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Cod & Tomato Chowder in 2 minutes: A Foray into HD Video

Lately I’ve been getting into shooting high definition video. More and more it’s becoming a feature on DSLR cameras and it’s certainly something that I see myself getting into more. The use of cameras like ours- the Canon 1D mkIV and Canon 5d MkII- to film video is starting to become more mainstream in the movie industry too and is already being used in the indie film industry. The entire season finale of House was shot using the 5D mkII, there are a number of big time Hollywood film producers looking seriously at integrating them into the way they shoot movies, and last (and probably least)- Charlotte Church’s latest video was shot entirely with 5D MkII cameras. Why are cameras essentially designed for photography causing such a stir in the film industry? For a number of reasons. The low light capabilities of cameras such as ours exceed those of video cameras, the potential to shoot at wide apertures is much greater with SLRs in comparison to any HD video camera currently available (and so enables shallow depth of field), and the great variety of lenses that Canon SLR users have at their disposal adds flexibility. SLRs have their drawbacks for video though, one being that the ergononics of the SLR have been designed with the needs of the photographer in mind, and they’re not well-suited to shooting video handheld. The market is catching up though. and there are now a whole range of rigs available that aim to provide stability to SLR users shooting handheld video.

A few days ago I was about to make Gordon Ramsay’s cod and tomato chowder recipe, and I thought, ‘Why not make a short video of it at the same time?’ It took me twice as long as normal to actually make the chowder- having to think about things from the director’s point of view, having to do things in one take (given that you can only chop a piece of celery once, so you have to do it right the first time!), ‘pulling’ focus, all the while making sure you don’t overcook the food while you’re busy with the camera! For the benefit of those without the knowledge of videography speak, ‘pulling’ focus is basically just the process of keeping focus (manually) as you move the camera around. And it’s not easy, especially when the plane of focus can at times be less than an inch deep at wide apertures, and all you’ve got is a 3″ screen to monitor the video. If you watch the credits at the end of films and you see the job of ‘1st AC’ ( 1st Assistant Camera) or ‘Focus Puller’, you now know what they do….the cameraman (or camerawoman!)  shoots, and his/her 1st AC is stood at the side of the camera watching the scene on a monitor and focusing the lens manually as required. Generally, people shooting film on their SLR cameras have to do all the various jobs themselves- shooting the video, pulling the focus, recording the sound.

So anyway, I thought I’d post the video here. I edited it down to just over 2 minutes thus the title, ‘Cod & Tomato Chowder in 2 Minutes’. I thought it might get a few more people reading this post if they saw the title in disbelief at somebody who could make cod chowder in 2 minutes! The video was shot with my Canon 1D MkIV with my 50mm f1.2L set at an aperture of f2.0. Shutter speed was kept to 1/50 second to fit the frame rate of 25 frames per seconds, as shooting at 25 frames per second creates the classic look of video shot on film. The few bits of live sound were taken from a separate Zoom H4N stereo sound recorder, later synced to the video using DualEyes. Video editing was done in Apple’s Final Cut Pro, and then finally a few effects added in Photoshop CS4 Extended. I was amazed that you could process video in Photoshop and I’ll be adding a tutorial to the blog to cover just some of the things you can do in Photoshop with the video you shoot with your SLR.

So- popcorn ready, and roll. (You can view this video full screen to get the full high definition effect- just click the little icon at the bottom far right).

January 13, 2011 - 10:13 pm

Helen - Excellent film and has now made me hungry!

January 14, 2011 - 5:58 am

Roger Ford - Awesome post!! As mentioned before, I love the video as well! How different are things like lighting, composition, etc as factors when compared to still photography?
I’m excited to see your post about video with Photoshop! I’m quite a newb in that area so it’ll be great for me! I’m hoping to do a video this weekend so I may be calling on you for help!! :-)

January 14, 2011 - 1:14 pm

Christian - Thanks Rog! In terms of composition, I pretty much apply exactly the same principles as I do when shooting stills, although with video you have to plan ahead a little if you’re going to be moving the camera during the take, whereas with stills you’re just planning with what you’ve got in front of you at that point in time. Lighting, again, I try to apply the same rules, but I do think that in video there are times when you can get away with some particular shots that wouldn’t look right as a photo….for example, next time you watch a film on TV, see how there’ll be some scenes that are extremely dark and you can barely see what’s happening. Try taking a photo that looks like that and I think that people would just think ‘umm, that’s too dark.’
One difference I’m learning is that as photographers we’re always looking for that ‘defining’ moment to encapsulate in the shot, whereas with video, whilst you’re still looking to capture the right moments, there has to be footage either side! I did read an interview once with a videographer who turned photographer, and the biggest thing he said he had to learn was how to capture the defining moment- he was so used to shooting video for hours, rather than the split seconds that photographers are used to capturing.

January 17, 2011 - 6:02 am

Roger Ford - hmmm very interesting point! So basically videographers are lazy then and just keep the camera rolling? 😉 just kidding! You’re right though, that does make sense. As far as composition, I can see that has to be a ‘moving’ target! Thanks for the response…

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