Wedding videography with a DSLR

If you have attended a wedding recently with video coverage, you may have noticed that instead of a regular video camera, the videographer was using the same camera as the photographer. No he was not trying to horn in on the photographer’s business (at least we hope not). He was shooting video, high quality HD video. Initially added on to digital single lens reflex cameras (DSLR) as an add-on, the video capabilities of these devices has been embraced by not only wedding videographers, but other filmmakers including those doing TV shows and documentaries, and in some cases Hollywood productions.

In most cases the cameras used are the Canon EOS 7D and 5DMKII although other models are also found. Why would we use a camera that is not specifically designed for video over one that is. The answer is image quality. DSLRs have much larger image sensors than video camcorders (at least those that wedding videographers can afford). This results in a much more film-like image due to the shallower depth of field. DLSRs are also more sensitive to light which allows us to get a cleaner image in dim lighting conditions. Another plus is interchangeable lenses. While many camcorders also have this feature, they tend to be big and bulky, not what we prefer shooting with. In fact a DSLR is smaller and lighter than the camcorders that we do use. As it looks just like the cameras that the photographer and guests have, it helps us blend in better.

But the main advantage is, as I mentioned, image quality. None of the HD cameras that are commonly used in wedding and event videography are quite as good, close perhaps, but the DSLR still has an advantage.  As an example, several noted videographers recently created the concept film City Of Lakes in India using Canon DSLRs.

We have just started using a Canon 7D in our work. While we still use our camcorders, the 7D brings a new dimension to our work. It is also interesting that when I pulled the camera out of the bag at a wedding we were filming a couple of weeks ago, the bride knew all about using a DSLR for video. The word is getting around!

5 thoughts on “Wedding videography with a DSLR

  1. This DSLR craze is way over rated. Have done any actual research on DSLR videos or have you just looked at the pretty videos that people make. There is only two advantages to DSLRs for wedding the best one is the low light capabilities, that is fantastic. The second advantage is the cost, a D60 is less then half the price of proper video camera. So basically your to cheap to get a real video camera. Sure you can con your clients with pretty videos made by pros with beautiful lighting and staged shots.

    There are some major distadvantages to DSLRs;

    Recording format below average, it is a consumer level h.264, wish requires formatting to another codec for editing which will effect the quality of the image

    The jello effect, if you move the camera to fast image can wobble like jello

    The moire problem, this is a huge disadvantage when compared to a real video camera

    No Full automatic mode on DSLR, if you are recording a live event sometimes there is just enough time to turn on the camera and record. With a DSLR there is a good chance that you would miss these once in a life time moments. DSLR video works much better in a controlled environment like a studio.

    Shallow Depth of field could be a real problem. It works great when your in studio and have time to check your focus maybe even measure the distance, but at live event you don’t have that time, better have very good camera operator. Sure a shallow depth of field can look awesome but it really sucks when your main subject is out focus.

    To say you providing a true pro hd image with a DSLR is very misleading, even older video cameras like the hvx200 will provide a better hd image in most situation then a DSLR.

  2. Yes, the disadvantages that you mention do exist and are something that we have to work around. For that reason we do not rely on a DSLR for all of our video. Our two Canon XH-A1 camcorders are still the primary cameras. However there are some top wedding videographers in the business that are now shooting entirely with DSLRs.

    A DSLR is a tool when properly used can provide superb images and yes, is used extensively by pros. I recently attended a presentation by Alex Buono the DP of the film unit at NBC’s Saturday Night Live. He talked about how over the past few years they went from working entirely on film, to “pro” cameras like the Red, to DSLRs (Canon 5DmkII and 7D). The SNL opening sequence for example, was filmed entirely with a 5DmkII and a 7D using stock Canon lenses (mostly the 50mm f1.2). They use DSLRs because they are the best tools for what they do, not because they can’t afford “real” cameras (they certainly can).

