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A Brief Review of Nikon v Canon

camera-691907_1280I just recently started to learn about the world of Nikon DSLR camera. Some of you at this point may be saying “welcome to the party!” Others at this point might be saying “traitor!” I know of people who started with Nikon and switched to Canon and still others who switched from Canon to Nikon. Some of you right now are saying, “The heck with that I love Sony or Panasonic”. I’ve been informed that Nikon is a photographers camera and Canon is better for those who want to use a DSLR for videography. I don’t have any proof to back that statement up, that’s just what I’ve heard. All in all I think it comes down to personal preference. You have to know yourself and the type of work you will be doing. For church photography I don’t think it really matters which you use. Therefor I will be sharing my experience.

I was at a wedding just strolling around and shooting the decor for practice. As I started to shoot with the Nikon DSLR, I noticed that I had a hard time changing my settings. This may be due to the fact that this was my first shoot with a Nikon and I am not accustomed to it yet. Never the less the speed I normally have was gone and I had to constantly stop and look at the camera to change my f-stop, shutter speed and mostly the ISO. I had to make sure that I wasn’t changing the f-stop when I wanted to change the shutter speed and so forth.

Wow! To change the ISO is the trickiest cat of all. You have to press and hold down the ISO button on the left of the camera, while turning a wheel on the right. I just remember thinking to myself “how very cumbersome and inconvenient”. When your shooting church photography it is necessary to change the ISO a lot because the light is always changing from front of stage to back of auditorium. The lobby light is differ than the auditorium light, classrooms are different from those and of coarse outside is going  to be way different. I said all that to make the point that this process of changing the ISO on a Nikon while “on the go” is way more frustrating than it is to change on the Canon. Perhaps it might be ok, if you’re in a controlled environment such as a studio and you have time to stop and think about that change.

Honestly that’s it for this post. I don’t have much more to grouse at than that major point. Over all I thought most of the changes were very similar. The weight, design, and processes of the camera are not that different than Canon. If you can get over the ISO malfunction mess then I would say that you can be just as happy with Nikon as you are with Canon. Perhaps as I familiarize myself more with Nikon I’ll have more to say, but for now I’ll be sticking with my Canon camera.  This video is very good. It might help you in your decision making. Happy shooting everyone.

Do Better Audio Recording for Video Shoots

Picture from Amazon.com

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.

http://seanfliehman.hubpages.com/hub/Do-Better-Video-Production-Audio

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Do Better Cinematography

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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.

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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.Sony HDR-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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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lens imageNow 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.

http://seanfliehman.hubpages.com/hub/Do-Quality-Production-With-Your-iPad-or-iPhone