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Old December 21st, 2009, 09:32 AM   #1
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Pro's & Con's of switching to SLRs for wedding video.

I would like some input on videographers who have switched to using SLRs to capture weddings. Is anybody using only SLRs such as the 7D? Should I sale my video cameras and buy 7Ds?

All advice would be appreciated!

Thanks!
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Old December 21st, 2009, 09:50 AM   #2
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In my somewhat limited experience using these cameras...

Pros:
Smaller equipment makes carrying gear easier.

Same batteries and cards as photographers, so if you know many photographers or also offer photo you have mutually beneficial stash of emergency batteries or cars.

With WB Shift, ability to dial in Kelvin WB, and Picture Style's you can do a good job of tweaking the look in camera which may cut down color correction time. (full disclosure: a lot of camcorders have this as well)

High ISO shots look better than high gain shots.

If one body goes the week of a wedding, VDSLR rentals are easier to find than camcorder rentals (in Southern Ontario, at least). Also, it's cheap to rent lenses and try them out.

Cons:
You really have to watch your focus during "action" portions of the day, like processional, unless you can get f/8 or smaller.

Time syncing in post, though Plural Eyes makes this task quite easy.

Recording limit, though if you record audio separately and shoot two cameras with offset start times this isn't an issue.

Can't use the camera handheld.

No zebras or histogram (bias warning: never tried Magic Lantern)

I have gone all Canon VDSLR cameras and there are a few things I miss about a dedicated camcorder, but I can't say that I would go back. The look of the image, small size, and ability to rent a backup body in almost any mid to large sized city in Ontario are worth it for me to work around the cons.

And that's what it really comes down to. Acknowledging the cons and deciding rather or not it's worth it for you personally to work around them. For example, I don't mind syncing audio afterwards, but if you do, these cameras may not be right for you.
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Old December 21st, 2009, 09:58 AM   #3
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I would also add to this that I miss the flip out LCD for high and low shots. Also, when I need dedicated audio like the ceremony, I always go running back to my old faithful A1. I have to say, though, that I use the 5D and 17-35 2.8L exclusively at receptions. I record audio onto the H2, and that combo does pretty well. I use a shoulder mount or the monopod with the Z-finder and both solutions work to get the camera off of the tripod.
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Old December 21st, 2009, 09:58 AM   #4
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Thanks Matthew! Great stuff!
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Old December 21st, 2009, 12:12 PM   #5
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Hi Darin,

Quote:
Originally Posted by Darin Holiday View Post
I would like some input on videographers who have switched to using SLRs to capture weddings...
This is not me in that I've not switched, but I've thought this through incessantly for the last six months. I understand the allure of a shallow depth of field and I as much as anyone look forward to the creative possibilities of clean low light sensitivity that equals or betters my own eyes. From 2003:

Video University: Video University Forums: Wedding & Event Videography: New thread! Re: "Creativity"

A few years ago I wanted to experiment with a camera that has a shallow depth of field, so I got a 35mm lens adapter for my Canon HV-30. It is small enough when I don't use the mic to fit in a belt pack that was meant for a DSLR with a relatively big lens. I don't use it one-time events like weddings, just for family shorts and other situations where I have complete control of what is happening, like photographer promos. The adapter and a used lens was about $275. But 35mm lens adapters aren't going to be around much longer. They are bulky, heavy, don't allow zooming and rob your camera of light. The future is with DSLR's that shoot video, like the Canon 7D. A body and an all-around lens will run you about $2500. For what a Sony EX1 costs you can purchase a great DSLR kit with 2 bodies and two or three quality lenses. The advantages of DSLRs are compelling:

Shallow Depth of Field
A shallow DoF imparts an almost three dimensional attribute to the image, separating the subject or the shot from the foreground and background with an exaggerated blur. This attribute is due to the fact that DSLR's have a much larger sensor area than do standard video cameras.

Unmatched Light Sensitivity
The cameras I am shooting with presently, the Canon XH-A1, has an anecdotal ISO rating of 320 at 0db. The Canon 5d Mark II and Canon 7D have been shown to shoot very usable footage at ISO ratings of 3200 and higher while still retaining strong and accurate color. The fact that you can set the ISO setting, as opposed to setting a 'gain' level as in a standard video camera, is a revelation.

