Still Motion

The client saw me shooting with a DSLR, and naturally assumed I would have stills of the event. But shooting stills and shooting video are two very different disciplines.

So I’ve spent the morning trawling through my rushes, trying to identify good frames that would make a photograph.

A photograph is, for me, four edges round a moment in time. The framing, or ‘crop’ is the first cut – what do we see? Where are we? Then there’s the composition – what should I look at first? Where does the eye go afterwards? Then there’s the details – what is important to the subject? What has the photographer highlighted? Then there’s a multitude of aspects – mood, lighting, style, rendition, and the gestalt works as a study of a fleeting moment.

Your eye can travel round a photograph for quite a while, feasting upon it.

But I shoot video. I am looking for impact, motion, gesture, cadence, the reveal, the conceal, the trick of the eye, each shot may not be much on its own, but when put together as an edited sequence, their very juxtaposition is the value.

There is no time for the big panorama – we’re looking for lots of little details that cut together with a general view that explains them all. I don’t have the luxury of having the viewer concentrate on a single composition for a few seconds. I need to feed the eyes with a stream of visual soda.

So, basically, searching for ‘photographs’ from ‘video’ is a pretty depressing exercise.

I work with photographers a lot. There’s a lot of synergy between us, and what we’re each looking for is so totally different, but both reaching for the same goal.

The DSLR revolution has come about because big news agencies asked the stills camera manufacturers to enable their photographers to grab a bit of video to add flavour to reports. Photographers get a ‘movie’ button in the same way as HDV camcorders get a ‘stills’ function. It’s a convenience, a little trick that can help some situations.

This has highlighted a source of contention for some: ‘what sort of video are these photographers going to get? How do they think they’re going to compete with us video shooters?’. Well, it’s probably the same kind of photographs that we video shooters can grab from our still frames. It will be competent, technically fine, will fulfil the limited brief we’d have recieved. But somehow lacking in the absolute magic of video for video’s sake or photo for photo’s sake.

My learning point is to really emphasise to clients that if they see me shooting with a DSLR, I am not shooting photographs, I am shooting video. I am not a photographer. The stuff I shoot is for motion and montage and reveal. I can give you stills of video, but never will I really give you a ‘photograph’.

And the funny thing is, that with all the photographers I work with, who can shoot video and sometimes do, they say the same thing about their work: I can shoot some moving photographs, but I am not a videographer. My videos will stand alone, and I don’t know how they’d edit together.

It’s all a bit like cookery: we’re all making food, but there’s entrees and desert. Rather different techniques, rather different goals. But they work great together.

At least I found 68 stills from the rushes, all shot at 1920×1080, so it will do at a pinch, but if you want photos, hire a photograher.

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