DSLR video tips

Recently at work we bought a fancy DSLR camera for our marketing efforts. I’m super excited to use it, but a bit unprepared — haven’t used an SLR since my film photography art classes in college. (HOW can it be 10 years since I was a freshman??) So I brought the camera along on a hike over the weekend to practice. I’ll post photos soon of beautiful desert flowers…

But today I want to share what I learned during my first event as “press.” Although I knew I’d be photographing the event, it wasn’t until a few days before that we decided to also make video for our company blog. I’ve never in my life videotaped an event. So you can imagine how intimidated I was to find myself sandwiched between real news crews from local channels 5 and 8!

photo by event staff — don’t I look out of place in between those two professionals??

Even though my DSLR makes lovely hi-def video I felt soooo intimidated by the cameramen’s superior equipment and skill. They were super nice — gave me some tips and even let me join in on an interview with a VIP who I hadn’t figured I’d get to tape.

Fortunately I ended up with some usable clips, but I learned a lot of lessons for next time:

  • Rent or buy a microphone. My audio turned out faint and full of background noise.
  • Use a zoom lens. I love my 50mm prime lens for photos. But with video, where I can’t run around as much because of the tripod, I was too close for the outdoor VIP interview and too far for the event remarks (but just right for an indoor interview in an office). Changing it out would have made me miss moments.
  • Prompt interviewees to include the question in their answer. So instead of answering “Yes it does!” which isn’t very useful out of context, they’ll say “Yes, the project really meets our goals!” as a self-sufficient clip.
  • Extend the tripod to eye level. I didn’t realize until later that there’s another crank so I could raise the center post. That’s (one of the reasons) why I look so silly in the photo above.
  • Bring an extra memory card. I bought a 16GB card with the camera, which seemed HUGE until I realized how much storage HD video devours. A four-minute clip took up 1.43GB!
  • Capture B-roll (aka supplemental footage). Now that I’m editing the video I notice how boring it is to stare at the interviewee’s face for the whole 60 seconds. I should have filmed shots of the location, crowd, and key project features to edit in while the interview audio continues in the background.
  • Adjust focus manually while filming. I figured my camera would autofocus when I panned around, but nope. That setting is available but not default on my camera.

Overall it was both stressful and rewarding. One thing I love about working at a small business is the wear-many-hats variety of the job, but it can sometimes leave me feeling unprepared… I’ll chalk it up to professional growing pains. At least now I can add videographer to my resume, and video to our marketing arsenal at work. And I hope these tips help somebody else figure out how to film with a DSLR!


2 thoughts on “DSLR video tips

  1. oh WOW this is crazy cool! how exciting that you learned so much stuff from one project. sounds like you’re well set for the next event. i know you’ll rock it even harder.

    and NO you don’t look out of place in that photo, you look awesome!!

  2. Very cool Julie! The more I learn about your job, the radder it sounds. I’ll have to bring my DSLR with me back from LA one of these days and we’ll have to go shooting some time. Unfortunately, when I took it with me on Europe I shot almost exclusively on automatic. My brother is much more savvy with it since he did, after all, borrow it from me for a year to complete his “365 day” photography project. Keep racking up those tips so you can share them with my noob self! :)

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