DSLR Cinema, Cinema Raw, and Cinematic Journalism

by Kurt Lancaster

Run and Gun DSLR Work at Occupy Wall Street

When shooting on the run, it’s important to travel light. Spending a weekend in New York City to see Robert Wilson’s production of Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and Danfung Dennis’s 5D Mark II documentary, Hell and Back Again at the Film Forum, I squeezed in some time to shoot the Occupy Wall Street protest in Zuccotti Park.

I had easy access to many different subjects and I handheld all of the shots (with no rig attached to the camera). I kept the camera close to the subjects so as to get their audio clear on my mic (see details below).

Not planning to do any heavy production, I only packed the Canon 5D Mark II body with two Zeiss Contax lenses (purchased used at KEH.com) — 50mm 1.4 and 35mm 2.8 — as well as my Sennheiser ME62/K6  (great for dialogue), as well as one battery and charger. Outdoors, I wish I had brought along my ME66 shotgun mic, but I couldn’t find my good windscreen, so I utilized my low profile ME62.

Light run and gun setup: Sennheiser with Lightwave windscreen and ETS stepdown XLR to minijack cable. Magic Lantern was used to monitor and adjust levels. Zeiss Contax 50mm 1.4 and 35mm 2.8 lenses were used with a Lightcraft ND fader.

I attached it to the hot shoe mount using a shockmount, and plugged it directly into the mic input of the 5D using the new XLR to minijack camera balun, the ETS PA910 series, providing a low to high impedance connection to the camera. In other words, in a pinch, it’ll provide decent audio when you don’t have a separate digital audio recorder on hand (such as the Zoom H4n or a Tascam DR100). (For sale at Markertek for about $62.)

Most importantly, I  utilized the Magic Lantern, so I could see audio meters while recording and monitor the audio by plugging into the AV port of the 5D.

I shot the project handheld with no strap, no DSLR rig. The omnidirectional aspect of the ME62 picked up a lot of side and background noise, but it ended up adding to the atmosphere of the piece. Furthermore, I stood close to the subject, so the microphone was less then three feet away. I shift my head to the left, while hand-holding the camera, so the subject being interviewed would look at me and not the camera.

My friend, Stacey Sotosky, edited using Final Cut X.

A good shock mount can be purchased here: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/554681-REG/Pearstone_DUSM_1_DUSM_1_Universal_Shockmount_for.html

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Kurt Lancaster, PhD, is the author of DSLR Cinema: Crafting the Film Look with Video, Focal Press, 2011 and Video Journalism for the Web: A Practical Introduction to Multimedia Storytelling, Routledge, 2012. He teaches digital filmmaking and multimedia journalism at Northern Arizona University’s School of Communication.

  • Mary says:

    Thank you so much for posting this. I have been researching numerous websites for the past 2 weeks trying to get an idea of different setups to best record audio to our Canon Rebel T2i, and Canon D60. While I found lots of great info on using the more complex setups of a good mic with the portable audio recorders or mixers and shoulder rigs and steadicams, we do a lot of “run and gun” filming, where a simple small set-up is more practical. Your photo and links on your “simple” camera setup to capture the Occupy Wall Street protests really showed me the simplest way to go. Thanks!

    I do have a few questions in regards to your equipment page:

    1. According to many reviews, the Tascam R-40 has a bad “helicoptering” noise. Have you noticed this to be a problem?
    2. With the shotgun mic attached to just the camera body, does it pick up the sound of you adjusting the zoom and focus manually? That is my main concern. Do I need to buy a DSLR cage or larger rig just to get the mic further away from the lens? We do lots of shooting simply on the street.
    3. Would you please suggest some good shotgun mics for under $250? Should we be using a non-shotgun mic for on the street filming?

    Thanks so much,
    Mary

    March 19, 2012 at 10:01 pm
  • Kurt Lancaster says:

    1) Haven’t had an issue. Go with the DR-100 if you feel it may be a problem. Also, use a field mixer (such as Sound Devices MixPre-D if you want to get the best audio possible.
    2) Haven’t had an issue, since I focus on the subject, then ask the questions. If it’s a rack focus, that’s a different issue. Of course it would be best if you had a person dedicated to audio, if if shooting solo it doesn’t matter if it’s on the camera mount or a cage. If you’re holding it with your hands it will like pick up noise when you’re moving around and focusing.
    3) Rode NTG-2 is the best mic in this price range.

    April 16, 2012 at 4:11 am
  • Karl Filip Kronstad says:

    Hello! Nice setup! I just wonder is there a way to use headphones to hear the sound while shooting with dslr?

    December 7, 2013 at 8:02 pm

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