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There was a time when independent filmmakers searched left, right and center for a way to create the elusive “film-look” with footage captured from consumer level video cameras. The methods to achieve this sought after look were a million and one yet the results were less than satisfying; an abomination of the original video. You might be wondering how I know all this and the simple truth is that my own ambition almost a decade ago was to elevate Hi-8 and Mini DV video to pristine quality.

As a filmmaker and storyteller I know that content is king, yet many a time I used to figure out ways to deliver top notch production values (the film-look!) no matter how simple or complex the project may have been. I now realize that it would have been an easier task to hunt down the Loch Ness monster than to try and make average videos look like epic, cinematic masterpieces.

Lo and behold, the revolution brought in by Digital SLRs featuring hi-def video recording capabilities has made filmmakers such as myself dreaming up new story ideas and bringing to fruition the ones which have been gathering dust in the recesses of the mind in order to get the most out of these powerful, HD video churning beasts. Before stepping into professional photography, it was necessary for me to upgrade from my faithful Nikon D40 to a mid-range, technologically advanced DSLR. And in November of 2009, that camera arrived at my doorstep in the form of a Nikon D300s; it’s been photos and videos galore since then!

This short feature focuses on San Francisco and showcases this multi-faceted city through dynamic visuals that flow to the classical music of Giovanni Allevi, a maestro of current times from Italy. The final cut presented here is the sum of footage shot on and off over the span of five months. A still photo sequence mid-way also keeps things interesting. Here it is:

Many of the shots have only been given basic treatment (contrast enhancement and color correction) while others have fanciful effects applied to them. The quality of the footage is varied; from the auto exposure laden shots of my early days with the camera to the more refined and experimental shots of latter days.

Now on to the nitty-gritty of what the Nikon D300s is good for and what it giganormously sucks at when it comes to video recording:

+ HD video at 24 frames per second; motion picture standard so you can compete with Hollywood
+ Interchangeable lenses allow for immense creative freedom
+ MJPEG compression yields good video and translates into easy to view files
+ I own one?

– No autofocus! Takes a toll on one’s patience while shooting continuous action
– Auto exposure out of the box gives a lovely, amateur feel to your videos (solution here)
– Rolling shutter dilemma; the infamous jello effect when shooting handheld
– Mono mic is inferior to stereo sound recorded by current point and shoot cams
– Noise can easily creep in during low light situations
– Not the best ergonomics for shooting video when coupled with hefty lenses

Gear + Software used:

> Nikon D300s
> Tamron 18-270mm/3.5-6.3
> Nikkor 50mm/1.8
> Lexar Platinum II 16GB SDHC
> Sony Vegas Pro 9.0 64-bit
> Windows 7 Premium 64-bit

* Shabbir *

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