After two solid months of intensive shooting a documentary – shooting both stills and video with two DSLR cameras, the Canon 5D Mark II and 7D, I can honestly say working with these hybrids is not easy. And it certainly isn’t fast, especially if you are working in a small crew as we are.
Yes, the visual is stunning but I can’t help but think how many moments I may have missed that I probably would have gotten if I had been shooting with a video camera. When shooting motion, I have a constant mantra running through my head and that is “shoot and move”. That’s because you need a lot of footage at the end of the day and you need to edit your film. I’m not talking about working with a neatly storyboarded script and a Hollywood crew. I’m talking about working lean and mean and in a somewhat discreet way that is in order when shooting a documentary.
That really hit me last night while shooting on the streets of Sydney, Australia. My subject that I’m focusing on here is Paul Moulds from Oasis, which is a youth support network dealing with homeless street kids. I needed to hit the streets at night and knew that I not only had to be sensitive to the situations that I’d be shooting but also alert to the dangers. I’m positioning myself with a lot of expensive gear in tough neighborhoods where drugs and violence rule.
If ever before I needed to shoot and move and act quickly and keep a third eye out for any lurking danger. No time to stress on the importance of the perfection of the visual. I needed to get in close to the action – make sure my audio was being captured sufficiently and get the story. So even though I can tell you that my visual will be beautiful and lacking “noise” in the blacks – I probably would have gotten better and more meaningful coverage with a video camera.
I’m sure there will be plenty of you who will argue that there are journalists embedded in war zones with these cameras. And of course there’s Vincent LaFloret’s brilliant cinematic night films. But for me, I think there are times when I could have reacted faster with a video camera. And so I think – what’s more important – the resolution or the story?