10) FX, DX or CX?
This section is Nikon-specific, but format considerations also apply to Canon and other brands. Nikon interchangeable lens cameras use three basic sizes of sensors; FX full frame as used in a D800 or D610; DX crop sensor as found in a D7100 or D5300 (1.5 crop factor), or CX as found in the Nikon 1 series (2.7 crop factor). As you know from doing still photography, each of these sensors has different depth-of-field characteristics. Shooting the same scene at the identical f/stop with FX, DX and CX cameras will produce much different looks in terms of the amount of the scene that is in focus, with an FX sensor having the shallowest depth-of-field at any given f/stop, and a CX sensor having the deepest.
Pairing up an FX body with a DX body, or as I do…an FX body with a CX body, will give you more creative options than shooting with one body alone. You will find there are times where difficult lighting conditions may limit you to a maximum f-stop of f/4 for example, but you need to have a fairly deep depth of field for a particular scene. This is where a CX body like the Nikon 1 V2 comes in very handy. I’ve found that shooting my Nikon 1 V2 (CX sensor) at f/1.8 creates about the same depth-of-field that my full frame D800 does at f/5.6 so there’s about 4 stops difference which can be a life saver at times.
Please see the depth of field comparison shots from my Nikon 1 V2 review.
11) Achieving a ‘film look’ with your productions
One of the biggest advantages of using your DSLR over a video camera to create client videos is the shallow depth-of-field characteristics of an FX sensor, and to a lesser extent a DX sensor. This allows you to create creamy-smooth backgrounds and achieve excellent separation of your subject from the background in the scene. Using shallow depth of field creatively allows you to direct the viewer’s gaze, pulling them into or pushing them out of the scene, and controlling where their attention is focused. This is one of the main reasons why videographers prefer to shoot with fast prime lenses when using a DSLR.
The next time you are watching a movie at home or at a theater pay specific attention to how each scene was shot and how the clips have been edited together (of special note – the TV show Dexter was shot using D800). You’ll find most movie scenes are composed of very short clips that change rapidly without any transition effect. Action scenes are often composed of a number of very short static clips, shot from different perspectives and edited together to create the illusion of rapid movement. Any camera movements tend to be slow and measured, zooms and pans tend to be very well controlled. These are the exact techniques that can make your DSLR video productions look slick and professional. Overly long video clips taken from a single perspective are not only boring for an audience to watch, they can make video edits more time consuming if you have to go back into a very long clip and lift a small section out.
12) Sound considerations
The built-in microphone on your DSLR will likely not be sufficient for any client work. There are obviously all kinds of microphone options on the market depending on specific use, but when starting out you’ll likely want to purchase a decent quality shotgun microphone. I use a couple of different shotgun microphones, a Nikon ME-1 (usually on my Nikon 1 V2) and a Rode VideoMic Pro, with the Rode being the better of the two. You need to test out various microphones with different camera bodies as the performance of various microphones can vary.
A shotgun microphone is designed to pick up sound directly in front of it so it can be useful to help eliminate extraneous sounds in the scene and also help to reduce sound generate by your camera and lens. If you mount the shotgun mic on top of your DSLR make sure that the connecting wire does not touch the body of the camera as this can transmit body noise onto your video footage.
If you are doing voice-on-camera keep in mind that a shotgun mic will pick up whatever sound is directly in front of it. If you are outdoors or in a factory setting where there may be something generating noise directly in the background behind your subject, the mic can pick it up and create some distracting sounds on your video. In those situations it can be better to mount your shotgun mic on a boom (using a patch cord to connect it to your DSLR) and point in down towards your person-on-camera at about a 70-degree angle. This will help eliminate the background noise almost completely. If you’re going to be doing any outdoor shooting make sure to buy a wind buster or ‘dead cat wind muff’ for your microphone to block out wind noise.
There are also wireless lapel mic options you can consider. Some of them like the Sennheiser Freeport are actually quite good and very affordable. The following YouTube video demonstrates the sound quality when using the Nikon ME-1, the Rode VideoMicPro, and the Sennheiser Freeport wireless mic:
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