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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Shooting Video: A Guest Post from Dan Wang


Dan Wang is an Advertising Photography student at Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, NY. For the past three years, he’s been producing video content for the School of Photographic Arts and Sciences. In this guest post, Dan talks about what goes into producing “behind the scenes” short-form video content that makes up much of his repertoire.

Part of my job at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) includes producing shorts that feature the ongoing activities of classes, projects, and shoots at the School of Photographic Arts and Sciences (also known as, SPAS).

It’s a bit weird telling stories about still photography with a motion medium, but in a way it makes great sense. I have the opportunity to communicate beyond the single frame or static image and talk about meaning, technique, and process, allowing the artist to speak to the subject. Though the two differ in concept (single moments vs. continuous time), more often than not the ideas line up well.

Recently, I had the opportunity to document a somewhat atypical event: Professor Don Cochran’s Lighting Manipulation class would be photographing a cars built by the Engineering School’s Formula SAE team, which is a bit bigger than the average product.


For the class, the challenge was not only lighting a car well, but also the numerous health and safety concerns of having a car in the building. My challenge though, was to communicate strong visuals, interesting photo techniques, and the ongoing education of photography at RIT; with a short time constraint of just a few hours, and no chance of a second take.

With that in mind, I worked with “b-roll” as the main focus, knowing that the end product might be just clips without on-camera interviews or voiceovers. Thankfully, I was able to film a few short “talking heads” or on-camera interviews of a few key subjects to change up the piece.

The dialog of the both gentlemen helped elevate the piece from a few engaging visuals to something a bit more informational. Both were recorded with a Sennheiser MKE400 compact shotgun microphone, handheld just a bit closer to the subject to gain improved isolation from ambient noise. In an ideal situation, I’d prefer to boom in a shotgun or hyper-cardioid microphone overhead or wire the speaker up with a wireless lavaliere/lapel microphone, but both require a second operator (for the boom) or setup time. The MKE400 is typically used on the camera to capture ambient or natural sound, but is a real champ for double duty situations just like this. Combined with its furry windscreen (MZW400) it’s an incredibly versatile tool.

The entire piece was shot on a stock Canon 5D Mark III (setup with Vincent Laforet’s recommended Picture Style settings), on a varying range of lenses. For the interviews, I worked with a Canon 35mm f/1.4L, a 17-40mm f/4L for wide shots, and an 85mm f/1.8 for close ups. I tend to stick with a versatile range of zooms, though this time I opted for fast primes since the studio would be dark for most of the shoot. I kept the camera mounted to a fluid-head-on-monopod setup, not to dissimilar from the Manfrotto 561BHDV. The entire kit packs compactly when moving in tight spaces, but doesn’t sacrifice too much stability.

For the end product, I’ve been utilizing a low underlying bed of “driving” music lately as a tool to keep things upbeat and moving as opposed to relying on spoken word and natural sound. Even the most exciting spoken content can grow dull after 45 seconds without a reprieve. The music keeps the dialog flowing, ensuring the short duration of the piece, and helps replace parts with the natural room sounds were less than desirable. Everything was edited in Adobe Premiere CC.

In the end, it took about three days from shoot to final file export, with a schedule of full-time classes and other assignments in between. This style is a continuing area of growth for me as I begin to integrate it into my own stills projects. By keeping the gear easy (usually the same as my stills capture gear) and having a good idea of the end product, its not too to difficult to grab a few minutes of extra footage and come out with an added product to the stills I’m used to delivering.

Big thank you to Dan for sharing his experiences with us! As we've said before, and we'll say it again, shooting video is becoming an essential skill. This post shows how important it is to experiment with equipment, plan your shoots and manage your time when shooting video. Want to learn more about shooting video? Come to Foto Care's Cine Experience on October 16th from 6:30-9:30pm. 

At the Cine Experience, you will be able to get some real hands-on experience. We want you to be the cinematographer! Talk to reps from Canon, HasselbladBron, LaCie, Manfrotto, Profoto, Red Rock, Schneider, Tascam and Zeiss about all of your video production needs and ask questions! Two areas will be set-up, one of which includes a green screen, where you will be able to test out a wide variety of cinema equipment from Canon Cinema cameras and Canon, Schneider, and Zeiss motion picture lenses to rigs, tripods and audio gear. John Huba from Canon will be doing more than one presentation on Hybrid Imaging, which is a method of shooting video and then extracting still photographs from that video.