In the last post I reviewed my list for choice zoom lenses for photography when dealing with church media. Of coarse if you desire you can use that same list for church videography. But to get into the art and craft of videography I suggest you use prime lenses. Of coarse primes can be used for photography too, but primes don’t allow as much flexibility.
Prime lenses are defined as: one that has just one focal length only (in contrast to a zoom lens that covers a wider range of lengths).
Prime lenses come in a wide range of focal lengths from wide angles through to the very longest of tele-photo lenses used by many sports photographers and paparazzi.
Maximum Aperture – one of the biggest arguments used by prime lens lovers is the speed that prime lenses are able to offer. For example, in the Canon range the fastest lenses available are all prime lenses (down to f/1.2) where as in the zoom range f/2.8 is as fast as you’ll get.
Quality – traditionally prime lenses are known for their advanced optics and quality. They generally have less moving parts and so manufacturers are able to concentrate their efforts on adding quality glass and menanisms.
Keep in mind however that just because it’s a prime lens doesn’t mean that it is going to be of the highest standards. Manufacturers make a range of lenses at different price point (zoom and prime) and some are always going to be better than others.-Digital Photography School.com
In my own words, a prime lens is a lens with a singular focal length. A zoom lens covers multiple focal lengths. Prime lenses don’t have any moving parts so you can have more glass thus resulting in higher quality lens. You also have faster glass with prime lenses. Faster glass means that the lens can be set at a low aperture in any setting. Another words you will be able to have your settings be on f/2.8 (there about ) no matter the lighting condition. In short it has a better aperture range. Having stated that; the reason I say Primes are more for videography is because they demand that you plan your shot. You don’t have the flexibility of a zoom photography lens. Primes require more time and attention to craft. They bring out creativity and purposeful shooting.
Let me also preface here by saying that the primes in this list are meant for Cannon DSLR cameras. No matter what your brand is you can get similar prime lenses for your camera brand. My list of prime lenses for shooting includes:
Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens $599
Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Lens $549
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens $110
Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM Lens $369
Again you can get more expensive lens’s for DSLR but I find this is an adequate list. 24mm is a nice wide lens to use as your landscape shot or opening shot. It’s a great way to establish the scene. The speed of the lens is 2.8 so that is a nice aperture to be able to shoot at in any lighting condition. The 35mm is a great medium wide lens. Again it is also really fast giving you a lot of options when shooting and creative control. The nifty 50 is the 50mm lens. Surprisingly it is one the cheapest lenses that you can buy anywhere! The lightest and best prices lens you will ever buy. 50mm is decently tight and makes a good medium range shot. Finally the 85mm is a great close up glamor shot. With a 1.8 top speed, your going to get some gorgeous bokeh. Booked of coarse is when your foreground or focus image is in prime focus and your background is blurred out completely. It’s best seen when you have lots of light behind your subject. With a fast aperture you can get really pretty images.
Here is some example of the background being blurred out.
Once you start on the journey of church photography and service or testimony videography, you immediately are faced with the problem of choosing the right lens or lenses for your camera. Now, I shoot with Canon cameras so I choose their lenses. But whatever you shoot with there will be a similar lens to choose from. First lets cover the basics. There are two types of lenses. Zoom lens, and prime lens.
A zoom lens has the capability to maneuver from one distance to another. There are numerous amounts of zoom lens’s to choose from. There are so very many different ranges it can be maddening to know what you should choose. Just look at B&H list of zoom focal lengths:
I think you get the point. On with it then; what to choose. Let’s start with lenses for photography. In part 2 we will discuss lenses for videography, but you can use these zoom lenses for videography as well. First on the list of considerations for your new lenses is your budget. Here is my list of affordable but quality zoom lenses. All prices are based upon B&H Photo and Video.
Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM Lens. $849
Canon EF 24-105mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens. $599
Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens. $649
Canon EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens. $699
Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM Lens. $299
Again if you don’t shoot Canon there are similar Nikon or Sony lenses out there. You should even investigate to see if Sigma, Tamron or another brand makes a lens that will fit the mount of your camera. You can even buy special lens mounts for your camera if need be. These are good lengths to consider when buying a zoom lens. You can get wider zooms or even more telephoto zooms but for standard day to day shooting for church services or events this is a good list. The 24mm to 70mm is a decent mid range. A down side is that the f/4L f-stop is kind of a low spot to have to start at. By that I mean that you can’t have a larger aperture than f/4. You can go higher ( f/5, f/6, f/7…) but not lower (f/3, f/2…). That aperture doesn’t allow you to get that beautiful depth of field. When your shooting at church it is nice to be able to go brighter with your aperture since your shooting in the dim lighting. Read my blog post on shooting in dim lighting. On that note, the 24-105 gives you more range and a lower f-stop to shoot at. The f/3.5 f-stop aperture is going to let in more light to your sensor for a better image. The next lens is nice because you can use it as your ad on lens. By that I mean if you want to be able to zoom in further it’s a good lens to have as an addition. It matches up really nicely with the 24-70 because with the two lenses you now essentially have a 24-300mm lens kit. That’s a nice kit.
