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Thread: DSLR for studio recording ?

  1. Default DSLR for studio recording ?

    Hey you guys.

    I've promised a friend of mine to help him set up a studio for recording his videos. The idea is to make instrument tutorials like for guitar, piano, bass and drums. Currently he's got a Canon HF200 if i remember correctly. He's considering buying a DSLR so he can get multiple views while not having to play the same stuff twice and moving all his equipment time and time again. Since i have some experience in still photography and a couple of different lenses and stuff for my Canon, i thought it would be obvious to buy himself a DSLR. He also wants to transfer the stream directly into the mac.
    So i went on the interwebz and found that it wasn't as easy as just buying a camera and plugging in the usb connecter. Apparently they get to warm and cant really tether video over usb connections and also they cant do any long recordings.
    So what are your takes on my friends problem? Is DSLR out of the question?

    Btw. I'm new here, so I sincerely hope I haven't broken any kind of "newbie etiquette" I should know about


  2. #2


    Hi, first off, you can relax, I know video or photography forums can be a huge pain to take part of, but this is not this kind of community here. So please feel welcome, know that you are.

    Then. I think DSLRs really like controlled environments and well planned shootings when it comes to video. So I'd be inclined to say that the DSLR can be a good solution for what your friend is trying to do. However, there are a few downsides.

    1st, manual focus, which means that it'll work best with someone actually operating the camera while your friend is busy being the subject. there are workarounds tho, but it's much easier if, say, you operate the cam while your friend does his thing in front of it.
    2nd, depending on what DSLR you're looking at, I know Canon use a h264 codec for their files, those files are not easy to handle and edit "as is", you will want to convert them in a much easier format to work with, which means HUGE files. I have not found a workaround yet, but editing those files directly is not the way to go if you want the best possible image quality. Unless you don't work on the image, in which case, since you're a photographer you probably understand, there's no need for a DSLR in the first place
    3rd, lenses are expensive, good prime lenses are what you're looking for. Personally, I went for vintage manual lenses with an adapter (M42/Pentax lenses for the most part), they can be very good, they are MUCH cheaper than new/modern lenses, but there are a ton of them out there and it's sometimes very hard to make sure that what you're buying is gonna work, or how. They're used by many amateur film makers, but as far as I know, it may not be the best choice for photography. Also, as far as I know (which is very little), they give their best results on crop sensors rather than full frame DSLRs. This is debatable and I have no personal experience to back that up.

    So if you're around to help your friend out at least setting up the studio, if you take the time to teach him how things work, it may be a good solution. DSLR image quality is outstanding, but it comes witht he price of very unfriendly ergonomics and bold ergonomic choices. It is indeed MUCH harder to shoot video with a DSLR than it is with a dedicated camcorder. And for the price of a good DSLR Setup, you can surely have an excellent and much easier to use camcorder.

    Ideally, your friend should get both so he will never get stuck. I'm currently using an entry level (but fairly decent) canon camcorder, along with a gopro and a 600D canon DSLR (or T3i in the US), it's extremely flexible as a setup.

    Also, if it's studio, it goes without saying, you will need additional lighting, tripods and whatnot, you can probably start out with the cheap stuff, just to be able to begin, then upgrade gradually. but you will absolutely need lighting (I like soft boxes, but I know very little about studio lighting, just that, for me, it works great, as a photographer, you should know much more than me about it)

  3. Default

    Hi, thanks for the quick reply and the gentle greeting. Nowadays you know how easy it is to get "flamed" when getting in to a new forum.

    I'm kinda feeling that he should go for a camcorder after your very elaborate reply. I kept on thinking it would be easier with a DSLR seing as he could borrow prime lenses, tripods etc from me. But since his major issue right now is everything is getting too complicated and keeps getting more and more steps to the production, i guess a DSLR isn't quite the way for him.
    So now i only have to dive into a totally unfamiliar world and figure out what camcorder he has to get, off to the camcorder threads then.
    And the lighting I should quite easily be able to help him with.
    You just cleared a lot of things for me Sir, thanks again

  4. #4


    Hi, honestly, there's nothing wrong with going for a DSLR, but to the average joe, it can be close to impossible to operate. it can be done if you teach him and if he doesn't expect immediate "pro" results. if he plans to get two cameras, he could get one camcorder and one DSLR, this way he can film right away with the camcorder, and learn how to use the DSLR at the same time. Once he knows how to use the DSLR and once he's all set up with lenses and whatnot, he can STILL use the camcorder for secondary angles or "run & gun" kind of footage. But if he has no experience whatsoever in filming, a DSLR could be the receipt for disappointment and frustration, seeing all the beautiful footage out there and not being able to even get close.

