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Tools & Techniques for Nature, Outdoors, Wildlife & Underwater Videography.


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Old June 17th, 2005, 09:04 AM   #31
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I too am a wildlife (bird) videographer. My steam-driven XL1 is still going strong - mostly with a Sigma 120-300mm lens.

Thanks for the audio tips: this is undoubtedly my weak point. I use a Senny K6/ME66 with Mini Mount and wind shield, and basically let the audio take care of itself - with mixed results. Could you tell me how much difference a good field mixer would make with this mic - subtle or obvious? As a single-handed shooter, how easy is it to ride the audio levels while panning, focusing etc?

Rajesh, I envy you living in the Western Ghats. I've birded in that area a couple of times and there is some magnificent forest. Anamalai (Indira Gandhi) NP is one of my favourite places on earth, with an incredible biodiversity. Have you been up to Rajamlai NP, where there is a habituated and very photogenic herd of Nilgiri Tahr?

Regarding shooting soaring raptors, I focus manually and just try to keep up with the bird as best I can. Crested Serpent Eagles are pretty slow fliers and don't jink around much, so it's quite easy to predict their movements. With a reasonably small aperture (and therefore wide depth of field) you should be able to get reasonably well-focused shots most of the time unless the birds are really close. It's just one of those things that takes a lot of practise.

Best wishes

Duncan
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Old June 17th, 2005, 09:21 AM   #32
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I like to watch wildlife videography on the PBS HD Channel. Nothing beats getting free high definition programming off of the air. School teachers ought to make videotape recordings in high definition of wildlife shows and show them to their students.
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Old June 17th, 2005, 03:26 PM   #33
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Safay
Jeff, so you video in the rain forests, so do I. Have you ever beeen down to Belize? As a Peace Corp volunteer there from 1976- 78. One of my assignments was to explore and document several areas (including two reefs) for possible inclusion as a National Park. One other person and I spent over a week hacking through and photgraphing the Bladen River area and its wildlife. Remember, most of these animals have never seen a human and had no real fear of us. This area was eventually selected for National Park Status. If you ever get the oppertunity to go there remember, I was there before it was a park. My God it was magnificent!!! Bob

Bob:

Nice to meet you. I have not spent any time in Belize but my wife has. All of our tropical videography and studies have been in Costa Rica, numerous trips to Panama, Southern and Northern Peru, and Ecuador including the Galapagos. Speaking of the Galapagos, it is another amazing place to video wildlife seeing how you literally have to step over many of the animals just to get around. We also have spent time studying birds and lemurs on a research team in Madagascar helping to establish Ranomafana National park. But that was before 3 chip cameras were invented!

We do plan on going to Belize in the future and I will remember your Bladen River area. It sounds like a superb place!


Quote:
Originally Posted by Duncan Wilson
I too am a wildlife (bird) videographer. My steam-driven XL1 is still going strong - mostly with a Sigma 120-300mm lens.

Thanks for the audio tips: this is undoubtedly my weak point. I use a Senny K6/ME66 with Mini Mount and wind shield, and basically let the audio take care of itself - with mixed results. Could you tell me how much difference a good field mixer would make with this mic - subtle or obvious? As a single-handed shooter, how easy is it to ride the audio levels while panning, focusing etc?
Duncan:

I love the phrase "steam-driven XL1"! Do I have your permission to use it--of course, it would be our steam-driven Sony HVR-Z1U.

Concerning your question about audio, we also use Sennheiser microphones, specifically the ME62 and ME66 with K6, shock mount, and wind screen.

Since the exceptional, but tiny cameras, we all use do not have efficient ways to easily adjust sound input, a good field mixer can make a big difference. I do realize that sound input levels can be monitored and adjusted in our cameras but it is simply not an easy task with the tiny controls and menu navigation. Also, the electronics are not as sophisticated or dedicated to audio mixing. So, a good field mixer can make an "obvious" difference. But it takes experience getting the right mix. Therefore, a field mixer is a must if you have the money, and extra arms!

