Continuing on from Part 1, even though many cameras can produce say 1080p video, they don’t always provide great results because they haven’t been supplied with the proper Codecs and other features. However, modern cameras are getting much better and most new digital cameras, as well as action cams and even dash cams, will produce excellent 1080p and good to excellent 4K. The more expensive the camera, usually the better the results. Even smart phones are now producing some amazing 4K video and getting better all the time. Cheap video cameras, like many action cams, can promise a lot but deliver little, so quality is always going to come at a price. That said, there are now very high quality video cameras available that are quite compact and at exceptionally good prices, Blackmagic is one brand worth considering.
For my video, I’ll be using four different cameras. Two are Olympus E-M1s, a MkI and a MkII which I’ve written about here, one is an Olympus Tough TG-5 that I’ve written about here and the last one is a simple dash cam that I’ve been using for years and written about here. All of these cameras are capable of producing Full HD 1080p video and are therefore largely compatible when it comes to production and post-production work. None of these are what many would consider ideal cameras for video production, but that doesn’t really matter in this instance since I’m primarily a stills photographer and this is ostensibly a road to discovery. If I can pull it off with this collection of cameras, then doing better with videocentric cameras will prove to be a somewhat easier task, and I’m not talking about ENG cameras.
The first thing that needs to be understood is that for video you’re going to need memory, lots of it, for both recording and later saving and editing. And you need memory cards with much higher performance capabilities and not just substantial storage capacity. The first point has to do with the ability to effectively write the video that’s being recorded and the second is to do with how much you can record (in minutes). Many memory cards simply won’t record 4K or do so reliably, so you have to research which cards will perform satisfactorily with whatever format and sometimes camera that you decide to use. Then you have to transfer and save the video to your computer for editing and that starts to add up, with an ever increasing need for storage space. Some parts of the following table showing memory card specifications are already out of date as the industry moves so fast.
Then there’s power. Shooting extensive video will drain your battery very quickly and so you’ll likely need many more batteries than for still photography. This is one thing that became patently evident with my action cams and their low capacity, low quality, batteries and, even with higher capacity and higher quality batteries of my other cameras, the battery life still isn’t all that fantastic. Another thing with batteries is that if you use different camera gear and they each use different types of batteries and chargers, it’s just that much more gear to lug around and more effort required to manage everything. Battery management is already becoming a major headache with general photography and seems to be a bigger issue with video.
You will also quickly realise that if you want to produce video and you have a low specification PC or laptop, you will be struggling, especially if you want to play around with 4K video. Video editing requires a lot of memory and a very powerful video card and, as the video quality increases, this becomes even more important. What I have is adequate for 1080p editing, but out of the question when it comes to 4K editing. Some say that you can easily edit 4K video with a low specification PC by using a trick, but this often requires specific video editing software and hassle, so you might just be better off buying a more powerful PC from the outset. Start off using 1080p and, as your skills develop and you know that you want to go further, then consider all the necessary upgrades.
Another thing that many overlook or give little consideration to when it comes to video is audio, or if they do, it’s just what background music to apply. You often see some amazing time lapse-videos on YouTube, but if you remove the audio it soon becomes pretty boring to watch. That’s one thing I’ve come to realise is that if the video doesn’t work without any audio, it’s not going to greatly improve with background music, especially if it’s a very long and drawn out video (something to also avoid). Which leads me to something that really hit home when trying to apply proper audio to my videos, there is often far more involved in the audio production side than the video side and you really need appropriate tools if you want to produce reasonable audio. That means tools for production and tools for post-production, so I’ve acquired a lot more audio related gear that I ever anticipated. You don’t need the absolute best, but good quality makes a difference.
And the gear acquisition doesn’t end there. One thing every photographer owns is a tripod, if not more than one, and so do videographers. Lightweight tripods don’t usually suffice when you want stability, for photography or video, and dedicated video tripods tend to be much heavier than those used by photographers. That said, as long as you aren’t trying to use heavy video gear on a reasonably sturdy tripod, you shouldn’t encounter any issues, but it’s something to keep in mind. However, when it comes to the tripod head, that’s a different story altogether. Regular ball heads and gimbal heads just won’t cut it when it comes to video, as neither are smooth enough for panning, which I sadly found out on a recent trip. You absolutely need a fluid head, there is no way around it. Obviously the more expensive generally the better, but there are some pretty good fluid heads available now at modest cost. If you want high quality, you’ll also need to buy a new tripod, as these heads require a special cup mount on the tripod.
When it comes to lighting, most photographers will have electronic flash units of one form or another and some will have continuous light sources such as halogen lighting. I have several electronic flash units as well as studio flash, but none of those are of any use when it comes to video. And with video you need light, often much more than with still photography. Photographers use electronic flash when outdoors and videographers need lighting just as much, if not more. I haven’t got to that stage yet and hopefully won’t, as it’s another expanding area that gets to the point where you need extra arms and legs just to cope. But I have looked at continuous lighting and what’s becoming increasingly common are LED lights. Newer and more efficient models are starting to replace many traditional light sources, especially because they are power efficient, produce minimal heat, are light weight, very portable and can be powered from batteries as well as mains power. Again you generally get what you pay for, but it’s another area where your credit card will be rapidly drained if you start looking at premium products.
There’s a lot more gear that a videographer can own, such as motorised gimbals for hand holding, sliders, external recorders with SSDs, monitors and lots more. I doubt that any of that will be on my shopping list for a very long time, if ever. But be aware, video is something that can quickly become an obsession and soon you’ll be completely drawn in. I have to admit that I’m having enormous fun, despite the effort required. Making simple videos kind of reminds me of what it felt like being a kid, making things with my first Lego set, hours and hours of fun. In Part 3 I’ll go through the final technical bits and pieces that will allow me to get the video footage that I need.