moving to motion clap board copy

I’m bloated and uncomfortable. There’s a sharp pain in my gut. I’m searching site after site trying to find something to ease this discomfort. I have a bad case of G.A.S. The dreaded Gear Acquisition Syndrome that all of us experience. In this series of articles I will be talking about my process of researching gear, weighing the pros and cons of different systems, dealing with costs and calculating ROI, expecting the unexpected, and learning from past experiences of buyer’s remorse. Lastly, this will give all of us a chance to chime in about our experiences of buying into new camera systems, moving to new genres of work, or hearing about each others success and failures when dealing with G.A.S.

My History With Video Thus Far

This is going to be the third time in my career that I’ve emphatically stated that I’m diving into video. The first time was some fourteen or fifteen years ago when I was working with the Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar. Two people in particular were my inspiration; Dirk Halstead and Brian Storm. These two guys were  New Media prophets at the time. They talked about a day when we photographers would have one camera that could shoot video and stills and capture audio. They talked about new markets opening for this kind of story telling. We would one day have a rig that allowed you to sell stills to publications, sell video to networks, and create audio stories for outlets like NPR. Then, one day, we’d be putting all this shit on the world wide web. Not only was this technology coming but it would be expected of us to do it all.

After Dirk and Brian gave presentations about these topics I distinctly remember the majority of photographers talking amongst themselves saying that these two guys were fools. This was never going to happen. Very few people got excited about this new horizon at that time but those few that did have gone on to be leaders in the New Media industry that is alive and well and moving forward today. People like David Leeson who helped lead the photo department of the Dallas Morning News to video very early on in the genre of New Media.

So, like any good photographer who has ambition, I got some credit cards and bought some new gear. I went with the New Media camera of choice at the time which was the Canon GL1. In addition to this camera I had to upgrade my computer. I purchased a 400 MHz Mac G3 (blue and white). That was a screaming machine for its time. I think it had 32 megs of ram and a 6 gig hard drive. Then came the accessories. A Sony minidisk recorder (because I couldn’t afford a DAT machine), a few microphones, a steady cam sort of thing, a new tripod with fluid head, batteries, charges, cords and cables, media, etc, etc, etc. I bought a small Sony camcorder to be my second / backup camera. iMovie 1.0 was out and I was off to the races with dreams of becoming one of the first great New Media journalists. That never happened. I started shooting wedding videos. Here’s a screen shot of the homepage of my wedding video site circa 2002. My online demo real was 320×240 I think. Fun times. I’d show you some videos and photos from this time in my life but they’re on a ZIP drive.


Fast forward to 2008 and here comes another photojournalist with a Canon camera who changed our industry. Vincent Laforet and that damn Canon 5D Mk2 and his short film Reverie. I know that Vincent has been to many what Dirk, Brian, and David were to me. What did we finally have? One rig that can do stills, video, and audio. What are we all expected to do these days? Stills. Video. Audio. Entire news departments have moved to these kinds of rigs. Why? For multimedia on the web. I hear a collective “I told you so!” coming from Dirk and Brian.

I, like many of you, rushed out and bought a 5D2. We were off to the races to become the next movie director, documentary maker, or whatever. Everything could be pushed to the web and the world was ours to take! Then most of us quickly found that it was not so easy. “You let me buy these dreams Canon. Knowing they were lies.” 🙂

Suddenly a cottage industry of “shit-to-bolt-onto-your-camera” popped up. DSLR video was getting expensive and becoming a royal pain in the ass once you started adding rails and follow focus rigs and audio and sliders and jibs and on and on. I started watching people build the biggest, ugliest, and most expensive Frankenstein camera rigs on the planet. I went to one of Laforet’s workshops soon after buying my Canon gear and I quickly realized that I didn’t want to do this. I mean, I wanted to shoot video. I wanted to work with motion again but not like this. Please note that is not a dig at Vince. I’ve known him for a long time and he’s a loved and trusted friend to Meg and me. I respect him so much but all that shit he uses? Not for me. 🙂

What did I do with my Canon video gear? Not much. I shot two freebie music videos for friends and a few BTS things for clients. It was a pain to deal with the limitations of the 5D2 and throwing that footage into my aging MacPro at the time brought it to its knees. So what did I do? I went out and bought the run-and-gun ENG darling; a used Panasonic HVX200. What did I do with that HVX? Not much. Not enough to justify the cost.

What I figured I needed was the right camera for me. That’s it! I had yet to find the right camera! I needed to buy something else!!! Here we go!  I sold the HVX and thankfully got all but $100 back from what I had put into that system. I then bought my current goto video camera, the Canon XF100. This was the first video camera since my GL1 that I didn’t completely hate using. It has AF. It has onboard XLR inputs. Zebras and focus peaking. Onboard audio monitoring. Yay! Well, low light isn’t that great and it’s a bit on the large side so I don’t travel with it very much, but I have put it into use more than my other video cameras of late. It’s currently the camera I use for DEDPXL blog posts. It’s not perfect though. Not perfect for me that is. I need better low light performance and smaller form factor for travel. I need. I need.. I need… I need a new camera! GAS!

It's at this point I stop what I'm doing and ask myself...
“WTF am I doing?”


Why do I need this new camera? What makes this different than all the other times I thought I needed a new camera as much as I think I need a new camera now? Stop. Breathe. I need to think about the time, resources, and headaches I put into video in the past and I need to honestly assess where I’m going with it now and if it truly justifies the time and resources and headaches I’m going to put into it again.

1. Nearly every meeting I’ve been in for the past two years I’ve been asked this one question over and over; “Do you do video?” My standard answer is “No. But I can put a crew together for you and I can direct.” Of course I have no reel to show for this. So how many video jobs do you think I get from that? I have an email in my inbox right now wanting to know if I would be up for shooting some video for a local company.

2. I’ve talked with many, many photographers who have told me that video is becoming more and more a part of their business and their income. I know a few people who are working more in video than in stills now or the income they are making from video is surpassing what they make with stills. Think about this as well: A lot of companies have moved photography in-house or they are using any ol’ person they can find who has a DSLR. From Tom back in shipping to Lisa in accounting, stills for newsletters, social media, web sites, and the like are being given to just about anyone who has a camera. Do you really see this happening with video any time soon? Video is such a massive pain in the ass and requires so much more than a “nice camera.” Video still requires a specialist and still requires a budget. I spoke with one photographer recently who said they are fighting for every low paying photo job they get. The video work they do has less competition and better budgets. Hmmmm.

3. Research shows that video is becoming more and more and more important for companies, brands, publications, etc. More and more and more people want video for the web. I’ve sometimes thought that I’d just be the pig headed stubborn stills shooter and draw a line in the sand and emphatically state that I DO NOT SHOOT VIDEO. I shoot stills. Hire me for that. While I’m still getting hired just for that I realize that I’m leaving work on the table.

4. As I grow this site, DEDPXL, more of the content I want to produce and publish will be video based. Just as I see other companies want more video content, I want more video content for my company. YouTube subscriptions are becoming more important for generating traffic and higher search engine rankings. When I’m looking for anything from a blender to a camera bag to a lens I find myself searching YouTube for product reviews, descriptions, and tutorial videos. Not only do I want to produce more video content, I am also consuming more video content.

5. I need it for the children! For the children! Our oldest son, Caleb, is in his last weeks of 9th grade and his last weeks of public school. He asked Meg and I if we would consider homeschooling him so he could get an early start in a career somewhere in the creative field. Caleb has been into video for two years now and is a talented shooter and editor. When a fifteen year old shows you a video because of how well it was edited that is a sure sign they are on their path. He’s been very beneficial to me during the launch of this new site and part of his homeschooling curriculum will be working and traveling with me. #childlabor!


Here are a few defining philosophies I have ::

1. If I’m going to do video, I’m going to do it right and not hack it together. You can give me the flint from a Zippo lighter and a Coke bottle and I can make a picture. While so much can be done with DIY components in video I have zero desire to paddle my way through DIY waters. I want some solid gear but that does not mean I need the best. I don’t need Red cameras and Zeiss glass and all of that but I do need a solid working kit of gear that gives me options and is capable of 95% of the work I’ll be doing. I want to own a core amount of gear and rent the rest.

2. I honestly don’t give two shits about bokeh and movements. With the boom of filmmaking for the masses there has been a race to the shallowest depth of field. The silkiest slides. The jaw dropping jibs. Those damn dollies. I call it visual masturbation. I’ve watched more and more people buy more and more shit so they can shoot at f-.05 and perform more movements than Beethoven. Hell, in addition to being filmmakers, people are now learning to fly quadcopters so they can fly these f*cking cameras over, and into, everything. While all of these aspects of film and video have their place, I don’t think they are the end goal.