You ask the proper question, however. "As a single-handed shooter, how easy is it to ride the audio levels while panning, focusing etc?" That may be your biggest challenge. If it is just you shooting and you are focusing, panning, and possibly not on a tripod, then riding audio levels will be a challenge. But then again, it will be much easier to adjust audio levels with this extra piece of equipment than trying to do so on your XL1 or my Sony.

Remember, the field mixer will be slung around your neck, adding additional weight, and more cables to wrap around you. Of course, this just adds to the fun of being in the field!

Here are a couple of suggestions. I prefer the Rolls MX422.

This unit weighs four pounds and is designed for digital recording at a fraction of the price of most digital field recorders.
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/cont...=364536&is=REG

Here's a smaller version that weighs around 1 pound but I believe is analog (I'm not sure on this fact though):
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/cont...=174333&is=REG

I hope this helps, please ask more questions if you're not clear on what I'm saying.
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Old June 21st, 2005, 04:32 AM   #34
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Hi Jeff

Many thanks for the information on field mixers. I will take a look at the ones you suggest. I always shoot off a tripod, so I guess it's not quite as difficult to monitor levels as hand-held. However, I hear you about it being one more bit of kit to carry around - like I don't have enough already!

Oh, and off course you are welcome to use the expression "steam driven", although I'm not sure it applies to the HVR-Z1U just yet!

Best wishes

Duncan
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Old June 21st, 2005, 07:58 AM   #35
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I used to use the Sennheiser ME67/K6 mic, but that mic has a fairly high
noise SPL (sound pressure level); read HISS. A better mixer might
help, but so little as not to notice. Certainly (not trying to be mean here)
the Rolls mixer is on the low end of mixers along with Sampson and
others, so I wouldn't expect a cleaner signal adding that to the chain.

FWIW, good audio starts with good gear and it is NOT cheap.
Wildife recording means you are essentially mic'ing ambient
noise at sound pressure levels that are ususally lower than 60 db.
So, if you microphone has a noise level of 27db, your desired signal
(birds, crickets, etc.) is not much hotter than the hiss produced by
the mic. One of the quietest mics is the Neumann TLM-103 @ 8db.
Most manufacturerers do NOT state the noise SPL of their products.

Personally, I would broom your mic and look into a replacement such
as the AT4073 (good), Sennheiser MKH-416 (better) or Schoeps MK41 (best). Instead of the mixer buy a beachtek DA-6 or 8.
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Old June 21st, 2005, 08:46 AM   #36
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jacques Mersereau
I used to use the Sennheiser ME67/K6 mic, but that mic has a fairly high
noise SPL (sound pressure level); read HISS. A better mixer might
help, but so little as not to notice. Certainly (not trying to be mean here)
the Rolls mixer is on the low end of mixers along with Sampson and
others, so I wouldn't expect a cleaner signal adding that to the chain.

Jacques is right on the money with what he said--and I do not take any offense at your challenging my suggestions! That's what sharing ideas is all about. I am certainly not an audio expert. I simply have some field experience. I still have much to learn myself, though.

The noise SPL of a given microphone and the quality of the mixer (as well as of the rest of your equipment) is very important. I've used the Rolls because that was what I could afford when I purchased it and it is a lighter model than some of the high-end ones. Every pound makes a difference when your slogging through a tropical swamp! Besides, if I were to drop it in a puddle (I've come close too many times), it would not be that expensive to replace. Although it is not as good at providing cleaner signals as a high-end model, it sure has helped with my Sennheiser setup. None the less, I am looking to upgrade down the road to a higher-end mixer but will most likely still use the Rolls in deep rainforest.

The Schoeps MK41 is an excellent (and very expensive) microphone and the suggestion of using a beachtek DXA-6 or -8 is interesting.

Speaking of which, here is an interesting article on noise SPL and choosing the right preamp: http://www.rane.com/note148.html

When all is said and done however, I try to weigh the cost, quality, and ease of equipment use with the site location. If I'm going to be doing easily accessible shooting (good road access, flat surfaces, hardly any dense of vegetation), I will bring some of my more expensive, better quality items. If I'm going to shoot in the Amazon and plan on traveling pathless forest, I'll settle on lighter and cheaper equipment that still gets the job done. Since it is only my wife and I, weight and ease of transport in difficult conditions has to be our primary consideration.

