Interviews using DSLRs

Stills cameras that can also record video are hot sellers in the consumer market – most of the digital snappers now on sale in the high street boast at least a rudimentary video capability, and some are genuinely impressive (think full HD recording, uncompressed stereo sound, and a sensor that is larger than that in many “broadcast” cameras).

Nikon D7000 DSLR

Nikon D7000 DSLR. Picture courtesy of Nikon UK.


The latest generation of DSLR cameras look especially useful to journalists who are being asked to shoot video. Along with my FT colleague Paul Taylor, I recently filmed a number of interviews on the EOS 5D Mk II. You can see the results of some of Paul’s work on the Connected Business website (note: a subscription might be required).

The 5D has already set the standard for other DSLRs to follow, and it has been used for documentaries, drama and advertising. For newsgathering, it has the advantage of being compact, robust, and relatively easy to operate.

There are some disadvantages. The camera has limited controls over audio and no on-board audio monitoring; the latter is a fault common to all DSLRs, at least out of the box. Focusing is not as easy, in video mode, as on a “real” camcorder. And the shallow depth of field, much loved by film makers, is not always great for newsgathering or interviews. It is easy for a speaker to move out of focus, and it is hard to match shallow depth of field footage with conventionally-recorded video for a consistent look.

Another issue is the short clip time on DSLRs. The 5D is limited to around 12 minutes; Nikon’s D300s manages just five. The new, prosumer Nikon D7000 has a smaller sensor than the 5D but offers a 20 minute recording time, which should prove much more useful for longer, set piece interviews or other jobs that can’t readily be split into short takes.

Of course, the accessories (lens, microphones, a good tripod, possibly a matt box and an external monitor) add to the weight and cost. But you can strip most of that away — probably not the tripod — put the camera in the bag, and achieve some very, very good results.

A short review of the D7000 should appear here shortly, time and Nikon permitting… See also the clip here for a piece filmed in part on a D300s.

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About stephenpritchard
Freelance journalist specialising in business and technology, based in London (UK).

2 Responses to Interviews using DSLRs

  1. Interesting blog – cheers. The penny drop moment for me on what a DSLR can do was seeing a couple of my mates who have a video production company do a promo for a charity using a Canon 7D.

    Here’s the link of you’re interested – http://vimeo.com/13295516 – quite a interesting film either way as its revisiting the areas in Ethiopia that benefited from Band Aid 25 years on. (Btw, not a client plug at all – just bigging up some amazing talent!).

    Until I saw the film I just had camera envy. This made me realise, I had no idea what these new devices can do!

    Cheers,

    Ade

    • Thanks Ade – and it raises a point I failed to mention before: that you can achieve an awful lot, as long as you plan the shoot to work within the capabilities of the device, rather than trying to work around them.

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