The end goal is telling a story.
The end goal is dispersing information that is useful and valuable to someone.


3. I want to focus on the content and let the technique always be secondary. As soon as the technique gets in the way of the content then the technique has to go. I also want to focus on what I can do well and what I suck at and I’m going to increase my knowledge in all of these fields through online classes and workshops. Then I’ll hire people to do the rest. At the end of the day I want the simplest kit of gear I can build that isn’t A) an iPhone and B) doesn’t overwhelm me with all the crap that has to be built in order to do my job.

4. The greatest and most far reaching piece of video I’ve ever made was a little video called Transform. It was shot with a Flip Mino HD camera and a tripod. That video has had 100k views on YouTube and over 300k views on blip where it was originally posted. I have to remember that content is key and I can’t get too caught up in all the fluff. Fluff can diminish content and fluff can be expensive. Whatever I do moving forward has to have some part of Transform in it. Whatever that fire was in my gut needs to stay with me.

5. I’m going to take my time finding my voice in video. I’m not going to rush. While I’ll be producing interviews, educational content, reviews, etc., I’ll also be working on some personal video projects to prepare my reel. I hope to start showing that reel in… two years. I’m going to be patient but hard at work all the same.


Part Two of this series is going to cover the camera systems and lenses I’ve researched and which ones I feel fit my needs. I’ll talk about my personal process of digesting a lot of information and how I distill the important things from the fluff. I look at the specs but I’m also looking for something deeper from people reviewing and talking about camera systems.

Part three will focus on accessories because video f*cking loves accessories. Mics. ND filters. Monitors. Cables. Lights. Batteries. Tripods. Jibs. Steady devices. Cages. Bags. I’m distilling what’s important, what isn’t, what I need to own, and what I can rent when needed.

Part four will cover the gear needed for post production. My little Mac Mini is NOT cutting it for video. If I’m going to produce more video content then new camera and new computer will be going hand in hand. I’ll talk about the 10 seconds I actually thought about building a PC and then talk about the new Mac Pro vs. iMac, monitors, drives, card readers, etc.

Part five will be a thorough review of all the items once they arrive and have been tested and how I budgeted, paid, and calculated the ROI for this stuff.

Heads up… I’ll be having a big yardsale on ebay next month. 🙂

Do you have a story about moving to video? Have a story about buyer’s remorse? Are you also in this place where you’re researching gear and you’re getting lost in the sea of information? Share your experience below with the rest of us. We all have so much to learn from each other.


(I’ll be updating this post with relevant links as I post the articles.)

Zack Arias

A full time commercial and editorial photographer, Zack shoots everything from bands to CEOs to ad campaigns. A gifted teacher and communicator, he has an uncanny ability to meet and connect with all types of people.

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  1. Shawn

    Hi Zack,

    Nothing against video, but I hope you don’t move to replace written content on your site with video. I just don’t have time to watch a lot of video, and there’s something great about the written word that makes consuming information so much easier. I’m just realizing now that I went from a dummy shooting in full auto mode to an expert who can shoot in any mode I want and use off-camera flash with ease completely on the written word.

    I’ve been wanting to watch some of the videos on your site since inception, but just can’t find the time (short of splitting them up into 10 1-minute sessions).

    Just $.02, take it or leave it. 🙂



    • Enrique Meza

      Hey Zach! Great read as usual. Just wanted to say awesome that you’re heading on this journey. I found myself in the same position 5 years ago looking at the 5D2 and thinking the same things. Video is here to stay and I now do about 80% video work. I work for a couple ad agencies in town and I know they have moved all the still work internally, but just like you stated video is its own beast and when people try they generally fail. I dont know a lot but I have walked down the path your are on now and would love to chat with you. Again congrats on this journey! Here is one of my proudest pieces I have worked on recently

      • Igor

        Hello, for me vidéo mode is better because i can listen or view. Vidéo is great! At least audo podcast can be nice to have and more easy to do for Zack.

        • Zack

          Thanks for the feedback Igor.


    • Zack

      @Shawn – I have recently been to enough places that had horrible Internet that it convinced me that video isn’t the answer to everything. I’ll be providing text as well as video entries. Thanks for your feedback.


    • Daf

      Conversely – I read/look at photography blogs during my lunch break (IT techie in a photo agency) and I’ve found myself favouring blogs with video content more and more.

      I think maybe because it’s filling a break, rather than sitting down to learn something serious.

      • Zack

        @Daf – I tend to be watching more video content on blogs as well. I think there’s a balance to be made for DEDPXL and it is something I’m working to find. Thank you for your feedback.


  2. Andrew

    Hi Zack!

    Looking forward to the rest of your posts on this topic. Been getting more into video myself these days – eyeballing the Panny GH4 right now and a Movi M5 for one rig to rule them all! I do find it challenging to determine where best to spend your $$$ or how to strike a good balance between rigging and the camera itself, especially after watching this new Bentley ad that was filmed entirely on the iPhone 5s:

    So in this case…very inexpensive camera, but primo rigging, lenses and adapters.



    • Zack

      I’m heavily leaning toward the GH4 as well. I think that’s going to be my rig. As for the Movi… I’m wondering if that’s going to be a rental.

      And yes… That new Bentley Ad is a great reminder that it’s not about the camera but all the other shit involved in making a video.


      • Ben W

        Man, that Bentley ad reminded me of this gem from back in the day. I remember watching this in film school, so it’s at least from 2001, and it was probably done on a similar GL1/Mac G3 or G4 rig.

  3. Joey

    Judging by your history, no matter the medium, you’ve always had a good story to tell. That’s why people follow you. I’m sure you’ll do well with video. Whenever I have a bad day, I watch your trailers for the creativeLIVE workshops, they always crack me up. “Camera movements, camera movements! C’mon, we have to make Laforet proud!”

    • Zack

      Hahahaha! I forgot about that! Thanks for the reminder! 🙂


  4. terrie

    This is great, and the other parts to come will help tremendously. (Wow!)

    I have no buyer’s remorse at all, due to not buying anything yet, because doing that would be a setback/self-sabotage. It’s too important to me to screw up.
    Thank you very, very much for “Moving To Motion” — right on time for me.

    Ai-yi-yi, the drone thing; yep.

  5. Brent Nitschke


    Encouraged to hear about the homeschooling. My wife and I have been homeschooling our 3 for the last 6 years. About to enroll our oldest in American School (correspondence-based, accredited high school for home school-ers). Its been great so far…its work, but its great. We’re in ATL as well. If you need anything, or we could help answer any questions. Lemme know.


    • Zack

      Thanks Brent! Good to hear from a local ATLien. I’ll keep your info on hand!


  6. Matt Doebler

    Zack, I teach a 2-year upper-level high school film studies course, and I constantly remind my students that the story is “king.” Once they grasp this, they go on to produce some amazing work.

  7. Rab


    We homeschool both of our sons for all the right reasons. It has really worked for us. One big bonus is that my oldest (now 13) gets to work as my lighting assistant. He earns money and is learning the trade. We also get to spend lots of time together.

    We have some of our best discussions about life, the universe and everything (and especially about the clients we just photographed) on our way home in the car. When the images are published in magazines etc. I make a point to give him a copy and tell him that he played a key role in the success of the job. He gets full credit on my blog as part of the team. He works hard and is now way more solid assistant than the students in the photography program at the local university.

    Hopefully he’ll look back in 20 years and remember it fondly. I certainly treasure every moment we have out there.

    Give a shout if you every want to talk specifics about homeschooling. I’d be happy to chat.



    • Zack

      Thanks so much for this Rab! I’m really looking forward to this new chapter for us. I know Caleb is going to be grown up and on his own before I know it and I’m looking forward to having some close time with him before that happens. I really appreciate your words. I’ll be in touch if I ever need some advice!


      • Rab

        Take him on a couple of easy jobs if you can. I have to admit, my chest kind of puffs up a bit when I introduce him to the client as “my regular assistant” I think his does too. That’s a one of a kind feeling.

        It’s kinda awesome being a dad sometimes.