Startling Apparent Sharpness
The visual qualities produced by DSLRs are very flattering, though based on test charts the actual lines of resolution is surprisingly low. More on this later.

Lack of grain
The images are strong and smooth and maintain a very tight, almost unnoticeable grain structure at low to mid ISO settings.

Yet, personally I don't think a DSLR is the right choice for wedding for me, mostly because I work alone with multiple angles and rely on an efficient SDE workflow. I agree with most that a DSLR is the best option right now for independent narratives and documentaries and corporate work - situations where you have complete control and know what to expect. At a wedding though, with its fleeting moments, I can't see how it would work into my workflow. YMMV. The disadvantages or DSLR's, at least for my requirements:

Same-Day Edit
SDE's would be virtually impossible because of the conversion time necessary to change the ultra-high bit rate H.264 into something that you can edit. From my tests on the fastest currently available MacBook Pro, converting the codec the Canon DSLR uses to ProRes 422 (LT) takes roughly 3x's the length of the original content. A four-core laptop may change that situation, but there is no such portable hardware option on the horizon for my editing software, Final Cut Pro.

12 Minute Limit
There is a 12 minute shot limit. (The 12 minute limit is actually a restriction by EU authorities to keep the camera classified as a still camera for tax reasons.)

Zoom Range
Zoom range of a DSLR will not allow you to get close-ups of the bride and groom during vows or close-ups during dances without being within 20 feet of the couple. The XH-A1's 20x lens is the equivalent of a f1.6-3.5 32mm - 650mm on a DSLR, and with an adapter lens I can drop the wide end down to a 16mm wide 35mm equivalent. Its impossible to match that range on a DSLR without carrying around three lenses and even then you still won't have the reach of a true video camera.

Focusing
Focus is so critical for grabbing candid moments. Even with the DSLR's only being available for under a year I'm already becoming annoyed at the videographers that think that a focus pull is something to be done on every shot. Or even worse thinking that going in and out of focus is somewhat arty. For run-and-gun work the too-narrow DoF of a DSLR is a huge hinderance to getting the fleeting, once-in-a-lifetime moments that are constantly happening at a wedding. I love the idea of having a narrow DoF to control, but I don't like the way it has become so vogue without any input from couples. It seems as though all the buzz is from industry insiders rather than clients. I've heard a lot of videographers say they've had comments about why things don't stay in focus from clients. To me focus is an elementary way to separate yourself from amateurs.

Resolution
The moire patterns and actual resolution of DSLR chip are questionably acceptable. The clarity you think you're seeing is the aliasing, which makes the shot seem sharper than a resolution chart says it really is:
ProLost - ProLost Blog - You Didn't BelieveMe
Personally I've never put much importance on resolution. I'd rather trust my eyes, and the DSLR's have a stunning picture quality.

CMOS Sensor and Flashes
CMOS sensors, which many video cameras and all DSLR's utilize, capture flashes in a disturbingly noticeable way compared to CCD sensors. To some the effect isn't as noticeable, to others the artifact is a deal-breaker.

Conclusion
So all that being said I'm holding out. I'm waiting for a system that can record more than 12 minutes, reduces the half-flash effect, has a smaller sensor for a wider depth of field and longer zoom ratios, uses a built in lens, yet keeps the low-light qualities. All of that is available, just not in a single, true video camera. The only time I can see a DSLR working for me right now is at the reception when SDE footage is already in the computer and the low-light sensitivity would really be needed, but I have the luxury of waiting to see if there are announcements of new options during my "off-season" (which really isn't an off-season as I have enough editing to keep me busy until shooting starts in late Spring).
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Last edited by Joel Peregrine; December 21st, 2009 at 12:43 PM.
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Old December 21st, 2009, 03:17 PM   #6
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I've shot now 4 weddings with both a 5d2 and my XLH1 and HV30, and 3 of those 4 I shot solo. It is very difficult to do it all - and do it properly.

