Musings on Shooting Video

November 13th, 2009

Wednesday night Pro Photo and Canon sponsored a panel discussion of photographers who are beginning to shoot video. Like many photographers who are wondering where the sea change in our industry is headed, I’ve wondered if video is the new thing. Wednesday night did nothing to clarify it for me.

After a promo reel and an introduction to some video basics by the Canon rep, we were shown clips by each of the panel members and when the evening was over I came to a couple of very vague conclusions:

1. Just because you can shoot a fine still image does not translate to being able to speak a motion language.
2. Video is as much about sound and editing as it is the visual, perhaps more. Crappy sound, bad music, choppy editing makes a bad video, no matter the visuals.

The new Canon DSLR tools are opening doors to thousands of photographers who will shoot video. They will all be competing with an already robust industry of seasoned, talented film makers for their assignments. If I were a veteran film maker I’d be really concerned about the race to the bottom in the pricing arena that we have seen in the photo business brought on by an influx of hungry young photographers/videographers. If you think I’m being cynical consider clients who are looking to Flickr for their source of still materials. Then have a look around youtube.

I think the real growth industry in video production will be skilled sound artists and editors.

When the discussion brought up the subject of royalties for music I got really depressed. They all agreed your best bet was find a musician who would hand over their work for free or for trade. Sound familiar photographers?

I thought it was ironic when one panel member stated although he had used music without permission, as it was not a commercial piece, and besides he didn’t know how to contact the famous musician anyway, it was okay to use it.

But is not a portfolio piece, in this case a video clip as part of ones reel, a “commercial” piece? And is not using someone’s work in this way no different than an ad agency using your images for comps? I know many photographers who have tried to get paid for such usages.

The real kick in the pants was the suggestion that it’s so easy to find musicians who will let you use their work for free, just search myspace. Apparently there is a French website that has over 100,000 royalty free music clips. Ironic to hear all this from photographers who fight tooth and nail to retain intellectual property rights in an age of Flickr, clipart and royalty free micro stock. Glad I’m not a musician.

All this plus the unanswered questions about pricing / ownership rights and I came away from the evening no more enlightened, or for that matter excited, about the prospect of adding video to my skill set. Then again I saw one clip that kept the idea alive for me.

One video clip really stood out from the others and it wasn’t surprising given that the director / dp was none other than Pete Stone, a famously talented and creative still photographer who has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to technology and can run most other photographers off the field. Here’s a link: