Tag Archives: DSLR

Shooting video with a DSLR (part of the popular series “Things I never thought I’d do”)

After grinning into my lens and standing still for about 10 seconds, the girls I was standing in front of with my camera lately at a friend’s wedding were asking themselves when I would finally take that picture. What they didn’t know until I told them: I was in the middle of taking a lot of pics and they were allowed and even supposed to move – I shot a video and this wasn’t the first time that people didn’t get it. One year ago I would have done the same.

A DSLR is known as a device to take single high quality pictures. And not videos. And that’s actually what I bought it for. Now, my DSLR is my all-in-one device for photo- and videography. Not only for private use, but also for my work as a  journalist.

I treat myself with a Canon EOS 550D last year as I wanted to learn more about photography and shoot nicer pictures than I could achieve with my point-and-shoot. I took it to the wedding of a friend, planning to take pictures with it while as well shooting a video with my HD camcorder (using my Canon only as a video backup/2nd camera for the wedding ceremony.) I went into the church, set everything up, switched on my camcorder and realized I was in trouble. Way too dark. I knew this was not to be storied as the wedding video with the best picture quality….

However, I switched on my DSLR and it felt like the chorus started singing “Hallelujah” in the background. It was great and no – I didn’t expect it.

Since this day, my camcorder is suffering the life of an abandoned device. Sorry, mate.

Now, it wouldn’t even come to my mind to take my camcorder instead (only as a backup/2nd cam). My camcorder only has autofocus (one of the most annoying things if you can’t switch to manual…), not a lot of settings and you’ve got less picture quality. Which is obvious. It’s a camcorder I bought for about 200 Euros a few years ago. Still, when I got my Canon I was convinced that, if I wanted to have a really professional camera for videography, I would have to spend a few thousand euros. Which I couldn’t.

I was dreaming of the ones I worked with during my trainee, like this one. I would have never thought about shooting videos with a DSLR.

Yes, I had no idea indeed.

After that and especially during my MA studies in Online Journalism I developed more and more enthusiasm for shooting videos with my DSLR. I practiced a lot, explored possibilities, did some research, learnt more about the technical side etc. And that more and more people are working with the same device to produce their videos, Dan Chung is a popular example for that.

I’m still impressed by what you can achieve with a DSLR and I’m not grieving for the Panasonics from my trainee anymore – not at all (although I still like them). One reason for that is that I love how handy, small and light the camera is, I can easily carry it around, including the equipment I need. One thing I don’t like is the sound quality, which is why I’m always recording interviews separately, using an audio recorder and synchronizing it later. But that doesn’t really bother me.

My Canon is now my all-in-one device for private and professional use, which is why I decided to upgrade my equipment. After my 20€ worth tripod finally fell into pieces, I decided to get a proper Manfrotto tripod, including a video head. I also decided to get a tele lens, as I often missed that possibility when I was filming with my 18-55mm one. In addition to the macro lens I got last year and the KATA backpack I purchased to have a safe and handy bag for everything, I’ve got quite a nice equipment now – still a lot of space to upgrade, but as I haven’t won the student lottery, yet, this is it for now.

But I’m truly in love with it.

After finishing my studies in September, I will go on a longer trip to New Zealand and Australia. And instead of thinking which clothes I will take etc., the most important thing for me is to pack my new video backpack and be ready to film over there.

I can’t wait.

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Online video: 5 useful links

For today: Just a short post including 5 links I stumbled upon during my research for online video journalism:

#1 Composition tips

A really great tutorial for composition – it’s for photography, but composition is in my opinion no less important in videography.

#2 Finding the Frame  

Great site to get feedback for your multimedia project and watch the pieces of others. Also including a forum to get answers to your questions.

#3 Vimeo video projects 

Very nice and interesting video projects on vimeo you can easily take part in or be inspired by

#4 Interactive Narratives 

Collection of multimedia journalism pieces worth looking at

#5 The DSLR Cinematography Guide  

Shooting on a DSLR? Grab this e-book – it’s helpful and for free!

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Please don’t take my camera and give me an iPhone instead!

I’m a little bit concerned about the future. Will journalists one day answer the question “Do you have all the equipment you need to film the story?” with “Yes, my iPhone is charged!” ?

Well. I actually don’t think that this will be the normal case. But still there is a kind of hype regarding filming on iPhones or Flipcams. Don’t get me wrong: Flipcams are really cool, no doubt. And it’s great to be able to record and even cut on the iPhone. But I never had the thought that I might leave my camera at home and go with the iPhone instead. Take this example, where a big German TV station (ARD) used the iPhone to record interviews from the European Hockey championship for their website of the “Sportschau”, a popular sport news show.

                                                          click here to see the original post/picture on FB

It was an experiment. But I’m not really comfortable with it. Maybe it’s the weird combination of a whole team, a decent mic, light and, well: an iPhone. But it’s not that I don’t see any sense in Flipcams and iPhone recording. Let me give you a few examples where I would use them:

  • You’re out there, filming some happening, but you need to send out a short first excerpt really quickly and publish it online. Or you want to give some first short impressions or statements. That’s great. Catch it with your iPhone, cut it on your iPhone and publish it. And then shoot a longer video with your “real camera”, edit it on your Mac/PC and publish that. Great stuff.
  • You won’t always have your camera with you, but a Flipcam and especially the iPhone is really easy to carry around (the iPhone is with you anyway) – something is suddenly happening, you want/need to record it. There you go.
  • For VJ Roman Mischel the Flip is a supplementary tool, with which journalists can record short statements or impressions without the need of getting to know an advanced level of video shooting. Those clips could then enrich the news coverage. Andy Dickinson notes that Flips should be used to produce clips that are embedded in the text, the video telling “the part of the story it does best.”  And I don’t disagree with them. What’s important is that it still has to be of a good quality. And that it’s just about filming short clips. Ok. So I must admit that the “Sportschau” experiment should be fine (unfortunately I couldn’t watch the footage and see how good the quality was). As long as it’s really just supplementary clips. In good quality.

Of course, you could also film a whole story with it. But there’s so much you cannot do then: What about manual focus, low depth of field, a better steadiness, more settings in terms of brightness, colour etc…and I would truly just miss it to hold a “real” camera in my hands. I think there is a great limitation in both storytelling and quality when shooting with a Flipcam or a mobile.

Richard Coci Hernandez writes, that he’s “getting a strong feeling that to be truly successful as a journalist of the future everything I do must be viewed through the mobile lens.” I’m not comfortable with that. I don’t think you should only stick to mobile devices. I think they are very useful. But not for everything.

Don’t get me wrong: It’s not that I think that everyone shooting video has to be at least in the possession of a DSLR and certain video skills. And I totally get it when people just want to report about certain events on their blog, but not spend too much time to get into filming stuff like focus, 5-shot-rule, rule of thirds etc. or even spend a few hundred quid or more for a DSLR. And that’s totally fine.

But what I’m afraid of is that Flipcams and iPhones are getting more and more important in the daily newsroom. As people are talking more and more about filming with Flipcams and mobile phones, about adequate apps, e.g. to cut on the iPhonemini steadicam rigs for the iPhone or even a slider for iPhones, GoPros, small DSLRs and compact cams. As I said, when you are in a hurry or want to get a first video impression online, the ability to film and cut on the iPhone isn’t a bad thing. Not at all. A rig – well, I’d rather spend the money for a rig for my DSLR. Could be useful sometimes, though. For example if I need to get some first impressions online and there’s a lot of movement in the scene I want to film. But still not on the top of my christmas wish list. The slider is actually quite funny – and that’s exactly its purpose. It’s for fun, as Dan Chung points it out, but he also sees ways for a professional use, e.g. it could be be useful when “sliding in an incredibly tight spot like on a car dashboard”.

I even got some iPhone tools myself. I got one to be able to mount my iPhone on my tripod. And my best friend gave me a lens for my birthday last year, which I found quite cool. I am speaking of a lens that is not even as big as my iPhone.

But there’s more than this out there…..


Honestly? I couldn’t believe it when I saw it. And this feeling didn’t get better when I read the text:

“Ever since the iPhone camera was invented, it’s aspired to be what it simply never quite could be: a DSLR”.

Oh. So that’s what Apple actually wanted to produce. A DSLR. I see.

So you are able to carry a lens you could kill someone with, but not your DSLR? Why would I put a monster like that on my iPhone? And why would I even think about spending money for this?

Oh right, because:

“Now that your favorite camera has it all, what’re going to do with your DSLR?”

I don’t now. Keep it as a decent camera and forget what I just saw?


I’d be very happy to hear other opinions about that – go ahead and start the discussion. 

p.s.: great. After writing this post now I DO have a christmas wish list: I want a steady cam rig and a slider for my DSLR. Wow, how I have to be good this year…

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