Glastonbury 2010 was a new experience for me as, this year, I was going all multimedia on this festival’s ass. After pleading with the techno honchos in Gay Paris for some new toys, they managed to get a Zacuto Z-Finder and an Audio-Technica PRO24-CM couriered to me on the day before the festival. The downside to the tight delivery time was that the Z-Finder clip needs to be stuck in place and allowed to cure for 24 hours before use, so I had to bury it under all the camping equipment and photographic rubble in the boot of my car overnight with a stepladder pressing it into place. Thankfully, I hadn’t destroyed my D3s by the time I arrived on-site but anyone buying one should note that you can’t just use the eyepiece straight out of the box.

As I may have touched on before, I volunteered for multimedia training at AFP some time ago, with the opinion that not only is there no point in trying to hold back the technological advance but also if my employer is wanting to train me up and allow me to learn on company time, I’d be foolish not to accept the offer. Unlike some other agencies, AFP only expects “webclips” from their photographers as they have a full dedicated multimedia team already. A webclip is simply a ‘flavour’ of what actually occurred, without interviews, captions or extended footage. In a continuation of the role of the photographer as a “silent witness”, the video allows the viewer to experience the sounds and vibe of an event with (hopefully) very little bias or comment through composition etc. Aiming to send files of around 60 seconds to the edit suite, the MM team will then chop, crop and edit the footage in whichever way that they need so that it can be embedded into the AFP online news service. With this in mind, I was asked to provide whatever footage I could while shooting the weekend’s events.

After an initial five or six clips that had to be deleted due to me forgetting to turn the mic on (I told you this was all new to me..) I started to try to think in both still and moving images over the weekend. While my first attempts at video on Wednesday were pretty awful, by the end of the weekend, I had become a bit more used to switching between the two different ‘disciplines’ without too much fuss. While it proved a hindrance if I was trying to cover something that was happening quickly, such as goal reactions as fans watched the televised England World Cup matches, this was cancelled out by the chance to record aspects of the festival that have never really lent themselves to the still image, such as the silent disco. With the inclusion of audio, you can now understand how the disco works and that there really is no music audible to those passing by other than the sing-along chorus of the crowd.

The biggest problem that I’ve faced so far is overcoming what seems to be the most important single “danger” in video; camera shake. While dedicated TV and multimedia crews can carry around tripods for rock-solid stability, video is secondary to me so it must remain a light part of my kit. As I travel on public transport during the working day, I’m already overloaded with the tools I need to capture still images, never mind lugging a tripod around too. While the obvious answer may seem to be image stabilisation in lenses, the manufacturers have been slow in developing the much needed multi-use lens. For news, I want and need fast glass so really don’t like to buy anything below f2.8. However, the wide and midrange glass currently offered by both Nikon and Canon in this aperture range doesn’t include image stabilisation. If I want VR (vibration reduction) or IS (image stabilisation), I have to go to an f4 or above lens. Again, I’ll stress that if I had the use of a tripod, these issues wouldn’t be a problem, but trying to capture news on the fly in a fast moving situation already provides enough challenges before I factor in the use of legs on my camera.

While the Zacuto z-finder helps by allowing me to ‘anchor’ the camera to my eye for an added point of stability, it still doesn’t deal with the problem fully. I’m aware that there are a variety of brackets and shoulder stocks available for this reason but again, it’s another thing for me to carry. As far as I can tell, the only answer is either move to f4 lenses with VR built in or hope that Nikon and Canon are aware of the customer base that are patiently waiting for something that addresses the issue. Rumours were buzzing around the camera forums last year that there would be a new series of 24-70mm f2.8 lenses with VR but, as yet, these have come to nothing.

As I finish writing these three Glastonbury blogs and look at this video again, I’ve considered not publishing this video as I can see so clearly where I need to improve but I’m a believer in marking my development and as this is a starting point, it should give me something to look back on and laugh at hysterically (before sobbing as I realise that I shared it online). So here, in all it’s frequently wobbly glory, is my first proper attempt at video with the D3s. Knowing that there are countless photographers out there who are miles further down the line than me when it comes to video, all comments, tips, advice, criticism and cash donations (for no real reason) are appreciated.

21 Responses to “Sensi and Instability (with apologies to Jane Austen)”

  1. Wow – you can tell a photographer (rather than a video person) took this. No, not for the reason you’re thinking. You got some great angles and really wonderful footage.

    I think you should be really really proud of this :)

    Posted by Liz
  2. Wish I had got my arse into gear to go down this year. Mind you it wasn’t raining so I would have just been more miserable than I usually am.
    Have you considered asking for one of the pistol grips that mount onto the tripod screw for a little added stability? Worth a google as I think they are fairly cheap and have a trigger on to activate the record button.

    Posted by Zach
  3. Beautiful work, Leon. Even if my opinion doesn’t count :p

    Posted by kirsten
  4. @Liz Cheers Liz. As I’ve said in the post, it’s all very new so while I’m excited about learning a whole new “discipline”, it’s a scary feeling to step out of my comfort zone!