  8. Philippe

    Hi Zack,

    I’d be curious to hear what your take is on the creative side of things with regard to stills vs video. I find video to be quite addictive and I very much doubt I’d get tired of it. Still images on the other hand….
    You probably know this, but for everyone else famed cinematographer Roger Deakins has a forum on his website ( where he answers questions from the subscribers. I spent many hours on the forum and his insights about filmmaking are very interesting to say the least. Not that I’d like to divert people from coming to DEDPXL 🙂

  9. david

    I did the photography to film maker move in 1972. And then left the business.
    Making the move from still pictures to motion pictures has nothing to do with equipment selection. It has to do with visual perspective, training, experience and creative instincts.

    The path started, when a large client asked us to shot some film of a couple of their client production lines. We rented equipment, found a production house to do the editing and I decided to be the cameraman and production coordinator. That led me to bid on and win a contract to produce three 30 minute educational programs for PBS. That led to another production contract and a partnership with a guy that turned out to be a crock. And thus the end of my professional photography for 30 years.

    Now, when someone asks me to shot video I give them the name of one of the videographers I know. I am happy shooting images with my digital cameras, that can also do video, without bothering to push the record button.

    The call it video production for a reason. Its a production. Shooting the video and recording the sound are almost insignificant elements in the production process. Lighting is more complex. Camera positions and angles are more critical because scene cutting has to support the story without being visually startling. Exposure, framing, DoF and many other technical elements have to be planned from shot to shot to support the story with meaningful and complementary moving pictures.

    Talking head videos like transform are not video production, they are point and shot video. Something that just about anyone can accomplish with just about any video capable camera.
    Lighting skills can make it look better, but its still a talking head point and shot production.

    The fruit company video linked in one of the comments illustrates what’s possible by paying attention to production values and investing the time and energy in planning, shooting to a storyboard and post production.

    I suggest that it would be better to start this series with a careful and critical discussion of the mental, and educational requirements necessary to be successful doing video production beyond talking head training videos and end with how to select equipment based on the production plan. Rather than starting with GAS.

    One man’s view.


    • Zack


      That’s what I’m talking about! That’s the kind of conversation starter I like to see around here. Thank you for taking the time to write all of that out.

      I know that video is a whole new beast when it comes to the amount of work one must do. I’ll be sure to dedicate a post about my thoughts on this. I know enough to be dangerous but I sure don’t have years of experience under my belt. I realize I’m up for a lot of mistakes, misjudgments, and Ms. Whatever-her-name-was. Sorry. Hothouse Flowers reference.


      • Ian

        David, Zack,

        I totally agree that medium to large video projects require a crew. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t do smaller projects on your own with great results. In some way you can compare large video productions to large (commercial) photo-productions with lots of assistants, make-up, styling, models, director, etc. But this doesn’t mean every job requires all those people. You can do great stuff on your own.

        As a one man band with sufficient knowledge of light, sound and story it’s possible make beautiful things (or you can at least try). Not only image-wise, but also story-wise. Because the distribution of video online is so easy nowadays I think there is a huge market for smaller assignments/projects and there lies an opportunity for freelance videographers. The video-DSLR made it possible or attractive for a whole new group of people to try out video.

        I’ve been playing with video for almost three years now and I keep getting more and more video assignments. Nikon D7000 & D800 were already in my kit for still images. I haven’t invested a lot of money into it, but there are a few things I bought that made my life easier and my work better. In chronological order:

        0. Editing software (FCPX just came out and not knowing any better I liked it)
        1. Small LED light with hotshoe mount (bi-colour, E-bay)
        2. Rode Videomic (gunshot mic. not great, audio is hard)
        3. Small Manfrotto fluid head for tripod
        4. Vari ND filter
        5. Shoulder rig with follow focus (Before my ‘real’ shoulder rig I used a Gorillapod as a shoulder mount. Worked pretty well actually)

        6. Slider (As with the drone shots: don’t overuse this. Don’t buy this when you’re starting out. Haven’t used this a lot)
        7. 3 cheap Arri knock off halogen fresnel lights with 1 softbox. Really hot and heavy, but cheap and gets the job done. Gels are also easy to get and work great.
        8. Zoom H4N audio recorder. (Audio is really, really hard)
        9. Wired lav mic for audio recording

        The first 6 things I would buy again in a heartbeat when my gear got stolen. The last 4 things on the list I only bought when I needed them for specific jobs: interviews, product shots, etc. Would I like to have more gear? Sure! Would my work benefit from it? Probably not.

        I don’t think of myself as a real videographer, but I still don’t consider myself a ‘real’ photographer either. There are so many things left to learn, but video has been a very interesting journey and I like the diversity. Right now it’s really important that I know what I’m capable of and don’t accept projects that I’m not ready for or that require a larger crew.

        Can’t wait to read other peoples experiences. Keep up the good work Zack. Always love reading your stuff.


        • david

          The size of the crew is budget dependent. 🙂
          I agree that one creative person can undertake all aspects of a production. Its just that, in my experience, the knowledge required to do all the different things required for a produced video, as opposed to a home video, is quite an intellectual accomplishment.

          More later, have to run. To see a documentary about the Hairy Who and Chicago Imagists that took the film maker 5 years to complete.

  10. Ben W

    I think about this a bit. I’m schooled in motion but I prefer to work in still. It’s taken me years to come to grips with that and I only went full time with still photography last year, after working in nearly every facet of motion production, from grip to camera department to audio production to actual producing. I’m deeply introverted and working with a crew that large, usually 12 hours a day/8 days a week, is exhausting. It took me twelve years to figure it out. But I don’t think I can go back. I don’t worry about leaving work on the table; I recommend my friends who are beyond competent and ask for a kickback, I mean, um, customer acquisition fee. No shame in my game.

    I thought about it even more today, since we lost Gordon Willis, one of the greatest DPs to ever shoot a frame. I wrote about it; I won’t spam with a link but you can find it on my blog if you want (click my name).

    Glad you’re back, Zack!

  11. Roger

    Very interesting read, Zack. I initially started out with a desire to write, direct and shoot films/videos, but i did the complete opposite of what you are now doing. I switched entirely to still photography. By no means am i bringing home the bacon but my goal went from video production to portrait photography.

    A bad move on my part perhaps, but i actually felt at the time there was more money in stills than video. Anyhow, great article. It is obvious that video is here to stay and is only going to grow. Perhaps i need to start rethinking my strategy again. D’oh!

    • Zack

      Well Roger, grab some popcorn and watch my train wreck about to happen and you can decide if you want to change directions again. 🙂


  12. Ken

    Zach, great post and I think may of us can relate! I’m a Fuji X system guy as well and I’ve love it if my Fuji’s could provide what I need for video. In the end, they just aren’t up to snuff yet. So what did I do? After much research (including reading what Kirk Tuck had to say on the matter, since he is doing more video), I dove in with the little Sony RX10.

    Why the Sony RX10? Simplicity and no need to have a “new system” to support the video. I keep my Fuji’s for stills (and B roll) and the Sony for primary video. I don’t care a lot about razor thin DoF for video and I find that 24-200mm f/2.8 Zeiss on the RX10 to be just what I need. No more lenses to add on. Filters? Sure. Audio levels and live monitoring? Check. Mic input? Check. HDMI output? check. Does it shoot 4k? Not yet, I’m sure the next version will but for now, I don’t “need it”, I just want clean, clean, clean 1080p at 60fps with fantastic AF, a rocker/electronic zoom for video and a nice EVF and LCD. I use the little Sony external hotshoe mic for run & gun and it works great.

    I just did my first 23 minute long video (importing about 2.5 hours of footage to choose from) as a test for my son’s kindergarten class. It gave me an excuse to experiment and try it out without any pressure. They got a nice little video “year book”.

    I edited it in full 1080p on an i7 quad core Mac Mini (2012) with 16G RAM in Final Cut Pro X on a 27″ Thunderbolt monitor. It handled it like a champ. I thought I may “need” to upgrade my Mac again…nope. I was shocked how smooth FCP-X worked on it compared to the sluggish iMovie or Adobe offerings I’ve used in the past. This little mini chugs along and runs LR5, Aperture 3.x, PS and FCP-X just fine for me. Even when scrubbing the video in FCPX and viewing the titles, effects, etc. in real time, there was never a performance hit or dropped frames. This was surprising 🙂

    Like others said the GH4 / GH3 are good options if you don’t mind another system. Of course, there are dedicated video cams as well, they just aren’t for me. That little Sony can also double as a fun little family camera as well and the stills aren’t bad either.

    • Zack

      I’m currently editing with Premiere CC. I might… might… be looking to FCP again because I know they tune it for Mac hardware. Adobe is doing a lot of work bringing their offerings up to speed on multi cores and GPUs though. Currently my Mac Mini does software rendering only and it’s killing me.


      • Ken

        Zach, I was truly shocked at how well the mini handled FCPx. iMovie is sluggish when rendering the project for export to the point where I can’t even watch a YouTube video or read you blog (how dare they block my access to Dedpxl!!!). Adobe, was far worse, as you said, with the software rendering.

        FCPx sure makes use of the hardware rendering. Because I’ve got 16G RAM in it, it can dedicated 1024MB to the GPU for video work. The quad core i7 was in full use and performed very well, at least in comparison for me. The app did take a while to load, but once loaded, it was pretty swift. Sure, a Mac Pro will blow it away, but at a cost. I did keep my “master” video files that I edited on a USB3 drive and that’s where it pulled from for the rendering, not the internal HDD. I’m thinking of adding an SSD drive for the OS on the mini now to really up it’s performance 🙂

        Even during final rendering and export, I had a fully functional Mac on my hands. I could get other work done at the same time. Maybe next time, I’ll try opening LR or Aperture and see what happens. As an example, while I had it rendering and exporting a 1080p version ready for YouTube, I was able to view my master copy in 1080p in QuickTime, full screen, without any dropped frames or system lag at all. It was smooth full motion pushing it across the 2564×1440 of the Thunderbolt display.

  13. Chris Hood

    I had the MKII and all the shit to do everything. Turned around one day and said to myself. ARE YOU RETARDED?!
    I sold it all and bought a Canon HF G30.
    Bliss ever since!
    Simple camera with manual control, small and I use a nice mic. Done!
    For what I do, it’s wonderful!

    • Zack

      I almost bought that camera when I was shopping after selling my HVX. Bought the XF100 instead and…. probably should have just bought the G30. 🙂


  14. Kirk Tuck

    I took the re-plunge (after years of just shooting stills after exiting a career in advertising where we made many commercials with large crews working on 35mm film) with a couple of GH3 cameras and a few bits and pieces of extraneous gear and the results have been very good. Clients are happy and bank account is plumper but…….I started out as a writer and when we do video we make part of the income from coming up with the creative story. We make another part of the income writing the script and then we make money directing and shooting. The story is always the progenitor for every project. You MUST be the producer/director in order to make video worthwhile financially. To be a camera man is to enter a very crowded market with a very sturdy ceiling.

    My clients are happy with the footage from GH3 cameras. I am even happier with footage from the GH4 camera. They aren’t expensive and I don’t have cages or rigs or extraneous stuff on them. My total investment is less than my original digital full frame camera body….. It’s a new day and video seems to be the next step. Follow the money.

    • Zack

      Thanks for stopping by Kirk! I was just on your web site last night because I know you use Panasonic cameras. I’m just about ready to pull the trigger on the GH4.

      Everyone- You should check out Kirk’s blog if you haven’t already…

      Thank you as well for talking about the business side of what you are doing. If I’m ever in Austin I’d love to take you to lunch or dinner or something. Offer is open to you if you’re ever in Atlanta as well.


      • Kirk Tuck

        Thanks Zack! My friend, Chris, and I are loading up to go and shoot food, people, movement and fun at a local restaurant. We’ve got a tiny story line and a sack of cameras. Two GH3’s and one GH4. A trio of zooms and a box of funky and mismatched microphones. It’s a two day shoot and I’ll be writing it up for the blog when I get back to the keyboard on Saturday. I took off blogging for the week to finish up a book…. But I’ll be sure to cover anything that messed up and what worked best for us.

        I’m actually loving video because it moves me from being an isolated, loner photographer into at least someone with people to play with. A crew of two. Just right.

        Anytime you come to Austin we’ll make sure you’re well feed and happy.

  15. Not TB

    I work as a newscast director at a medium sized market television station. I went to a small college for broadcasting over a decade ago and watched as the industry shrink. Technical people were let go and while we have still have some news photographers, the MultiMedia Journalist (MMJ) was chosen as the cheaper alternative. They shoot, edit and report their own stories. They’re jack-of-all trades and master of none. Even directing newscasts have changed to automated systems where robotic cameras go to preset marks with systems by Grass Valley and Ross eliminating the need for technical director, audio board operators and studio camera operators. Quality has taken a hit in favor of doing things cheaply. Instead of professional cameras, the crew are using prosumer camcorders like you are using. In fact, one of the national morning show crew laughed when our photog brought along his camera to cover a story when they were in town.

    Anyway, I understood it would take much more resources to do great video than it would for stills. And so I’m shooting with a used Canon 5D and a few primes and really learning about photography and working with light that far surpasses what I learned about taking classes in television broadcast.

    • Zack

      Thanks for chiming in.

      How about newspapers moving to cell phone coverage?

      As I’m reading about cameras and specs I see people geeking out about whether a camera can shoot 4:2:2 or not. I hear folks talk about broadcast standards and what networks require and all of that. Then I watch CNN and other news outlets and I’ve lost count in the last month how many times I’ve seen cell phone video, skype interviews over web cams, and the like. All of it being broadcast in all of it’s horrifying quality. I don’t think my Macbook Air web cam records 4:2:2. I think it’s 1:0:0. 🙂

      For me… I know that 95% of my video work is going to be viewed via the web from a phone to a laptop.

      I know the Jack of all trades is taking over mostly due to budgets. It’s going to be interesting to see if that level of automation that TV stations now have will ever hit the “prosumer” market and companies will be buying turnkey systems to create their own video content.


  16. John Wangelin

    Hey Zack,

    Good luck with your new journey. I would like to get into video but i’m not sure where to start. My biggest thing is with editing software i’m lost on what I need or where to start. I want to start out slow just taking videos of my dogs playing or me talking to myself. Any websites you could point me too that would start me out from the very beginning? Also on a side note my wife works for a company that specializes (thats all they do) in selling homeschooling products their website is They also have consultants that will help with planning curriculum and answer questions. Just thought I would add that.

    • Zack

      Hey John!

      First, thanks for the link. I’ll check it out!

      Second, what platform are you on? PC or Mac?


  17. kristoperC

    I shoot sixty percent video, forty percent stils. Actually started with video first.

    Two years ago I researched this dude named Zack Arias online. Saw what was possible with inexpensive light sources, light modifiers, and cameras. Bought almost everything he put out educationally. And within a short period of time I gained a level of technical and aesthetic proficiency that could attract clients (thanks zack!). When you can get to a point where you are transforming and controlling light on any location, it is an attractive skill set to many businesses. You can deliver something larger than life at pretty much any price point.

    It’s hard to stay small (one man band) and attain such a transformative change in video production. You cant make that kind of change currently with a limited budget. In those two years, did my technical and aesthetic proficiency in video make such a huge leap as it did on the photography side of things? Well, my skills improved, but nowhere near the transformative leap it was on the photography end of things. I can make things look good on h264 video, but it’s always playing catch up with what I can achieve as a lone photographer. I say all this given competency with your standard DSLR video rig (canon 5d, steady cam, dolly, separate audio etc) and audio production (DAW, full recording studio).

    I’ve identified 3 reasons. 1) learning to storyboard takes time and is a skill in an of itself. 2) learning compelling storytelling is like learning exposure in photography from scratch. Many variables you have to master, and you’ve got to study the masters. 3) You are in continuous light. All the time. Photography strobes give you the power to quickly transform an environment to what you wish. Even with the Large LED panels fluorescent options, you still have nowhere the portable environmental changing power as you do in photography in 2014. That just sucks. And from that perspective alone, even though I don’t care that much about geeking out over gear, getting a sensor that excels in natural, continuous light (i.e. 5d) was a factor for me.

    I learned that consistency via manual shooting gives you consistency and speed in post. Video production? OMG. With h264 video you have to nail it in camera. That’s a given. But your talent as an editor can make or break it. The more i think about it, when people respond well to my work in video, they are really responding to the edit. Because the edit tells the story.


    • Zack

      OMG Kris, thank you for this comment. Thank you.

      Know what I hate? Storyboarding. Know what I’m most intimidated by? Storyboarding. Know what I’m going to be learning a lot about? Storyboarding. Do you have a class on it? 🙂

      I hope you stick around for the next installments and will continue contributing. That goes to all of you chiming in here. Thank you. Further proof that all of you who comment have better shit to say than I do.


