Green screen problem: "You spend more time lighting a screen that won't exist than lighting the people that do!" - Dariusz Wolski
DSLR HD Video
the future of content gathering?
I love the Nikon D7000. As a professional Videographer/Cinematographer I am used to using professional tools, especially cameras. And when it comes to shooting video most, if not all, pro cameras have the switches and knobs in the same place.
Enter DSLR... or should I say HDSLR!
What I like about DSLR is the ability to use and change lenses. I guess it would be fair to say that I could change lenses on most of my pro cameras (nada on the HPX170), although it was rarely done, because we were using ENG/EFP lenses like Fujinon or Canon. We just made them work and work well they did. Not too mention these lenses were stupidly expensive, large and the benefit from one to another was generally regarded as longer or shorter zoom lengths.
But, the shallow depth of field was lacking (if there at all) and you really had to work at getting an approximation of film. I've used every trick in the book to give productions that film look and feel without actually shooting with film. (An aside, I never liked shooting with film. The images were awesome but the process... oi vey. If you didn't load the film correctly then you could possibly lose everything you shot. If the lab screwed up, well, ditto the above... then the costs of developing, transferring to a format that you could actually work with - who wants to splice film? I learned how to do it way back in film school, and it was relatively easy, but if you messed it up, then it was back to the lab for another workprint... and on and on and on...)
But I digress... The HDSLR gives us an opportunity to acquire filmlike images, in fact in the right hands I would challenge you to see the difference (the differences are there given the extreme latitude of film however companies like Red are bridging the gap and quickly.Everything that you need to acquire filmlike images is here. Shallow depth of field, inexpensive but impressive lenses (especially when compared to broadcast lenses like you see on Varicams, Cinealta's etc.), 24p frame rate and full 1920 by 1080 HD. To me, outside of lighting, these are the elements that give you that cinematic film look.
So I have built a rig around my D7000. This is my first foray into this area and so far I am enjoying the process. I have done several tests, with different lenses and lighting conditions, with various audio setups and am now considering my first professional shoot with this rig. Yes, a paying gig. Part of the reason why I am considering this is that I will be traveling to another city; and my thinking is that if my rig is compact enough, yet also provides stunning imagery then maybe this is the way to go...
My rig consists of a 2 stage matte box (and I will be using the matte box much more with the D7000, since I may need to add things like ND, etc.), a Genus follow focus (this one works quite well I must say - very impressed so far), a Zacuto Z-Finder Pro viewfinder (also an amazing item that I would say really makes this rig feel like home), 2 x 16 GB SD cards, hand grips & shoulder mount (both connecting to the rails of course) and I have 5 Nikon lenses: three zooms and two primes.
Then added to that is my new Vinten Vision Blue tripod, Ikan HDMI field monitor, Azden FMX-42 mixer, Sennheiser ME66 shotgun, Sony ECM44 Lav and my Rifa soft box light and I'm compact enough to go anywhere and capture just about anything, plus do a little lighting if needed :)
What's missing? Well, the D7000 HDSLR has no ability to properly control audio, or monitor audio for that matter (which is hugely important for a rig like this). So with my Azden mixer I can at least feel confident that I am capturing good quality audio and so far in my tests I have determined the appropriate levels so at least I can monitor the source well enough to feel confident.
I am used to having things like built in ND filters and being able to access them quickly and easily. Well, now I'll be using my matte box with my 4x4 filters (which I used mainly on my old Betacam 400a to try and give the video I shot a more film-like quality - and it worked!)
Next is servo zooms. I like servo zooming, or at least the ability to do that. My style of shooting is more cinematic in that I prefer to move the camera closer or further away and let the action in the frame help tell the story, but there are times when a nice slow zoom is the money shot. I can manually work the zoom but it's never smooth and reminds me of some old 60's or 70 movies where I've seen that 'look' - for lack of a better word.
After that, the Zacuto Z-Finder viewfinder. While being essential for a rig such as this, if you ask me, the biggest issue I have with them is the inability to tilt the unit up and/or down. They are making an EVF that the Z-Finder will connect to but I don't have this yet... so depending upon your setup it is a big pain to crouch down or stand on a chair to look down the lens.
All in all I feel confident that I can create good video and audio with this HDSLR rig. I probably need a few more lenses to really make this rig bullet proof, but I have to say that I am enjoying this process.
Or is it transformation?