Video killed the radio star


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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Video killed the radio star

10 Sep 2020 12:34PM   Views : 453 Unique : 311


Well, that may be true, but I’m still wedded to the BBC audio output… And yesterday, I discovered why. Again.

Now, back in the Sixties, I played with Standard 8mm ciné film, in a succession of cameras: a Kodak Brownie (really, there was a Brownie ciné camera), my Dad’s Bell and Howell Sportster, finished in a crackle grey paint and hewn from solid metal, and finally a Bolex C8 that my uncle gave me.

From them, I learned to hold the camera as steady as possible, not ‘hosepipe’ around the scene, and to shoot a series of shorter clips, moving position between them. And that it is VERY hard work. And I had no serious clashes with video from then until yesterday.

Someone I know writes songs and sings them: she wanted to put together a video to go with one of them. Stella likes my still image style, so she asked me if I do video. My immediate answer was ‘no – but I’m willing to try’. Hence my Sony and I were in the country along with costume and a horse. (Did I not mention the horse? Stella wanted to sing on horseback, and had persuaded another friend to lend her his horse.)

So there we were, and the horse wasn’t looking that friendly, despite Lee and Janine bringing expert calm to the situation. When Stella started singing to the horse, she received a gentle nudge – but horses are big, and one quadruped’s gentle nudge is another biped’s head-butt…

And I was having fun stepping back – you can’t turn the camera on its side for video!

We decided that this might not be the way to go, and Janine offered to take us to her horse, Lady Luscious, who has a more sedate temperament. 30 minutes and ten miles later, Lush (as she’s known) was saddled up, and had a singer in the saddle. Which is where the fun really began for me.

I have never used a gimbal (a £400+ device that stabilises the camera in three axes, so that the image doesn’t wobble, even when the cameraman does), and I’m certainly not going to buy one – but I definitely acknowledge the need for one. SteadyShotInside deals with camera shake, but comes nowhere near giving the steadiness that you need walking across a rough field.

But we did what we could with minimal camera movement, and after three takes of the whole song (one of which involved me standing on top of a water trough (Janine – ‘Don’t fall in that water!’) we were pretty happy, and the subject was confident enough to take one hand off the reins for gestural purposes.

An attempt at a tracking shot as we went back to the stable has left me with (vastly!) increased respect for the BBC’s outdoor cameramen, who can walk sideways without falling over. And for separate microphones with woolly covers that pick up more sound, but without the laboured breathing of the operator and wind noise.

Will I do it again? Yes, definitely, if asked. I shall beg, borrow or hire a gimbal, though we can do without the fluffy microphone: the sound will be added in the edit (which, thankfully, I am not involved in).

But – like Ronnie Corbett – I Know My Place. I have no aspirations to shoot a lot of video, and no illusions that I’m any good at it. And my advice to others is that video is an absolutely different thing from stills photography, demanding a separate set of skills, and that you shouldn’t expect everything to go perfectly with zero practice. Mixing in stills may be a problem: shooting portraits at 1/13 second is not a clever thing to do.

Your first 10,000 minutes will be your worst.


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chase Avatar
chase Plus
18 2.5k 682 England
10 Sep 2020 1:18PM
That lot sounds like hard work John, not something I have ever tried and don't think I will Sad
GGAB Avatar
GGAB 7 31 1 United States
10 Sep 2020 1:28PM
I was asked to create video's for work doing one small 30 to 60 second segment at a time, then combining them in post for a total of 6 to 10 minutes video's.
Not only is the video a pain requiring multiple takes, the talk over track is interesting as well.
The results come out well, however it is a lot of work.
On the plus side, I didn't have to deal with animals and changing lighting from shooting outside.
I am in my small, make shift studio.
I feel your pain.
dark_lord Avatar
dark_lord Plus
19 3.0k 836 England
10 Sep 2020 2:03PM
I don't doubt video is a lot of work and I intend to start, very simply, at some point. Finding some inspiration to get started is the current issue, and I'm struggling with any worthwhile stills photography too.

While you didn't get thrown in at the deep end I don't think you had the shallow end either. They always say don't work with animals...
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
10 Sep 2020 3:13PM
I know I won’t be doing a lot of this, but it was fun!
altitude50 Avatar
altitude50 19 23.9k United Kingdom
10 Sep 2020 5:08PM
I used to try to make short 4 or 8 minute cine films with my double 8, first Kodak, then Quarz camera, some colour, some b/w hand held, this was in the mid 60's with minimal editing (splicing) I even tried non sych. sound with a Eumig projector and tape recorder.
Then you could get away with wobbly, grainy underexposed shots with abrupt beginnings and shots of your shoes and the Kodak processing perforations when you ran out of film at the vital moment. It all added to the atmosphere. Not any more with today's precision equipment.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
10 Sep 2020 6:01PM
It's odd how many people try to make their videos look arty by adding the edge fog, perforations and scratches...

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