    + sides of DSLR
    - very professional look if you know how to use it
    - choice of lenses and various focal length from extremely wide angle up to incredible close ups
    - once you get the camera, you can get lenses at your own pace, following your own budget
    - low light situations

    + sides of the camcorder
    - easy to use, pretty straightforward
    - autofocus
    - fixed cost
    - good results for less effort
    - smooth learning curves

    taking myself as an example (it is what it is, probably not the best example tho)
    I used to be a DSLR photographer for approximately 5 years, with in mind, the idea of making the switch to filming and learning how to compose images.
    I then bought a camcorder (entry level canon, still very good with many manual settings such as shutter speed or aperture, but still sort of semi-auto-ish so it was really easy to get the shots I wanted). I filmed for 2 years with that camcorder, from yoyoing tutorials to event reports, artistic short films etc... in the meanwhile I started to get accessories, lighting etc...
    Last week I got my DSLR along with a bunch of old but good primes.
    Now it feels like I need to learn everything over again, from composition to technique. Of course, I have a good base to start from, but I didn't suspect that I would feel so much behind technically, the fact that I used both a DSLR for photography and a camcorder for video really helped me out, but there is still a fairly steep learning curve ahead.

    But in no way, shape or form, I can use the DSLR for quick easy quality results, it really makes me work very hard to get where I want, and honestly, so far, I didn't get there at all, of course the optical quality shows on the videos but not to the level I had with my camcorder quite yet, the potential is clearly there to do much better, but it'll take me a few months to get back to that confidence I had with my camcorder.

    And I usually am with a good friend, who is also a good photographer, so he operates the DSLR if I am the subject, according to what I tell him and his own expertise with it. (he's a much better photographer than I am, but I can still hold my own, did a few paid job, including one for a major car manufacturer)

    So is it possible to film with aDSLR for a newbie? yes it is, definitely. Is it easy? no way in hell, it's a grind.

    Compared to photography, filming already takes MUCH more time from the shooting to the end product, it's much harder and involves more stages, different approaches and completely different limitations. Camcorders make it as easy and smooth as possible, but DSLR filming tech is still very young and even the most "user friendly" DSLR are still not really "user friendly" at all.

    A good thing would be him getting a good camcorder and you getting a film-able DSLR for yourself that is also a good camera (say a 5DMkII if you can afford it, or a 600D/650D/60D/7D/)

    You will get good and friendly advice on this forum, I have yet to see a flame war in here and I've been around for quite some time now. There's always the occasional rude guy but they don't stick around for too long usually (it's always the same kind of person anyway)

    I'd say wait for other advice. The studio environment is usually the most DSLR friendly in my opinion, and if your friend really wants to learn, it can still be a very interesting way for him. And the DSLR will definitely help him get into photography which will definitely help him in filming as well, whereas the camcorder will do nothing but film (well they have photo features but they're usually more of a gimmick to sell).

    As for a camcorder, I can't really help you out other than, personally, I'd look for something with a fairly wide angle (equivalent of 28/35mm) so he will be comfortable in tight environment (you did not specify whether it's a music/recording studio or a photo/video studio, in the case of a recording studio, he should plan strategic light sources)

    It's really anyone's guess, interior filming will provide better result with a DSLR if the lighting is poor or minimal, due to better sensitivity.

    my bottom line is the following, if he's not afraid to get his hands a little dirty, learning the basics and doing the extra work to get good footage, a DSLR will be worth every penny, but if he wants quick and easy results with acceptable to very good quality, the camcorder is the obvious choice.

    Personally, I'd lean towards the DSLR for such application, the extra work is not to be taken lightly but in my opinion, for a fixed environment, the results will be much better in the end, especially if you can give him a hand on the learning process and the setup (lights/lenses)

  5. #5
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    Feb 2006
    Surrey, UK
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    Quote Originally Posted by cornerrage View Post
    The idea is to make instrument tutorials like for guitar, piano, bass and drums.
    Let's just focus on that for a minute.

    I presume the objective is to get something that is going to get the message across. He wants to be able to talk to camera, show stuff in close up, perhaps edit it with some split screen, add some captions, diagrams etc.

    Two camcordesr or two DSLRs will do this.

    DSLR's in the right hands will make it look beautiful (just look at some of the stuff hadoq produces). But it does require a certain love for photography/filming.

    And so what? When you watch the news, do you care if the newscaster is in super-high definition with a shallow depth of field and a lovely bokeh? Probably not. You're interested in the message rather than the messanger.

    He'll be shooting with an FS200 which is a standard definition camera. (Ugh standard definition! But hang on a minute - when was the last time DVD quality wasn'r good enough?) Matching that with footage shot on a DSLR will be interesting. You'll basically have to downgrade the image quality of the DSLR that you'll have spent loads of time learning how to get the best image quality from!

