My SLR Can Do That?

Most of us by now are shooting wonderful photos on our SLRs (Single Lens Reflex Cameras, my wife asked what it stood for!). Canon and Nikon are the Industry Leaders and make an array of terrific cameras and lenses. The REAL QUESTION is “What ALL can your SLR do?” The answer: How about shoot an entire TV Commercial that aired on ESPN! That’s right, Studio Center shot an entire Broadcast Quality Commercial with an SLR!
Sure we shoot the VAST majority of our stuff on expensive HD cameras, RED, or 35, BUT we SHOT AN ENTIRE TV COMMERCIAL ON A LITTLE SLR that you can buy almost anywhere! Our DP, Videographer and Editor on the project, Steve Strickland gives us the details.

Steve, what was the project?

Steve: It was called "Heart of a Lion," a promo for the biography of Hank Gathers.

What SLR did you use?

Steve: I used the Canon 7D for this project.

Did you use a modified lens?

Steve: I did use couple of older Nikon AIS lenses with Canon adapters, 85mm and 50mm primes. I also used the stock 28-135mm Canon lens.

What were the benefits of shooting with an SLR?

Steve: The greatest benefit is the large sensor size of the camera. It allows the operator to achieve a shallow depth of field similar to that of a 35mm motion picture camera and provides nice dynamic range. Another advantage is size and weight of the setup. Even with full rails, matte box, and follow focus, the overall weight is considerably less than that of a typical broadcast camera. For such a small package, DSLRs pack a mighty big punch.

Any disadvantages?

Steve: Well, the biggest disadvantage is poor audio. To achieve decent sound, you have to return to a more film-style production of running synch sound to an external recorder and match it up in post. Another downside is the codec used in-camera. It is un-editable natively in most systems and must be converted to another format for smooth playback. The last disadvantage is record time. The camera can record in 12 min. intervals and will overheat if driven hard without cool down periods.

Briefly take us through the whole process.

Steve: First, as in a typical production, you find your shot. Light with the larger sensor in mind, a lot of times, less can be more. Select your desired color temp., shutter speed, and iso settings. Then your soundperson will slate the scene with reference for audio. "Yell Action!", press record, and you're ready to go.

In post, ingest the files, convert to your desired editing codec, re-synch your audio, and edit your masterpiece.

Here is the commercial that aired on ESPN. Tell us what you think.

Heart of a Lion