The difference between amateurs and pros

Michael Ransdell is a professional photographer. I work with his father so I get to see some of his work from time to time. This week his dad called me into his office to look at a video Michael shot.

Michael is a still photographer and I don’t think he has a lot of training in video. But this one blew me away and made crystal clear that there’s more to creating a great video than a camera and iMovie. I asked Michael to share a little background on this project:

“My friend Matt Frye owns One Tree Photo and is just starting to get into shooting video. He has a girl that he is in business with that does the video but she lives in Oregon! So he’s wanting to get more examples on the site so he enlisted me to shoot this wedding in St. Louis and rented me a Canon 7D. The couple didn’t pay for the video. This was more of a pro-bono kinda thing. I’ve never shot with a SLR that does video so I had no idea what I was in for.

First of all when you shoot video it’s all manual focus… so that’s a little tricky to get used to. But the great thing as you saw, you can shoot wide open (2.8) and have these beautiful depth of field moments.One bad thing though is you can’t see what you are focusing on when you put the camera on the ground or hold it up high.

I used it on a monopod to keep it steady for the most part. I do have a tripod that I used some for the wedding but it’s so clunky and hard to move quickly with so it didn’t really work for me.

Something that I see a lot with some amateur shooters is they will use a monopod for shooting stills when they don’t need one (like with an 80-200 in the middle of the day at a sporting event) but when they do need one with a video camera they will hand hold it. Your shots have to be still so when you get to the editing process you have something to work with. I would love to have some kind of weighted vest like you see some of the guys shooting football. That way the camera is always still and you can move freely.

My boss taught me to shoot my non moving objects for at least 10 seconds before you move away from them. You may only need one ore two seconds for the video but if you happen to move slightly in the first 5 seconds you have another 5 to work with.

I edited the video in Adobe Premier CS4 and it took some google seaching to figure out some things. When I imported the HD video it was all choppy and I knew the footage wasn’t because I had already played the files in Quicktime. I guess, from what I read, the computer gets bogged down and just can’t process the video fast enough while editing. So what I ended up doing was pulling parts of video down to the timeline, rendering it (which took some time) then cutting it from the timelime. Instead of adding video to the timeline I kind of worked backwards, subtracting shots I didn’t need.

Took me about 4 hours start to finish. I’m used to editing in Premier Elements so I’m no expert with all the bells and whistles CS4 has. It’s way over my head.

I had to output the video like ten different ways to get the right format. I had to change the output size to 854×420 (i think) to get it to output as a widescreen. Now the version you saw was actually outputted to work as a Playstation PSP… not that I have one of those but it seemed to work well for a smaller file size. The version I have on my computer is a .mov file that is 4.62 GIGS! Way too big, but wow does it look good full screen.”

It looks pretty damn good at any size.

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