For the most flexibility I like the 18-200mm lens. This is a all in one lens. Its range is wide to a nice telephoto. With the bottom of the lens at a 3.5 aperture, it lets in a fair amount of light. I’ve gotten a lot of really nice shots wit this lens and it keeps me from changing from one lens to another most of the time. Finally another all in one lens is the 28-135mm. Its range is not as good but the price makes up the difference. You’ll notice that all of these have ranges in their aperture settings. For example, 3.5-5.6, this range means that the lowest f-stop you can have when at its widest setting is a 3.5. When the zoom is extended to 200mm the lowest setting of aperture will be 5.6. You can always go darker from there but know that those are the lowest settings you can get on your lens at any given time.
Now if you have a little higher budget here is my favorites list.
Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Lens. $1,499
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens. $1,799
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM Lens. $1,249
The first lens is the 16-35mm. Thats a nice wide range for shooting a large group, the whole stage, or building. The bottom of the lens is f/2.8, which means that no matter how far in you have your lens zoomed, you can maintain a low aperture of 2.8 or for that matter, whatever you wish. There are no limits on this lens. The same is true for the other two lenses. Again the 24-70 is a nice medium range and the 70-200 is a nice telephoto. The strength of these lenses is that you can set your aperture no matter if the lens is at its widest or deepest. There are no restrictions on them. That’s the difference between the expensive lenses and the cheaper ones. The cheaper lenses have restrictions on them and the more expensive ones do not. The key to look for to tell the difference is to look for the “L” series or a lens with a constant f2/8 f-stop or less. Next time I’ll discussing prime lenses and video production.
Sorry it’s been a while since I last posted. I’ve been very busy with other projects. But I’m back now and excited to get going again on this adventure. As always let me know how I can further and better serve you! Now on to the main post.
How to shoot in a dim light setting? Most likely when you’re shooting at your church setting the lights are dim in the auditorium or sanctuary. This obviously is for atmospheric and mood lighting. Usually the only lights on are on the stage. As the photographer in your church how do you accommodate for this hard to shoot in lighting setting? There are a couple of variables that will determine that.
Are you shooting for your churches print material such as a magazine or for advertisement cards?
Are you shooting for the web advertisement?
If you are shooting for print then it’s necessary to shoot at an ISO under 3200 and preferably at or under 1600. Why is that? The reasoning here is because images that are shot at or above 1600 can be grainy or noisy when printed. What is grain or noise?
In digital photographs, “noise” is the commonly-used term to describe visual distortion. It looks similar to grain found in film photographs, but can also look like splotches of discoloration when it’s really bad, and can ruin a photograph. Noise tends get worse when you’re shooting in low light.
From a technical point of view, noise is the visual manifestation of a lower signal-to-noise ratio, which is measured in decibels. While the amount of noise that you may consider acceptable may be different from what the next guy might accept, but most professional photographers want to see photos with at least a 30dB signal-to-noise ratio.
Images look like they are made of grain or sand is the short answer. Everyone has seen it at some point and its a photographers worst nightmare. Once you have grain there is no saving it in post production. Many things can be rescued in post, but grain is not one of them. Now that being said, if the image being printed is going to be super small, like a few inches on a page then you can probably get away with a 1600-3200 ISO setting. For example something smaller than a 4×6 image should be safe. A 2×2 head shot will probably be just fine. Why is this? The pixels are compressed, creating a sharper image.
If you are shooting for a web advertisement then you can most definitely get away with shooting 1600-3200 ISO. Web uses less pixels than print. That’s why it’s safer to shoot 3200 for web. Print materials will use a higher resolution image, whereas a web image is not as high a resolution. The image is already being scaled down and reduced, making it grainier anyways.
