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Old October 7th, 2012, 05:00 PM   #1
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Advice for a beginner

Hi,
I have been taking stills photographs for over 20 years and have never taken a photography course. I think I have reached a pretty professional level.
I am now looking to get into video shooting and was wondering if similarly, one could teach himself how to shoot good videos or is it more complicated and one must go through some kind of training to be able to produce good results.
I have a Sony Handycam DCR-SR68, which I have been using and am very unsatisfied with the quality of the films. I am looking into buying a professional or semi-professional High Definition video camera but again, am wondering if I could teach myself how to use it and produce good results or not.
Any advice on this issue as well as a good camera to start with (budget up to $2,000) would be extremely appreciated!
Thank you,
Ariel
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Old October 7th, 2012, 05:15 PM   #2
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Re: Advice for a beginner

You don't say what you're shooting with stills wise, but almost all SLR/SLT cameras now shoot video to one degree or another. You may want to at least consider that in your "quest", since you're already familiar with the format and adjustment methods (there's a little bit of learning curve for those going from shooting video on a video camera vs. shooting a "still" cam with video). You may perhaps want to "upgrade" across the board?

Poke around DVi and you'll learn a lot, and then you'll have a better position to ask questions from. From the Sony model # you posted, you're shooting an older tape based SD, lower end "consumer" camera. A current high end "smartphone" can probably beat the pants off of it in terms of video quality...

IOW, camera tech has improved exponentially in the last few years, and it's not a surprise you're disappointed with your results from your existing camera...

As far as producing aceptable quality from a video camera, it's always "the nut behind the viewfinder" that counts... my 9 year old shoots more stable video handheld than I can EVER manage... he has a certian talent... but I keep trying!
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Old October 7th, 2012, 06:21 PM   #3
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Re: Advice for a beginner

Ariel

Until recently, I had been shooting video with a Sony HC1e and a Canon 1DMK4 DSLR. The DSLR shot much better video, but compared to the dedicated camcorder, is a PITA to use. In fact I often found myself picking up the HC1e in a pinch when there was not time to set up the shot, because of its relative convenience to use.

I mostly shoot for myself, but have done some client work, and am currently shooting for a promo for the PSNZ (Photographic Society of New Zealand) National Convention, that my camera club is hosting in 2014, and I am really enjoying the learning experience, so I decided to get serious, and bought an XF300.

The XF300 is a joy to use compared to DSLR and has many more useful functions than the HC1e, so to flatern out the learning curve for the camera, I invested a relatively tiny sum in the Vortex Media guide to using my new camera. That made it oh so easy to get to grips with the new camera.
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Old October 7th, 2012, 08:43 PM   #4
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Re: Advice for a beginner

Hi Ariel

Is your budget in US$??? Take a look at the new Panasonic AC-90 coming out at the end of the month..it's an awesome package and the chips actually resolve close to 4K before ending up with a 1080 image..It also shoots 50P which is great for slomo ...I'm assuming you will be looking at the PAL version camera which will be the AC-91 or 92 when it arrives. It has all the pro features, 3 lens rings, dual card slots and XLR audio and pre-orders in the USA are currently $1999.00 so we should pay much the same.

It's an awful lot of camera for the price tag!!

Chris
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Old October 7th, 2012, 11:58 PM   #5
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Re: Advice for a beginner

I came from a stills background 30 years ago and here's what I found out about shooting good quality video. It's just like shooting good quality stills. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!!! Doesn't matter what gear you run, you have to know it like the back of your hand. What can I do with it and what CAN'T I do with it. What are it's limitations. Learn not only what the various controls do but where they are so you can get to them and make changes blindfolded. Shoot anything and everything you can. Stand at the corner of a busy intersection and learn how to follow the cars and trucks going by. See what different shutter speeds and f/stops will do. Play around. Load the footage into an NLE or even just look at it with the camera hooked up to your TV. See what it looks like. Be a harsh critic of your work. Practice to improve. Not sure about something? Ask here!
Practice doesn't make perfect...it makes permanent. If you practice and don't improve you're practice the wrong thing. The only way to get good at anything is to keep doing it, seeing what you did wrong and making mental notes to improve on that.
IMO the best shooters also edit. Not just their work but someone elses as well. That way you have a comparison. I know guys that all they do is shoot and they never have iproved their skill set as a shoter. Why? IMO it's because they don't edit so they don't know what teh product looks like and what they can improve on.
Practice, Practice, Practice.
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Old October 8th, 2012, 12:41 AM   #6
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Re: Advice for a beginner

Don Don, luv your stuff but it's Practise! .. with an S! .. sorry someone else was on about that and it sticks in your mind ;)

Cheers.
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Old October 8th, 2012, 01:08 AM   #7
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Re: Advice for a beginner

Hi Don

I spell it practice too and I thought that's how it was always spelt!!

Anyway for the purists... : What is the correct spelling: practise or practice? | EnglishTips.com

I'll still spell it with a "C" BUT we all know what it means anyway so get out there and practise or practice!

Chris
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Old October 8th, 2012, 01:18 AM   #8
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Re: Advice for a beginner

I was in your shoes a couple years ago. My son-in-law gave me a full hi-def prosumer (gave = free) and a half year later I sold my 35mm Nikon and the telephoto, still have more to sell off. Since acquiring the video camera (again, for free) I've spent $2,700 on related gear, and except for the tripod legs and a couple other items it was all bought used at a good discount. The point is, if you're going to get into video, and if you are any kind of a perfectionist, plan on spending some money for "accessories".

