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Mattias Burling

How stills killed casual video for me

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This is just a little something I shot on the subway, absolutely nothing special. But it made me think.

I used to shoot a lot of casual video on the streets. But ever since I became passionate about stills, more specifically street photography I never do it. Mostly because when recording video I feel like Im just missing out on great stills. An this was no exception. In fact its 1.5 years since I shot casual video out and about if we don't count "test shots" around the house.

The irony is that I started shooting street photography to become a better videographer. I used to love shooting video. The best part for me was composition and grading. So I started taking Raw stills in order to get to practice bigger quantities of grading. The plan was to eventually make a video about it and recommend all aspiring videographers to shoot a lot of stills. Just like the DP's in the Zacuto shoot out says (forgot which).

But along the way it completely switched on me. I started liking stills more. Specially the challenge. To capture a whole scene, the entire atmosphere, all the feelings in one single frame. Compressing an entire story into one single moment. 
Im not in anyway implying that Im good at it. But I love trying.

Now when I watch vlogging street shooters on youtube, you know the type, Gopro in the hot shoe and a montage to hip-hop beats, I just get annoyed. In the video montages they miss out on so many great images. 
Same thing for me today. In this short video montage of nothingness I see at least 4 potentially great images.

So, thats it. I still recommend all here that are aspiring DP's to shoot more stills. With something like a GRii you can always have it ready. Look for light, composition and story.
 Just be aware that you might switch to the dark side like I have. 
Don’t underestimate its power.

What about you guys? Who shoots stills, why, why not?

(btw, really soft lens in action here. It looked awesome with gorilla grain on my computer but I removed it since youtube always messes it up imo. And therefor its pretty darn soft. A couple of focus misses doesn't help either.)
 

 

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Interesting read! It's exactly the same for me but the other way around. Whenever I've had a camera that is capable of good stills but mediocre video I've always felt that i missed out on the video shots i would been able to get. And when i have a camera that do both i usually end up with 95% video.

Would love yo give you a why but there's just something itching deep down when i switch that dial from "Movie" to "M" :) 

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For me it was a roundabout thing :D

I always liked video more than stills. When i got my 5Dmk2 back in the day, i was stunned by the video it could do. Soon i noticed i missed essential stills knowledge. Shutter/aperture ... framing, storytelling. I also discovered what RAW could do, ETTRing, different focal lengths.

Then Magic Lantern RAW came along. And suddenly i could apply all i learnt about stills to videos. Literally everything. But whereas stills "capture the moment", or as you said, get the whole story.... i feel video allows for storytelling :D And so i am back to mostly video ... but i think some stills knowledge is essential.

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Same for me, I started with Super 8 and DV camcorders, always wanted to make moving images, and became mostly a photographer - gradually and by accident - after DSLR video became a thing almost a decade ago. Especially if you shoot documentary and on the street, it's much easier (and much more rewarding) to catch and frame small details and moments, and get really great images out of them. Video, in the end, is first of all about the flow and rhythm of images, much less about the image as such.

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I think video is a slow art, cumbersome and complicated. There's a definite attraction to the simplicity and enjoyment of stills shooting, and great shots come quicker, sometimes one after the other. With video, they pass you by... sometimes, even whilst you're adjusting the tripod. I started getting lazy for casual video - handheld, instead of a tripod, autofocus instead of manual focus, slow-mo instead of 24p, music instead of ambience, and so on...

I want to go back to the slow way.

Photography does have just as much power, and lends itself to pointing and shooting. Whereas video, when it is point & shoot, often lacks the same magic.

Video is best when it's a slow burn of circumstances directly under your control... Less run and gun... More stopping and waiting.

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For me they are too completely different art forms (or hobbies, or professions). Personally, my hobby is still images, my profession is moving images. I started with my hobby when I was -really- young, and then I moved to what I believe is the most complete and demanding artistic job, that technicalities are also very much important, together with physics and other scientific or artistic fields.

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1 hour ago, Andrew Reid said:

I think video is a slow art, cumbersome and complicated.