  18. Vic Román

    I also get asked if I shoot video. I usually say no because I really don’t have a solid reel nor all the fancy gadgets. 8 years ago I started filming BMX videos and interviewing some of the riders with a Canon Powershot S3IS. Nothing pro just fun. Last year I got asked by a band if I shoot music videos.The S3 wasnt going to cut it. So,that had me researching cameras on YouTube looking for reviews and samples. It all came down to the Pentax K-01.It’s the camera this broke photographer can afford that also shoots video. I had some vintage K glass already. So it was an easy choice to make. So far I’ve shot 3 freebie music videos with it 2 more are in the works. If things move more to motion for me … then I guess it will be camera shopping time again.

    • Zack

      After shooting two music videos I learned something important.

      I don’t want to shoot music videos.


      It sure is a good way to cut your teeth in video though isn’t it? There are plenty of bands who want a video and are looking for someone free to cheap to shoot it. I think we all have to shoot some music videos. I’m sure I’ll end up shooting more of them. God help me. 🙂


  19. Jarrett Hucks

    Zack, I thoroughly enjoyed this blog post and figured I would add in by telling my buyers remorse story.

    Like most everyone else, I have dreamt my way in to thinking I am a certain type of photographer who needs a specific camera. First I bought a full frame camera because I wanted something big and professional, then I realized that if I wanted to do travel or street photography I would need something smaller. I didnt do much, so I bought the Fuji x10, then I realized that I couldnt make that camera work for me and needed something more sophisticated, so I bought the x100 and sold the x10 for way too cheap. After carrying that camera around and pretending that it was good investment I realized that I had dug myself in to a hole and needed to drop a few pieces of un needed gear to pay some expenses. I ended up selling off the x100, a couple of lenses I shouldnt have bought (along with one I should have never sold). Trying to follow the trend of cameras the big guys swore by, put me in a place financially that really scared me.

    • Zack

      Lawd have mercy Jarrett… I have been there too. It sucks. It seems like it is an inevitable step in the eveloution of being a photographer.

      I once had the honor of standing in a used camera store with Joe McNally. He walked from case to case pointing out all the different cameras and lenses he’s owned over the years and then telling what bill he had to pay when he sold them.

      “I had that lens! It was a great lens! Sold it to pay the mortgage.”

      “I loved that camera. Had two of them. Sold both to pay for tuition.”

      Have you settled on a camera that is right for you?


  20. Ian Tuttle

    Zack! Dude! Are you sure??????

    The move from photo to video is not like the move from film to digital. Video is all about time manipulation. Stills are all about light manipulation.

    I’ve built a good business on commercial portraiture. I read this and thought… “gosh, wouldn’t it be cool if you went to the About page for a company and there were these little video gifs like they have on the NFL broadcast of all the executives, smiling and bobbing their heads, like it would be SO COOL. SO 21st CENTURY!” I thought…. “I NEED THAT GH4!!!”

    But then I remembered that I’ve made videos before. I made a 20 minute movie that took me 12 full days and a lot of money in hardware and software and instruction to edit and finalize. Even after I knew how to do it, a 20 second clip took me a good 10 hours. WTF?! I want to interact with PEOPLE, not my computer.

    I think that’s the central question… HOW DO YOU WANT TO SPEND YOUR TIME? I mean, if you have a childlabor editing crew, that brings something to the table (wry smiley face). But if it’s YOU staring at the screen in iMovie or Final Cut or whatever, how many hours do you want to do that????

    You are a huge inspiration to me and I can’t believe I am trying to give YOU advice. But, take it for what it’s worth. And keep on rocking. I want to buy any sweet Nikon lenses that you are selling.


    • Ben W

      Man, I’m so self-absorbed that I hadn’t even thought about the points you just made, Ian. Good, cogent, thoughtful stuff, and, I have to second it. How do you want to spend your time? It’s not just iMovie or Final Cut; you’re going to have to know After Effects or Motion or Blender or… Not to mention, if your audio is bush league, it will be more apparent than missing critical focus. Do you want to learn Reaper or Logic or (heaven forbid) Pro Tools? You better, because ADR is going to take up another chunk of time. And then comes the GAS that goes along with that… Rode Videomics and Countryman lavs just don’t cut it when the guy down the street has a closet full of Neumann and Schoeps beauties, especially if he knows how to use them, and if you think a cabinet full of fast glass is expensive, you ain’t seen $#!+. And scheduling ADR with actors? Not impossible, but… Music licensing is easy nowadays; getting your sound to sound good is something else altogether. Listen to the dialogue on Breaking Bad. You want that godly baritone rumble that Walter White’s voice has? That’s part Cranston and a big part audio department… Man. On point, Ian. How do you want to spend your time? I’ll remember that.

      • Zack

        To Ian & Ben –

        Both of you make very valid points. These are points I give a lot of thought to myself.

        A few months ago I was on an HGTV set to shoot promotional portraits for a new show the Property Brothers are doing. In addition to the still that were being made, they were shooting new promos for the show along with interviews and other things for web collateral.

        There I was with my one assistant for the stills. Two of us. The video crew? 34 people. Thirty. Four. People. OMG.

        I know there are some one person armies out there in the video world that are doing some pretty decent work but the fact of the matter is video requires a crew. Camera operators. Directors. Grips. Audio. ON and on and on. I’m not naive to think that Caleb and I are going to pick up a few cameras and mics and set the world on fire.

        I’m telling you though… For the past two years I have sat in meeting after meeting from photo editors at magazines to art buyers and directors at Ad agencies and I have said no to video over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. I’ve had no fewer than a dozen Art Directors tell me that they don’t hire many still shooters these days. Their client’s focus is on video. Everything from run and gun web content to full scale productions with six figure budgets.

        Every. Fucking. Meeting. Video? No. Video? No. Video? No.

        I’m not dreaming of large scale work right now. I’m going to focus on smaller projects. Crews of six or less kind of things. And Ben, you are spot on with audio. I’ve often thought that I should say “I’m getting into audio.” instead of saying “I’m getting into video.” due to how important audio is. I’ll never ever compete with the Neumann and Schoeps folks. But… Maybe… If I can dig out a little hole in the video world… maybe…. I can hire those people. That’s the key.

        I really appreciate your comments. There’s so much to consider with this kind of thing. Ian, I need advice from everyone! Don’t ever think that I think that I don’t. 🙂 I will say this though about your experience. I know how those 20 second clips turn into 10 hour productions but I also know that with more experience, good planning, and having the right tools, and, again, experience… those 10 hours start to shrink.

        Again though, thanks for adding to the conversation.


        • Ben W

          Never say never. I ran a post production audio facility for four years. We never had the budget to buy a top-line mic, but once we learned how to hack a cheap Chinese mic (the Yongnuo of mics, if you will), we never needed to. The absolute best condenser I’ve ever used began it’s life as a $50 Guitar Center special before Jim Williams went Dr. Frankenstein on it… Audio is just like photo in that after a certain point, the gear doesn’t matter, and what’s in front of and behind the lens/mic is the most important thing. I would’ve loved to have had an SSL or Neve board in my facility, but we did pretty good work on our Apogee gear with stock preamps, straight to disk. A Duet and a couple mics from Michael Joly or will take you as far as you want to go.

          On a different tangent, you can do a lot of damage with a crew of six. I wish I could remember the quote, about how some guy made a comment to Kubrick about having a small crew, and Kubrick turning to him and saying, “how many people do YOU need?”

          Come to think of it, Kubrick had a long beard and started off as a still shooter… Where are you REALLY trying to go, Zack? 🙂

    • Jeremy

      THIS. So much this.

      I basically told people last year – “Hey, I’m doing video again.” And the work started to pile on. I said yes to most of the jobs with a paycheck (and a few without). I’m getting to do some fun jobs – but the editing workload is pretty rough.

      I often fantasize of setting my office on fire so I never have to stare at a Premiere timeline again.

      It’ll get more manageable (and then less manageable, and then more….) at some point, but Ian brings up a good point.

  21. PJ

    Interesting read, and very similar to my experiences as a stills shooter trying to learn/get into video (right down to owning a XF100).

    I’d suggest a Part 6 to this series, dealing with the market for videos.

    Look forward to the rest of the series.

    • Zack

      PJ – Good idea but that will take some time for me to deal with and will become a series all on it’s own one day. For now I need to build my tool kit. Then build my experience. Then see what happens. 🙂


  22. Owain Shaw

    A really good read, nice perspective on things past, present and future.

    I’ve used the fact that my camera can record video a few times to help out friends with short films or little bits and pieces, and do a bit of BTS stuff when assisting another photographer, but never really taken to it properly – and I think part of that lies in not having a creative outlet for it at present, something that was in David Hobby’s Ecosystems series … what am I going to use video for? At the moment, I personally haven’t (taken the time to) found a use for it in my output.

