Secrets to DSLR HD Video on the Road
My Camera Gear has been updated, you can find it in two spots: The Article – https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/best-travel-camera-video-photography and Our Gear Store – www.gonewiththewynns.com/store
I’ve received many requests from readers to give the scoop on my lightweight camera setup for capturing HD video and photography on the road. I’ve had this basic lightweight DSLR HD Camera gear and Sound equipment since day one of this website and it works well (for me at least). I get lots of questions from: How do you capture such clear HD video? The audio on your camera sounds great, how can I do that? Does it take a lot of equipment to shoot on the road full time? How long have you been shooting video? What is the Best Lightweight Camera for Shooting HD Video and Photography? ….. and so on.
One of my favorite things to tell people is “the best camera in the world is the one you have on you“. Now over the years this quote has become less effective of a statement with the invent of cell phone cameras, I guess the quote could be “The best camera in the world is the camera you have on you, not including a cell phone”.
First things first, if you have never watched any of our travel videos, take the time to watch this one! It’s our 2011 Adventure Reel.
Let me begin by telling you a secret:
I started shooting video Summer 2010. I only shot a few videos in 2010, so basically I’ve learned how to shoot video, capture sound, produce & edit digital video in a relative short time (the bulk of my shooting came when we hit the road full-time in February 2011). So needless to say it’s been a total learning experience!
August 2015 Update: Big Camera Changes
Camera technology for video and stills keeps moving at a ridiculous pace, its really unbelievable. I’ve recently swapped a good portion of my gear from Canon and GoPro over to Sony and that’s the camera gear we’ve been filming all our Alaska Adventures.
I promise I’ll update this post, or create an entirely new article and video, once we get back to the lower 48. I’ve learned so much over the past few months about finding a balance between capturing quality photographs plus HD video and not breaking my back with a giant dSLR. I truly think we’ve found a happy medium with our camera gear, so for now here are the products I’m currently using MOST often:
- Sony Alpha a6000 with 16-50mm lens http://amzn.to/1JfXvh8
- Sony DSC RX100 III http://amzn.to/1U3cQfp
- Sony Action Cam HDR-AS200V (with waterproof case) http://amzn.to/1JfYcab
Quadcopter Drone with Camera:
- DJI Phantom 3 http://amzn.to/1Kgf98K
Tripods & Selfie Stick:
- Gitzo GT2542 Traveler Tripod http://amzn.to/1U3dJ7y
- Joby GorillaPod SLR with Ball Head http://amzn.to/1JRlYz1
- Sony Action MonoPod VCT-AMP1 http://amzn.to/1PO5Qgy
- Sony Gun Zoom Mic ECM-GZ1M http://amzn.to/1U3bn8X
- MSI GS70-096 Crimson http://amzn.to/1U3bYaC
- ASUS PA248Q LED IPS 24.1″ Monitor http://amzn.to/1hXxw7u
- Adobe Premiere Pro CC http://amzn.to/1JRiCfr
- Magic Bullet Looks http://amzn.to/1hXybFT
January 2015 Update: New Pocket Camera and a Killer Computer
Camera: After 4 years of full-time travel attempting to document everything in photographs, videos and writing I’ve decided to try something new. Sure a DSLR is smaller than an old school HD video camera, but I’m tired of toting around a big, bulky and very obvious camera everywhere we go! Who wants to live every moment of their life behind a giant camera rig? So after Christmas 2014 we ordered a new point and shoot that’s received tons of awards and has glowing reviews online: Sony RX100M III Cyber-Shot
In the past couple weeks I’ve filmed 2 videos exclusively with this little camera: NYE in New Orleans and our Happy Holidays and 2015 Plans. Maybe the sound isn’t quite as good, maybe I can’t rack focus the same, maybe the color isn’t as true…but the benefits way make up for where it lacks: It’s literally a fraction of the size and weight, it has a pop-up flash and viewfinder, it fits in my pocket or Nikki’s handbag, when I walk into a business people don’t look at me crazy, it’s amazing in low light situations and most importantly I can shoot on the fly without having to spend time “setting up the shot”. Here’s the Amazon links to my new favorite casual shooting setup:
I still love my more professional setup, and if someone’s hiring us to film a video, or if I need to have a top quality shot I’ll still use my dSLR setup, but either way it’s nice to have a casual, high quality “go-to” pocket camera. I’ll continue using this new camera over the next few months and I’ll report back with more likes and dislikes.
