Last week, I took my first footage with my Canon Rebel T3i camera (You can watch it here if you want before I mention it later). I had been wanting a DSLR camera for around 5-6 years and took the step a few months ago to order one. I did my research beforehand, though. For a few weeks I was looking up reviews on professional sites and web forums, asking friends, and comparing specs. Overwhelmingly, I was turned to the Canon line of cameras. That isn’t to say that I jumped right on the bandwagon. I did weighing between the Canon lines and Nikon lines before I made any decisions, and made sure I got plenty of sleep as to cut down on 3am impulse buys. Both companies produce fantastic products, but I was just pulled more towards the world of Canon, and I’m happy where I ended up. After my internal deliberation over brand, it came down to what camera from the Canon line I wanted. I would have loved to go out and spend $2500 on a 5D MKII with the full frame sensor and slew of lenses, or even $1600 on a mid-range 7D, but I didn’t have the resources to spend more than $1000, so I turned to the nicely priced 600D with an 18-55mm IS lens.
When I was looking at cameras to buy, I was also looking at the video capabilities. The 600D had great reviews for it’s video features, and I was excited at the idea of being able to both replace my point-and-shoot camera and my mini DV camcorder in one go. So of course, I thought of how this camera could impact my filming process with Obsoleet and how I could take things to a whole new level. Shortly after my purchase, I tried out the camera and was hooked. I was really stunned by the image quality I was getting from my stills, and really hoped that I could squeeze everything out of the video features as well. But first, I bought some gear. I ordered a UV filter, two more batteries, two 16gb SDHC cards, a lend hood, a microfiber cleaning cloth, and a carrying case. As the packages poured in, my setup began to fill out and it was exciting seeing everything come together. I’m not normally one to go out and buy the little extras, but I felt that if I was going to do this I should at least take the time to do it correctly.
The Canon EOS 600D / Rebel T3i
Before I took my camera out to shoot some video, I first decided to install a third-party firmware called Magic Lantern. If you want to get technical, it’s a piece of software that runs on top of Canon’s stock camera firmware, and the package supports many DSLR’s in the Canon line. It was originally developed for those wanting to use their Canon cameras for film production, but has evolved to give an all-around enhanced and fine-tunable experience for you and your camera. I’d like to state that the group who creates and maintains Magic Lantern does not recommend it for someone just starting out with their camera, and it does pay to get to know what you’re doing before you go and add a whole new series of complications to what you’re doing. So if you’re thinking of dropping ML onto an SD card and trying it out, get a bit of a feel for all of the settings your camera has before you go and get your feet wet. You can go out an buy all the expensive accessories and install the fancy firmware but if you don’t know what you’re doing fundamentally, you’re as well off as you would be with a camera phone.
So I went out, spent four hours taking small clips of footage, and eventually assembled them into something tangible. It’s not the most fantastic video, but it is something, and something is better than nothing at all. The video is called ‘Monday’ because, well, I made it on Monday. It features some places that are all in walking distance of my house, and the day was nice enough that I felt like going out and doing a little something with my time. If anything, this video is just a proof of concept. I wanted to get my first feel of recording something nice in high definition, and seeing what it looked like when compared with my grainy digital video camcorder. I’m a fan of the environment I was filming in, and I think I ultimately ended up with some beautiful shots.
It was a learning experience though, and you can see my mistakes in the video. For example, the first few shots were over-exposed (though I get some strange enjoyment from the ghostly look they carry), and my handling of the camera was shaky at times. Other downfalls are hidden from you. The wind was horrendous, and if I actually included the original audio tracks from shooting, you would want to rip out your speakers and smash them on the floor. Editing was challenging to say anything. Trying to preview the edited footage caused the video to stutter lag. I can’t tell you how often I had the editing software crash either. As a side note, I was also unhappy with my use of text but that’s a whole separate issue. I don’t think anyone gets anywhere without being their own worst critic, and ultimately I want to create something I’d enjoy watching.
Even here, there are already clear things I can do differently next time, most of which I either realized or discovered through my adventure: know what I’m doing with respect to exposure, ISO, and shutter speed, use a tripod or steady-cam, use a windscreen, etc. I also didn’t do much with the video after taking it. I made some rough edits, a few basic transitions, but nothing too solid. I also did not do anything with color correction, which I am hoping to pursue with my next video. In all, there is work to be done. I never expected any of these skills to come overnight, and they won’t, but I feel like I’m off to a good start and am on the path I want to take. The more I shoot, the more I can play with, and the more I’ll ultimately learn which is just what I’m looking to do.
So here ends entry one of many centered around my trials with DSLR video. The video I took here, Monday, is going to be the first of a series I’ll end up taking as I refine my abilities and hopefully don’t run out of ideas.
It should be exciting.