Well, it's off to the gym for me. I think I've just realized I need to build up more strength!

This is great discussion. Let's keep it up!

Last edited by Jeff Sayre; June 21st, 2005 at 09:58 AM.
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Old June 22nd, 2005, 09:38 AM   #37
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Duncan Wilson
Rajesh, I envy you living in the Western Ghats. I've birded in that area a couple of times and there is some magnificent forest. Anamalai (Indira Gandhi) NP is one of my favourite places on earth, with an incredible biodiversity. Have you been up to Rajamlai NP, where there is a habituated and very photogenic herd of Nilgiri Tahr?
Duncan
Unfortunately I do not live in Western Ghats. I live quite far away in a rather cold place -Boston. ;-) However, I do make an annual pilgrimage to Western Ghats and recently switched from photography to video. I got many unusual behaviour footages of various critters. In particular I like doing macro and western ghats is a heaven for that. I have been to Anamalai many times and wished for 500mm/IS - in my dreams. In my next trip I plan to shoot Nilgiri Tahr as well as Lion Tailed Macaques.

Nice to know someone who has been there. Did you take video in those places? I recently saw a news where UNESCO is planning to declare portions of Western Ghats as World Heritage Site. That will be great.


Thanks,
Rajesh
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Old June 27th, 2005, 04:58 PM   #38
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Goode
I am a college film student close to graduating, and I have always wondered how one becomes involved in Wildlife Videography. Is it of a freelance nature? Is there any experience or study that I should partake in? Any information that anyone can give me would be awesome. I have a strong interest in documenting and conserving the beautiful wildlife that our planet has to offer, but I don't know exactly where and how to start after I graduate.

Thanks
Hi Michael,
Yeah, well this is a tough biz. I would love to share as much as I know with you, but for starters, here's my short list of things:
1. at Montana State University, there is a master's program called "Science & Natural History Filmmaking" generally, they want you to have at least a science degree. I can provide lots of info here, I was the first to graduate from this program.
2. There are several festivals devoted specifically to wildlife: Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival in Jackson, WY (~$900 to get in, ouch - so volunteer instead -- they give you a place to stay, and feed you occasionally :) ), International Wildlife Film Festival in Missoula, Montana (where you can also volunteer or pay ~$250 for a delegate pass), Wildscreen in Bristol, England (also expensive...donno any details), um, there's now one in Germany, New Zeland, Japan, and probably dozens of other countries.
3. The key here is networking. The festivals will provide you with invaluable contacts, so that's why it's so important to attend. Better yet, have a showreel with you, or a film entered in the festival when you go.

Unfortunately, under the current administration, funding for these types of films has really hit the floor. Many long-time production companies of these films have dropped out of the nature film world, changed their work type or disappeared. Knowing someone is good. Working for free to get in is good. Having a skill that others don't is good (maybe you can talk to animals like me :) )
One rep from a prominant broadcasting company said "it's more difficult to get into the wildlife filmmaking profession than it is to become an actor in hollywood." I'd believe it. It's a small community. Over the past 5 years that I've attended festivals, it seems to be the same poor 1,000 people or so that keep coming back. Hmm.
Certainly, this isn't the only way. I know people who do nature filming for their state game commissions. Most guys, I know, are retired from a "real" job and do wildlife stuff for fun or take the work as it comes.
It seems the big thing now in the wildlife filmmaking world is HD. Not many people are shooting it, and most of the channels are begging for it. That'll change soon, I suspect. Hopefully, once the price of the camera drops below 2x the cost of my parents house!! :)