New Computer: Since the beginning of our travels I’ve always just used a nice HP computer that could be purchased from any retailer, spending around $1,000 or less. This Christmas I decided to upgrade my nearly 3 year old setup with one that would process videos faster, effectively saving me time and money.
I bit the bullet and spent some money on my new laptop, but it has proven to be worth EVERY PENNY! Amazing Screen, solid keyboard, 4 hard drives built in including 3 crazy fast SSD drives, 6GB NVidia Video card…the list goes on! To give you an idea this new laptop will process a 5 minute video in an hour vs. my old computer which took all night long. If you haven’t heard of CUDA cores in a graphics card make sure you do a search online for “CUDA and Adobe” before purchasing a new computer, it means rendering is a thing of the past! Worth every penny!!!!
We also got Nikki a huge color corrected IPS monitor that looks amazing, it’s extremely helpful for editing photographs in Lightroom and Photoshop (especially since she has a tiny Surface Pro tablet/computer). BTW – If you’re thinking a Mac would be good…you can’t get a similar wicked fast setup with an Apple laptop…just sayin’.
As for my dSLR HD video setup it’s pretty basic, the long and the short of it is: Canon digital SLR! (and NO Canon is not paying me to write this post, or RODE or GoPro, this is really the gear I’ve purchased with my own hard earned cash).
My go-to rig for shooting High Quality “on the fly” HD video using a digital SLR:
Canon 5d Mark II *replaced
Canon 5d Mark III
Canon EF24-105mm f4 IS L USM Lens
Rode VideoMic Shotgun Microphone with Dead Cat *replaced
RODE VideoMic Pro Shotgun Microphone
Gitzo Carbon Fiber GT2541 Tripod
Manfrotto Fluid Tripod Head
Canon EOS M
Canon 18-55 IS STM Lens
GoPro Hero mini HD camera
LowePro Flipside 400AW Water resistant Backpack
I also carry some extra gear for those few specific times when the go-to rig won’t cut it:
- Stroboframe Quickflip 350 (there are better options available)
- Canon EF 70-200mm f2.8 IS L USM
- Sony Wireless Lavaliere System
- Zoom H4n
- 2 Channel Field Mixer
- Lightpanel Mini LED light
- Gorillapod Flexible Tripod
- Manfrotto 685B Monopod
Want to know more? Care to hear about my personal experience with each product? Just like to read my typing? Then here you go detail lovers, read away….and if you have ANY questions please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments at the bottom:
I purchased most of my gear Summer 2010 after weeks of online research. As I mentioned I knew nothing about shooting video, capturing audio, editing video….basically I didn’t know a lick about anything. Good news is I purchased good stuff, and now as I write this article I have owned (and most importantly used) this camera gear for nearly a year and a half. I hope this helps you get started with your own adventure!
Canon 5d Mark II – This camera is not easy to use for the typical consumer to capture video. Because of my background in photography it was easy for me to get used to shooting video with this dSLR. There is no auto-focus, the built in microphone is crap, the auto audio input rarely works, the camera is awkward to hold for much more than a few minutes, the low light video is grainy, and the camera will only record for 10 minutes before stopping (in the middle of your most important shot!). That said it’s inexpensive for high quality HD video, it has tons of settings to capture video in most situations, and it’s not too bulky for unplanned “street style” shooting. I wouldn’t choose anything else for this kind of filming.
Canon EF24-105mm f4 IS L USM – The ‘almost’ ultimate all in one lens. This lens takes a beating and keeps on clicking. Spend the extra money for the Canon brand (Sigma, Tamron, etc. don’t hold up like the canon lenses). The IS is a must for the hand held shooter, it keeps my video looking more fluid, and makes me appear a little more talented! The L coated lenses are super sharp, and offer great color at all apertures. If this lens came in f2.8 it would be the ultimate. I do own the 24-70mm f2.8 but rarely use it because it’s not as long, and it doesn’t have IS (Image Stabilization).
