Video with your DSLR Week: Placement

August 4, 2010


[Editors Note: This week is “Shooting Video with your DSLR” here on DPE with Rob Sheppard, Art Howard and Juan Pons. We will be bringing you a new article every day this week, make to sure to check them all out!]

In the past we have talked about WMT… Wide Medium and Tight. The backbones of any sequence. Today, we go one step further with that idea. Getting closer, more creative and more access. DSLRs offer new possibilities for camera placement and better story-telling.

Before the 5D Mark II I was limited. The big cameras only ‘fit’ in so many places; people would notice the gear and stop me or everyone would say, “look it’s TV” and start waving.

DSLRs have changed all that.

A few of examples:

“Revealing the Deep”

I have had the opportunity to work with scientist off the east coast exploring deep water coral reefs for the past 5 years. A small, 4-man submersible going to depths of 3000 feet is the platform. My “old style” HD camera weighed in at 35 pounds, fit, but barely, as it was a tight squeeze thru the hatch and I could not pan at all. However, the 5D was made for spaces like this. It made it so I could use great Canon wide lenses to capture the small cockpit and high ISO numbers to achieve exposure. It fit. The example shown here, done with an 8 mm lens, was produced to be shown in a portable dome for the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. Two years ago this idea would not have been possible. For sound, I wired the ship’s two way communication into my zoom 4. Remember, the best sound is sometimes not near the camera.

“Tian an Men Square”

On a recent trip to China, a number of the needed visuals for a sequence were in places that our “fixer” (more on fixers in a later post) said a large camera would not be permitted. I could have gone WMT from a safe distance that was permitted but it would not have been the same. Getting in close for the flag lowering ceremony was key. Out comes the 5D. The 5D without a shotgun made me blend in with the tourist. (Needless to say I standout in China, so my Canon and myself caused some second looks but not the same as a Network TV crew.) No Official said anything to me as I quietly gathered the images needed.

“Whaling Recreation”

A recent shoot involved recreating small whaling vessels of US past. Easy to get good shots from the shore with any camera, but a good sequence means tights, as well as, wides. Getting in the boat was the only option. The Canon with wide lens, me lying in the bow or standing over the actors, was perfect for getting close to the action. A zoom running wild connected to a wireless provided the sound.

But what other direction could we take this sequence in? How about from the whale or harpoon perspective? We mounted a GoPro underwater camera to a harpoon and let her go. (make sure a tie line is secure) The individual shots in this sequence would not make great stills, but when edited with strong “nats” (Natural Sound) it will make a great sequence.

3 examples of where small but powerful cameras have opened up new visual possibilities. DSLRs are wonderful tools. Push them. Push yourself. Push your sequences to new levels and new places. Your imagination is the only limiting factor.

And remember the camera is an extension of your eye, not your arm.

This post was written by:

- who has written 7 posts on The Digital Photo Experience.

For 30 years, two time Emmy award winning photographer and producer Art Howard has helped viewers experience life through images from both poles, 49 states and 30 countries. Taking the viewer to places like the Gulf war in Kuwait, -30 degree conditions in the Arctic, or the ocean floor 3000 feet below the surface he pushes constantly for new ways to tell the story.

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