Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Lumix FZ30 Shoot: First Video Embed; Frame Stills & Still Photo

These stills are frames from digital movie clips with the Panasonic FZ30. At the bottom is a comparison between the footage and an HQ still image, shot with the same camera.

Short Clip shot with the Lumix DMC-FZ30

As I wait for the accessories to start coming in for the HVX200, I'm training myself to learn how to creatively shoot digital film clips with the Lumix FZ30. It's actually a terrific starter camera for those considering video, considering it was around $500 new. It should be less, now that the FZ50 has been introduced. By allowing the user to switch between digital still and movie, an interesting process can be exploited.

Panasonic FZ30 footage clip: dashboard
Mac drives as the camera shoots from the dashboard.

I decided to record a subject who plans to design an ethanol plant, which forced me to work around a rather constricting location: his pickup truck. Mac drove his Dodge through the wind and rain of a strong nor'easter as we headed south towards Pocomoke City on the southeastern corner of Maryland. In that time, I shot about 25 minutes of footage while Mac shared the plans and vision of the plant.

Lumix FZ30 Footage: turning
The portability of the FZ30, working in the footwell.

But I also didn't want to conduct the interview outside for several reasons. First, it was a soaking, cold rain outside, and I had already begun feeling that tingly sensation in my throat, showing that I'm getting ill. I'm also using a camera with no external microphone, whose mic is built onto the upper left portion of the camera body, facing up.

Panasonic FZ30 footage clip: hand
A little hand detail captured while Mac speaks.

Remembering an important tip given by Brian Storm, I chose to let Mac speak about the ethanol process from inside the cabin of his truck, which is actually a truly great location to conduct an audio recording. The closed doors seal out much unwanted noise, and the interior creates a sound dampening room as the voice is absorbed, rather than reflected. The interior of such a tight space can be a challenge for someone who wants to express a creative side, but practicing the effort can yield better composition, creating visually appealing scenes by looking beyond the obvious.

Panasonic FZ30 footage clip:  eyes
A tight shot as Mac focuses on his destination.

The obvious scenes are capturing your subject from the position of the passenger. Shoot that way for more than a couple minutes, and the viewer will get pretty bored, because that turns the subject into nothing more than a talking head. They may as well stand behind a podium. Capturing such a perspective exclusively constricts your own vision, blinding you to other opportunities that can make the package fresh and appealing. Give your viewers angles that they haven't seen. Adding those unusual perspectives can heighten your audiences' interest, making them want to see what angle might fill the next scene.

Panasonic FZ30 footage clip: rain
Rain pelts the window while the FZ30 gathers audio.

What I love about a hybrid camera like the Lumix is that you can see composition by shooting digital stills. The FZ30 has the option to shoot still images in 3 formats: 4x3, 3x2, and 16x9. These are all formats currently in use in standard television, widescreen HDTV, commercial movie cinema, and 35mm film.

Panasonic FZ30 footage clip: mirror
Mac, framed in his rear view, rides to destination.

Switch between the 3 still formats and see how your composition changes. It's a mind-altering experience, because you now have a scene-capturing camera that acts as 4 different cameras at the switch of a preference or a dial. You'll see how composition really matters, depending on the format. If you don't adjust between format sizes, you will wind up wasting vital space (I'll try to remember writing about cropping in a later blog).

Lumix FZ30 Footage: pickup
A frame from the short, 7-second clip above.

By shooting footage, you may even be inspired to shooting some stills, switching your camera over to take some pictures, which happened to me, when we headed up to a farm that was purchased for the plant. I recorded him the first time we drove towards the farm, but wanted some still images, because the visual style I honed in on while shooting footage gave me some ideas to shoot the stills I needed.

Panasonic FZ30 footage clip: farm
Mac explains the proposed site, outside.

The majority of the footage was inside his truck, and Mac apologized for the bad weather, thinking it wouldn't make for a good camera day. But my opinion was that the situation presented itself well for a successful shoot, even though only a minute or so was spent physically on the property, outside his truck. After writing a caption for my Flickr page, I see now why the frame fits the subject.

Panasonic FZ30 footage clip: mirror
Frame still from footage while driving to the site...

Lumix FZ30 Still Photo: still-farm
...yields this portrait, which makes people look more.

The image captures a different-style portrait of Mac, a traveling man who was given the assignment to find a viable site for an ethanol plant. Photographing him outside made him look more like the owner of the place. Seeing this image and analyzing it, Mac is separated from the site by glass, sitting where he's best known to be: always on the go. As his task winds down, he plans to tow the portable trailer that he's lived in, back to Richmond.

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