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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Gear For Still And HD-Video Capture

Essential equipment for getting the best still and motion imagery and sound in the field

Labels: CamerasD-SLRsGear
This Article Features Photo Zoom

Steadicam Merlin; Novoflex MMR Bluebird

RedRock Micro Field Cinema DSLR Rig
The onslaught of DSLRs that can shoot professional-caliber HD video has not slowed. This year, two of the most eagerly anticipated and enthusiastically received cameras were the Nikon D800 and the Canon EOS 5D Mark III, and both of these models were designed to have high-end motion-capture capabilities from the outset. As this issue of OP goes to press in August, we're expecting to see more DSLRs with even more advanced video functions to be announced at the Photokina show in Germany this fall. Just about any DSLR or advanced mirrorless camera you buy today can shoot broadcast-quality video, so even if you're not looking to make an entry for the Sundance Film Festival, the function is there, ready for you to use at any time.

Motion capture doesn't have to mean a storyboarded narrative movie. For nature photographers, being able to shoot vignettes—short motion snapshots—can be incredibly rewarding. These are moments of animal behavior or motion in a landscape that just don't lend themselves to a frozen still photograph. The process of shooting HD video can seem daunting and a little intimidating at first, but the more you try it, the easier the process becomes. And you don't have to learn complex software like Adobe Premiere or Apple Final Cut Pro to experiment with motion capture. Clips can be dropped into just about any slideshow program where they simply become like another slide.

RØDE Stereo VideoMic Pro
On the capture side, there's some key gear that will make the process much easier, and it will make your results much better looking and sounding.

In this article, we're outlining equipment that doesn't take up a lot of space so it can travel and even hike with you. These are the little things that make a big difference.

Shoulder Mounts And Steadying Devices
Keeping the camera steady is critical for motion capture. Stabilization rigs give you tools that will keep your camera steady and are also quite useful for still capture for times when a tripod or a monopod aren't workable. In other words, these devices are multitaskers, just like your HD video-capable DSLR is a multitasker.

Zoom H4n
We only have space to list a few manufacturers in this article. BushHawk has been a popular choice for OP readers because of the intuitive design. Looking like a rifle stock with a camera on it, the BushHawk rigs give you a nice option when you're using large telephoto lenses. Novoflex makes several stabilization kits that apply their reputation for engineering excellence into handheld supports that are balanced and allow you to attach a number of other accessories if you'd like. RedRock Micro makes a bewildering array of camera supports, designed for everything from quick-grab shots to extensive feature-level filmmaking. The RedRock Micro Universal Bundle and Nano Bundle are particularly popular choices for OP readers for their configurability.

Other manufacturers to consider are Camtrol, Chrosziel, Cinevate, Flashpoint, iDC Photo Video, ikan Corporation, Manfrotto, Sachtler and Zacuto.

Steadying your camera rig so you can move with it can be accomplished with a steady-cam-type of device (Note, Steadicam is a manufacturer. We use the term "steady-cam" as a generic moniker for devices that are designed to keep the camera stable while in motion.) Some popular makers of "steady-cams" are Steadicam, Glidecam, Sachtler and Varizoom. Each of these companies makes a range of products for anything from an ultralight mirrorless setup to a pro-level DSLR with a large telephoto lens. As a general rule, keep your focal lengths shorter when moving the camera on a steadying device. Longer telephotos will show any shakiness much more than shorter lenses.


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