Canon’s EOS 5D Mk II (above), for example, has a sensor size that can capture astonishing picture quality with that all-important shallow depth of field, you’ll traditionally find in film cameras. The quality is great, you can use different lenses to achieve the look you’re after and it offers the wow factor to clients.
The barest minimum kit for a short web film should contain your video camera, a 50mm prime lens, a zoom lens, lights, reflector, external sound recorder, shotgun microphone, memory cards, clapperboard, external hard drive and a laptop.
If you’re only going to be using one camera to record your video, it’s essential that you shoot enough ambient footage. If your budget can stretch to it, use a second camera to record a wide shot of your subject. Your primary camera should have a 50mm prime lens, to record the close-up. When used on a digital SLR, prime lenses offer beautiful images even at low light.
Focusing is a big issue when using a DSLR, and if you can’t afford a ‘follow focus’ – a piece of gear that attaches to a camera to assist in smoother focus adjustments – you’ll need to let your subject know how far they can move before they are out of focus.
DSLRs are perfect for interviews and set-ups where the focus doesn’t need to change greatly. This does, however, raise one of the issues associated with using kit that was originally designed for stills photography. Whereas the image sensor on these cameras is huge and offers outstanding images, you’ll need to manually focus each shot and be aware when objects or subjects begin to blur. You’ll also need to work around issues such as overheating and recording in 10-minute bursts rather than continuous recording.
Autofocus is now being addressed by the arrival of large image sensor cameras, which are a fusion of the best of a DSLR (the large image sensor and shallow depth of film for filmic quality video) and all the benefits of a video camera (autofocus, image stabilisation, sound monitoring and less compressed video formats).
One mid-range offering is Sony’s NEX-FS100E, an interchangeable lens camera that’s capable of shooting 1,920 x 1,080 progressive footage and has a highly sensitive CMOS sensor. This type of kit is useful for quick set-ups and capturing footage on the fly.
If you fancy something a little smaller that straddles the professional and consumer side of the market, but delivers a DSLR quality image, complete with the auto focus features of a camcorder, then opt for the Sony NEX VG 20. This camera is similarly-priced to a DSLR and has an Exmor HD CMOS APS sensor that’s the equivalent to a Super 35mm sensor or Canon’s 7D Digital SLR. So if, for example, you were putting together a video for your local football team and they wanted you to record a training session, you’d want one of these cameras rather than a digital SLR for capturing fast moving and rapid focus changing set-ups.
One important thing to note is that a DSLR’s internal microphone will record very low-quality audio. You can attach a Rode video mic onto your camera to capture better sound, but for a more professional result, it’s worth recording the sound separately on a portable sound recorder such as a Zoom H4n or a Marantz PMD661 Field Recorder. You can attach a shotgun microphone or lapel (tie) mic to one of these devices and record professional quality audio. You will need to sync the recording of vision sound with an in vision ‘clap’ (either a person standing in front of the camera and clapping or using a traditional clapperboard) – the clap is captured by the onboard mic, as well as the portable audio recorder. This will create a visible spike in the sound wave on both, which is then synced together in an editing program such as Adobe Premiere Pro, Avid Media Composer or Apple Final Cut Pro.
Joseph Luck is another creative, who mixes the skills of web development with sound design. He creates soundscapes and masters audio for games, such as Might of Aged Remnants for Enigmati Games, web promo films and interactive video. “Audio is an incredibly important aspect of an entertaining visual experience “he explains. “The audience will often notice and withstand poor video quality, but are frequently unforgiving if the audio quality isn’t good.”
Matt agrees: “Mostly we work in a team of three, which is one director/cameraman, an assistant producer and a sound guy. You just can’t compromise on audio. Having an extra pair of hands to set up and position things like lights, cables and stands can be invaluable,” says Luck.
“Even keeping the client busy while the shoot is being set up is a great bonus. Not to mention the fantastic improvement in audio quality in the final product.”
Looking back at when we’ve written about video production in the past, hosting has been a topic of major debate, as pricing was high and quality variable. Now you can host all your video using Vimeo’s Pro service for around £125 per year (which includes 50GB of video and 250,000 plays of your videos), plus £11 per extra 50GB and £125 per 100,000 extra plays. The video is unbranded and customisable, so you can embed it into client sites.
Video production is no longer the preserve of specialised companies, and with the kit becoming more affordable there’s no reason why your shouldn’t add another creative string to your bow.