Moving onward there are some other rules to consider. The shutter speed is important to consider. The faster the shutter speed the less blurry the image. This is a great rule and knowledge for sports but sports are generally outdoors. For shooting the band or pastor you won’t need to have too high a shutter speed. Most activity on stage will be minimal. A more aggressive band will have higher speed activity and energy so you may want to consider moving your shutter speed up. But again be careful the higher the shutter speed the darker the image. Not a good thing in a dimly lit setting. A general rule could be this: set your shutter speed at the same ratio as your focal length. For example if your lens is set at 50mm then set your shutter speed at 1/50 a sec. However there are variables to that rule. If you have a lens set at 10mm, I’m sure you won’t want to have a shutter speed at 1/10 a second. That is really slow and your going to get a shaky blurry image since most likely your shooting hand held at church. Also remember that your going to have to shoot your aperture at the lowest setting since it’s dim lighting. For example a setting of f3.5 is much wider and thusly your image is going to be brighter than a setting of f8.0. For shooting in dim light settings you’ll need to set it on the lowest possible setting. If you have a lens that will shoot at f2.8 or lower that will be the best! But remember the lower the aperture setting the shallower the depth of field. Meaning that you may only have two members of the band in focus. The back three members of the band will surly be out of focus. Maybe that’s ok and you can deal with that. I’m just saying that it’s a good possibility.
Photography is give and take: More ISO and the more grain. The more aperture the darker the image or vise versa you’ll have a shallower image with less in focus. You need to decide what’s important and what’s necessary. But my hope is that this article will give you some guidance and thinking points when when shooting in low light settings. Let me know if this is helpful to you. Thanks!
Lets start by looking at a scenario. You have just shot a great service, testimony, interview, whatever with your brand new camera. The picture quality looks great, its shot in HD, the subject is in focus, the lighting looks superb and you’ve achieved some nice bokeh in the background. But then you hear the on camera audio and you cringe because the audio is fuzzy, static and you picked up the refrigerator hum in the background! Oh now your beautiful picture is ruined! Its a true statement to say that even if you have a wonderful quality image if your sound is bad then what good is that image? A picture is worth a thousand words but a thousand well recorded words will help your picture.
You my friend need some better quality mic’s than what the onboard mic can offer. Lets begin with the different types of mic’s there are. There are several ways that a microphone works. The omnidirectional mic does pick up sounds equally well from all directions. On the minus end it can not distinguish between the sound you want such as your interview or your talent and the ambient room sounds. Next we have the unidirectional mic. These mics come in two different variety. The cardioid is broad enough for the every day use but not good for pin pointing audio recording. The hypercardioid is great for highly pin pointing audio pick up. This is great for picking up the lines of audio and not getting the environment sounds. In finality we have the directional mic. The directional mic would be my choice for recording talent. This mic pics up sounds directly in front of it but will not catch sounds in any other direction. If you want other ambient noise you can use another type of mic. But this would be perfect for testimonials and interviews. Just make sure that you point the mic straight at the talents mouth.
Now lets move onto the specific types of mic’s. First we have the boom mic. The boom is portrayed in the picture above. More to the point it is a shot gun mic that is mounted on a boom poll. You can use a shotgun mic attached to the camera and that might work well enough but to truly get good audio mount it to a boom pole and extend it out to the talent. Make sure you position the boom mic in a manner to pick up optimal audio. Point it at the talents mouth. That may seem obvious but you would be surprised. Make sure that its out of the frame it would be awful to review your footage and discover the boom mic is in the shot.
I’ve been on my share of short film productions and I’ve got some experience holding a boom mic for long stretches of time. It causes strain on the arms shoulders and legs. It is important to stand with the boom mic straight above your head with your feet square with your body. Be relaxed and breath easily. Reposition your hands as need be. Rest the boom on your shoulders behind your head if you get tired. If your shooting a scene with two or more people you need to be Johnny on the spot and rotate the mic from one speaker to another. You can’t just hang the mic right in the middle and expect it to pick up both speakers. Remember again, it needs to be pointed at the mouth. For convenience when interviewing one person, you can use a boom pole stand. This is the stand pictured in the kit above. A stand is nice to keep the mic steady and level and it saves the arms and shoulders of your audio guy.
For tight precision when recording audio it is necessary to use of a lavaliere microphone. According to my instructor and videographer Steve Brubaker, his top choice is Ectrosonics which are the best in the lavaliere business. But the cheaper option would be a Sony set with a Tram mic. Sennheiser and Shure are good options too. You have to know your budget and you have to know what kind of attachment does your camera take. A DSLR probably only has a mini jack input. But a professional camera or a cinema camera will probably have multiple options, the most common being the XLR input. You want to look for a camera with two channel XLR inputs for audio options. Then you can put a lav’ in one channel and you can put a shotgun mic on the other. Thats all for now, please see my Hub Page article on the same subject for more information and purchasing options. Thank you.