    Lets look at the disadvantage that you mention and how we work around them:

    “Recording format below average, it is a consumer level h.264, wish requires formatting to another codec for editing which will effect the quality of the image”

    H264 is the codec used by most camcorders these days including many professional camera. When properly transcoded there is little loss of information.

    “The jello effect, if you move the camera to fast image can wobble like jello”

    This is not a problem if you use an image stabilized lens when not on a tripod and are reasonably careful about camera movement.

    “The moire problem, this is a huge disadvantage when compared to a real video camera”

    Turn down the in-camera sharpening to reduce this. Moire is also a problem with “real cameras” too.

    “No Full automatic mode on DSLR, if you are recording a live event sometimes there is just enough time to turn on the camera and record. With a DSLR there is a good chance that you would miss these once in a life time moments. DSLR video works much better in a controlled environment like a studio.”

    We seldom use full automatic mode on any camera. Even with run and gun wedding video, we rarely shoot full auto. A skilled camera operator can work in manual mode even on a DSLR.

    “Shallow Depth of field could be a real problem. It works great when your in studio and have time to check your focus maybe even measure the distance, but at live event you don’t have that time, better have very good camera operator. Sure a shallow depth of field can look awesome but it really sucks when your main subject is out focus.”

    This can be an issue but with practice you can learn to set your focus accurately.

    “To say you providing a true pro hd image with a DSLR is very misleading, even older video cameras like the hvx200 will provide a better hd image in most situation then a DSLR.”

    I disagree. While I do not have (nor can afford) an hvx200, I do know that I get a better HD image from the 7D than from the XH-A1 which is considered a pro camcorder. Now if you compare a DSLR with a Red or other high end studio camera, the Red will come out on top, but again I can’t afford a Red. I have looked at Sony’s new camera (I can’t remember the model number) that has a large format sensor and interchangeable lenses. It is a true camcorder which addresses most of the issues with DSLRs. The selling price is about $6000 which while a lot more than a DSLR, is at least within the price range for an event videographer. I was impressed and when it comes time to replace the A1′s, I may go for the Sony. But for now the 7D is a very important piece of equipment.

    One other point – In wedding videography there is a huge advantage to DSLRs. It doesn’t look like a video camera. This really helps when it comes to being unobtrusive. The bigger XH-A1s attract much more attention from guests.

  3. Zak said that one of the disadvantages was no fully automatic mode?! What respecting professional videographer shoots in full auto? It’s like complaining that hd dslrs don’t have auto focus. No self respecting professional videographer is going to use auto focus.

    Shooting with hd dslrs requires professional skills and understanding of filmmaking and camera operation. If the limits of the format frustrate you, clearly it’s because you do not have the level of skill required to adequately operate a proper camera.

  4. Very nice two comments give the exactly feeling of profesional photographers and videographers.
    In my opinion the hdslr videography gives huges advantages to pro photographers and the right to use the extra quality of some very good lenses that we all ready own..ofcourse and the knowledge they cary from photography..
    In canon system that i use to shot photos with 1div and t3i we dont have auto focus in video mode and that is a problem you can solve with practise.

    All the others fuctions they dont have to be in auto modes and i will give the example of photojournalism!Is fast enough like an event is’t it??Well if i cant take photos in a protest or in a wedding i can sure shot videos in full manual mode with the right gear ofcourse like video monopods etc…

    I think that in few years hdslr will go some steps further and take a good place in the market and in the peoples hearts..just let the people use there knowledge with these bodyies and the time will saw us if we succeed or failed…

    Sorry for my english idont use translation and greek ia my mother languange.

    Greets from Greece and remember that we are at the start of the hdslr season.

  5. Shooting with hd dslrs requires professional skills and understanding of filmmaking and camera operation. If the limits of the format frustrate you, clearly it’s because you do not have the level of skill required to adequately operate a proper camera

    I couldn’t agree more. The limits are not those that we need. An hdslr has advantages that put it well above conventional video cameras, and it is affordable. We look for tools that will get our job done, and are affordable. My 7D fits that bill.

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