Rode VidMic Shotgun Microphone – with Dead Cat – The quality of this microphone is top notch. The shotgun style microphone pics up 80% from the subject in front of the camera, and the rest comes from the ambient noise. The overall construction of this microphone is weak. There are 8 tiny rubber bands that support the microphone from ‘shock’. These bands are fragile and continuously break on me, they are a total pain to replace, and if you don’t replace them right away they make an awful squeaking noise that the microphone picks up during filming (check out our Center of the World Video to see what I’m talking about). Good news is Rode stands behind their microphones and will send you free replacement bands if you call them. Also with this microphone it’s difficult to look into the viewfinder to snap a photograph because the end of it sticks out nearly 2 inches. Good news RODE created a new microphone exclusively for dSLR shooting, still has rubber bands so do some research before you purchase. Lastly make sure you purchase the Dead Cat or some sort of wind sock for your mic, you will need it.
Gitzo Carbon Fiber GT2541 Tripod – I love this tripod. When I purchased it was the lightest and most compact tripod available. Unfortunately it was the most expensive tripod available so that hurt. I’ve never been a fan of Gitzo because the twist style legs, but after using this tripod for 1 year I can see why it cost more than it’s little brother the Manfrotto. If you plan to hike with your tripod do yourself a favor and purchase a high quality lightweight tripod, your back will thank you.
Manfrotto 701HDV Fluid Tripod Head – A fluid tripod head is a MUST! When we started shooting video I was using a tilt shift photography head trying to do my pans as best I could…..didn’t work out so well. There is one downside to this fluid head, you can’t shoot vertical photographs (generally you don’t want to shoot video this way). Of course Manfrotto has decided to jump on the dSLR video band wagon and now they offer an all-in-one photo movie head……man I hate being ahead of the curve!
GoPro Hero mini HD camera – We purchased this tiny HD camera in July 2011 and we love it. The wide angle allows us to capture a different perspective than my dSLR. The HD camera is the size of a few dominoes, its super lightweight, and shoots full 1080p HD video. With hundreds of attachments you can use the GoPro in any situation. My favorite attachments are the water proof housing, and the helmet strap attachment. There are some downsides: battery life is weak, you have to purchase a separate screen if you want to see what you’re capturing, its so tiny you get a lot of camera shake, microphone is crap……but the good far outweighs the bad so this camera is worth the investment. Of course, now there is a new Hero 2 which I hear is even more awesome!
****One thing you MUST remember is to purchase what you need now. I’ve complained a bit about the new GoPro, the new microphone, etc…but there will ALWAYS be a new item coming out that’s better than it’s predecessor. If I’ve learned anything about technology in my 15 years of being a pro photographer: If you need it suck it up and purchase it. Don’t wait for the ‘next big thing’ or you’ll never pull the trigger.
Editing: I use Adobe Premiere 5.5 to edit my sound, video, and pretty much everything you see in my videos. We use PC’s and not Mac’s as we’re kinda anti-Apple right now, but I’ll save those posts for another day down the road.
I dropped my Camera in a stream while kayaking, and it wasn’t pretty. Camera plus water is no good. So here’s what I did:
• Have a backup camera and audio recording device
• Carry good insurance on your gear
First thing I did with my soaked camera gear was throw it in a plastic bin with a ton of DampRid in hopes that it may suck the humidity out of the camera. In a panic I had to drive 100 miles to the nearest Best Buy to pick up a Canon Rebel T3i (I had a previous commitment to film that evening at the town outdoor concert). I’ve heard great things about this little affordable camera online and from fellow travelers. I like the flip out screen, it’s a nice touch for self filming, or filming over large crowds. It’s nice to have a flash on-camera when you’re in a bind, even though it’s tiny and harsh lighting. To be perfectly honest I feel the Rebel is a perfect camera for someone starting dSLR video and photographer, howevere it’s not a good camera for someone who’s a pro (or even semi-pro). Maybe if you download a hack (i.e. magic lantern) for the camera it can perform better, but for me I got online after 3 days of using this camera and ordered the 5d MK iii. Flat images, all plastic body, and sharpness barely above point and shoot quality is my personal experience with the Canon Rebel T4i.