I donno what else to add. Feel free to ask more about whatever, or to correct me if you wanna pick a fight :) just kidding. Good luck, we need more people out there fighting for our animal brothers and sisters!
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Old June 27th, 2005, 08:37 PM   #39
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I own a JVC HD10 video camera. I don't care what anyone says the JVC blows the Cannon XL-2 out of the water for wildlife videography. When the JVC HD100 arrives it will sink the Cannon XL-2. People complain that the JVC HD10 only has a 10x optical zoom but the JVC has twice the resolution so in effect it has the equivalent of a 20x optical zoom. Talk to any wildlife still photographer and they will tell you resolution is king and the more megapixels the better. But videographers have this idea that high definition is just a gimmick. That being said my videography skills need improvement.
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Old June 28th, 2005, 10:07 AM   #40
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Originally Posted by Tommy James
I don't care what anyone says the JVC blows the Cannon XL-2 out of the water for wildlife videography. When the JVC HD100 arrives it will sink the Cannon XL-2.
Wow...I hope I'm there to capture all this naval action with my XL1.
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Old June 30th, 2005, 05:27 PM   #41
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All the advantages seem to be stacking up in the JVC-HD column as far as wildlife videography goes. Canon needs to come out with HD and a CMOS chip! I'll just grease up my XL-1s and keep watching these pages.
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Old June 30th, 2005, 05:41 PM   #42
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It truly is an exciting time for wildlife videographers when it comes to camera options. The JVC-HD100 does look like an interesting camera. It is bigger than I care to carry these days, but then again, in the mid 80s I used to lug around one of the high-end Panasonic video cameras that had a separate 3/4 inch VTR. Try walking through a swamp with all of that plus tripod and boom mic!
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Old July 4th, 2005, 01:38 PM   #43
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rats. my tripod head broke.

i thought before buying a new one that i'd ask around and see what sorts of travel tripods you wildlife videographers are recommending.

this would be for my GL2. for those of you who pack your camera gear, say, 3 miles or longer, what sorts of tripods do you prefer?

what i mean is, what tripods do y'all think offer the highest performance with the least amount of weight?

for longer distances, i'm giving some thought to the sanford & davis courier F10. does anyone have any experience with this?
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Old July 4th, 2005, 02:57 PM   #44
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Hi Meryem-

I use a Bogen/Manfrotto 441 CarbonOne Video Tripod with a 3443 Bogen head. To that I attach a Wimberley head which allows me to find the best center of balance for the video camera and gives me great control over fluid motion. This head is usually used for SLRs with very large lenses.

The tripod weighs less than four pounds but can support about 13 total pounds. It is made of carbon fiber and collapses to a small enough size to pack into my backpack. The Wimberley head weighs as much as the tripod! But, 7 total pounds is acceptable to lug through a forest.

I've taken it through Central America and into the Amazon. It works wonders and doesn't kill you!

I believe that this series has been replaced by Bogen's Mag Fiber Tripods.

Here are some links:

http://www.procam.com/shop/product_i...roducts_id=233

http://www.tripodhead.com/products/wimberley-main.cfm
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Old July 18th, 2005, 10:03 PM   #45
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Originally Posted by Jeff Sayre

We also have spent time studying birds and lemurs on a research team in Madagascar helping to establish Ranomafana National park. But that was before 3 chip cameras were invented!
Hey Jeff,

Good to hear a fellow traveller has been to Madagascar. I was there with a group the day Ranomafana became a National Park. We also ran into a cool group from Duke University Primate Center.

I wish I had something like my XL2 back then. The shots of Diademed Sifakas in the Spiny Forest, chameleons in Mahajanga, Ring-tailed Lemurs in Berenty, and Dwarf Mouse Lemurs in Perinet would have been amazing. That was back in my 35mm still photo days. My macro lens was working overtime. We were even lucky enough to get some great recordings of Indri Lemurs in Perinet.

Did you ever go back? I'm sure the current level of destruction is very sad.


I agree with the comment about parabolic reflectors. I have used the long-discontinued Sony PBR with my DAT for several years. There is nothing better for bird recordings. I would like to try to get the same quality of recordings on my XL2 someday. On my simple home page you can see how I recently rigged my PBR on the shoe of the XL2.

http://www.geocities.com/amjoyce2004/main.html
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