If I am by myself I use the video cams for the ceremony (with a couple of shots from the 5d2), and then it's mostly 5d2 after that (except for speeches).

As Joel points out very well. The DSLR's are capable of fantastic images, but require extra work and dedication (mostly to focusing & audio) to achieve the looks. It's obvious that he has spent a lot of time researching the topic. If I were you, I wouldn't sell my video camera to go DSLR - but I would look to ADD a DSLR to your toolbox in the future. I couldn't imagine covering a wedding ceremony solo with only a DSLR. You might get a nice highlight reel - but you would need to record audio to something other than the DSLR - if for no other reason than than 12-minute shooting limit.

As a PC'er - Cineforms Neo Scene converts the h.264 to .avi very well and quite quickly - and mixing footage has never been a problem for me.

IMHO - the best of DSLR for weddings are: The shallow DOF beauty shots, and the incredible low light performance (I generally go to a 50mm f1.4, when the lighting gets tough).

The most challenging aspects of the DSLR for weddings are: anything relating to good audio - it can be done via several ways - but we take it for granted with traditional video cams. And the manual focus with a non articulating lcd screen. Again it can be done - it's an easier transition if you're used to manually focusing video cams anyways, but it definitely slows you down for a beat or two. Even with a static target. When the subjects are moving.... it can be tricky (especially at f1.4)!

Joel is right about the Flash photography and the CMOS sensor. It does look bad. It comes out as a wide white band across half the screen. I ask for a flash free shot of the cake-cutting at least, and most often get it. I just live with it during the first dance and bouquet and garter toss.
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Old December 21st, 2009, 03:39 PM   #7
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Thank you for the insight Joel.

Personally, I shoot a great deal of steadicam, mostly as a solo shooter, so I specifically need the wider depth of field and auto-focus of a non-DSLR in order to continue shooting as I am. As for my own deal-breakers. My next cameras will do far better in low-light than my Z1s, whose ergonomics area good fit for me, and have inexpensive media. I'll give up depth-of-field, zoom capability, choice of formats, and a few other things, but if the camera doesn't feel right in my hands and I can't use it in any situation (as a solo shooter), then it's not the best camera for me.

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Old December 21st, 2009, 03:55 PM   #8
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Joel and Ken, You make a lot of great points. I don't think the word "switch" properly describes the consideration at hand. DSLR cameras add a great deal to a videographer's bag of tricks. Because of that, I believe the operative word is "add", not" switch". I don't see this issue as an argument to be decided (won) in favor of one versus the other. A pro can enhance their production value a great deal with a DSLR provided they develop the necessary proficiency in using it and the good taste in applying its capabilities.

The thing I object to is the wannabee who sees a DSLR as a shortcut to success or others who become obsessed with it and overuse its capabilities such as shallow DOF. When this is done it becomes a distraction instead of a contribution. It then starts to feel more like wowey-zowey zooms and juvenile transitions.
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Old December 21st, 2009, 04:13 PM   #9
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As soon as they break the short recording limitation, I think things will pick up a bit more.

I think a great reason is that they make an inexpensive C or D camera option.

For me, I would place one (or two) in fixed positions on tripods placed to capture the B&G at the ceremony. You could set the focus and F-stop in a manner to keep the limited movement they make in focus. We are going to need a solid hour and 10 minute minimum record time to make this work for most weddings (including battery life & no-overheating).

However, I think there is an awful lot of hype regarding the use of DSLRs. No matter how good the image is, you still need the experience and skill to get good solid shots and exposure, no matter what the equipment is.

And I want equipment that makes my job easier, not harder. I can't see one of the pimped out DSLR rigs with monkey bars making my life easier, or making my equipment bag smaller.
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Old December 21st, 2009, 04:21 PM   #10
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Thanks Joel! That is very helpful. I am a big fan of your work!
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Old December 21st, 2009, 04:35 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Kellam View Post
And I want equipment that makes my job easier, not harder. I can't see one of the pimped out DSLR rigs with monkey bars making my life easier, or making my equipment bag smaller.
No, they definitely don't make your life easier. But I'm a glutton for punishment as the saying goes. The fact is, if your not careful with them, you can make a big mess of things. Sometimes it's just not worth using them as opposed to a dedicated video cam.