The main reason the Rebel isn’t up to snuff:
• No Video capture in AV or TV modes limiting the Depth of Field options
• No Audio input
• Slow Auto-Focus
• All Plastic Body
• APS 1.6x zoom factor from small sensor making wide angle nearly impossible to achieveAnd don’t even get me started on that joke of a lens that comes in the Rebel kit. A supposed IS lens couldn’t stabilize even the tiniest camera shake, all plastic, tiny front and rear glass, floating aperature….I told you not to get me started…
So I got rid of that piece of junk Canon Rebel T3i and the cheap plastic lens that came in the kit and purchased a real camera: Canon 5d Mark III. I also upgraded my audio:
The small things make a huge upgrade from the Canon 5dMKii:
• Enhanced Audio – Better audio and on screen audio level controls…FINALLY!
• Gyro Level – No more carrying a hotshoe level, the built in level is SWEET.
• HDR Mode – For those who shoot HDR, it’s got a built in setting. For me HDR is a ‘toy’ that I like to play with, but capture an image in the correct lighting and it’s unnecessary.
• Low Light Capture – Low light and high ISO is great for night and filming inside dark buildings
• 61 Point Autofocus system – about damn time, the 9 point was crap
• CF & SD card slots – put a 32GB in both and forget about carrying extra cards for smaller shootsRode Videomic Pro
This shotgun style microphone is the perfect solution for a directional microphone for capturing on-camera sound. When I first saw the new rubber band system I thought “here we go again”. Good news to report here: the rubber bands have not failed me yet……yes I said yet. Rode did send 1 set of free replacements (if you break the bands your mic is rendered useless unless you can jerry rig a clamp or some tape to hold it down on location). ALWAYS carry extra bands. The VideoMic Pro is a little smaller than its predecessor the VideoMic. The smaller size allows me to see through the viewfinder to snap a photo with the mic on (the VideoMic stuck out an inch or more making it impossible to look through the viewfinder of a dSLR).
Of course I purchased the new Dead Cat, not only does it make the mic look better, but it helps knock down the wind interference. I do not like how short the audio cable is, it barely reaches the camera input when I have the mic on a frame.What makes the VideoMic Pro better
• Rear switching volume ‘boost’ -10dB for loud settings, +20dB for dSLR recording.
• Smaller size – Better for taking photographs with mic in hot shoe
• 70 hours of recording on 1 9V battery****FAIR WARNING I’ve talked to a few people who have purchased the Stereo VideoMic because they thought it was a better mic due to the higher price; THIS IS NOT TRUE. The stereo mic is for filming B-Roll only – DO not purchase this mic if you plan to film people talking!
For Christmas I decided to give myself a present, and give Nikki a break from my bitchin’. We decided to get rid of our junky point and shoot and upgrade to the spankin’ new Canon EOS M. After reading mixed reviews online I thought I should put in my two cents on this compact little camera.
The age old saying goes “The best camera in the world is the one you have on you”. Now granted this was way before camera phones, Instagram, budget point-and-shoots, and all that other junk out there. My philosophy for the past few years has been why carry a crappy camera when I can carry my Mac-Daddy DSLR camera. Well, after many miles of hiking, climbing, beach, and desert shooting with my 30 pounds of gear I’ve become a whiny baby The solution was simple: Nikki can continue to beat me over the head each time I whine, or I can suck it up and carry a smaller camera. Enter the “new” mini dSLR cameras (I say “new” because this is a concept rich in history ala Leica).We purchased the Canon EOS M at the beginning of December as a replacement for our point and shoot Canon PowerShot SX 230 HS, which as you’ll read in our original post is a piece of junk. When selecting the EOS M it sparked a major internal debate: Do I go with the pancake 22mm f2 fixed lens for the ultimate fit in your pocket HD mini SLR camera, or do I go with the more bulky 18-55 IS STM zoom lens? The debate raged on for weeks as we were planning to purchase the camera, and the decision was made at the very last minute as I was hitting that “place order” button. It’s been nearly 3 months now and I can say this little camera is the perfect setup for the adventure traveler.