Personally I must be crazy because I do a lot of timelapse and hyperlapse. So basically I have a foot on both world, photo and video. It takes a lot of planning and patience to capture the right sequence but timelapse permits to produce unique look thanks to the long exposure whereas you are usually limited at 48 or 50 shutter on normal video.
Ironically, I never had the patience to capture single images and spend time in Photoshop, but I can spend hundreds of hours on AE and PR for a video. I find stills a little bit too "limiting" because I like to show motion and things happening. Eventually, I mix timelapse, drone and regular "ground" video. That's my personal approach.
 

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Ahh those cold northern hemispheres with their high quality of life index... but crippling social isolation. Nice Mattias.  

I started with video back in the day and with the DSLR revolution moved over into stills where I was blown away with raw file goodness.

However, a still photo compels us to do something that video can't, here we are forced to stop and stay with it in order to take it in. A kind of singularity, and there is real power in this. Amongst the incessant chatter, it often becomes a meditation when firing on all cylinders. Unfortunately, the concept of 'decisive moment' was somewhat shattered by cameras with a high burst rate. Ah well.

Comparatively, there is something so incredibly liberating shooting stills, it's so much fun. But in the end, motion picture and sound are, for me, just so much more dynamic... but far more challenging.

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A still is probably going to be a much more useful takeaway from a casual shooting environment than a video clip. A good still is more easily singled out and more easily presented to an audience. A video clip usually needs to be contextualised by other scenes surrounding it, or it can feel aimless. There's a lot more work involved there. Generally I'd agree with the consensus that video is better used when you have an idea (or are committed to finding the idea) behind what you are shooting. 

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I started with stills, after I discovered that my memories of holidays gradually conformed to the photographs I took and the rest of it is mostly forgotten.

Shooting stills on holiday pushed me through multiple cameras into DSLRs and into street photography (the best analog for holiday shooting I've found) in order to practice and improve in-between holidays.  Through multiple holidays I got into editing (shot selection), processing (Lightroom, photoshop) and retouching.

I then started taking video but realised I didn't know what to do with it (and neither did anyone else - someone showing you that 'funny moment' from their trip is normally you watching them look for it for 30 minutes through all the clips they shot) so I decided to teach myself video editing.  This lead onto colour correction and grading.

I then realised that when you're recording video you're missing out on stills, and vice versa.  I also realised that 2MP is enough for printing 5x7s and 5MP is enough for 8x10s (assuming they're for family and friends), that 1080 is 2MP and 4K is 8MP, and that video is continuous burst mode, and that pulling a still from a video would enable you to choose the perfect moment 'peak smile'.  This pushed me into professional video cameras (for the high bitrate, and high dynamic range) and of course I chose a 4K camera.

I'm still stuck in video and haven't come up for air yet to try and pull still images from the footage I'm recording, but I'm editing and grading and all that good stuff.  

You can't hang a video on the wall (yet) and you can't see how people move and act and laugh in photographs.  They're just different.

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Mattias you've put into words the same experience I've been having. For my part one of the main drivers in my moving more and more to stills shooting is time. I have 3 children and a full time job. Generally, the most I can expect is to get away on my own for maybe one afternoon a month. As Andrew says above - video is slow - especially for me as the kind of video I want to shoot can't be done handheld with a single AF lens. I need tripods, prime lenses, filters etc etc etc and I would spend so much time lugging all that stuff around, setting it up, breaking it down, that I just didn't feel able to create anything that matched whatever artistic vision I have. With stills shooting I can go out for that same afternoon and (generally) generate enough material to keep me happily editing for most of the month; especially as I can, unlike with video, also take a camera or two and a few lenses out in my messenger bag when I'm on family outings and shoot more satisfying images. I'd still love to realise the visions I have for video - who knows, maybe when the youngest reaches teenagerhood in 10 years I'll be able to devote the time to video that it requires and deserves (and be shooting on a 18 stop DR organic global shutter sensor with 14 bit 8K at 480fps, no doubt!). Until then I'll concentrate on stills, I guess (and all the fun I'm having down the analogue hole I've recently fallen into).

Although I really do hope I can give my X-T2s a decent outing this summer - maybe when the wife takes the children away to the Isle of Wight?

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The following are not my words, I quote and compile the thoughts of others, famous photographers as well as filmmakers. 

