I am writing a brief post to talk about some of the tools I am using to create video. I am involved in a long-term project that won’t see light of day until Jan 2020 – but it occurred to me, I had to do a lot of research to figure out what tools I need to pull it off and maybe I can share my experiences here and possibly save someone from wasting the hours I did looking for solutions.
I also want to note that most of these tools will work on just about any system, not just Olympus.
I am using three different Olympus cameras for video. The flagship Olympus OM-D E-M1 X Mirrorless Camera, the Olympus PEN E-PL9 Mirrorless Camera and the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III Mirrorless Camera. The smaller cameras are used when I need something lightweight to run and gun. I can use the X when I am shooting video from a slider or tripod.
Since I will always be a better still shooter than a video guy, I didn’t want to spend too much money on all this stuff, but I did want something that worked. So far, here’s what I have found (NOTE: I will publish this as a page on the blog soon and then update it there as I switch out or acquire new pieces.)
The first thing I wanted to get into my work flow was a larger monitor. I already had the Blackmagic Design Video Assist 4K 7″ HDMI/6G-SDI Recording Monitor which I had used a couple of years ago – and it still tests out quite nicely for a sub-$900 unit. It also records in UHD 4K and offers the Apple ProRes codec which is important to me since the video will be edited in Final Cut. It has zebra patterns (which are missing from the Olympus camera) so that makes it a great tool for all stages of the project, whether it’s as a monitor or recorder.
To record sound, I am using two different mics. Both are inexpensive but both work just about as well as some of my more expensive studio mics. The first is the Rode VideoMicro Compact On-Camera Microphone – and it is amazing. For less than $60 – you cannot beat it. If I need something more directional, I go with the longer sE Electronics ProMic Laser DSLR On-Camera Shotgun Microphone. (https://bhpho.to/2Y5yVNV) It has great frequency response – is lightweight and works on 1 AAA battery. Both mics sound good and without good sound, you can’t have good video.
Once you get all the gadgets and gizmos you want/need for this (I probably have fewer than most because I don’t primarily shoot video) you need a way to secure it to your camera.
I have tried two units for this purpose and like both. The first and simplest one is the Edelkrone Monitor/EVF Holder. If B&H is out of them, you can buy direct from Edelkrone. At $149 it’s a bit expensive, but Edelkrone products are the best you can buy in my opinion so in this case I don’t mind the money. I would recommend watching YouTube videos to figure out how to put it together (that goes for just about every product listed here) so that you can save yourself some time and agony. I primarily use the Edelkrone product when I am shooting with the “X”.
When I am using the two smaller cameras, I use the SmallRig Quick Release VersaFrame Half Cage, which is a bit less expensive but offers more flexibility in terms of being able to hang stuff off of it.
When it comes to sliders and other camera movement devices, I am working on a low-budget project and while I wish I could add the Edelkrome sliders, I am sticking with strictly affordable but able to do the job, gear.
My big slider is the Axler Carbon Fiber Camera Slider (30″). For the money, it is more than good enough. It’s stable and smooth. It has a 50 lbs load capacity and can be mounted to a tripod, which is more often than not the way I use it. The comparable Edelkrome slider cost $200-$400 more and I am not sure it’s worth that much in terms of price difference.
One of my new favorite tools is the Axler Foldable Crane Slider which acts like a slider but also a crane – albeit a tiny one. It offers a slide distance of 28″ and linear and/or parabolic movements. It’s very mobile and fits into small places. It’s a fantastic design. If I am working somewhere and I don’t have room for the standard 30″ slider, I try to use this one but it can’t hold nearly as much weight.
I also use a gimbal for walk-arounds or shots in tight places and the Axler Handheld Gimbal for Mirrorless Cameras works as well as any I have tested – note of caution – it doesn’t work with heavy DSLRs, etc. It took me a few minutes how to figure out setup but after that, it was a breeze. If you buy it, find a YouTube video or two showing you how it works. Everything will go much easier for you than it did me.
I do some lock-down tripod work and for that I am currently using the UniqBall UBH 45XC Ball Head with X-Cross Clamp (https://bhpho.to/2FTdqsw) mounted to my favorite (heavy duty) tripod, the Robus RC-5570 Tripod (https://bhpho.to/2C7aLcS). (Load capacity 55 lbs.) If you’re looking for a pro-quality tripod that can do video and stills, look no further than this one. I just got mine a few months ago and have loved it. Solid as a rock and pro-quality in EVERY way except price.
I need a fluid head and plan to try some of the lower cost heads. First up will be the Benro S6 Video Head. Benro has a solid reputation so I am hopeful that it will work. I’ll add more info about this product once I have put it to the test.
I also carry with me the always useful Platypod Max to mount small cameras to or to position small LED lights on top. It will fit in any small bag and is very portable. I am using the bigger version called the Max but there are smaller, cheaper versions available too.
One of the things that is different when you are shooting video v. stills is that you have to find new ways to control exposure. I use the Hoya 62mm ND (NDX8) 0.9 Filter (3-Stop) because I need to often keep my shutter speed and aperture constant – and even when varying ISO I can’t always get the combo I need because the light is too bright. So I use the ND to knock down the light and presto – all is well. It’s an easy and affordable solution. I am not normally a fan of filters but when shooting video they don’t bother me as much and frankly, I don’t have much choice if I want to achieve the perfect shutter speed/aperture combo.
Speaking of light, I highly recommend that EVERY photographer and EVERY video shooter get at least one of these Aputure AL-M9 Amaran Pocket Sized LED Lights. They are powerful, convenient and inexpensive. I have two and carry them with me on every shoot.
When I need a big light source I use the Aputure Amaran Tri-8c. It is a powerful, LED light source with a rugged aircraft-grade aluminum body and an impact-proof casing that protects its 888 LEDs. It has variable color temp and even works with a remote. It puts out a whole lot of light for its size and it’s affordable considering how capable it is.
As I said, I am more of a stills guy, but I do believe that having the right tools can help improve production quality, especially when you practice with those tools and learn how to coax the best performance out of them. If I were a full time video person, I’d probably step up and buy the more expensive stuff, but since I am not – I don’t want to invest tens of thousands of dollars on grip I will rarely use.
Lately, I’ve received a bunch of feedback from those of you who read my posts that you appreciate it when I cover the more affordable gear. I hear that. I’ve selected gear for this project with that in mind and am pleasantly surprised at how good it is for the money.
I will add more items to this post and convert it to a constant page here on the Picture Methods blog as I go forward so stay tuned for more updates.
And don’t let this stuff intimidate you – if I can figure it out – believe me – anyone can.
I have special pages on Amazon for Olympus gear – tripods – and photography accessories. Shopping using these links does not change the price you pay but does reward the countless hours I put into creating this free resource with a small commission.