Video Essentials

The Advantages of Shooting DSLR Video

If you’ve heard about the amazing filmic look created by some DSLR cameras when shooting video, perhaps you’ve been tempted to try it for yourself. They start at around $700, after all, so there’s a low barrier of entry. At the Vimeo Festival held in New York City last week, a first-day panel on DSLR production brought together three cinema professionals to talk about their experiences with DSLR.

Sitting on the panel were filmmaker Philip Bloom and director Vincent Laforet, while filmmaker David Leitner moderated.

The beginning of DSLR filmmaking began with the major news organization, said Leitner. They wanted their field reporters to be able to record video while on assignment, and asked the camera companies to include video in their professional DSLRs.

The lightness and portability of DSLRs were lauded by Laforet, who said that after a half-hour of shooting, even a Red camera made his shoulder ache. He also liked that DSLR’s low price makes them more accessible to aspiring filmmakers.

Bloom also appreciated their size, noting that he liked being able to travel with two or three cameras in his carry-on bag.

DSLRs are able to shoot in lower light conditions than standard video cameras, and Bloom noted that he could shoot outdoors using available light far more often with a DSLR.

One perk of using a DSLR is that you’ve always got a high-quality still camera on-hand. Laforet said that shooting video with a DSLR had gotten him back into still photography.

While DSLRs are popular for their shallow depth of field and their versatility, the also come with caveats, the panel said. They were created for small-scale work, not movie screens, so avoid shooting with a brick wall background. The camera will skip pixels, Laforet said, making a brick wall look like an acid trip.

Sound is a challenge for DSLR filmmakers, said Bloom, because these cameras don’t have an audio input. You’ll need separate audio gear to record sound, and you’ll have to sync it in post-production. If you use the camera’s audio recording, you’ll get a lot of background noise.

Focusing can be a challenge, said Bloom, who called the cameras unforgiving. New users should practice for a few months before beginning major work, he advised.

For all the camera’s shortcomings, the panel were firmly convinced that they represented the future of filmmaking.

“Progress cannot be stopped,” said Laforet.

For more on DSLR video, read “Should You Join the DSLR Camera Revolution?”


Comments are disallowed for this post.

  1. Can you please compare DSLRs that are in the $500 price point such as the FZ100? Speaking about optional accessories (audio, lens) would be very helpful also. It has a great shotgun mic and the ability to plug in a lav. Those are obvious ‘musts’ for video people. The ability to have that audio functionality WITHOUT having to buy other external bolt-ons (eg Beachtek) is really really great.

    Posted by Withheld | October 19, 2010, 9:05 am
    • If you’re talking about the Panasonic FZ100, it is not a DSLR. It’s sensor is vastly smaller and one cannot change lenses. The smaller sensor means that you don’t have the ability to get the dramatic, shallow depth-of-field that separates subjects from their backgrounds. It also means that you don’t enjoy the low noise performance that you get with a large sensor. The fixed lens means that you can’t use the high end, wide aperture lenses on it that would give you the ability to shoot in near darkness. In other words, using the FZ100 will give you video that is not dissimilar from your standard consumer camcorder.

      Posted by tlinn | October 19, 2010, 2:44 pm
Subscribe to our Newsletter
email address
Online Video Playlist
Online Video Bulletin
Streaming Media Xtra
SM Europe Xtra