I am a graduate from VBC and completed the film and TV tracks and internship. I have a true passion for cinematography. Cinematography by definition found in Webster dictionary is: the art, process, or job of filming movies : motion-picture photography. For church use this might more correctly be labeled as videography. Non the less this is a powerful medium that when used right can illustrate and visually demonstrate the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Obviously one of the great uses for cinematography is shooting church services or getting the spoken word on to the screen. That screen might be broadcast T.V.,cable, or the internet. No matter if your shooting live services, testimonies or if your doing a more theatrical production, doing better cinematography is important.
Where to start? I think the obvious choice is the camera. What kind of camera do you need to purchase for your church? Well that depends on what you want to use it for and how much money your willing to spend. Lets begin by looking at general videography and a camera for live shooting and broadcast in service. To get something worthwhile its my estimate that your going to need to spend between $2,000.00 and $3,000.00 just on the camera. Honestly your probably going to need something closer to $5,000.00 but I’m going to try and find you the right tool for at or under $3000. The top camera and studio equipment store that most professionals buy from is B&H (http://www.bhphotovideo.com).
Lets look at some good options:
1.SonyHDR-AX2000 AVCHD. It shoots 1080p HD. It has a wide angle 20x G-lens, with manual zoom, focus and iris rings. Thats a big perk because it’s going to give you more manual control when shooting. Manual control is what you want to look for to fine tune your videography. Anyone can operate an expensive camera on automatic mode, but to really get your shots to stand out you need to learn to use the manual modes. The camera includes dual XLR inputs for recording audio. Thats another nice feature for shooting. If you buy a camera without audio capabilities your going to be limited to the internal audio which will most assuredly not be as nice, smooth and clean as professional audio. It has 3 built in ND filters which come in handy on a bright sunny day. It shoots on memory stick pro and SD card. The day of mini dv is well past. (Yah!) Over all the general specs on this camera are really great which is why its my 1 choice for general videography and live shooting.
2. Panasonic AG-AC130A AVCCAM HD. This camera shoots 1080p HD. It has a focus assist so you can know exactly when your in prime focus on your subject. Thats a nice feature because its hard without a big external monitor to know when the subject is truly in focus. It has dual SD card slots and 2 channel XLR slots, and has 3 ND filters. No mention about an iris ring, focus ring or zoom ring. I assume it has at least one of these but there is no mention of it.
3. Panasonic AG-HMC80 3MOS AVCCAM HD. If you want a nice shoulder mount camera but one that has less manual options you can look at this camera.It shoots 1080p HD and at speeds of 24fps, 30fps, and 60fps. The normal recording speed for film cameras is at 24 frames per second so this camera can also be upped to 30 and 60 frames per second. It has a 12x HD lens and dual XLR inputs. Again audio recording options are almost as good as how clean and nice your picture looks. It has a multipurpose focus ring which would really limit your speed when changing settings.
Its important to get some good audio recording options. Buy a shotgun mic if one does not come with it. You will also want a nice lavaliere mic set. You can also purchase a Zoom recorder and even get a decent basic one from Best Buy for $100. See my audio recording article and Hub for more on this subject.http://seanfliehman.hubpages.com/hub/Do-Better-Video-Production-Audio
There are a host of other cameras bellow these options that you can buy cheaper and a host above these that are way more expensive, just remember you get what you pay for. For my research these three are the best you can get for $3000 or under.
Now lets take a step further. The above cameras all shoot at 1080p HD which is great but these days theres a new quality. You can if you want to, shoot full cinema style at the highest resolution possible which is 4K. Now you can buy the RED camera which is the Rolls Royce of cameras at $50,000 for just the body. But unless your Dreamworks or Universal Studios or have a big budget your not likely to be buying this camera. The alternative is the Blackmagic Production (cinema) camera.
The Black Magic Production and Cinema camera shoots in 4K resolution and cost around $2000. Wow now thats a good deal! Its small and has a tough outer shell which makes it easy to handle and hard to break. It has a touch screen like your iPhone making it easier to alter camera settings right on the screen. About that screen:
The built in high resolution 5” LCD touchscreen can be used for entering metadata directly into the camera by simply typing on the soft keyboard, so it’s as easy to use as any smartphone. Shot number can automatically increment, so you don’t have to enter it for each shot! Entering metadata directly into the camera means every time you record the shot information is recorded into the media file so editing software such as DaVinci Resolve 11 or Final Cut Pro X can quickly identify and locate the shot you need when you are in post production saving editing time and eliminating manual logging.-https://www.blackmagicdesign.com
It has a 35mm sensor: If you need higher resolution, global shutter and a more creative depth of field then the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K models feature a large Super 35 size sensor and professional PL or EF lens mounts, so is the perfect choice. You get incredible Ultra HD images with 12 stops of dynamic range for feature film quality shooting. The minimal crop factor lets you shoot with super wide angle lenses so you get images that are big and beautiful, plus have the dynamic range to capture highlight and shadow details far beyond that of any traditional video camera. –https://www.blackmagicdesign.com
Continuing on you can shoot on wide dynamic range.
