Sunday, May 23, 2010

Managing Stills and Video

Before Canon released the highly successful 5D Mark II, the shooters at the San Francisco Chronicle were using the Sony HVR A1U to shoot video along with the Canon Mark IIn for the still photos on some of their assignments. Needless to say, this was awkward at best and so very difficult to manage. Shooting video meant bringing along a fluid head tripod, making sure the audio was set up properly and trying to figure out when to shoot what camera. Either we were missing sweet video sequences or missing great still moments. It was difficult if not impossible to do both well and very, very frustrating.

The best example of this was when I did a story in 2008 on Bob Coomber, an amazing athlete who lives in the San Francisco bay area. Due to juvenile diabetes, Bob is confined to a wheelchair but does not let that get in the way of what he loves to do best and that is exploring all the trails in the bay area. I had heard that Bob was training to be the first person to climb 19,000 foot Mt Kilimanjaro in a wheelchair unassisted. What a great story! This was a natural for both compelling stills and video, so I pitched the idea to my editors at the Chronicle and they gave me the time to work on it.

Bob was about to tackle a 3 day trip on the Mt Diablo Regional Trail that runs along the foothills of Mt Diablo so he welcomed me to spend a day with him on his trek. Remember, I'm shooting both stills and video so packed with me was a Canon Mark IIn, a 16-35mm, a 24-70mm, a 100-400mm, a strobe, a video tripod, the Sony HVR A1U and a Sennheiser wireless mic system. A lot of gear to be hauling up and down the steep trails of Mt Diablo! I remember wishing at the time that I could shoot both video and stills with just one camera. What a luxury that would be and so much easier on the back!

Fast-forward to today and my wishes have come true. While I was struggling with both cameras on the trails of Mt Diablo, Canon was just about ready to debut the new 5D Mark II. Reuters and Associated Press had asked Canon to come up with a DSLR camera capable of shooting both high quality video and still images. Canon listened and came through on September, 2008, updating the popular 5D with the new 5D Mark II capable of producing stunning 1080p HDV video along with a 21 megapixel full frame image. Since then, Nikon and Pentax have jumped on board adding HD capabilities to their line of DSLRs.

Link to my video and photos of Bob Coomber
Link to story by SF Chronicle writer Peter Fimrite

Next, we'll look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of shooting video with the DSLR.

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