Ever since I bought a Canon 5D Mark II last year, I have been tinkering with the video – much to my delight. I still cannot get over the sharpness and clarity of the HD footage. Moreover, for me at least, moving from the still to the moving image proved quite intuitive and in many ways almost liberating. I frame the videos in much the same manner I frame my stills, but now have an extra dimension in which to play.
After over a year of misconnections I finally had the opportunity to contribute to the New York Times. I met with reporter Andrew Jacobs to discuss story ideas and found we had a mutual concern surrounding the imminent destruction of the Gulou neighborhood, one of the last holdouts for historic hutongs in Beijing. Both Andrew and I live in the area and hit the streets for three days interviewing locals and walking through Beijing’s narrow alleys. Although priority went to stills, I also decided to shoot video to present to the multimedia editors at the New York Times.
It was my first time shooting a complete video and I was using rather rudimentary equipment. My kit included TheEvent rig from Redrock Micro with a Redrock Microfollow focus thrown on the side. For sound I used a Sennheiser MKE400 shotgun mic – not a bad mic but it still picked up a lot of wind noise as you can hear on the exit shot when I pan across the trolley leading to the KFC storefront. Having said that a lot of my shots were off the cusp with no rig or mic attached to the camera. Even though the sound quality of the internal mic is certainly not up to par working with the camera without any extra hardware really allows you to blend into the environment without drawing attention to the fact you are shooting video – something quite important in certain situations in China.
Right now we still live in a world where people don’t assume that you are taking video with a DSLR camera. This is bound to change eventually, so take advantage while you can. I kept everything very simple with the video – I wasn’t trying to impress with a bunch of quick changes or fast paced action. It is mainly just slow pans and still shots. In the future I hope to change it up more, but I feel there is a certain grace to such simplicity and it allows the viewer to engage more with the subject. All the same, I still have a lot to learn.
Since I made this video I’ve added a Zoom H4N to my kit which I mount on the hotshoe and plug straight into the camera with a Pinknoise systems -25db PAD cable. I really like using the Zoom H4N as I can easily detach it to record ambient noise or place separately from the camera and remix later (especially for concerts). Also, call me crazy, but I never use an LCD loupe like the Z-finder. I find it distracting and it disengages me from my environment. I need to be able to respond to changes in the world around me and feel comfortable enough with my camera and lenses that i don’t need my eye crammed up against the screen to get what I want. An external monitor might be nice in the future, but for my run and gun tactics it still remains a distraction. Otherwise, the only thing I see my self buying in the future are a fluid head with video tripod and some prime lenses. I still absolutely love my Canon EF 17-35MM f2.8 and I used it heavily in the video, but I want to add a set of primes, especially the 14MM f/2.8 for ultra wides and 50MM f/1.2 for that shallow depth of field everyone continues to flip out about. In the end I am always trying to keep it simple and mobile. I like to work by myself and try to equip accordingly. Anyway, there will be much more to come.
Click here to see stills from the assignment
You can see more of Matthew’s stills work and contact him on his website