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HDSLR and You


If you’re been poking around the trade mags lately, or reading anything online about film and video production, then you’ve probably heard about the use of still cameras (DSLRs) for film and video production. This revolution, or more precisely evolution in technology has begun the creative professional some great new options for the creation and acquisition of footage and images. As with all new tools, however, it takes time to sort out what applications best fit the technology, and what types of projects can best benefit from the unique strengths and weaknesses of the tool.





While some of the gear-heads out there might prefer an in-depth discussion of the technical aspects of this new technology, I’m going to opt for a simple explanation, followed by a more in depth discussion of features, benefits and applications of the technology.


The simple description of Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) cameras is that they are digital versions of their analog, film-based ancestors. Knowing that however fails to explain why they have become popular for shooting moving images. The introduction of High Definition DSLRs with integrated HD video capture was the jumping off point for the use of DSLRs for anything other than high-quality still image capture. These hybrid cameras look exactly like their still image cousins, but have the ability to capture amazingly high-quality HD video footage, while retaining all of the benefits of still image capture.


So what does this all mean to you and your project? That’s the question I will spend the rest of this post answering.


First off, these cameras have some great benefits. First off, they allow the Director of Photography an amazing array of great lenses. In fact, in my opinion, this might be the single greatest part of this technology. In fact, if your project requires the ability to have maximum control over depth of field and/or a high-degree of clarity, using an HD DSLR allows you to choose the exact lens for the job. Traditional video camera typically offer a much smaller range of available lenses unless you use a lens adapter system.




In addition to the huge number of lenses available for these cameras, they also offer really great dynamic range and full-sized sensors. This means that, although video capture was not their primary designed use, they provide an amazingly high image quality and clarity. In fact, most HD DSLRs have a larger sensor than my dedicated HD video camera.


If you’ve been following video technology for a while, then you know every advance comes at a price, and HD DSLRs are no exception. The first, and largest drawback, is is the sound recording capability of these cameras. As you might expect, engineers who excel at making great still images are not necessarily great at working with sound recording (or might not even really understand what is needed.) What that means is that many, if not all of these cameras are missing some essential tools for proper sound capture--things like professional audio inputs, mic/line level control, input level control, choice of sample rate and number of channels, etc. What these drawbacks mean is that if you are recording critical sound using one of these cameras, you are going to want an external device to do it. While there are many options in this regard, it does mean that you will have to re-sync your sound in post--something many of us have not had to do in a very long time.


The benefits and drawbacks make the HD DSLR a great choice for projects like music videos, scientific videos, and even some types of interview-driven videos (if you have a secondary means of audio recording.) The high quality, combined with the relatively low cost of the cameras has also made the HD DSLR an independent filmmaker’s favorite tool. We have also used our HD DSLR to do time-lapse capture, as a second camera on single person stand-ups, and to create simple stop motion effects.


The bottom line is that the HD DSLR is an awesome new tool in our box--one that we really enjoy bringing to our projects and yours.


Viva Technology!