Tuesday, June 8, 2010


A photographer who can deliver a still shoot and a video shoot simultaneously is a photographer who’s in demand and commanding a high fee. Michael Grecco is doing it and putting HD DSLR technology to the test as he works his multifaceted magic.

This Article Features Photo Zoom

DPP: Did you find any issues with image noise at ISO 800 in terms of deliverable picture quality?

Grecco: The picture looks great. I have no issue with it at ISO 800. There was no noise. But remember, noise happens in black areas. If you shoot it dark and moody, you’re going to get noise. That’s fine if that’s what you want. The way to avoid noise is to get a well-exposed histogram—good video right out of the can. If you want to make it darker later, you can do that in post. Now the problem with shooting a compressed file—and for photographers, I compare this video to shooting a JPEG—you can’t push it too far or you’ll start getting banding and you’ll start getting colors dropping out. I’d rather have a decent histogram and make it slightly darker later than shoot it dark.

The advantage of the RED system is that you’re shooting RAW video files, which means you have a tremendous amount of latitude.

DPP: What was your setup for the Canon dedicated for shooting video?

Grecco: I had the Canon 5D Mark II on a Redrock shoulder rig and on a tripod with a fluid head. When I used the shoulder rig, I used the loupe in the back, the magnifier. This allowed me to focus much more easily while I was shooting. When I mounted the camera on the tripod and fluid head and [Karlee] was lip-synching against the white background, I just used an ikan monitor that I had mounted on top of the camera in the hot-shoe. I was able to focus and move the camera with her as she moved around. Since the camera is on a fluid head, you can’t be looking through the loupe on the back of the camera when you’re panning around. You also can’t try to go off an LCD screen on the back of the camera to check critical focus when shooting video. The ikan monitor was really helpful
DPP: A still photographer could go his or her entire career without the need for a fluid head or a video monitor. We need to be open to the equipment available to make these setups work to the best of their ability.

Grecco: If I did a lot of sports and I did a lot of panning with slow shutter speeds and things like that, I could see using a fluid-head tripod in the stills world, but not for what I do as a portrait photographer. In fact, these days with the Hasselblad H3 so beautifully balanced and the Canon so ergonomic, I almost never put them on a tripod.

DPP: But when it comes to shooting video, it’s a different story.

Grecco: You don’t want motion all the time in video. You don’t want the rocking. You don’t want a lot of vibration. You don’t want people to feel seasick. There are times when you do want motion to elicit some sort of emotion, but not everywhere and not all the time.

DPP: How do you see utilizing the hybrid technology for your clients?

Grecco: I’ve actually done it in the past. On TIME.com, there are three behind-the-scenes videos of my shoots with Penelope Cruz, Will Ferrell and the YouTube guys for the People of the Year issue. I did time-lapse photography rather than video for those by having the intervalometer on the camera body fire every five seconds. It’s math. I literally broke out a calculator. A three-hour shoot, including the time to set up and break down, is 10,800 seconds divided by 5, which equals 2,160 images. So that divided by 30 frames per second is over a minute of video. After you cut stills into that, it’s about a minute and a half video. Depending on how long the shoot is, I might set the intervalometer to a frame every three seconds or a frame every six seconds.


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