    On a Gear Acquisition note, I’ve been putting a little aside each month recently and was going to have enough this month to buy a little bit of travel kit to lighten up my load on trips and day-to-day shooting. Not something I need but something I wanted for my own enjoyment of Photography.

    I got paid late, so I was still waiting to buy this when I got a job offer that I needed some new kit to do properly, and it was important to do it well and not just try and wing it. So as it turns out, not getting paid and having to wait a few days to buy something I wanted, meant that I still had that saved money there to buy some stuff I needed to grow my Photography.

    I still don’t have my light travel camera that I’d really like, but I’m not travelling anywhere special for a couple of months, and hopefully this new kit will have paid for itself by then anyway!

    • Zack

      Good luck with the new gig Owain!


      • Owain Shaw

        Thanks Zack, the gig was actually last Tuesday but I’m really happy with how it went … and happy I bit the bullet on Ttaking a step forward with new (to me) techniques that I had shied away from for too long. though there’s plenty more steps now but the first one is always the most difficult.

        It was an opportunity to do something I’ve been meaning to do for a while, and to stop holding myself back – I’m just glad I didn’t get paid on time, in this case that was the best thing that could have happened!

        Best of luck with your venture into video, I’ll look forward to reading about it on the blog, I like what you’re doing with it and your perspective on Photography.

  23. Scott Colins

    So much for my already depleted life force… here is an other reason for the banks to bleed me like a stuck pig.

    Seriously, unless one has the constant capital to keep reinvesting in equipment and skills, software and TIME, how are creatives expected to create! (A term I loathe, actually, content creators… can we not let market capitalist thinking overtake every aspect of life) People that choose to create have now become as mine-able a resource as coal and far more disposable.

    When the cave painters of eons past faced up against shamans and performers in costumes, were they suddenly asked to dance or leave the cave? For that matter, when the cave painters skill increased that they drew ideas and sounds (made words) did they toss out the elders and their campfire stories? Each new technology that was made then didn’t suddenly render redundant the prior one. Yet these days it sounds like the constant push to extend and commoditize the ‘ease’ of video production as the only viable option for visual expression makes me uneasy.

    That video push to me shows very much that manipulated invisible hand. Because with a photograph, a single instant that is seen, or not seen, is just that. Video, with its manipulations of time and space, is a far more controlled, and controlling medium. Of course I rant, and I do so from the struggling reportage point of view, but its just how I see things.

    I see the value of video of course to those with agendas and budgets. It is easier for them to sell to people with video that with stills alone. That I feel is a product of 60 years of television and the outcome of how our minds and perceptions have been changed and influenced by its constant presence. Its just that there has been a long standing industry of film and video production, and to ask people who see the world in instants to reshape into a very different medium a very tough bean to chew. Just my two bits.

    But, hey, you is Da MAN, so go get em tigre!

  24. Dave

    I’ll be following along. I picked up a great book “How to Shoot Video that Doesn’t Suck” and feel like I learned a lot of rookie mistakes to avoid. He talks about story boards and the importance of good audio. If the audio sucks, the video is doomed….I did a little BTS promo video for myself using just my iPhone that came out not too sucky, suck, suck, and want to try more. I’m going to try shooting a music video with some friends, because I can, in the next few weeks using my OMD. I’m sure they’ll both suck, but, I’m doing it to see what’s involved and to try out some other muscles.

    • PJ

      Thanks for the book suggestion. I’m going to take a look at it.

      Another book that may be of interest is Bill Gentile’s Essential Video Journalism Field Manual, available on Amazon (and elsewhere, I’m sure).

      • PJ

        I’ll throw in a couple of other book suggestions in case anyone is interested: Videojournalism: Multimedia Storytelling by Ken Kobre (which I haven’t read yet but found it when I was googling books on videojournalism) and From Still to Motion: A photographer’s guide to creating video with your DSLR.

  25. George Brown

    Please do more videos stuff.

    By the way, when will be available the addition stuff (OneLight v2) that you promise !!! I am waiting to long… please keep your promise!


  26. Steve

    Ok, I’m waaay behind here. I’m having a hard time understanding why one would should video with a DSLR instead of a dedicated video camera. I understand the two birds with one stone thing but it just seems like shooting video would be simpler with a dedicated video camera. There is obviously good reason for using DSLR’s for video because so many people do so. I’m just having a hard time wrapping my brain around it. I would greatly appreciate any comments to help me get up to speed.

    • Ben W

      Hey Steve, that’s a fair, good question. Video used to be shot primarily on CCD sensor-equipped cameras. The advantages that CMOS sensor-equipped cameras (power consumption, size) brought to the equation were negated by the supposed inferiority of the CMOS image. That all changed about 5-ish years ago with the D90 and 5D2. The 5D2 was embraced by a lot of indie video shooters who loved the portability and battery life the 5D2 brought vs a traditional video camera, and the worlds have been colliding ever since. There are still wonderful dedicated video cameras out there, but for a lot of us, the difference in quality for an Arri Alexa vs a 5D3 or GH4 does not/cannot/will never justify the orders of magnitude in price difference. Think of a Lamborghini vs a Corvette. The Lambo has the name, the cachet/sex appeal, and is faster and prettier, but the Vette will do 90% of what the Lambo does for 1/5 the price. Video camera manufacturers like Blackmagic are fighting back and doing a pretty good job, but the sexiest part of the $3,000.00 BMCC 4K is the DaVinci Resolve software it comes with (IMO), still making the GH4 an attractive option at $1,200 less. My $0.02.

      • Steve

        Hey Ben, thanks so much for the reply. People like me learn a lot from people like you and Zack so I appreciate you taking the time. What you said makes sense and helps make things more clear. Photography is my passion but video has been on my mind for quite some time. I gather from what you have written earlier that you have a lot of experience in this game so when you talk about the amount of time it can take, I believe it. Looks like I’ve come to the right place to get some questions answered. Thanks again, your $0.02 is worth quite a bit to me.

        • Ben W

          No problem. We’re all just trying to learn and help each other out; I’m just glad someone asked something I knew!

  27. vpbowers

    I keep telling myself, “it’s not about the gear…” But for the past two years have been photographing baseball. I have a Nikon D7000 and D600 with my best lens of Nikon 70-200 2.8. Want to know how many 400 mm 2.8’s are around me? Since this is a hobby, a 400 is out of the question. In reality, my 7 fps and 70-200 are no match for the D3/4’s or the 400’s, but I still manage to get my fair share of shots…I just have to work at it harder and smarter.

    However, sometimes, I get the feeling the whole world is a 400mm f/2.8 and I’m just a kit lens. (paraphrased from comedian George Gobel on Johnny Carson)

    Admire your work and dedication to teaching others.


    • Richard Wintle

      I feel your pain. I shoot a lot of motorsports. The media room is a sight to behold… 300/2.8’s and 400/2.8’s as far as the eye can see. Predictably, I can’t even really afford to rent either, let alone own. 😉

      Ever use a teleconverter on that 70-200? 1.4x gives you 280mm at f/4, not too shabby. Just a thought.


  28. Jeremy Hall

    Very intrigued to watch this series as you tackle video again. As you know “Transform” is how I first came across your work and have been a fan ever since. Memba Photocamp Utah, haha.

    I recently dabbled in a little video production on a personal project, and despite the final product not being great – or even good for that matter – it was a challenging creative process. I recognize how much I don’t know and even feel some draw to figure those things out. You are going to take it well beyond my interests, but I do hope to learn some from your mistakes and successes so I can avoid a few problems on my own.

    Oh, and P.S. I got one of those little drones you laughed about…and they are fuuuuuun!

  29. david

    This has been an interesting discussion to this point.
    Three observations made to me a long time ago seem appropriate;
    College Instructor in an advertising design class: ” There are only two kinds of advertisements that customers remember; The very best and the very worst. Being average is not a viable option.”

    Art Director at ad agency while discussing a campaign; “David, keep in mind, the only thing your picture has to do is stop them from turning the page. If it does that the copy writers job is to deliver the value proposition and selling points.”

    And finely, my father, when I told him I wanted to major in art rather than business; ” Son, I expect that the world needs at least one of any profession. It just means that if you pick one with low demand you’ll have to be willing to put in the work to be the best.”

    The other thing that seems to be running through this discussion is that there is a spectrum of video production. The low end, easily accomplished with one or two people are talking head training videos. The high end are theatrical productions that take years to produce and require legions of technical and acting talent.

