SORT YOUR SOUND Nothing contributes to a video failing more than poor sound – for decent audio, you really need a proper microphone.
MEMORY MATTERS Video, especially fine-quality footage in high bit rates, can take up loads of space on memory cards and hard drives. A day’s filming in 4K easily eats through a terabyte, for example – and you’ll need a fast card to keep up. Using lower-spec cards regularly means you can’t record in all available codecs and frame rates.
These mics output two mono channels, ideal for recording speech. For capturing ambient sounds, or things like live music, a stereo mic is a better solution. Canon’s DM-E1 and Sennheiser’s MKE 440 typically have two condenser capsules to give the stereo effect. They’re also more sensitive to a wider range of volume levels, adjustable for everything from quiet recitals to loud rock music. Pro-level microphones have large XLR output connections, such as the Rode NTG5 or Sennheiser MKE 600. These are larger and more directional than hotshoe-mounted, DSLR-specific models, with a massive increase in audio quality. If you want to make use of an XLR mic, but retain the simplicity of recording audio directly with video in-camera, then you can buy adapters that allow you to mix channels between two mics. The Beachtek DXA-Micro Pro or Saramonic SR-PAX2 both enable you to do this. And particular manufacturers offer their own versions, such as the Panasonic DMW-XLR1E. A popular way of recording a person speaking is to buy a lapel mic – also called a lavalier or lav mic – and fastening it to their clothing. These can be linked to the camera via a cable, but it’s far more common and much easier to plug them into a wireless transmitter box that the subject keeps in a pocket or on a belt. This sends the signal to a receiver on top of the camera. Certain set-ups contain all the gear you need to do this, such as the Sennheiser EW G4 kit. Things get more complicated if you want to record a conversation between two people. The best option is employing two lav mics – and you need something that can record two separate channels, too. This can be done on a DSLR or mirrorless with an external channel mixer, such as the Beachtek DXA-Micro Pro, or an external recorder. However, there is now a slew of systems that come with two transmitters feeding into one wireless receiver on top of your camera. The Rode Wireless Go II, Hollyland Lark 150 and Saramonic Blink500 Pro are affordable options with this function.
buying an SD card, a UHS-II V90-class is pretty much the only grade fast enough for high-end video; even then, some codecs are too much. However, there is an alternative. Invest in an external monitor/recorder like an Atomos Ninja V or Ninja V+, Desview R6, Blackmagic Video Assist or SmallHD. These take a feed from the camera’s HDMI socket and the images are displayed on a five-inch LCD, helping hugely with accurate framing, exposure and focusing. Many of these accept an SSD drive: faster, cheaper and larger capacity than memory cards. Best of all, often the footage coming from the HDMI will be higher quality and bit rate than recorded internally, giving an instant boost. Plenty of cameras output a video Raw signal, which the recorder can convert to an editable codec such as ProRes Raw, for huge flexibility in post-processing. With all this data, you might also need to upgrade your external hard drives at home. Some of the best can be found from SanDisk Professional and LaCie.
All cameras come with a tiny built-in mic, but these are useless for recording anything other than a bit of background noise. That includes every time you touch the camera to change settings or refocus, and they are notorious for picking up wind noise. Cover the mic with a Micromuff to help this. As these internal mics are not very sensitive, the camera turns up internal gain to get a usable signal, so there’s lots of background noise and a low-pitched hum. Some filmmakers resort to a separate recorder like a Tascam Portacapture X8 or Zoom F6, and plug a high-quality mic into that. You have to sync up audio with video in editing, adding a level of complexity. It can be far easier to use a proper mic and plug it directly into your machine, so it records good audio alongside video footage. As the output from an external plug-in mic is far better than the tinny internal one – and often adjustable – turn down the audio level on the camera. This reduces in-camera gain and makes a massive difference. External mics tend to be of a shotgun type, with a long tube that the sound travels down, pointed towards what you are trying to record. This cuts down environmental noise. Basic units, like the Rode VideoMic Go II, sit on your camera’s hotshoe and plug into the mic socket – and that’s it. There is nothing to adjust, and it doesn’t even take batteries. Compared to the internal mic, it gives a far more crisp sound that’s significantly better. Spend a little more and take a step up to powered microphones, offering adjustable gain so you can fine-tune audio levels, plus a supercardioid recording pattern which cuts down even more extraneous sound. The Rode VideoMic Pro+ or VideoMic NTG, Sennheiser MKE 400, Joby Wavo Pro and Shure VP83 are good examples. Most come with their own windshields, but superior, aftermarket versions are available from Rycote. These are ideal
Newer cameras tend to go with CFexpress Type A or Type B media, or CFast cards. These are often in addition to an SD card slot, for a wider choice of media. While many use the second slot as a backup to make an instant high-res copy, this isn’t always an option for movies – certainly if the slots are different. It’s quite common to set the faster card to record the high-res footage and a lower- res ‘proxy’ version recorded to the second card. These proxies are often used in editing to speed up the process, then the files are replaced by the high-res versions just before the final export. Most memory card manufacturers make both types of CFexpress and CFast cards. When
THANKS FOR THE MEMORY Shoot video and you usually have the choice of recording to the internal memory card or – via HDMI – to an external device like an Atomos Ninja
BEST SUPPORTING ROLE A proper video tripod with self-levelling head is an essential buy – so you aren’t constantly changing leg length to get the camera
for general location shooting, or even filming yourself in a vlogging manner.
You could go totally handheld, which is where decent image stabilisation comes in. It’s best to fit a camera cage or rig with a handle for stability, if you plan to go fully manual. Look for kits from Vocas, SmallRig, Tilta and Movcam. For the ultimate in smooth motion shots, invest in a motorised gimbal. Your camera is mounted to the top and carefully balanced, then the motors take over to keep it rock- steady, even when you handhold or move it. They can also be used for time-lapse or motion-lapse, and are great fun. The most popular are from Zhiyun, Manfrotto, Gudsen and DJI.
level – as well as fluid-damped pan and tilt movements. A standard photo tripod head won’t offer the smooth motion that’s essential for shooting video. The best video tripods have adjustable counterbalance, so your camera will stay at whatever angle you want, rather than drooping forward. The biggest brands – Manfrotto, Benro, Vanguard, Kenro and 3 Legged Thing – all make dedicated video tripods in a range of materials, sizes and prices to suit all needs. For rigging up your machine like a real movie camera, a large tripod is ideal. Fit a cage or base plate with 15mm rails, to which you can attach a follow focus, matte box, large external batteries, monitor and mic. To keep things steady on location, don’t forget the humble monopod, perfect for fast- paced work in tight locations. Again, get one with a video-specific fluid head, such as those from Manfrotto or Vanguard. GET A FOOTHOLD The gimbal shown here is the Zhiyun Weebill 2, while the tripod and fluid head are from Kenro. You can add another dimension to video shooting with rails, available in a variety of prices and sizes
AUDIO WAVES Good sound is a must, so the first step is a decent external mic – and there’s a wide choice out there. An external audio recorder such as the Tascam Portacapture X8 (left) is an option, while Rode is always on point
Issue 100 | Photography News 35
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