    @Zach I’ll look into that. Do you know any brands in particular?

    @kirsten Cheers, hon. Your praise is the peak! :)

    Posted by tabascokid
  5. Awesome work sir!!

    I have been doing bits of filming with my 5d mk2 and its a tricky bugger to nail. Dont know about you but i feel slightly frustrated after i have filmed as it doest have the same instant rich feel a still has. looking forward to seeing more of you film work and one day i would love to go on one of you night walks around Glasto with you.

    Posted by Lee Allen
  6. Thanks, Lee. That sums it up exactly. After getting used to being able to produce a workable image in a few minutes, it’s so baffling to find so many variables when it comes to making a bit of video! Even when I got through to the encoding stage, I had countless attempts at trying to get a HD file that was a decent size of a few hundred mbs. Everything was either coming out as 30mb or 1.6gb with nothing in between!

    Think I’ll be taking next year off Glastonbury to make sure I don’t get bored but I’ll see you for a wander in 2012!

    Posted by tabascokid
  7. Great video, I love how it’s more of a series of moving photographs than a video. It really represents what was there. You might wanna rethink your year off tho’, surely 2012 will be a fallow year.

    Posted by Steve
  8. That’s the aim of the AFP webclips really. This may sound odd but they want them to almost be like the newspaper photos in the Harry Potter films; short bursts of video, a few seconds long, that just give a feel rather than tell full stories.
    As for fallow years, that’s a good point but I know I wasn’t as on the ball as usual this year so I know that I need a break next year from working there. Maybe I’ll be there as a punter again!

    Posted by tabascokid
  9. Leon

    There is a Japanese company called UN that have started producing them. Can’t vouch for them personally but it might be worth a look. item no. UN-5635 Nikon ST Grip.

    Direct link:

    8800 yen = £65.50

    Might be alternatives out there.
    Also there is a thread on DPReview that has a bloke ordering one for an Oly E-P2.


    Posted by Zach
  10. Cheers for the heads-up on that, Zach. I’ll have a look into it. I think it might end up being a little unstable (ie top heavy) with a D3s, lens, zacuto and mic on it but I’ll search a few reviews out.

    Thanks again!

    Posted by tabascokid
  11. Tis a very interesting read, my liege. Having a discussion about this with colleagues at work discussing the merits of video/photography. My argument is that the role of photographer is core, but also has to evolve. My colleague doesn’t agree….

    Posted by pixgremlin
  12. @Pixgremlin Cheers, Akin. I can imagine that this post will have left some usual readers cold but it’s interesting to hear thoughts on the subject. As you have read, I’m a believer in seeing where things take you rather than remaining static. I’m still hired as a photographer over all else though so it will certainly remain supplementary.

    @David Thanks, David. The mic did actually come with a muff but I was still having difficulty remembering how to shoot, never mind worrying about the audio! When it came to editing, I spotted the rumbles though so have it to hand now whenever I’m shooting. Thanks for the advice though. I’m a knowledge sponge when it comes to video!

    Posted by tabascokid
  13. for a first attempt looks great – given the strength of your photos i am sure you will crack video with ease – always enjoy your work

    Posted by andy
  14. Thanks Andy. Your words and time are very much appreciated!

    Posted by tabascokid
  15. Well I’m a regular to your blog and I really enjoyed this – I want to watch it again!

    I’m all for a still camera being just for still images, but for short webclips it’s a great idea.

    As a mass-media consumer I feel like a I got a good sense of what Glasto is about without having to sit through long clips and boring commentary. Great work!

    Posted by Neil
  16. Cheers, Neil. That’s a great think to read. :)

    Posted by tabascokid
  17. An excellent video piece Leon, some superb imagery. As a video cameraman i’m enjoying the convergence as i’m now enjoying learning photography using a 5d alongside our ENG cameras. I didn’t really notice much instability with your camerawork, think you’re being too hard on yourself. Excellent work, really enjoyed viewing it and it is so good I watched it more than once which just shows what a good job you did. Brought a flavour of Glastonbury I never see on the TV.

    Posted by Dave Owen
  18. Consider yourself on my Christmas card list! Thanks for your very kind words. I think that any camera movement seems like an earthquake to me having spent the last few years shooting stills! I’m really glad the video’s going down well too. I just need to find another assignment to shoot now!

    Posted by tabascokid
  19. Hi Leon,

    I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed your first attempts at video. It wasn’t anywhere near as bad as you thought it was and I really don’t see you struggling at picking up video before long.

    If you want some inspiration and have 5 minutes, take a look at my friends website. Jeff Woods shoots weddings, but he has a real cinematic style that proves just what you can achieve with a HDSLR. He shoots 5DMKII, but you can achieve exactly the same with your kit…

    Cheers fella


    Posted by Paul Saxby
  20. Cheers Paul! That’s very kind of you to say. Looking back at it, I’m pleased with it but can clearly see what I need to work on so it was a pleasing first real effort. I’ll be sure to check out Jeff’s site. Thanks for the tip.

    Posted by tabascokid

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