Video DSLR rigs - isn't this missing the point?















I do realise that people are using are using these cameras for different things. Movie and TV professionals have seen the video enabled DSLR as giving them the benefit of high quality sensors that were previously only available with specialised expensive gear. For them the recording device is only part of the story. However there seems to be a notion taking root that you aren't doing it properly unless your DSLR video rig looks like this.







Believe it or not thats a Panasonic GH1 lurking under there. 


At the Focus on Imaging show earlier this year I had a look at some of this gear and even tried it out. Personally I could only just about lift some of it. I found that carrying one of the hand holding rigs on a Canon 7D for only a few minutes was incredibly tiring and painful. I tried out a Steadicam Merlin and that was both incredibly difficult to carry for any length of time as well as being impossible (for me) to balance.


I'm a photographer who happens to have 3 cameras that will shoot full HD video. I've looked at the results on an HD TV and my footage is indistinguishable, in terms of  quality, from that broadcast by the BBC etc.


This is great right?? Well yes in that I have the capacity to shoot video at a quality that compares with, dare I say it?, Hollywood movies. But then again no, because the camera is merely the starting point of this process. 


So what is the point of having something like this at my disposal?


Canon apparently video enabled the 5DMKII to provide a high quality option for photojournalists who were working as photographers but were also now expected to contribute video as well for their magazine and newspaper clients. By all accounts they were somewhat surprised by the take up, the reviews of the quality and the fact that this got taken very seriously by the video industry.


Vincent Laforets Reverie made a lot of people sit up and take notice. I watched it and thought great. But I was perhaps more impressed by the work of Dan Chung a photographer working for the Guardian newspaper here in the UK. He began to produce a series of videos from the far east using the 5DMKII. This is the first I saw. A Night in Bejing. The possibilities of this intrigued me. A camera, lenses, a tripod, a decent microphone and its possible to make short documentary films. To me this is the wonder of DSLR video. When the Panasonic GH1 came out, things got even smaller. To this day I'm still astounded what this camera can do.


So from a professional point of view, video became a part of what I could offer. We (my company and colleagues) see the ability to shoot HD video, relatively unobtrusively and without huge amounts of gear, as an advantage. We now use Canon DSLR's and GH1's to shoot weddings and other commercial work.


So to me the advantage of video enabled still cameras is to be able to create moving images by using gear I would own anyway for stills photography. With a minimal extra cost, tripod with fluid head, external microphone, and a lot of time learning to edit, its possible to produce a very high quality end product. Ultimately the quality of the content is down to imagination and skill. You don't need fancy gear and an elaborate rig to create something that an audience will appreciate. In my view whether I will be engaged with a movie or video has everything to do with what's going on in front of the camera and nothing to do with what the cameras doing.


While appreciating something like the famous end of series episode of House shot on 5DMKII's, I will never be involved in shooting something like that. Nor will the vast majority of people who buy these cameras. What these cameras do is provide me with a wonderful tool for my own projects and work. I'm not going to "pimp" my camera with various bolt on rigs that I can't even carry, nor do I feel the need to do so. Its the simplicity I like.