When I began my career as a freelance videographer I made sure to do my research before investing in any video equipment. My first video camera was an off-the-shelf Canon HV30. It was a camera you could find at a local retailer, take out of the box and get going without too much trouble. Small, compact and easy to use. Perfect at the time for a beginner like me! The trouble, as you will see, is that it looked like a video camera.
My first job, like many a good videographer starting out, was capturing a friend’s wedding and reception. Thrilling! Weddings are most videographer’s worst nightmare, but I was jumping in willingly. I didn’t know any better! I was responsible for shooting and editing the event and I knew that I had only once chance get each shot right. The important things like the vows, half-drunk toasts and the bouquet toss only happen once. As you can imagine, that puts a lot of weight on a new videographer. What seemed like a calm and composed man holding a video camera quickly turned into a scared and nervous little boy.
Is my microphone going to pick up the best man’s speech? Is the lighting in this room too dark? The bride’s dress looks really bad from this angle. That lady over there hates when I point the camera at her, so I’ll just avoid that side of the room. Oh no, my battery is almost dead but I can’t stop recording now! Who moved my gear bag?
All this ran through my mind.
Over time I became more confident in my abilities. Word got around that I did a good job and I began shooting corporate events as a one man shop. Shooting candid corporate and private events became the bread and butter of my business. I had the opportunity to work with more sophisticated gear and I quickly learned what to do and what not to do when shooting an event when it related to shooting people at events. What I began to realize was that people either don’t like having a camera pointed in their face or they enjoy it a little too much. My camera immediately changed the atmosphere in the room and the relationship between my camera and the subject.
“Oh no, here comes the camera guy! I hope he doesn’t head this way. We better try to avoid him.”
“Oh boy! Here comes the camera guy! Let’s act crazy and irrational!”
I knew what I was looking for from event participants, but I wasn’t getting it. In an attempt to get a reactions that I knew I could use in my final edit, I ended up doing one of two things: 1) I would shoot across the room at the longest focal length I had — something I call sniping — or 2) I would approach my potential candidates and ask them if they wouldn’t mind “acting” for me. Both of these worked, but the end result suffered because it the final video looked too flat and removed (because I was sniping) or canned. The only weapon in my arsenal at this point was to rely on detailed instructions or establishing a likable personality shortly after arriving on the scene. Both of which have become invaluable tools in my careers and are something you can gain only by experience on the job.
It wasn’t too long afterwards when I read an article on the web about a director and Pulitzer Prize–winning photographer named Vincent Laforet who was experimenting with using the video feature on DSLR still cameras to capture quality video that was acceptable to his high-end clients. In fact, his short film “Reverie,” was the first 1080p video shot with a still camera. It was seen by more than 2 million times on the first week of its release in 2009. Over the next year, DSLR video production saw a sharp increase and became a viable solution for small production companies and freelancers like myself. I immediately realized this camera could help me solve my biggest problem! I bought one right away.
It was as if I now had in my possession an invisibility cloak, which is something I had always wanted! People began to ignore me as if I was just another photographer, which were common at these types of events that I would work at. A few times I would even have to apologize to groups who began posing as if they were about to be photographed and let them know I was shooting video, not taking pictures.
In summary, video production using traditional video cameras taught me a lot about how to do my job well, but it was after I began using DSLR cameras that my work really began to shine. Untold has even incorporated using DSLRs as a production tool on some of our most recent projects. Whether you’re capturing a live event, or a traditional interview, there is no arguing that using a small unobtrusive still camera can produce a more natural result. Try it yourself!