As if this has never been done before! Anyway, in Part 6 of Making Movies I wrote about the slider that I’d bought and noted that I was considering turning it into a motorised slider so that I could get more controlled and smoother motion. What I was achieving wasn’t too bad, but I could never quite get consistent motion across the full length of the slider and that started to become very frustrating. That convinced me even more that I needed to add a motor to the slider. But what really prompted me was when I decided to dismantle one of my old printers, salvaging any useful parts that I could remove, I came across a number of bits and pieces like motors, belts, brackets, as well as hundreds of small screws. That spurred me to start looking at converting my slider to a motorised one, given the parts that started to pile up.
In Part 6 I discussed a range of accessories that can make movie production easier and professional looking. Hand- held gimbals are becoming a major part of this, but the cost of motorised ones had me avoiding getting one. However, after numerous failed attempts at getting the static gimbal to work with my main cameras, I was facing a very frustrating brick wall that I couldn’t penetrate. While the static gimbal is supposed to be able to handle the weight of my cameras (much like a Glidecam), I was beginning to suspect that wasn’t the case. No matter what I did and no matter how many videos I watched on how to balance this gimbal, I could not get it to work. The shoulder rig on the other hand is great but is more a substitute for a tripod in awkward situations but, when moving about, the shoulder rig shows lots of jitter and movement. The more I pondered the subject matter that I would be recording, moving about was going to be a major part of anything that I did and what I had wasn’t going to cut it.
I mentioned in Part 4 that gear wasn’t the most important thing when producing video and it’s not, but there are things that can make your video production easier and more importantly interesting, as I’ve been slowly finding out. Video production is all about conveying a story through visual impact; movement, light and manipulation of scenes, movement being one important aspect, and not forgetting sound and editing, as I mentioned in Part 5. This is how video provides the story that words provide in a book; you can’t leave it to the reader’s imagination, you have to create the imagination and that’s what I’ve been discovering. To that end, there are tools or accessories available that help you to create that imagination, as opposed to simply pointing a bare camera at things. You could achieve reasonable results with nothing more than a hand held camera, and movies have been done that way, but the results may not be as good unless that’s the effect that you want.
While the story, as discussed in Part 4, is still the most important aspect of video, there are two technical aspects that are pretty much vital to video post-production (compiling the story), software and hardware (a decent computer). As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been using Cyberlink PowerDirector for a while now because it’s not too bad a video editing suite. It’s well priced and, more importantly, it will run on my nearly 10 year old PC. So with PowerDirector and my old PC I’ve been able to produce all of my YouTube videos, but that old PC (Dell Studio XPS) has really been starting to show its age. It’s frequently rather slow, even when running moderate tasks and often running out of memory when doing several things at once. I knew that it was on its last legs as far as any photographic or video editing was concerned and my fears became more immediate when one of my monitors started to play up, which I confirmed was the graphics card starting to flounder. Getting parts for this PC was becoming difficult, so I was now more or less forced into looking at something new and more capable earlier than I anticipated.
Following on from Part 3, one of the most important things when it comes to producing good video is not the gear, it’s the story you’re telling and the planning that you do beforehand, which may include screenplays, scripts and storyboards. When I once mentioned this on a photography forum, I was immediately ridiculed for suggesting that anyone needs to do these things to make a video. It was the usual knee jerk reaction, without any thought being given to the general concept behind these words. I wasn’t suggesting that you needed formal planning, screenplays/scripts and storyboards to make a video, but having even a rudimentary story and plan will help in producing something meaningful. It’s like taking a holiday where most people don’t simply jump in a car or plane and travel to some place without any though as to where they want to go and what they want to do. In this context, planning is vital. Even millennials sometimes plan their photography/video trips.
In Part 3 I discussed the focusing capabilities of the MkII and covered the AF Limiter. Since writing that, I’ve found the AF Limiter somewhat problematic with my 4/3 lenses. Sometimes it works and at other times it doesn’t, the behaviour can be quite erratic. I also encountered an issue with my 90-250mm lens when set to the wide end, it wouldn’t focus on distant subjects with the MkII, but I have no problems with the MkI. So I tried using the AF Limiter with my other lenses and they too exhibited erratic focusing behaviour when the AF Limiter was engaged. I suspect that there is some incompatibility issues with the the MkII and the 4/3 lenses when using the AF Limiter. Though I’m still perplexed why the 90-250mm is displaying focus issues at the wide end when the focus limiter is not engaged, as I don’t have this issue with the other lenses.
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.
I’d like to note from the outset that I’m not a professional videographer, but I can and do take video and do so for many events and activities. To me, a professional or serious amateur videographer is an individual that does more than just own a capable video camera and who goes about pointing that camera at all and sundry and doing little more than minor editing (if that), like some happy snappers with high quality still cameras are known to do. I’ve had several discussions on photography forums about video, from a stills photographer’s perspective, and it never ceases to amaze me how many seem to think that video is easy and the higher the quality available (such as 4K), the easier it is to produce. It often sounds just like the old/new megapixel wars that wax and wane year after year.
One ever present issue when it comes to any m4/3 camera is the perception that the sensor is simply not good enough for genuine photography, especially professional use. It doesn’t matter how much evidence is shown to the contrary, there is always one or other that tries to perpetuate this myth. The reality is that for the vast majority of photography enthusiasts and even professionals, the sensor size is rarely the limiting factor when it comes to results, you can get top quality results with pretty much any camera nowadays. The limiting factor always has and always will be the photographer. There is no doubt that the camera can at times make things easier, and digital camera technology has been advancing in major leaps and bounds, but the best camera in the world won’t produce anything worthwhile without considered intervention by the user.
Before I get into how the MkII performs, I’d like to note some differences between the E-M1 MkI and MkII, and what were immediately noticeable. On unboxing the camera, the first thing that was obvious was that the MkII was slightly larger than the MkI and that was mainly in the height, making it more comfortable in the hand than the MkI, which required a camera plate to make it comfortable for me to hold. The other thing that is significantly larger is the battery, to provide much greater longevity, an issue that has plagued many mirrorless cameras, though I never really had a problem with the MkI batteries (I’ve been able to take 1400+ photographs on one battery). The MkII no longer sports an accessory port on the electronic viewfinder (EVF) hump, making that part slightly trimmer but, in other respects, the overall differences are mainly cosmetic with all the dials, buttons and levers pretty much as they are on the MkI. The MkII does differ in one other physical aspect, in that it has a fold out LCD screen rather than one that just lifts up and down, a source of constant angst and debate on forums.