Go shoot something

I recently joined the DSLR video revolution (see my post: “converted in vegas”) and have been shooting full 1080p HD video on a Canon 7d. I’m loving the images and I’m putting up with the funky workarounds. (Note: these cameras were not designed for shooting video. Yes, they make great pictures, but there’s a bit of voodoo needed to make this technological alchemy work.)

When I called this a revolution, I wasn’t overstating the case. These relatively cheap “stills” cameras are attacking the establishment’s traditional video cameras and blowing them away with incredible results. Kinda like a video tea party.  You gotta love a good revolution, but I’m warning you, there’s a dark side and I’m here – as a lone voice crying out in this unmapped territory – to at least warn of the very real danger lurking seductively in the shadows.   Don’t blame me. You’ve been warned.

I hope I’m not the one to lick the sugar off your lollipop, but it’s neigh unto impossible to get excellent results out of a stock DSLR. There truly is additional stuff that you will need. The seduction comes when you start shopping for those necessary items. The visit to Zacuto to buy their Z-Finder Pro (which is an absolute necessity) will be your first test. Within a few clicks of the $395 Z-Finder you’ll discover a whole new world of support systems to enable you to shoot steady handheld shots and attach every accessory imaginable.  All this tricked out coolness comes with a hefty price tag. If you aren’t very careful, you’ll soon invest many times more on your support kit than your “inexpensive” DSLR body cost at the outset of this revolutionary adventure.  It’s tremendously easy to spend $10,000 on these add ons; and I’ve heard of some who’ve spent more than twice that amount – to trick out a $2,000 camera.  (Reminds me of the kid in the rusted out Honda with the tuner exhaust – but I digress.)

I mentioned Zacuto, but I’m not here to beat them up.  They’re in the forefront – kind of the main arms dealer to the revolutionaries.  Their stuff is great.  It’s built to withstand the rigors of professional use and they listen to those of us on the front lines and fine tune their lineup to meet our needs. 

As I said, there is stuff that you will need to get the most out of your DSLR. Here’s a short list to start you on the pathway to insolvency:

  • Zacuto’s Z-Finder Pro (accept no imitations)
  • Follow Focus Device (look for one made of metal and with a reversing gear)
  • 15mm Rail System (to hold the follow focus and other stuff)
  • Tripod (duh)
  • Zoom H4n digital audio recorder (trust me, buy this one)
  • Lens (buy the fastest glass you can afford)
  • ND filter (I have a nifty variable nd that’s a real treat)

Soon you’ll determine that you need some more stuff – like a monitor – but don’t go wild.  What I’m trying to do here is be the voice of reason. That little voice of conscience that will bug you as you reach for your credit card.

Here’s the bottom line – this is a seller’s market. There are no great deals out there in the video DSLR marketplace. The good stuff is mostly back-ordered.  You’ll probably get a few dollars off by buying a full handheld kit but if you design exactly what you need for your shooting style, you’ll probably come in cheaper. 

Here’s my personal example:  I’ve decided I want a good handheld system that I can also transition quickly to a tripod setup.  It needs to be tough, but most importantly, it needs to accommodate my shooting style. I’m designing my own rig using pieces from Cinevate, Zacuto, RedRock, Jag35, Cavision and the guy from India on eBay.  I’ll let you know how it works.  But, I’m not buying pieces that I don’t want or need, and the cost is way less than what I’d pay for an off the shelf solution… plus it’s kinda fun.

See what happens?  I started this post talking about great images, but almost all of it’s been about gear. Hear me: video gear is meaningless unless it helps you shoot. So take a breather from buying stuff and get out there and use what you have until you hit a wall and really need something more.

You say you want a revolution?  Well, go shoot something.


Posted on August 6, 2010 in Uncategorized

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Response (1)

  1. Paul M
    September 23, 2010 at 10:23 am ·

    Great tips man! I saw your rig and it definitely had me trying to hold back the envy. haha. I’ve read elsewhere that the even cheaper canon t2i can shoot basically the same image as the 7d, but is smaller and cheaper-feeling. Technology rolls out faster every year so theres no telling whats next.

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