A few good mics at $200 on up, each (stereo, omni, shotgun, )
Will the camera of choice need a pre amp for the mics? (~$300)
Wind muffs/softies/dead cats for the mics (wind protection)? Used $60 > $120 new (US$)
Lighting? on-board or tripod mounted?
Bracket for the light or mic? ($20 > 120)
Reflector (Wescott 6-in-1?) and a tripod support or second person

Little more serious:
Boom for the mic (for more than home videos, requires a second person or a tripod support)
XLR cable(s)
Glidecam/Steadicam? (little more serious)

Books

Computer: Need something good to run the video program.
FCPX ($300)
Extra memory
Larger and faster hard drive
Backup drive (video puts a lot of wear and tear on a hard drive so you'll want to do lots of backing up)
Another hard drive for storage of the video files
A good DVD burner

This could help get a good hobbyist going.
Then there are those "little things", white card (not everybody uses one), filters, light meter, more books, ....

Anyway, that's my 2-cents worth.
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Old October 8th, 2012, 06:47 AM   #9
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Re: Advice for a beginner

Allan,
glad you enjoy my musings however according to spell check and the dictionary I have it is spelled Practice. Of course maybe down under it's different. ;-)
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Old October 8th, 2012, 12:00 PM   #10
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Re: Advice for a beginner

Ariel,

Your experience with photography will definitely give you an edge when learning film, but there's plenty of other things to consider instead of jumping straight into a new camera:

Lighting - On the video side, you're using constant lighting now instead of strobe, and a well-lit scene will go really far even on a handcam. You can learn the basics of video lighting (key, fill, hair, background, etc) but once you've played with it a bit and learn how shadows cast and move when someone is moving and talking, you'll be lighting on a whole new level.

Audio - This is an extreme important, yet overlooked aspect for a lot of new videographers. Since we don't know exactly what type of shooting you're doing (i don't think I saw anything?) the replies could vary from shotgun and boom pole to lavalier and so on. I'd wait until I heard more info before recommending anything much there.

Stabilization - There are more options for camera support out there than tripods when it comes to video: steadicams, dollies, jibs, shoulder mounts, all sorts. Some are meant to help fight fatigue, others for smooth pans and moving shots. If your current set up is already appropriate for your type of shooting, this doesn't really need to be addressed quickly.

Camera - I'm addressing this before editing/computer solutions, because in the end a good camera DOES dramatically help your cause. What most people first getting into film realize is that what they really want is known as "that filmic look" or the "Hollywood look", etc. Translation - Shallow depth of field with great color and dynamic range. Well, as was mentioned earlier, DSLRs that also shoot video (Canon 5D Markii, Nikon D800) wrap all of this up nicely in a package you'll be familiar with as a still photographer, and really do a great job of capturing a lot of that "look" without needing 35mm adapters, etc. Be careful, though: It doesn't make sense to spend your entire budget on a new camera without addressing any of the other needs: I'd rather shoot with a 4 year old camera with great lighting and audio than a new hot camera without either or both of those.

Editing/Storage/computer - I lumped these together because it's usually all in one: A good computer running decent editing software (Vegas, FCP, etc) should also be using some sort of RAID storage (in a perfect world) if your shoots are really important to you. The RAID helps because HDDs can fail without actually losing your information, and although they're external, you can typically edit directly off one if it uses firewire or something fast like that. If you're just playing around and learning, the storage options would probably go about last on list in order I'd purchase, because it only becomes crucial when you're finally doing full productions or even more so: paid productions.

So, hopefully between all the information in the posts here you've got some good ideas, and good luck Ariel!
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Old October 8th, 2012, 12:21 PM   #11
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Re: Advice for a beginner

Isn't it amazing that instead of taking a photography course and learning one teacher's perspective, you can come here and pick the brains of many? My advice; try to get a camera that has manual iris, gain, and shutter. If you get an automatic camera, you'll be frustrated because you won't be able to control light going into your sensor the way you anticipated it.
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Old October 8th, 2012, 03:36 PM   #12
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Re: Advice for a beginner

Thank you everyone for the detailed replies and information!

After reading the responses, I think I will go ahead and upgrade to a better video camera and start practic/sing :-)

My question is this - in order to have the potential/ability of making professional / semi-professional videos how much do I really need to spend at this stage? I have read somewhere that professional cameras start at 1,500 $USD (not including accessories). Is this really the case or would a less expensive camera also be able to give professional results? My current budget is more or less 2,000 $USD (including accessories).

The truth is, at this point I am not aiming at making "real films" but rather using the video camera for journalistic/documentary purposes (i.e. interviewing people, shooting scenes on the street, etc') and some wildlife filming (but obviously not BBC level......). I need a camera that will enable me to document the things I see with my own eyes in a good and professional way and not in a "grainy" and blurred way that I get with my current handycam. Obviously, I would like to have the ability to get the "Hollywood Look" - as Jesse described it (shallow depth of field etc')

Any ideas within this budget in addition to the Panasonic AC-90?

Thank you so much!!!
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