    Equipment is really an after thought. In the film days we had different camera and lens kits because clients need different sized prints, negatives or transparencies. Digital has put that on its head. Although there are reasons to select different sensor sizes.

    Video is similar, a photographer I know whose career was shooting stills for the motion picture industry. He shot the picture that has become the Easy Rider icon image. Told me a couple of years ago that one reason most cinematographers were still using film was because they couldn’t get the look they wanted with video cameras. The 24x36mm digital sensors have changed that but I think there is still a lot of theatrical stuff shot on film.

    Here is Chicago there are companies that specialize in taking film and converting it to digital for editing.

    Bottom line, in my view and experience, sitting in meetings hearing people ask if I’ll do video means that they value my vision. That doesn’t mean I have to become a videographer. It means I have to expand my vision to include motion and story. Then hire the crew to deliver my vision.

    If they are asking because they think they can get it done less expensively because I’m a still photographer so I’ll use the same rate table for video. Then I leave.

    One man’s view.

  30. luke_j__

    Hi Zack,l

    I left this comment on your other website but it’s still awaiting moderation a month and a bit later so I thought I would try my luck here. On your x100s review you wrote this about the EF-X20 flash,

    “Party flash. Nuff said. A nice little TTL / manual flash to sit on the Fuji’s when you want that hipster/scenester sort of vibe”.

    What do you mean by hipster scenester sort of vibe (for me this isn’t enough said)? Also, how limiting will only having a guide number of 20 be for me considering I mainly intend on using a flash for shooting people? I have recently bought an x-e2 and 27/56 (got a secondhand 18 since) and thinking of buying this flash as my next purchase. I have been shooting for a couple of years but have never bought any kind of flash gun before.

    P.S. watched a 20 minute shootout between you and some chick on Dave Hobby’s website. It was awesome!

    Cheers, I would really appreciate a reply.


    • Zack

      @Luke – Sorry about the long moderation on my other blog. All my time is here right now as I get this up and running.

      That little Fuji flash is just a “party flash”. Nothing for any sort of serious portraiture or off camera work since it has such little power. Hipster/scenester vibe – On camera flash of your friend’s debauchery. 🙂

      Some chick? Really? That’s Sara Fucking Lando!


  31. Mark

    Thanks for this post, Zack. I’ve almost gone the exact opposite direction as you. I started professionally in video production as a TV and commercial director for a national company. I ended up turning away from that and getting into still photography. I fell in love with that more than I ever loved video. Now I’m beginning to realize the same thing, in that it’s getting necessary to use both. I notice more often that I’d rather watch a video about something I’m interested in than read it on a computer screen. As you said, Content is King. I think quality is second and technique is a close third. Also, I’ve noticed that online videos need to be short and to-the-point. People have such a short attention span (myself included) that we don’t usually want to invest more than three or four minutes on a video.

    • Zack

      @Mark – It’s interesting to note that you aren’t the only one in this thread that started in film/video and moved to stills. I’ve met a number of folks doing that as so many photographers are moving in the opposite direction. I completely agree with your point on keeping it short and sweet. That’s a skill I’m having to learn. #MouthOfTheSouth 🙂


  32. david

    I agree with the premise that instructional videos are more useful than text and pictures for most of us.
    I also agree with the short and to the point production philosophy.

    Unfortunately, most of what I’ve seen on You Tube and even product websites is poorly executed. Most of the UTube stuff is little more than bad home movie quality.

    Even talking head instruction needs to pay attention to script, storyboarding and clean editing. Well within the capabilities of one person with some skill and willingness to pay attention to details.

    A basis principle of instruction that seems somehow to have been missed in many videos is the adage; Tell’m what you’re going to tell’m Tell’m, Tell’m what you told’m. Said another way; Introduction, body, summary (conclusion).

    The other thing that it seems many forget is that its harder to tell a complete story in 3 minutes than it is to tell it in 3 hours, which is harder than 8 hours etc.

    A well known public speaker was asked one time how long it would take him to prepare a speech on a new topic. His reply; If I have 8 hours, I can start in 5 minutes. If I have an hour I’ll need a week. If I only have 5 minutes I’d like a month.

    That’s just as true for video, even talking head instructional stuff. (When I say talking head instructional I am including show how it works sequences.)

    Let me conclude by saying that Zack’s One Light V2 video is a good example of well done instructional video with good production values, clear content, well presented.

  33. Kaisa

    It’s really interesting to read about your relationship with video. Looking forward to future posts on the topic!

    At times I feel people are over-using video. For example a lot of online newspapers demand video from their photographers and it’s not that uncommon to find video news only. However, from a consumer’s point of view – reading a couple of paragraphs and getting the information takes so much less time than watching a video. In most case I don’t have time for all the news videos. Of course that’s only one small field for videography and for example video tutorials are so much more effective and handy than lengthy technical articles.

  34. Bob Fitz

    You might be interested in coming to Showcase this Saturday to hear Bill Wages ASC talk on the GH4. He tested the Panasonic VS Arri, so should be great to hear his thoughts from someone with his credentials. He does his presentation starting at 10:30 and then Rob Knight talks at 1:30 about hybrid photography. Hope you can make it.

    • Zack

      Thanks for the head’s up Bob! I may try to make it to that!


  35. Bob Fitz

    Just realized I spelled you name wrong on my last post – sorry but that happens late at night typing on an IPhone.

  36. Dan Root

    Hi Zack,

    Great blog bost. I myself thought about adding motion to my body of work when the word “convergence” became a popular topic amongst the photo blogosphere. A few years back I took a class on video/motion for still photographers. I found all the crazy camera add ons, Magic Lantern downloads and hacks, the editing software, and on and on and on, very confusing, and a bit of a turnoff for me.

    Having chased things in the past for monetary reasons only, like lifestyle work, because it seemed profitable because a lot of other photographers were making a lot of money doing that work, personally has been a mistake on my part. As someone who has been around a while, I think the most important thing we can do as artists and business people, is to define the type of work we love to do, and go for it. I think the same goes for motion. If you truly love motion, and you are excited to incorporate that into your body of work, I say go for it.

    I for one, decided to stay in the world of still photography because how much I love the still photograph. I mean I love it in a until “death do I part: kind of way. Call me old fashioned.

    When I look across the business landscape of creating content, I do see the value of people adding motion to their body of work. And I can see you passion for that as well. I just hope others don’t chase it only for the money. I say, chase your passion whatever it is, and the money will follow. You are an example of that Zack, and that is why I so like what you say and do so much. You walk the talk.

    Anyway, I wish you much success as you investigate the world of motion, and please keep up the writing, as you have a great gift here as well.



    • Zack

      Great comment Dan. I can honestly say that I have a desire to do this for personal reasons and artistic expression. Not money. That’s why I’m going to spend a couple of years working on it to find what I want to offer commercially because I don’t want to just shoot talking head corporate interviews. I also do not want to shoot music videos. I’m fine working in the commercial space but I want it to be more narrative than straightforward corporate and editorial video content. Thank you very much for this comment. Great point.


  37. John (aka Wish I Were Riding)

    What about your workflows for archiving and storage of all this new digital media you will be producing. Have any thoughts on that?

    • Zack

      I’ll be talking about that too. Still doing a lot of research on this subject and talking to video folks about it.


  38. Michael Matthews


    This oughta be good! Your experience in sorting through the hardware, software, own/rent decisions — all of great money-saving value to those who follow.

    One humble request — if you get into guidelines for shooting and editing technique could you please include an absolute ban on two huge irritants: shakycam and edits which begin while hunting for focus?

    These two stylistic blights began decades ago with handheld film documentary work and migrated into both commercial and feature production. The legendary fly-on-the-wall documentary guys of the 1960s sometimes included unwanted camera motion and out-of-focus scene starts because they had to. There were no cover shots to use (without being even more disruptive), no cutaways.

    Somehow these inadvertent errors got picked up as style by people wanting to instill an impression of “authenticity” in scripted, controlled production. Let the world know that marks anyone making video with today’s equipment a cheap-shot poseur.

    End of rant. Looking forward to each installment.


    • Zack

      I’ll be sure to start each video that way! 🙂


  39. Tim

    Hey Zack, love the conversation you’ve started here. I’m a +1 to having a background in motion and moving into stills.

    Just wanted to mention another camera worth considering other than the Pana GH4 – Sony’s new A7S, along with the audio attachment. Add an EF to E mount adapter and you’ve got access to all your Canon lenses…that’s assuming you haven’t sold them all already!

