The Convergence of Video and Photography

Marines conducting field medical drills at Camp LeJeune, NC.

I’m very excited about how motion media and still images – video and photography – are converging in the latest generation of hybrid cameras that shoot video footage as well as do traditional still photography.  Cameras such as the Canon 5D Mk II, the Canon 7D and the Nikon D300S break down the boundary between video and stills and provide truly amazing capabilities at a reasonable price.

Last week, I shot my first video/still assignment using a Canon 5D MK II DSLR, and it was wild. Non-stop, run-and-gun video at Camp LeJeune of Marine medical drills staged in an open field under blazing sun, running in and out of medical tents following  stretchers that were carrying make-believe patients. The 5D performed like a champ, delivering beautiful, well-exposed hi-def video in conditions ranging from bright sun to near darkness. A great feature of the 5D is that you can take a still photograph while it is recording video, and return automatically to recording video. Very cool!

The new equipment does, however, upset the established division of labor for both video shoots and still shoots. Before hybrid cameras, you needed a still camera to capture stills and a video camera to capture video. On location, this usually meant a video crew of at least two or three people: camera operator, sound recordist, and producer/director; and a still photographer. Now, agencies are trying to squeeze this down to one person with a hybrid DSLR tasked with both jobs.

Shooting both stills and video with a DSLR can be challenging for one person to do, especially in a fluid, fast moving  environment where that person has no control over events.  When to shoot video? When to shoot stills?  Shooting stills with a Canon 5D while it is shooting video is easy, but it interrupts video recording for about one second.  Will that second contain important action?

As well, the on-board microphone is really only good for recording a background sound track;  it also picks up all of the camera handling noise.  A remote microphone is needed for a good sound track, either a wireless or a directional mic that mounts in the camera’s hot shoe. Now, that one lone photographer/videographer has a lot of balls to keep in the air!

Nevertheless, I’m convinced that this is the future of video/photography, and photographers and videographers will need to learn each other’s  job and become good at using the this new equipment.

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