Botswana Video Project

The moving image is not my usual stock in trade.  I have never had much interest in video in the past and wasn't particularly happy with the quality I got from my JVC Everio camcorder when I had it. The new generation of DSLR's though have some serious video capability built in. Even video amateurs like myself can be tempted to have a bash at some 'pro' level video and owning a Canon 5D Mk2 (which was considered a groundbreaking camera for DSLR video when introduced) how could I resist?

My first major project (apart from general video clips of my family) was to get as much video as I could during a three week long trip to Botswana in 2011.  I wanted to make the most of the trip knowing I may never get back to Botswana again so in between shooting stills I got as much video as I could using both my Canon 5D mk2 and my Canon 7D.

For the actual capture process I added an external Rode Videomic Pro microphone which attaches to the flash hotshoe.  Using this on the 5D gave me much better sound than the built in mic and can be used with the gain control built into the camera. I zeroed all the picture settings in the camera (ie. sharpness, contrast etc) which better suits color grading in post.  I shot in manual at 25 fps and a shutter speed of 1/60 sec (a rule of thumb for the 'film' look when shooting video is to have the shutter speed twice the frame rate) then adjusted the ISO and aperture to suit the light conditions.  I found shooting handheld I was able to get more stable footage using a monopod hanging from the bottom of the camera to give it some weight.  At other occasions I shot from a tripod or just straight hand-holding.

Autofocus is a bit tricky with DSLR's as there is no follow-focus capability (though some of the latest generation of DSLR's are changing this with new lenses and focusing systems).  You have to set and forget or adjust manually as you go.  I mostly used small-ish apertures and wide-ish focal lengths to keep my depth of field generous, thus avoiding having to worry too much about focusing once I was rolling.

So the settings and equipment were straight forward but how about the actual implementation?  Well the first thing to note is that shooting both stills and video at the same time (well actually swapping between one and the other in the same location) is quite challenging.  Video is a VERY different discipline. It requires a different mind set, different camera settings and a different goal.  The different camera settings is challenging on its own. Using the custom settings function which allows all camera settings to be saved into one of three slots on the mode dial helps, as you can switch between a stills setup and a video setup easily but even so there is still fine tuning needed on the fly and it is easy to miss opportunities for still photos while shooting video and vise versa.  As a consequence I actually got very little wildlife footage because I was usually taking every opportunity to get still shots while I could.

The next thing to note is that it's all very well bringing a few gigabytes of footage back from a trip but then you have the question about what to do with it.  Sorting through thousands of still images and the processing of a select few from a photography safari is reasonably time consuming but actually editing and stitching together video is far more time consuming.  All clips were viewed rated and collated in Lightroom 4 then I used Adobe Premiere pro CS5.5 and Adobe After Affects to actually process and create the movie. Being short on time it was 18 months before I finally completed my first 10 minute movie.

I make no claim to this being a professional grade video but it was a fun learning experience putting it together and that's what it's all about isn't it?