, an interface that’s too cumbersome for the designs of a DSLR. Most currently available HD DSLRs instead include a stereo input jack, which lacks manual audio control. Many also have automatic gain that can override the delicate audio in quiet scenes.

Those who are looking to take their video to the next level will want to invest in producing good sound, both financially and otherwise. Thankfully, there are a variety of solutions already being offered for the specific needs of HD DSLRs, with many more to come as the technology proliferates. For recording straight to your camera, companies like BeachTek and juicedLink offer adapters for more sophisticated monitoring and control. Double-system sound recording is the more ideal choice for video, as a separate recording device is used in addition to your primary source, the camera, to cap-ture soundtrack, dialogue and audio. There are a variety of companies that offer affordable, quality solutions for this, including M-Audio, Marantz and Tascam. For multicamera setups, independent audio capture isn’t an option; it’s a necessity.

While all of these solutions will mean some more time spent in the field, and a lot more time spent editing, it’s simply common knowledge that you can’t have a good movie if you don’t have good sound.


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