Babies, Weddings, Fridges And The 7D
I’m on the verge of believing that a Video DSLR could be the best thing to happen to the moving picture since the invention of TV itself.
When we first heard about these new stills cameras that shoot video we were sceptical, but the results seemed tangible. We waited and watched, and really liked what we saw.
So, a few weeks ago we decided that a Video DSLR would be our next camera purchase along with a few choice lenses. We had heard from others that there could be some limitations to these cameras, but our concerns were unwarranted, as we saw just how many other event filmmakers were embracing the bokeh and filmic wonderment that is the hybrid DSLR. The bottom line is this; if like us you are used to shooting in full manual, then the transition to DSLR is a breeze.
We have since fallen in love with the tapeless workflow and soft creamy background that our 7D gives us. We also think it creates a number of new opportunities for our workflow, business value and business development.
The great thing about the 7D is that it’s a stills camera. At the moment, when we are out filming with the 7D, we have the element of surprise. The majority of subjects being filmed, are unaware that they are the focus of our attention, mainly due to the fact that its looks like just a stills camera. This gives us the ability to snipe those natural reportage shots, in the moment, when people appear at their richest.
With this in mind we started a new project. We decided we would use the 7D exclusively to shoot our new web series called “My First Year”. This idea came about after seeing our good friends and their newborn son, and just how much the new baby would grow and change over this coming year. Already he was 5 weeks old and so much had changed. So we decided to make a video series for his first year of life. Showing him and his family, the challenges they face with a newborn and of course a little humour in there as well.
We also thought this was a great chance to play with our new toy, the 7D.
The plan was simple, spend a day with the star of the show and his family and just film them doing their thing. We wanted to keep the shots it as natural as possible, so the 7D was perfect. Its small size meant everyone was instantly at ease. A large video camera, even our small Sony FX1 is too big for some. Most of the family were so comfortable with us filming, that they had no idea they were the focal point. That’s got to be the beauty of using a stills camera for film, hasn’t it?
For the early episodes in the series we will be shooting using the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM lens. This particular lens is designed for the cropped sensor of the 7D which means your focal length is a true 30mm. It’s also a bargain at about £350. The other reason we selected this lens is because wide open it creates a lovely shallow depth of field without being too tight. This helps draw the viewer into the world of baby Joshua and possibly how he sees the world. The popular canon 50mm f/1.4 with the 7D crop would be far too tight for this particular shoot.
As the series progress’s and baby Joshua becomes more aware of those around him the DOF will increase and our lens choices will change to reflect this. Also camera movement will play a big part.
Who ever said that size wasn’t important? In this case, small is better! Another big plus point for the 7D is its size. The 7D can go places no other camera can. I’m hoping to really put its weatherproofing to the test later in the series but for now the form factor helped achieve one shot I really wanted. The fridge shot! During shooting it was Joshua’s feeding time so I followed Dad to the kitchen where he showed me the milk which is kept in the fridge. So we talked about a point of view shot.
We placed the 7D at the back of the fridge and the baby’s milk bottle in front of it. This made for a great shot as the opening of the fridge door took us from darkness into the shot itself. A fantastic reveal.
With the help of the 7D we have also been able to clear up one of life’s major mysteries. Does the light go out in the fridge when you close the door? I can confirm this is a yes.
As this was a documentary piece the colouring was to be as natural as possible. On our 7D we use a modified custom picture profile based on the ‘Faithful’ look. I’m not sure why people insist on using the ‘Neutral’ base profile as this doesn’t give very true colour representation and needs to be fixed in post. Have a read of the user manual page 65 for a better explanation. I say just get it right in camera as much as you can. The less fiddling you have to do later the better. All we do to the profile is knock the contrast all the way down as this gives you more latitude later and take the saturation down 1 or 2 notches. We leave the sharpness at about 3. The reason for this is it applies sharpening BEFORE compression so just sharpens the good stuff. If you knock this down and put it back in post then your also sharpening ISO noise and compression artefacts.
Highlight Tone Priority wasn’t used in this piece as it was all shot indoors with very few chances for highlights. However there are a few scenes where I wish I had it on. There are some who are concerned that HTP brings noise into the shadows. This is true but by the time you compress it out for the web or Blu-Ray, any noise is lost and even then the only way I noticed it was when taking screenshots and comparing them in Photoshop. When the image is moving the benefits far outweigh any negatives.
At the moment, we do all our editing in Sony Vegas. Its quick, it’s easy and it’s powerful. We add just a touch of saturation and bring back the contrast. We corrected a few scenes using NewBlue FX (their Color Fixer Plus is pure voodoo!).
We always shoot in full manual, 7D or otherwise. In our opinion, full manual is the only way to really achieve the best look. If your still using one of the creative modes then it’s not that hard to make the change and it’s well worth it.