Video cameras clip highlights and shadows giving you images that look like video. Some cameras use multiple exposures or “HDR mode” to simulate wide dynamic range but that doesn’t work well with motion video where you have movement. Blackmagic Cinema Cameras shoot each frame with wide dynamic range so you get brighter highlights without clipping and rich detail and shadows. The ultra wide dynamic range 2.5K sensor has so much range that you can even shoot indoors with correct exposure and still get full detail through windows outside! This is the secret that allows feature film imagery when color grading with DaVinci Resolve.-https://www.blackmagicdesign.com
Lastly the camera has industry standard connections:
When you’re on-set the last thing you need is to hold up dozens of very expensive people while you look around for a custom camera cable! The Blackmagic Cinema Cameras use standard connectors so you can simply use regular video, audio and power cables plus you save money because you don’t need to purchase custom accessories. You get 3G-SDI or 6G-SDI on the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K model for monitoring, ¼” mic/line audio inputs and a Thunderbolt™ connection for live streaming from the camera and scopes when using the included UltraScope software. When you want external camera and lens control a LANC port is included.-https://www.blackmagicdesign.com
The Black Magic camera is very cool but you may not be prepared or even find it necessary to shoot at that level of production. The cheapest way, cost wise to shoot quality film style shoots is with the DSLR. May I suggest Cannon cameras. The general rule is that Cannon is better for shooting video because of the higher quality h.264 codec. Most people will tell you that Nikon is the photographers camera. What it really comes down to here is sensor size. For the sake of argument lets just say that the larger the sensor the the better the picture. A large sensor will give you a shallower depth of field, greater dynamic range and better low light sensitivity. Lower light sensitivity is what really matters in my opinion. That along with the right settings will allow for your images to not be grainy.
Now if your choosing Cannon I’d go with a 60D and up. Lets make this simple and put it into laymen terms that if it has a “D” in its name then it is professional grade. The Rebel series is great but the sensor is not as good as the “D” series and many of your shots will be disappointingly grainy when shooting in lower light. Take my word on that. The next thing to look at getting is some good glass aka the lens’s. Prime lens’s are going to be your choice. Prime lens’s are one that has a fixed focal length only. Prime lenses come in a variety of focal lengths from wide angles used for setting establishing shots or landscapes to tele-photo lenses. I would imagine in most film making or church production your not going to need a tele-photo prime. Primes also make you think about your shot more so you get exactly what you want to see. I’d go with a 10mm (Wide), 35mm, (Semi wide) 50mm (Medium-Close) ,and 80mm (Close). Thats a nice range for shooting. Try to get lens’s with a low f-stop setting. F-2 or lower is the best and will allow the lens to receive the most light in for a better picture.
Great video on shooting with DSLR.
Now you’ll need to buy the right tripod. I hate it when I have a sticky tripod and it j-j-j-jerks along when I pan. It ruins the shot and my desire to keep shooting flies right out the window. No matter what tripod you purchase make sure it has a nice smooth fluid head. My I suggest Manfrotto brand. The next step will be to buy a tripod that has an exchangeable head on it. The purpose of this is so you can attach say a slider on it. A good slider will give you the ability to have some nice, smooth long pans that a normal trip can not give you. There are a ton of toys you can buy from this point on you’ve just got to decide whats important to your churches production. Anything and everything is available from tripods, heads, rigging and so forth. May I suggest Cowboystudio.com. They have some great rigging choices, soft boxes, lighting kits, backdrops and the works. But most importantly they have them for affordable prices. While your purchasing your fun new toys don’t forget about some of the essentials like extra battery, extra cords, power strips, and the proper recording cards. Most of these cameras listed take SD cards and may I suggest 32GB or higher. 64GB would really be the best choice.
There’s a ton more that I can say about better cinematography and I’ll have more articles to come. For now I hope this helps and that it will get you started. Thanks for reading and let me know if I can be of service. Happy shooting.
For further education and enjoyment watch these great video.
If you really are only able to shoot with iPhone or iPad please see my Hub pages article on how to do some great videography on your iDevice.