When a filmmaker is reborn, he becomes a photographer. When a photographer is reborn, he becomes a filmmaker (a filmmaker who started as a photographer).

You freeze one moment of eternity (said by a famous run & gun photographer).

I compose an image in my mind. It already exists when I push the release (famous photographer).

A powerful sequence is made of imperfect images. There must be something missing and unsatisfying in every single shot (renowned DP).

I never shoot anything I don't want (filmmaker).

There comes a moment when it is no longer you who takes the photograph, but receives the way to do it quite naturally and fully (famous portrait and nature photographer).

 

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13 hours ago, Mattias Burling said:

This is just a little something I shot on the subway, absolutely nothing special. But it made me think.

I used to shoot a lot of casual video on the streets. But ever since I became passionate about stills, more specifically street photography I never do it. Mostly because when recording video I feel like Im just missing out on great stills. An this was no exception. In fact its 1.5 years since I shot casual video out and about if we don't count "test shots" around the house.

The irony is that I started shooting street photography to become a better videographer. I used to love shooting video. The best part for me was composition and grading. So I started taking Raw stills in order to get to practice bigger quantities of grading. The plan was to eventually make a video about it and recommend all aspiring videographers to shoot a lot of stills. Just like the DP's in the Zacuto shoot out says (forgot which).

But along the way it completely switched on me. I started liking stills more. Specially the challenge. To capture a whole scene, the entire atmosphere, all the feelings in one single frame. Compressing an entire story into one single moment. 
Im not in anyway implying that Im good at it. But I love trying.

Now when I watch vlogging street shooters on youtube, you know the type, Gopro in the hot shoe and a montage to hip-hop beats, I just get annoyed. In the video montages they miss out on so many great images. 
Same thing for me today. In this short video montage of nothingness I see at least 4 potentially great images.

So, thats it. I still recommend all here that are aspiring DP's to shoot more stills. With something like a GRii you can always have it ready. Look for light, composition and story.
 Just be aware that you might switch to the dark side like I have. 
Don’t underestimate its power.

What about you guys? Who shoots stills, why, why not?

(btw, really soft lens in action here. It looked awesome with gorilla grain on my computer but I removed it since youtube always messes it up imo. And therefor its pretty darn soft. A couple of focus misses doesn't help either.)
 

 

Whenever I watch your videos here or on your channel I'm always left feeling melancholy. :)  Obviously the music selection, but your videos have a sense of "distance" about them that I find quite intriguing. Even videos of Gunmetal. Ruff! 

Quote

The irony is that I started shooting street photography to become a better videographer. I used to love shooting video.

Studying photography teaches you the skill of storytelling inside the constraints of one frame, which forces you to think philosophically about your subject matter, and what message your frame is conveying. It's the highest form of "show don't' tell" and I recommend it to all aspiring videographers and DPs. When I think of a scene I think of it in terms of a single frame and then extrapolate that into motion. I once heard a seasoned cinematographer say, "You know you arrived as a cinematographer when you can pause a single frame in your film and it's a work of art by itself". 

I could never be a street photographer. I would feel like I'm constantly invading people's personal space. I give props to those with the courage and vulnerability to do it. 

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12 minutes ago, Rodolfo Fernandes said:

And at the time i was using medium format so i only had 12 chances to get something awesome, and i really miss the ritual of going out shooting and then developing those rolls just to find what came out of it, they werent always the best picture one could take but it was my own personal ritual which i think i will go back to.

That's a good approach! With limited resources, one is forced to concentrate. Whenever I see someone take photos in burst mode, I think he/she hasn't understood the first thing about photography. But that's just me. 

Applicable to video as well. Imagine you have an expensive roll of film in your camera, just a few minutes. Imagine you could not immediately check the recording. Wouldn't this sharpen your senses? 

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2 minutes ago, Axel said:

That's a good approach! With limited resources, one is forced to concentrate. Whenever I see someone take photos in burst mode, I think he/she hasn't understood the first thing about photography. But that's just me. 

Applicable to video as well. Imagine you have an expensive roll of film in your camera, just a few minutes. Imagine you could not immediately check the recording. Wouldn't this sharpen your senses? 

I think it actually made me be more patient and only click when i feel i got the photo instead of clicking away and hoping for the best

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