DSLR video kit overview

Whilst I try to reference the kit I have used where relevant I don’t think I’ve ever devoted a blog post simply to describing the kit I used for a specific project. However, the world of DSLR video is so new to me I am finding it useful to keep notes of the whole process to look back upon later.

Disclaimer: I am not a videographer but a (very much) first-time DSLR video shooter recording my experiences from this, my first project, in my blog.

For the video segments I have shot so far (introductory scene and scene 2) I’ve used the Nikon D800E with a 24-70 f2.8 lens mounted on an old Manfrotto 055XPROB tripod with a Manfrotto 701HDV Professional Mini Fluid Video Head which had been languishing upstairs for over four years according to my Amazon account. I’ve no idea why I bought it but am pleased to have it now.  The clip below is an initial idea for the opening sequence – I probably won’t use it for this project although it may well be used in a future video.

I also own a Nikon D750 and subsequent research suggests this is actually better for video than the D800E so for the next scenes I shoot (slated for 16th August) I am going to give the D750 a try.  The 055XPROB is an old favourite and whilst heavy (remember this whole project is being shot on foot) it gives me a good working height at full extension and also allows for me to use it reasonably close to ground level. The 701HDV head was a revelation. I’ve tried panning and tilting in the past with standard pan and tilt heads but the difference in ease of use and the smoothness of the pan from the dedicated video head is immense.  I’ve read reviews that describe this, now discontinued I believe, head as “buttery smooth” and totally understand what they mean.

I shot some test footage in the river with a handheld GoPro session video camera. The footage doesn’t look out of place when used as a short insert and I have some ideas to use this for future scenes. I am also going to dig out and charge up the Nikon Coolpix AW110 that I bought five years ago for a seaside holiday with the grandchildren to enable me to capture some stills from a different perspective.

For location and ambient sound I have used a RØDE VideoMic stereo on-camera microphone fitted to the camera hotshot and plugged into the camera.  This has proved adequate for the footage I’ve shot so far however I am also conscious that the pre-amps in DSLRs are not the best and so I’ve done a lot of research; copious reading and countless YouTube videos. After a lot of internal debate and deliberation I have ordered a TASCAM DR60D-MKII portable recorder which will considerably improve the audio quality and give me a good platform for future projects. The battery life is inferior to the Zoom series I am reading  but the Tascam is built with DSLR shooters in mind and looks far more intuitive to use for me than the Zoom equivalent I also considered.

For the voiceover I am currently using the Zoom H2n portable recorder which I’ve owned for some time now. I have previously used it to capture ambient sound for slideshows and narration for the video diaries I produced when studying.  It has built in microphones but for the voiceover for this project I’ve been using an old microphone that I probably bought in Tandy around fourteen years ago for a school project of one of my daughters.  It works but upon reflection I can’t say I’m totally happy with the quality; usable but could be a lot better I think*. I’m currently looking at the Samson Q2U USB/XLR microphone which has some great reviews and is reasonably priced too.  I will probably order that today and I strongly suspect that I will re-record all of the voice-overs before the end of the project – more on that in a future post I’m sure.

The H2n fits easily in the hand and is readily pocketable so can also be used to capture ambient sound for which I usually mount it on a mini tripod. I used this approach to record the audio of my footsteps on the doorstep and the door closing in the introductory scene for example. Given its portability it would make an ideal travel recorder for the traveller who wants to cut down on the size and weight of their kit.

Summary of kit used to date:

  • Nikon D800E/Nikon D750 (video and stills)
  • Nikkor 24-70 f2.8 lens
  • Fuji X-T10 (stills)
  • Fujinon 35mm f1.4 lens
  • Canon EOS M3 (stills) [I no longer have this camera]
  • GoPro Session
  • Manfrotto 055XPROB tripod
  • Manfrotto 701HDV fluid head
  • Manfrotto mini tripod
  • Rode VideoMic
  • Zoom H2n

I read somewhere that your first video will be shocking so just get it done and move on. I thought it rather negative when I first read it but given everything I’ve learnt already I can see more than a couple of grains of truth in this sentiment.

* No names, no pack drill but I saw one of these for sale on eBay recently and the seller had asked for “£5 or if you live close enough to me a pint of beer …”

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