GEAR Talk: Because gear DOES matter

Oh boy, oh boy! Today we are talking about GEAR! Yes, because gear DOES matter. Sorry, but it does.

So, starting out let’s say a few words about the significance of gear. Lots of experts working with super-expensive cameras and lenses will tell you that gear does not matter. It’s the idea for every creation that matters. It’s you behind the camera that will stand out.

Let me tell you what I think. But first, let’s talk about the cameras I am using.

Cameras

My main camera is a Canon 70D that I bought three years ago when I was hired by the leading online poker room to do some video work. Since shooting and editing in 4k require a lot more resources, I have chosen to produce videos in 1080p for the time being, so this camera gets the job done despite recording only in full HD resolution.

I have only two lenses for this camera. Most of the time I use the Sigma 18 to 35 f1.8 Art lens, which is considered one of the best in its class, although I find it a bit noisy when focusing. I have talked about this setup and my thoughts on upgrading on a better system in a previous video. The other lens is a silent telephoto lens from Canon, the 55-250 STM lens. This cannot be used at night but can bring distant objects closer.

Another camera I use quite often is the Sony RX100IV pocket camera. Although it shoots 4K, stabilization is only available in 1080p mode. I use that for slow-motion clips in bright conditions and for on-the-go shooting when I don’t carry the big DSLR camera.

Finally, I recently got a GoPro Hero 5, my first ever GoPro camera. I like filming with that when I need to be discreet or in places where I don’t want to get lot of attention. In summer I’m planning to use it in the water when we’ll be traveling to Greek islands.

Sound

I have 4 microphones, all made by RODE. These include a lavalier mic connected to my smartphone when shooting in noisy places, the VideoMic Pro, the current standard microphone for vlogging and other productions, the Stereo VideoMic when it’s windy and the NT-USB for voiceovers.

Since we talked about the video’s basics, such as the image and sound let’s resume our talk.

Yes, at first gear does not matter. The point is to go out there and create something. I agree. I shot my first poker videos with my cell phone put on an ironing board.

Since I started, though, I realized that gear will allow me to film different shots/angles. It will help create better videos. It will save/buy me TIME!

And recently, my new and BETTER gear made me willing to create more. I’ll talk about that gear now!

Tripods

I used to place the Canon camera on a Manfrotto tripod. This is the 394h with a Video-Photo head. Although it’s aimed to beginners, I found it quite difficult to use it, especially indoors. The most annoying thing was when I wanted to change the height and had to raise all three legs and rebalance it since the main column’s lock had loosened up and couldn’t keep it extended even after fixing it once. Of course, that applies to any tripod really, which brings me to the next tripod.

The Sirui P424 Carbon Fibre Monopod. Yes, a monopod that can convert in a tripod, although not the most stable one. But, I LOVE this monopod. It allows me to change the height, easily lock and unlock the SINGLE leg and convert into a tripod when I need to shoot myself or take fancier shots.

For the perfect setup, I am using the 502 Fluid Head by Manfrotto.

For a much lighter and compact setup, I have tried out all kinds of gorillapods by Joby. The one for DSLRs, the tiny one, the magnetic ones, and I am disappointed by all of them. All have joints turning into butter, not able to hold the camera’s position while some broke! You can check that in an older video when I was attempting to vlog more regularly.

Since I moved to Sirui products I’m a happy video shooter! I now use this Sirui Table Top tripod which can hold the big dSLR with the heavy Sigma lens, although I mostly use it for my pocket camera. Great mini tripod which can also be used as a selfie stick.

I have also invested in a gimbal for smartphones and GoPros by Albird, called Uoplay. This is the original version, I think they’re selling the improved second one now. I have mixed feelings for that and haven’t tested a lot really.

Finally, not a tripod per se, Belkin suction cup mounts have allowed me to attach cameras around or inside my car for some candid shooting. I showed that setup in the previous episode of this series.

Accessories

This is the Solar Eclipse ND Fader by Genustech. In short, it allows me to shoot in sunlight wide open, which creates this cool picture effect where everything around me is blurred out. It’s also a polarizing filter, that cuts down sun reflections by rotating it if I have understood correctly. I never expected to spend so much money on a filter, but it came recommended by Philip Bloom himself. Caleb from DSLR Video shooter has published an excellent review of this filter.

Of course, I have a couple of spare batteries and use the Extreme Pro memory cards by Sandisk in 64 and 128GB formats.

So, apart from the better image and sound quality of a video gear does matter when it comes to inspiration/motivation.

If I think I’ll struggle to carry and set up the tripod, I won’t leave home half of the times. If I know my camera won’t take nice pictures, I won’t go out the other half of the times! In the end, my basic gear will discourage me from creating in the first place!

And that’s where I think gear matters the most.

The filter that allows me to blur our the background around me. The tripods that made my work easy and accelerated the filming process. The gimbal that allows me to film steady video while I am running. All this is gear that makes me want to go outside and film a video.

Yes, I do have a rough idea of what I’m trying to create here. I could achieve that with a smartphone’s camera. Would I be in the mood, though, to even consider doing it?

Or simply think you had an ancient computer that lacked the power for video editing!

Computers

Last but not least, after the shooting is done, one has to edit as well. Until now my video editing machine has been this desktop computer, running on an Intel i7 CPU with 32GB of RAM and an Nvidia 970 video card. Hard disks are from Western Digital with 3 of them running in RAID 0 for more speed and backing their 6TB of data on Green drives. The system includes 2 SSD by Samsung for running Windows and application along with providing scratch disk space which is necessary for the editing software, Adobe’s Premiere Pro.

Recently, I invested in a Dell XPS 15 laptop with the color-perfect 4k screen. I haven’t edited a complete video on that, but I believe it will serve its purpose when I’ll be traveling next month.

So, in my opinion, gear DOES matter. And I haven’t even got a drone or a professional 4K camera yet! Maybe then gear won’t matter because I will already have the best one!

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