Saturday, December 25, 2010

Olympus E-5 Video @ Jalan Masjid India

Merry Christmas !! How has the joyful season celebration been for you guys?

I woke up to a grey sky Christmas early morning, and I decided to sleep in further. I woke up dangerously near noon, and I forced myself out of the bed because I have had something I wanted to accomplish on this very day. I have been thinking long and hard about what I wanted to do this weekend, and I decided to do something a little different than usual. Olympus E-5 that I have came equipped with video recording capability, and I thought to myself, why not give that a try?

Initially I have planned to do a street shooting session, so instead of street shooting in photographs, I did it in video. I purposefully chose Jalan Masjid India, a very vibrant place in Malaysia for a few reasons:
1) It is safe to walk around, and people here are generally friendly
2) The open air market attracted plentiful of people, flooding in from everywhere
3) I seldom cover this area before in my previous street walk sessions

A Walk Along Jalan Masjid India




I have no experience in shooting video before, apart from doing random recording with my previous compact point and shoot cameras which were all dead now. I must say, it was not exactly an easy task. I know most movie-style videos require immense amount of time, especially on the direction and acting part, hence I chose something which is rather lower in scale. I recorded whatever I saw on the streets, whatever that attracted my attention. I captured the contents that made the street, Jalan Masjid India special. I am presenting the unique culture and lifestyle of true Malaysians, being openly displayed in the public. Such open-air markets can be typically found everywhere in Malaysia.

All the short clips were originally recorded in its full 720p HD glory that Olympus E-5 offered, and the video quality was nothing short of astounding. However, due to my slow processing computer, and even slower internet connection (Malaysian broadband sucks) I have decided to downgrade the video quality to just 480p. It was compiled and processed in Windows Movie Maker (Windows Vista Version) which is already outdated software, and I had no controls over the compression settings, and the final output of the video was degraded much worse than expected. Nonetheless, we can all complain about sharpness and video quality but what I really wanted to do in this session was to kick start video shooting, to learn, improve and really try out something out of the normal stuff that I usually do.

The challenges that I have faced during shooting:
1) Manual focus. I really must improve on my manual focusing techniques; I find it a lot useful to shoot on manual focus than Autofocus, since all my lenses were not designed to work with the video recording of the E-5. Manual focus was a charm to use, I just needed to practice more. You can evidently see I have a lot of misses, or near misses.

2) Steady Hands. In video I noticed that I need steadier hands !! Slight movement can cause everything to be shifted out of the frame, especially on the longer end of the lens zoom.

3) Composition. Static composition on still photographs is easy. In video, I have to constantly think ahead of my composition especially on the places that I will move the camera to. At times I just accidentally bump into unwanted obstructions from left right front and back !!

4) Quick Response. The DSLR part of E-5 was brutally fast and responsive when it comes to immediate click to capture still photographs. On video, it was a real challenge. The autofocus was not really useful for quick paced scenes, and manual focus was not something I have gotten around with much lately. There were many opportunities that required lightning quick response, and I missed a lot of such opportunities, either by the failure to Autofocus, or my own failure to properly do manual focusing. I need to think and act faster.

5) Live View shooting. I am so used to seeing through the optical viewfinder, that shooting with the live view feels rather awkward. Nonetheless, I do admit that the variangle dual axis swivel screen LCD display was a welcome, especially shooting with live view in odd angles.

6) Time consuming. To come up with just 4 minutes video as shown in the youtube clip, it took me 3 and a half hours shooting time on the streets.

How did the Olympus E-5 do in real world video shooting? I really cannot say much, because I am not a video kind of person, in fact this was my first time attempting something other than recording a friend’s birthday cake cutting. I do find the ability to switch lenses a huge plus, allowing me flexibility, to go close (using the macro lens), to blur off the background (using large aperture, such as F2) or to have a long zoom (use of tele lens). It was really nice to see Olympus colors being represented in the video as well, though I do believe the compression of the video software and Youtube have somewhat unfavorably toned down the original lively colors. I find the Autofocus to be quite reliable and accurate, just very, very slow for quick paced shooting. When I used autofocus, I often set my focus first, then I started the recording on the already focused subjects, or else, I would just do everything in manual focus. Do bear in mind that extensive recording time will cause the sensor to overheat, and I have one encounter where there was a red icon warning me that the sensor was in high temperature, hence I stopped for a few minutes before resumed recording again.

I am sure many people have done this before, and the concept I am presenting in this video was nothing new. Although I did not have any precedence or reference to study, I did the clips based on the usual photo-journalistic approach in documenting what was already there. The arrangements were a little random and out or order, because I did not have a proper layout of what I intended to shoot, I just had some rough ideas in my mind and I captured whatever I found along the walk on the streets. I think the difficult part was waiting for that right moment, the decisive moment to record. The decisive moment sets a whole world of difference, than say, an ordinary recording. Something I must improve on, definitely.

It was quite interesting to see the streets of KL to be so busy, even on the day of Christmas. Christianity is the minority in Malaysia. It was a public holiday, meaning more business for the street vendors at Jalan Masjid India.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself on today’s unusual street session. I know I am new to this, there is a lot more to explore and learn when it comes to video techniques. Videography is an entirely different animal altogether, but having foundations from photography did help me a lot. I am glad I picked this up, and surely, I will take up more challenging, and hopefully interesting projects in the future.

If you have not viewed the video, please kindly check it out. Do let me know what you think !!

6 comments:

  1. Robin,nice..good job.u show wat is Jln Masjid India n culture of Msia..
    Amy Li

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  2. You signature eyes, vision, spotting of worthwhile subjects is there, whether it is video or stills. And I used to be from St. Johns and my Dad worked around the area so the capturing of that area is something I treasure a lot.

    But video sure is "tough" with rewards - like the two kids and the making of apom balik which digs deeper in my memories than a still would.
    Hand holding is tough and you've got to remember that even 4.5 mins is too long for the audience if the screen shakes too much or you pan too fast.
    Those Canon 5D movie shooters have got all kinds of frames and rigs so that you eyecup and magnify the LCD screen, there are thick wire frames which hold the body and you shoulder mount the rig.

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  3. Hi Ananda,
    Thanks for the compliments. Yeah I was trying to find scenes that have connections and stories related to what truly made us Malaysians unique, something you cannot find elsewhere.
    I am aware of the equipments for professional video use, including the equipments designed for steady panning and moving shots. Those things are expensive !! I wont be going serious into video, not anytime soon anyway, but of course, I was trying out what the video of the camera can do.
    Thanks for the tips. I guess I did move a little too much, which I tried to capture a lot, "movement" something that ordinary still photograph is lacking ahahaha. I will keep that in mind next time I do a video shoot again.

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  4. Hi Robin; I really enjoyed the video. Being in America it gave me a feel for what the street vendors are like in that area. I felt like I was there with you. To me that is what street video is about and it should not be too polished and perfect. Just like street photography a little raw edge to the imagery makes it better. Save perfect for the studio. I would encourage you to do more of these from time to time.

    I too now have a e-5 in part due to your review of the camera. Also, through your blog you have made friends all over the world. You are never alone. We share in the journey.

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  5. Hey Brian,
    Thank you so much for such kind remarks, and taking the time to comment here. I really appreciate it.
    I will surely do more videos, but my primary focus would be on photography. It was quite refreshing to do something different once in a while, and the video provided me new perspective to play with: capturing motion.
    I am glad you have got your E-5 !! I am sure you are loving it. Do share your photos to the world !!

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