Visual storytelling - video trends in 2018
As bandwidth gets cheaper and video streaming more accessible, demand for video has increased rapidly over the past few years as more and more companies turn to the medium for product explainers, brand statements and tutorials. Safrean Jaco Wolmarans sets out his top tips based on the latest trends in video.
Start with what you've got
Almost every photographer these days also has video capabilities. It’s built into virtually every DSLR or digital single lens reflex camera as a standard. But not every photographer is a videographer, and not because of a lack of trying.
As many a lensman and woman has found out, shooting video or shooting decent, shake-free and in-focus video is a challenge. They are hard to work with, and if your eyesight is on the wrong side of 45, you’ll know all about it.
So, what are your options if clients increasingly ask for video, sometimes to be shot on site, to complement a stills shoot, or record behind-the-scenes action, social media clips or short interviews? What is the ideal camera for the purpose?
The answer is, quite simply, the one you have in your hands. You make do.
However, if you’d like to offer a more professional service, using more suitable equipment, how do you choose from the myriad of models and systems available?
Understand the pros and cons of each
The traditional weapon of choice is the camcorder made famous by brands such as Sony, Panasonic and Canon. These are HD or 4K cameras fitted with a multipurpose wide angle to telephoto lens, such as the PMW series from Sony or DVX series from Panasonic. They are expensive, big and complicated, but have held their own over the years and are still the go-to cameras for most video professionals.
However, with the advent of DSLR video, and specifically models such as Canon’s 5D and 7D, came the “DSLR look” – very short depth of field, background sexily out of focus and background highlights resolving into pretty, blurred objects called bokeh. The best part was that these cameras were reasonably inexpensive. The video world flocked to them.
Coupled with fast lenses that allows the user to shorten the depth of field dramatically, the “DSLR look” very quickly became the darling of music video and wedding shooters. Many sold their camcorders, now left unused in a cupboard.
Then our clients fell in love with it too. It had the look, the feel and treatment they wanted, and we videographers had to invest in new systems to satisfy demand. But we quickly found out how hard these were to work with. Getting a decent hit-rate for in-focus, stable shots was tricky. So, we invested in gyro-stabilised platforms and extra viewfinders to make them more usable.
By the time we had a decent setup, it had cost as much as our original camcorders. And they were now heavier, and more awkward to work with than camcorders.
This, in part, was behind the development of a third class of video camera: the mirrorless bodies. They look like DSLR cams, but they weigh less than half, they are half the size, and they’re cheap. On top of it, they produce astounding images. The Panasonic GH range and the Sony A7 series soon started cleaning up, with many videographers ditching their camcorders or DSLRs for mirrorless bodies.
The manufacturers cleverly designed a standard lens mount that would fit a number of different lens brands. The micro four thirds format or MFT system is now widely used, allowing videographers to buy an increasing number of lens brands.
MFT, however, suffers from similar problems as DSLR video. They’re damn hard to focus, many are not good for use in low light situations, and the MFT format doubles up the focal length of your lenses. A wide angle suddenly became not so wide, forcing users to invest in rather expensive ultra-wide glass just to get a medium wide shot.
This situation leaves many aspiring videographers with a huge dilemma: what system do you invest in? How does one future-proof yourself, and what is the trend likely to be in client demand?
The answer, unfortunately, is to invest in all of them. That is, if you want to be able to shoot a variety of jobs, produce a variety of looks and stay on-trend. To explain that:
Not all of the above three systems can comfortably be used in all situations. Using a camcorder such as the PXW or PMW series in a music video or wedding is rare these days simply because the look is too neutral or “video-like” as opposed to “film-like” – that dreamy, creamy short-depth-of-field imagery artists want.
Similarly, trying to shoot a conference or corporate event with a DSLR or MFT cam will frustrate most users. Zooming smoothly is hard, attaching wireless audio receivers to them or just focusing them quickly remains a pain in the butt. On top of that, many have a record limit of 30 minutes, which will have the operator anxiously watching his gear during speeches, forcing a quick stop and restart, often mid-sentence.
Find the best video camera for you
In deciding on a system to invest in, my advice is to first analyse what kind of work you would like to specialise in, and then get the gear for that. If hip-hop video is your thing, get a DSLR and kit it out with decent, fast lenses, and add an electronic viewfinder or EVF to it for easier focusing as soon as you can afford it. Then add a stabilising platform such as the Ronin M.
If you’re likely to shoot mostly corporate work, don’t get rid of the old Sony or Canon camcorder. They were designed for conference work, interviews and are ideal for shooting everything from factories to production lines to agricultural machinery and shiny corporate headquarters using just the built-in lens. There is still nothing to beat the pure fit-for-purpose ergonomics and functions of these cameras.
Where does the MFT format fit in? Being small, portable and enormously versatile, they are increasingly finding favour with sport shooters doing run-and-gun race coverage, with wedding videographers who want a light but very capable cam they can swing all day without getting tired, and with high-end commercial shooters who find their slow-motion abilities, high frame rates and extremely good picture quality suitable even for TV commercials.
MFT is where my money would go if I had to start anew. They seem highly future-proof, they are versatile as documentary cameras and commercial platforms alike, they do a super "well-trimmed of all fat" sport shooter configuration, and coupled with the right, fast lens, they almost rival DSLR in picture sexiness.
About the author
Former journalist turned photographer and corporate video producer, Jaco Wolmarans combines his written and visual backgrounds to produce content for diverse industries including wine, sports apparel and mining. To learn more about Jaco and see some of his recent work, please visit his website and connect with him on Facebook.