What/how to take [on] a DSLR photo/video shoot

Well, now that my still and video camera are the same (7D). The kit for a shoot has changed a bit, as well as the rules of thumb that go with shooting video. The capability is there now to emulate the best of a Hollywood film camera, but many of the consumer friendly aspects are compromised as a result. Here is the breakdown and some hints:

VDSLR body

16GB of cards

backup/b-cam HD camcoder

wireless mic setup and ambient/shotgun mic

Single off-camera strobe

17-55 f/2.8

50 f/1/.8

70-200 f/4

two tripods

tape: duct, packing, gaffer,
scissors or multitool
extension cord
extra AAs
gel set orange and green for flash
facecloth or hand towel for people, gear
water bottle!

What is saved:

off camera lighting for video – ambient is now good enough and fits the more natural look that is demanded

extra HD cam with wide-angle adapter

extra batteries (7D does quite well on one batt)

extra slave flash (since 7D built-in flash can trigger it off camera)

computer (since review of focus etc is so good on the 1 million-dot LCD on the 7D

That said, this is the ‘light’ kit, and I’d bring an extra strobe, brella+stand, macbookpro (good batt life) and a hotlight or two as well as chargers and A/C gear if it were an all-day shoot.

The equipment is so good that working light does not mean working at a deficit, except of course for skill in interviewing and framing a shot!


Know the manual controls on your camera – especially the focus ring direction.

mount the mic wireless receiver to the hotshoe of the DSLR

Charge everything the night before, bring the chargers and a power bar if its a long shoot

bring a notepad and a sharpie – write the shot  description on the pad, hold it up to the cam – its a clapper board.

keep a collapsed tripod on the DSLR when shooting video to act as a pendulum stabilizer. A Gorilla-type tripod can be articulated into your favorite DSLR video support for a given situation, too, or:

ChestPod: Good for taking the handshakes out but leaving the handheld look intact:

Don’t expect hollywood, expect real – emulate the eye.

Don’t shoot if 60fps unless you expect top slow the vid down later. 24fps is more movie-film-like. Although the eye can regiuster 60fps, this gets you into the classic too-smooth interlaced VCR camcorder look that is instantly recognizable as such.

Reduce shutter speed to a minimum for a given frame rate in video – this provides maximum smooth motion blur. For example, shooting 30fps, make sure the shutter is 1/30 sec and adjust ISO to compensate. This is aside from shallow depth-of-field and low noise is the main improvement in DSLR video over HD cams.

Finally, you will be shooting manually to really get what you want. Know how the manual controls work, and understand that autofocus and autoexposure are not there anymore, and that the shoot has to be planned accordingly.

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