I have to do a lot of live crosses as part of my job. Whether they be via Bgan satellite terminal, the internet through Quicklink or through a SNG they all can present difficulties. Shooting live crosses in hotel rooms at night is a nightmare. My normal broadcast camera (Sony XDCAM HD) is not very good in low light. To be able to get enough light on the subject and make a very dark background not look like a black abyss is virtually impossible. With the introduction of DSLR cameras with great low light capabilities there finally is a tool that can help in these situations. The Canon 1D Mark IV shows almost no noise at high ISOs. By running 2000 ISO and using minimal lighting i was able to bring the background back to life.
So how did i do it? There is a lot of problems associated with getting a clean output out of a DSLR camera. What i managed to find out by experimenting is there is a way to get around this. But before you get too excited it does require some extra expensive equipment (I’m sure there may be a cheaper way). By taking a composite video output of the 1D and running it into a SONY XDCAM HD F70 player/recorder. From there I am able to take a firewire output from the same machine and it becomes a loop through DV device that i can use for Quicklink Live (the software Aljazeera uses for live transmission).
The camera does have to be in record mode for this to work. If the camera is in live view mode and not recording it will auto shut off after a few minutes. By turning off the display information you get a clean signal out of the camera minus the focus bars and red record dot. For the audio I had the choice of running a microphone straight into the F70 or looping it through the Zoom H4n. By doing either one of these things the video and audio appear together once it goes back through the firewire connection. Using a DSLR for live shots is still very risky, there is a lot that can go wrong. For this particular situation it worked really well, bringing out the lights of a dark Tokyo while still providing good exposure on the correspondent.
About Matthew Allard, Aljazeera Senior Field Cameraman, Kuala Lumpur:
Matt has been a Camera/Editor in TV news for 20 years, previously working for both Channel 9 and Channel 10 in Australia. Twice Network Ten Australia’s cameraman of the year as well as being a Walkley Finalist for outstanding camerawork in 2006 (for coverage of the Cronulla Race Riots) and a Logie Finalist for outstanding news coverage 2006 (Bali 9). He has covered news events in more than 30 countries, from major sporting events to terrorist bombings. Based out of the Kuala Lumpur broadcast centre in Malaysia he is an avid user and follower of new technology, shooting stories on HD broadcast cameras as well as new Canon DSLR’s.