Pick it up and instantly your back, neck and shoulders thanks you. With its tiny size the EOS M can go into any store, on any hike, inside any backpack without causing the big fuss of a giant dSLR. The camera packs a 1.6x sensor which is great for capturing long lens shots without a giant lens. The lens seems nearly as sharp as my $2,000 24-70 2.8 L, and the colors, vibrancy, and contrast are 10x better than the Canon Rebel we purchased and returned (yes I know it shares the sensor with the new Rebel, don’t ask me why the T3i stinks). There’s a stereo mic built in that works pretty well for miscellaneous background or scenic shots, but most importantly is this EOS M has a manual audio mode which is a must for using external microphones. The video is smooth and provides auto focus (one of canon’s first dSLR’s to offer AF for video. Another great option is you can purchase an adaptor to use your entire series of Canon EOS lenses, I thought this was a must at first however then you’re back to carrying a giant heavy lens and it kinda defeats the point of a mini SLR. The camera also works with my Canon EX 580 II flash but it looks a little ridiculous, so I’m planning to get the mini flash that goes along with the camera for capturing photographs indoors, or in low light settings.
There are a few downsides that come along with its compact size and its non-pro settings. For me the main disadvantage with this camera is there is no Manual Focus mode switch on the lens. Sometimes I need to capture a low Depth of Field shot quickly, but with this camera I am forced to access the menu on the back of the camera and roll through my settings to get MF. If you’re an HDR lover there is no onboard HDR setting, however you can shoot in auto exposure bracket and basically get the same thing with post processing. The 1.6x sensor takes some getting used to as the 18mm lens is more like a 29mm lens (and this is why the 22mm fixed lens was not wide enough for self portraits, or wide landscapes). When capturing video I must put my RODE shotgun mic on a bracket, otherwise the fur from the dead cat hangs down into the lens, but it’s not so bad because my bracket gives me more stability when hand holding. The video autofocus works pretty well, but in some cases when focusing on an extreme close-up then trying to pan out into a wide shot the focus doesn’t follow unless you tap the subject you want in focus. Battery life isn’t as good as my 5d mkiii, but I quickly solved that with the purchase of a spare battery. I would really like to see a microphone level on the display when shooting video as trying to manually set volume in the menu is a bit of a pain. I do wish there was a time-lapse setting since many of the Nikon cameras have it, and my little go pro has it too. On a sex appeal note I ordered the black version but somehow I ended up with the storm trooper white/black body, I was offended at first, but now I kinda like it.
3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens – I’m happy with the zoom lens as it’s come in handy with most situations. First of all it’s wider than fixed lens, and the zoom is long enough I can capture scenes from further away (like the wildlife off in the distance on a hike, or cute girls on the boats in Lake Havasu). The floating aperture (3.5-4.5) is a small inconvenience in low light situations; I would have paid an extra $200-$300 for an f 2.8 all the way through. The lens doesn’t come with a hood so lens flare is a problem when shooting anywhere in the general vicinity of the sun. Also as I mentioned above there is no manual focus switch on the lens which is a hassle. Other than those few things the lens is sharp, small, holds steady with the IS, and most importantly it’s lightweight.
A few must have accessories for your Canon EOS M:
• Lens Hood EW-54
• Extra Battery LP-E12
• Flash 90EX
• Remote Clicker RC-6
• SDHC 1 class 10 – minimum of 30MB/s
• Mini Bracket
• Tiny Camera Bag
Sure it’s not the perfect camera, and not as high quality as my 5d mkiii, however I’m 100% satisfied with this little EOS M. During a recent hike we came over the mountains edge to see a giant big horn sheep on the cliffs edge in the distance. In a rush I threw down my backpack, struggled to get out my camera, and by the time my 5d mkiii was powered on and ready the shot was gone. Nikki on the other hand had the little EOS M around her shoulder and captured some beautiful footage of this brief glimpse with nature….absolutely stunning. From that day on I’ve been sold on the idea of smaller can be better. If you have a spare $800 lying around or you want dSLR quality in a compact size then I feel confident this little camera will not let you down.