I recently shot some other work where I didn't want to drag lights in and needed to shoot good on-camera audio. So I used the 5d2 and a zoom h4 with my wireless lav. And while I didn't have to drag my lights around - I sure missed having the auto-sync'd audio that a video cam provides.
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Old December 21st, 2009, 04:37 PM   #12
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I think there are by far more pros than cons to using a SLR camera for wedding work. Of course it boils down to personal preference. Sure there is a ton of more work to be done when using the camera but I think the pay off is more rewarding. I think the low light capabilities was the big selling point for me and also the fact that it can be used for stills.

I remember when I first switched to shooting with the 5D I found it to be a new kind of experience when shooting a wedding. A good experience. We had a non SLR camera as a third stationary backup, which I soon realized the footage of it started to be used less and less but it's always good to have it as a backup. Something you can think about if you're falling towards the SLR route.

I've seen great work done by many different kinds of cameras and I'm sure whichever route you choose will be just fine. It'll be funny the day some crew decides to shoot a wedding with their camera phones.
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Old December 21st, 2009, 04:38 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joel Peregrine View Post
SDE's would be virtually impossible because of the conversion time necessary to change the ultra-high bit rate H.264 into something that you can edit. From my tests on the fastest currently available MacBook Pro, converting the codec the Canon DSLR uses to ProRes 422 (LT) takes roughly 3x's the length of the original content. A four-core laptop may change that situation, but there is no such portable hardware option on the horizon for my editing software, Final Cut Pro.
I agree with everything in your post, but I wanted to make a note about this comment.

I have been a part of three SDEs that included 5D footage and one that consisted of all 5D/7D footage except for three clips. An all EOS SDE is very possible, albeit a pain to deal with. The trick is simply knowing what you want to convert before you convert it.

I bring clips into Compressor and set in's and out's inside that program. I only convert approximately five to ten seconds from each clip so conversion time isn't an issue. You can imagine that speeds things up considerably when you figure that a six minute grand entrance/first dance clip by itself would take 20 minutes to convert, but different portions totally thirty seconds of footage would take two minutes.

The bottom line is that it is still a con because it takes more time than transferring a full 16gb CF card of footage in a codec that can be edited without transcoding, but an EOS SDE can be done, and in my humble opinion it can be done much more comfortably than the phrase "virtually impossible" suggests.

Again, just my 2 cents :)
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Old December 21st, 2009, 04:51 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joel Peregrine View Post
....
12 Minute Limit
There is a 12 minute shot limit. (The 12 minute limit is actually a restriction by EU authorities to keep the camera classified as a still camera for tax reasons.)
Great thread but just to correct one thing. The 12 minute limit is nothing to do with the EU and tax (but it's true they, some time ago, imposed a 30 minute limit on video recording equipment for taxation reasons). The (approx, depending on bit rate) 12 minute limit is in fact a 4GB FAT32 file limitation for a file protocol in, e.g. memory cards such as Compact Flash, and many PC storage systems. It is a limitation found across many different aspects of modern computing/external disc storage devices/camera technology - but nothing to do with the EU! (but in the UK we often try to blame them for everything too!)

Sony overcame this limitation with their XDCAM EX format with SxS cards, for example.
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Old December 21st, 2009, 05:28 PM   #15
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Andy is correct regarding the 12-minute record limitation.

Something I haven't seen mentioned yet is the overheating issue that so many have been having with the 7D. This is a prime example of why I don't generally adopt new technology the moment it hits store shelves. I know of several top shooters who jumped on the 7D and are now selling them off and going back to the 5D.

Anyways, there's a lot of great information here already, so I won't create a list that just goes back over it all. Essentially, for me, I'm waiting to see what Canon comes out with next in terms of a dedicated video camera .. the A1 replacement if you will. I'd rather make money with my A1's now and switch down the road to something that is even more 'video friendly'.
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