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After a careful read of Chiz Dakin’s book, I came to the conclusion that — for the right reader — her volume is the ant’s pants, the bees’ knees of ‘how to’ books in the video field.
The right reader? Well that comes down to those who are competent in stills photography, own a DSLR or a CSC camera and know how to work with different lenses, be savvy with ISO, histograms etc.
CSC? Compact System Camera or what could also be called a MILC (Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera).
I also figure it would probably not be right for the hardened videographer, accustomed to video camcorders, as most of the info within its pages is aimed at the stills brigade … and how jump ship into the world of movies.
High end cameras such as Canon’s EOS MkII and MkIII and Nikon’s D800 are becoming increasingly popular with feature film and documentary makers due to their reasonable price (compared to high end video cameras) and ability to use lenses with focal lengths that image to a full frame 35mm area. Lenses of these focal lengths enable photographers to work with a reduced depth of field and produce that ‘film look’. The odd thing is that the true 35mm movie frame is roughly half the size of the 35mm still frame! Oh well!
The early chapters take the reader through the differences between camcorders and movie-enabled still cameras: their radically different ergonomics; limited recording time; tricky sound capture arrangements; challenging focus ergonomics etc.
Then we get into the language of video shooting: how to capture movement; framing the scene; managing or supplementing light; creating an acceptable storyline; selecting camera angles.
Quite a few pages are devoted to creating the story line, which may at first seem an odd subject in what could be seen as a techy book. But, different to stills photography, video making is a linear process: scene one comes before scene two etc.
It may seem overkill when there follows a chapter listing the personnel on a typical video crew but, as many festival entrants know, even on a simple, home made video you can often need a Director (of course!), a Producer, camera operator, lighting gaffer, grip, art director etc to produce something with more going for it than a simple home movie.
More about the basics: how to select locations; pick the right time of the day or even the right time of the year; choose camera angles; ‘crossing the line’ rules.
Then we get to discuss differing types of cameras, with an admission that even smartphones can have their place in the scheme of things, especially when ‘you need to record somewhere that you couldn’t (or wouldn’t) want to put a bigger camera.’
Lenses come into view with explanations of how effective focal length is affected by sensor size and the roles of prime lenses vs zooms, extreme wide angle lenses, macros, teles and shift lenses.
There is much essential and useful info on memory cards, transfer bit rates, the different file formats, NTSC vs PAL, bit rates, frame rates etc.
There is one piece of advice that is, to my mind, worth the book’s cover price alone: if you set the camera to auto exposure, when panning the camera from a dark area to a light one it will cause distracting exposure shifts. Better to switch to manual exposure so the lens aperture, shutter speed and ISO setting will all be locked.
Result: exposure stays the same wherever the camera is pointed.
Overall, an enormously useful book, full of all the stuff you need to make movies!
Author: C Dakin.
Publisher: Ammonite Press.
Distributor: Capricorn Link.
Size: 14.5x18x1.5cm. 192 pages.
ISBN: 978 1 90770 862 6.
Price: Get a price on Understanding HD Video (Expanded Guide Techniques) by Chiz Dakin at Amazon (22% off at present).