I have mixed feelings about DSLR video. For one thing, I love still photos – that’s where my heart is. However, video with our digital SLRs is part of the future of photography, and I want to stay current. So that’s got me learning new things and trying new gear.
Until recently, I’ve shot video with the Nikon D90 and D5000, viewing with the LCD on the back and recording sound with the built-in mikes. That’s worked fine for grabbing some quick and easy video. And it’s been pretty simple, both shooting and editing. I think DSLR video will grow in two areas – at the low end by people who just need a quick, short video clip. And at the high end, as we’ve seen with music videos and now TV shows and feature films. I’ve done the low end, and now it’s time to start making some higher-quality video. And that’s meant, not surprisingly, more gear.
Two things kill good video: too much movement (shakiness of the camera) and poor audio. To help counter shake, when shooting hand-held, you need to be able to press the camera to your face. That means adding some sort of attachment that gives you a viewfinder to the LCD. There are several devices on the market that do that, but I liked the look of a new one that Hoodman is starting to market, the Cinema Kit Pro. It combines their HoodLoupe with a magnifying eyecup (HoodMAG), and most importantly, the new Hood Crane. The Hood Crane mounts to the camera’s hot shoe and allows you to adjust the loupe to fit almost any DSLR’s LCD screen. This means I can use it on any of the four DSLRs I’ve got that shoot video, without additional brackets or clamps. Plus, it’s easy flip out of the way when I need to shoot stills. No need to remove the whole rig from the camera (see photos).
I took it with me on a recent trip to Bellingham, WA to continue work on the Disabled Sports USA’s Wounded Warriors Project. There was a team participating in the Ski to Sea multi-sport race, and while I mainly needed stills, I wanted to shoot some video too. When I first looked at the Hoodman rig on the web, I was worried that it wouldn’t be sturdy enough, but that wasn’t a problem. It feels solid, and over one long day of shooting was a pleasure to work with. I was switching back and forth between my D3S and D300S, and it was a simple matter to adjust the loupe to each camera’s LCD after each switch. Whether kneeling in the snow, hanging out a car window or perched on the edge of a river, the Cinema Kit Pro made it easy to see the LCD and helped me make better video.
Plus, it has a cold shoe on top for mounting other gear. And that’s my next project – better audio. I’ve just added a Sennheiser MKE400 shotgun mike to my kit, to put up there. So that’s one of the things I’ll be working on in the next few weeks. Stay tuned!