    So here's my alternative suggestion:

    Get another FS200 or even two. They seem to be going for between 100 and 150 second hand. That's a big saving on a DSLR & lenses.

    Good! Because you'll need the money for audio recording stuff (you may have this covered but seeing as you haven't mentioned it).

    Get one or two good mics into a mixer for the instrument and feed that into one cam. (Drums are trickier - you'll probably need at least a four mic setup and it's probably best to record to multitrack)

    Get a lavalier (tie clip/lapel) mic on the tutor and feed that into the other cam.

    You now have two tracks of audio and two tracks of video which will be nice and easy to edit together.

    Spend money on lighting and a few coats of paint/decoration to make an interesting (but non-distracting) set.

    If your friend gets seriously into making films as opposed to teaching (and it is addictive) then he can think about spending the money and time on DSLRs. The lighting and audio equipment will still be needed and the only thing he'll have "wasted" is the couple of hundred quid on FS200s.

  6. Default

    Wasn't expecting such elaborate replies, kudos to both of you

    Seeing as he is not interested in movie making/still photography besides the obvious studio recording I think he would be much better suited with some kind of camcorder setup.
    I totally agree on content before "super-high definition with a shallow depth of field and lovely bokeh" and i think that, for his needs, a decent camcorder will do more than what he needs.

    He seems to have gotten the audio part quite figured out, so that I won't waste your time with.

    Back to the editing, it's a pressing matter for him that he can record directly from the camera into the mac, and I have no idea wether thats plug'n'play or requires some kind of super out of this world hardware solution.

    Also, i have read somewhere that the canon camcorders seem to have a very narrow field of view, not really optimal in a small studio setup.
    So... Golden question: Which camcorder and why ? I have extremely limited knowledge about this type of equipment, so any advice would be superb.

    Once again, a great many thanks for the replies

  7. #7


    I can not really give you any advice on camcorders, what I personally did, was seeing what was easily available within my budget range and my desired features (mostly relatively wide angle and as many manual controls as possible), compare this with several internet blogs, reviews, info and user feedback and just went with my feel. I ended up buying a Canon Legria HFM306 (that was around 350€ at that time, I'm not sure you can still find it new), it had 1080p/50fps (which is great for slow motion), ergonomics are alright I guess, I never really felt the touch screens and menus so I can't really tell, I'm more of a tactile guy but I could manage with that camcorder for a couple of years.
    Now I am at the point where I know I can still squeeze more from it, but it just became more of a struggle with the machine and it started to get frustrating because I wanted "hands on" full manual control as well as the access to super wide angle and fast primes. I still think I got plenty out of my camcorder, I just bought a couple of those $30-$60 160 LED lights off amazon, a couple of cheap tripods for them and went with that.
    I know you can find cheap but sufficient for amateur purposes lighting kits on internet, it's better than nothing and for about 100€ you can get a couple of soft boxes for example, it will not be the high end stuff but again, much better than nothing and definitely enough to learn.

    For reference, this is the kind of stuff I used to do with my canon

  8. #8


    I wouldn't even know how to make those zoom effects on a DSLR actually

    POV footage and super slow motion are recorded with a gopro hero 2 (which is also a great tool for filming tutorials as a secondary POV or specific close up cam like on a guitar's head for example)

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by cornerrage View Post
    Back to the editing, it's a pressing matter for him that he can record directly from the camera into the mac,
    Can I ask - why?
    This seems to be putting a severe limitation on what he can do.
    If he is concerned about syncing between his audio and the video this is easily achieved by recording a sort, sharp sound (eg a handclap) before calling "action" on each take. You then match the waveforms on the timeline when editing, by lining up the spikes.
    In fact, simultaneous recording onto a computer may introduce lag and timing problems.

  10. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by TimStannard View Post
    Can I ask - why?
    This seems to be putting a severe limitation on what he can do.
    If he is concerned about syncing between his audio and the video this is easily achieved by recording a sort, sharp sound (eg a handclap) before calling "action" on each take. You then match the waveforms on the timeline when editing, by lining up the spikes.
    In fact, simultaneous recording onto a computer may introduce lag and timing problems.
    It's simply to minimize time spent. If he's doing a lot of videos and the lenght is from anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes, it's simply because he want's to remove another step in the process of making the movie by cutting out transferring of the content AFTER the shoot is done. If there can be problems with lag and timing, i can see that it wouldn't save him time - But that was the general idea.

    I think that hadoq is on to something. I better go scour the interwebz for useful info on cameras that fit the pricerange, perhaps canon is as good a place to start as any

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