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Friday, August 30, 2013

A Friendly, Warm and Enlightening Tour of My "Film Set"

Hello! Welcome! Sit down, make yourself comfortable. Please no, I insist, drink the last beer in my fridge.
Feeling all dinky-dory now? Great. Last post in my reveal of the video review for Top Gear Rally, I promised I'd do a tour of my filming setup. I briefly talked about it in a Facebook post, but since this is my blog and it's where I apparently sometimes write things, I thought I would do some more extensive coverage.

The Tripod
I thought I would start with my tripod, since it's really the most important thing; holding stuff up and all. Important business. Currently I'm using a Manfrotto MKC3-H01, which is nicely priced and sits in the mid-range of quality. I've actually been using it since my first DSLR, so it isn't actually that new. However, I felt no need to upgrade it along with everything else since its purpose doesn't become outdated.
It goes nearly as high as me when fully extended (I'm over 6 feet tall), and is quite the sturdy servant. Thanks tripod, you're the best.

The CameraOriginally I was using a Canon EOS 1100D, which was great for learning the core concepts of manual photography, but was really quite sucky when it came to video. For a start its top quality was only 720p, but the real kicker was the fact that you couldn't control the settings for video; it was all automatic. In my opinion, the 1100D sucked at metering. This was all well and fine when it came to photos, but having no control of the video really pissed me off.
Luckily tax returns are a thing, so this year I was able to afford a new camera: the god-like Canon EOS 7D. As well as improvements all over the board, what really matters for this blog is the fact I can shoot video manually, and in full HD. Not only do I get to learn a new skill, but the video quality is vastly improved.

The LensSince I was buying a new DSLR that was going to be used for video quite a bit, I decided to buy a new lens as well. My primary lens is a 15-55mm, which is great, but the aperture only goes as high as f/3.5. That isn't too bad, but for video you really want it as high as possible. This means more light naturally, as opposed to cranking the ISO which will make the video more grainy.
I decided to go for a fixed 50mm lens which has an aperture of f/1.8. It wasn't too pricey either, being under $150. Not only is the lens great for the lighting, but since it is fixed at 50mm, it does a great job of focusing on me and blurring out the background, which gives the videos a nice professional touch.

The Microphone
The number one complaint in the reviews for the 7D was the inbuilt mic. Now my standard of sound isn't that high, so I didn't think it was too terrible. In fact, I used it for my last review, and all my other reviews have used the inbuilt mic of the camera (although my old, old videos using a point and shoot were pretty piss-poor). Since I was going the full nine for everything else though, I thought I mind as well invest in a mic. Why not? This one didn't cost that much. I bought it from a Chinese Ebay store for $25.
I bet there were a few audiophiles who shuddered as they read that, but keep in mind that when you compare it to the inbuilt mic, it's miles better. One day I might buy an awesome microphone, but considering my viewer base and the amount I release videos, I think this one will do me fine for now.

The Lighting
Obviously I've put a lot of money and learning into technical equipment, but what about the basics? The number one thing I hated about the quality of my videos was the lighting. My bedroom isn't that big, so there is really only one place I can sit and talk to my camera comfortable. Unfortunately, this is right under the rooms light. This meant that an ugly shadow was cast over my face as I was talking, so it was time for an upgrade.
Well, kinda. I haven't actually spent any money on this, just now when I film I have a 3 point lighting setup. I use a floor lamp on my right which usually goes in my gym, and an old desk lamp sits at about the same hight to my left on a bookcase. These evenly light up my face while the normal room light acts as an ambient light source. Watch this video compared to this one to see the major difference. Although next time I'm closing my curtains, as the clouds moving outside kept making the window go dark, and then light over and over.

The Controller
One thing about making these videos, is that it's always a one man show. No one else helps out, so I have to come up with ways to make the process efficient. When I was using my 1100D, I would plug it in via video-out into one of my computer monitors. This way I could see if it was focused properly, while using my remote release to actually control the focus points. It kinda worked, but was a bit of a mess around with cables and I had to actually get up to hit the record button.
With my 7D though, I can actually hook it up to my laptop via USB, and completely control it from there. It came with a program called EOS Utility which includes all the manual controls, plus Live View. I can just have my laptop facing me on my bed, as I control it with a wireless mouse on my lap. I don't even have to get up!

The full shibang (except the mic)
If you've reached this far, thank you for reading. At the moment I'm quite happy with the setup, and I'm having a ball creating the videos. Stay tuned for more of those soon!

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