Macro Video Test

As some of you know, I have been spending the last few months investigating a transition to video from photography. This is not a complete transition for me but as I believe the future of conservation awareness lies in video (specifically in TV programming and online services) I wanted to get on the bandwagon quite early to check out the possibilities.

The particular area of video that I am interested in is field macro, I like the smaller life forms in the Thai forests with a passion and that subject matter appeals to me greatly. Little did I know when I started out on this experiment, just how hard it would be and how much, time and money, I would spend. I shared my initial thoughts and some of the lessons I was learning on the way in my post Wildlife Macro Video

The first phase of the experiment is now over and it has taught me a lot. I always thought the process of photography was quite time consuming, taking into account the whole process of setting out to capture images through to the delivery of the final image/s. That was before I started my video experiment. I found the whole video process much more difficult than photography, in every aspect of the process. The equipment is more difficult to setup, to use, to carry. Lighting is a major issue. Working without a sturdy tripod is impossible. Setting up a shot can take 5-10 minutes compared to the 5 seconds or so needed for a photograph. Batteries are an issue for both lights and camera. Sorting and storing files is a bigger issue than in photography as is learning new software and post processing practices. We photographers have it easy in comparison. By a factor of 10 at least!

Macro Insects DSLR test video Thailand from Wildlife Thailand on Vimeo.

video processing in final cut pro
Processing the 45 clips in final cut pro - much more time consuming than photographs

So why has the first phase come to an end? Simply because of the limitations of the currently available (and affordable) equipment.

As photographers we have a huge file quality advantage over videographers from our DSLRs and when processing the video files you become very aware of those quality advantages. Most DSLRs can output video at 1080P, but thats just the equivalent of 2 megapixels! I may be shooting on a 36 megapixel camera body (Nikon D800e) but the video file is just a 2 megapixel frame and on top of that the codecs used by the camera are essentially throwing away a lot of detail to get a small file size. Its like a 2MP jpeg not a 2MP RAW. There are none of the advantages that RAW provides to photographers. You cannot change white balance in post and you are limited to just minor tweaks to the frames. If you get white balance wrong, under or overexpose, or get the framing wrong - you are stuffed!

So a little video respite is upon me whilst I wait for the affordable equipment to become available. Luckily that will be soon as Panasonic will release their 4K capable Panasonic GH4 camera in the next couple of months. That is taking affordable videography to around 8+ megapixels which coupled with the camera's high bit rate will mean a lot more latitude in the video files for post processing over my current setup. As the camera also has a crop ratio of 2, its very well suited to macro work as well. I think we will see affordable 4K from most of the major manufacturers by the end of the year. 

Above is a compilation of the macro video files from the experiment with the D800e body.  All shot in the Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex at a time of year, the dry season, when arthropod life is hard to find at best. In all honesty the actual video file is 1.4 GB and does have a lot more quality, density and colour depth in it than what you are seeing here. Thats because Vimeo/YouTube are drastically reducing the file size further for online delivery. Hence recommended to be viewed at fullscreen and HD at a minimum.


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"Each species is a masterpiece, a creation assembled with extreme care and genius." > Edward O. Wilson

"An understanding of the Natural World and whats in it is a source of not only a great curiosity but great fulfillment." > Sir David Attenborough

“Climb up on some hill at sunrise.  Everybody needs perspective once in a while, and you’ll find it there.” > Robb Sagendorph


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