As always these are my opinions, for what their worth, Canon did not pay me, nor did anyone else for this review, I bought the camera, and I’ve been using it personally. So there, that’s my “legal” disclosure
As I mentioned we’re not Mac people, I know this may offend some of you, but such is life. As promised a little info on my computer setup:
We did have to purchase some extra accessories:
Case Logic Messenger Bag
USB 3.0 Hub
Magenta Touch Cover for Surface
Microsoft Wireless Mouse, Magenta
As you might guess I got her old computer, which is ok because it’s even faster than my old one 🙂
I purchased my new laptop just before the Best of the Road competition in early 2011. Intel had just released the core i7 gen 2 chips, and 1GB video cards were just becoming availible in consumer laptops. I lucked out with a sub $1,000 17″ Silver HP laptop with these specs (a comprable MacBook Pro cost $2,500):
Intel Core i7-2630QM CPU @ 2.00GHz
ATI 1GB Video Card
8GB of RAM
1 TB 7200 RPM Hard Drive
High Capacity 9 cell L-ion Battery
17″ HD Screen
BlueRay DVD Player
Fingerprint reader (I love this little feature)
Windows 7 64 bit OS-An unrealized benefit of using a PC is I can’t use the “industry standard” Final Cut Pro. This is a major blessing as Final Cut is not made for dSLR filming, and it’s become a majorly sore subject for mac people. With Adobe premiere I can put my dSLR footage, my GoPro footage and my point and shoot camera footage into my timeline and NEVER have to process or ‘prep’ the files. This has literally saved me hundreds of hours of converting my footage to be compatible with Final Cut.
Also to add another slap in the face Apple decided to change the way Final Cut Pro looks and works with their greatly failed release of FCX. Ooooops. Adobe ran a promotion offering 50% off Premiere if you switch from Final Cut, to say it went over well would be an understatement.
The other good news is if you’re coming from a photography background like me, using Adobe Premiere has a similar feel and shortcuts as Adobe Photoshop. Also anyone who does post knows Apple doesn’t make a final editor, so if you’re going to put those final touches on your video using Adobe After Effects anyway, WHY NOT START IN ADOBE?
Sorry to carry on, its just the more I discuss these silly little issues with videographers over the past 2 years I don’t understand why Final Cut is the ‘standard’. Maybe because I’m just getting into film I don’t understand, but as an outsider looking in take this one piece of advice: If you’re editing dSLR film purchase Adobe Premiere Pro not Final Cut Pro.The most important items when looking for a good laptop to edit video:
High Speed Video Card with loads of video dedicated memory
High Speed RAM as large and as much as you can afford
Fast Hard Drive transfer rate10/2012: I recently purchased Nikki a new Computer and there are some killer new features out. Adobe is working with Microsoft, HP, NVIDIA, and Red cameras to create high performance video and photo editing monster laptops…I like to call them Mac Killers. Some of the coolest new items availible for PC include:
Dual Hard Drives
Solid State and Hybrid Drives for Extreme Read/Write rates
2GB GDDR5 Dedicated Video Memory
Crazy fast Intel processors with 2.7 GHz 8MB L3 cache
16GB DDR3 RAM
Crazy Loud Beats speaker systems with built in “Sub”
Non-Glare 1080 HD screens
So that’s the scoop! Now get out there and start shooting, have fun and if you become famous don’t forget about us. If you haven’t seen many of our videos, well no better time than the present: check out our Gone With the Wynn’s Travel Log. Thanks to Sony for providing this camera for testing.
Are you a pro at editing or shooting? Have some tips you feel like sharing? Have any questions about a DSLR rig? Did I get your panties in a wad with my Mac rant? Or maybe you’re a Nikon guy? If you have a personal experience with cameras, shooting, editing, & sharing videos, tell us about it in the comment section below.