    Looking forward to reading about (and discussing) your journey here on dedpxl.


    • Zack

      Thanks Tim! I have looked at that A7. I don’t think it’s for me though. I’ll discuss that in the next blog post.


  40. John the gear impaler

    Thanks Zack, you’re a man of the people. Looking forward to when this all gets to be documented as a video on lubetube. Perhaps everyone could look at a copy of “Story” by Robert McKee as well just to emphasise message interdependent to craft. Viva la revaluation, or is that revolution, either way one of them will be televised.

    • Zack

      Hahahahaha! Great screen name and great comment. Thank you!


  41. bimal nair

    Zack! Whatever content you produce…has heart. And a lot of grey matter. I for that reason go sniffing for you all over the web whenever am lacking inspiration or wondering what to do with my photography career 🙂
    As much as i hate to get into video, i confess that great motion visuals are irresistible. I mean the starting scenes of movies like ‘127 hours’ or ‘bride wars’ etc make me jump on my couch. I want to make videos like that. Crisp, focused, intense storytelling. I’ve thrown an offer to do video to one recent client who wanted me to do stills for their wedding and found me unaffordable. I put up a cheaper price for this risk and promised that if my learning curve doesnt match untill their day arrives, i will shoot stills for them at same price.
    Lets hope we both sail well with this Zack! Cheers to you! And the truckload of awesomeness you’ve promised in your series to come 🙂 Thanks a million from India!

  42. Simon

    Great article. Though video certainly isn’t the panacea of budgets you mention! These days there is not much middle ground. Either clients want to pay a very low rate, or there are the higher end clients who will pay. Breaking into the higher end is very hard.

    I have written articles about the cinematography serving the purpose of the video before myself. Camera movement is sometimes important. It depends what you are trying to achieve. Camera movement can serve the emotional intention of the piece.

    The issue with a lot of slider shots I see is that they are there for the hell of it, not for any particular purpose. Aerial shots done well add a lot of production value to the piece. Done badly they look like crap. There are a lot of practical uses for aerial video though, from architectural video, through to tourist/holiday destination stuff.

    Remember, video is about movement, otherwise it is just stills on a television set. But the camera movements do need to be motivated.

    • Zack

      Great points Simon. Movement is something HUGE that I have so much to learn about. I’m heading to Laforet’s Directing Motion workshop at the end of the month.


  43. Carl

    Hi Zack. I keep toying with video and mess about with family stuff. My only real experience was making skate videos back in the day with friends and then it fizzled as I started shooting stills.

    Going to watch this with interest as I keep toying with a few ideas I have had in my head for a while, but I need to get educated and working a job, shooting on the side and a two year old son really mean that time is against me at present.

    Can’t give you technical advice, but if you haven’t seen it Kevin Smith’s documentary about making Clerks (On the 10th anniversary DVD) made me realise that if you have a story and the belief, then you can do anything.

  44. Moritz

    From the little experience I have so far I can only confirm the „content over gear“ mantra. I am already past buying a – supposedly indispensable – 1,20 m slider that a) has turned out crappy/wobbly/… and b) hasn’t helped me in finding my „style“ into video. I see the hopes I had for the use of the slider similar to the hype around the instagram/hipstagram/… filters that will make your most boring iPhone photos look cool. After a recent shoot I came home with a whole card full of shots so unmotivatedly sliding hither and thither that I have rescheduled the shoot and decided to return without the slider, taking less time for set up and more time to look for interesting shots.
    I am mostly documenting architecture and would definitely agree that video offers a whole new world of ways to document buildings. A video offers the building of fixed sequences of images. No client or magazine will be cropping, reordering or omitting any of them, it will always be my story. Like this I can work more on the documentation of little details, shots of materials and structures, movement of light and shadows and so on. I feel that as long I haven’t produced good work that makes use of all these possibilities there will be no need to slide my camera to and fro. Karate-Kid-Wax-On-Wax-Off? Maybe: just like shooting with primes only instead of zoom lenses 🙂
    Ah, and interestingly I can’t say that my clients are nagging me to do video, it feels more like an educational task, convincing them of the wider possibilities video offers for online publications and in-house presentations. For me obviously the advantage is greater creative control over the use of my imagery.

  45. Ezz

    I watched that video and killed myself laughing. I have a media degree and a background in high school Film & Television education so after I broke away from teaching, the next logical step for me was to watch every single damn Staff Pick on Vimeo and decide that I needed a Canon 5D Mk III (stay with me), a slider, a monopod, a stabilizer, bi-color video lights, three bazillion lenses and several large-capacity really (really) expensive memory cards.

    DSLR video was a step (and expensive) learning curve. We started doing weddings but the shine wore off. It brings in the bacon (and yes – people are mad for this – you’ll always get work in weddings, particularly if you can do something a little different).

    BUT for me – somewhere along the way of teaching myself how to use a DSLR for video, I fell head over heels in love with photography. We had a torrid passionate love affair and I ended up by only wanting to take stills.

    I don’t want to give up on video. I love the medium. But after several hectic, fast paced weddings where I had little control over lighting and circumstance (GOD!!!!) – it no longer brings me joy. I think we need to go to couples counselling so I can get back to basics and tell stories. I want to tell stories. I want to find connection. That’s all I ever wanted to do – no matter the medium. It has to be about the art.

    One day I’m hoping that photography, video and I will be able to settle down and live happily in a sexy non-monogamous DSLR relationship.

    In the meantime – I’m reading this blog avidly.

    P.S As an aforementioned fledgling photographer – Zack, thank you for keeping shit real. You’ve helped me so much, so far. 🙂

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  47. Nick

    Is there a way to make use of Fuji X glass for video? Interested in the Pany G4 however I want to make use of all the Fuji X glass that I already own and not purchase new lenses just for video. Thanks!

    • Neil

      Hello Zack,
      Um, where to start?
      I’ve been a stills photographer for 25 years, in other words, shooting stills for movies and TV here in London.
      Ever since HD cameras appeared, I have had an eye on the fact that my job will be pretty obsolete when they get their acts together and are able to “grab” stills from video (much better quality now with 4K plus). With this in mind I decided to offer both stills and video. Now, video in the TV and film world means EPK”s (Electronic press kits) DVD extras and online content. Basically, behind the scenes footage and interviews with the talent and HoD’s producers,writers and director. It’s been a hit and miss transition and now with competition extremely high, one has to trim the budget to really quite stupid levels. My work can sometimes appear on the PBS channel in the US which means I have to shoot broadcast approved formats using broadcast approved cameras, too boring to go into. If you’re shooting just for the web, then it’s a much easier choice as these standards don’t need to be adhered to.
      One thing I have found out though… It’s very hard doing it on your own. Sound is always an issue and one thing i would recommend is buying a camera with built in XLR inputs. It saves time and issues with sync. I have used mostly Kino flo lighting, which is also handy for stills. Because budgets have got so low, I find I am a one man band, shooting,lighting, directing, writing and asking the questions to the interviewee. The only thing I don’t do is edit, because I’m delivering for broadcast and to a TV network, I can’t mess up and my skills are not so good. There is soo much to learn and keep up with !! I shoot on a Canon XF 300 which is easy and doesn’t involve focus issues but the picture isn’t as pleasing as a DSLR (except Nikon D4 which is way too soft) and the noise at low light awful.
      Working freelance these days is like running to stand still, it’s very hard, there are more than 19,000 photographers in London…..and that’s not including the “I can do that” crowd !! good luck, it’s a big old tanker to turn around, but leave it in the port at your peril.

  48. Charlie Thiel

    Oh, how I feel your pain…but. My first attempt at a semi-“serious” video camera was a Canon XA10 (by the way, can Canon hire somebody give their stuff less obscure names? Perhaps names that make sense across their product lines?). The Canon XA10 was awesome. It found faces and focused on them. It had XLR inputs. I have no idea if that means that the audio is any better than the slick mics you can plug into a minjack, but it’s supposed to be. It had zebras and lions and tigers and bears, oh my. The best part was, I pushed record, it focused, got the exposure right, all that crap. Sure, in low light, image quality degraded quickly, but in decent to good light, the image quality looked awesome to me. And it was TINY! I moved up, for reasons which are not entirely clear to me, to the Canon XF100. It’s bigger. It does…stuff…that the XA10 didn’t do, but I doubt anything I shoot with it will benefit from that stuff. I miss my XA10. I see there is now an XA20. G.A.S kicking in… perhaps what I need to do is sell the XF100 and get the XA20. I’m already selling my SLR gear now that I have my Fuji X100s and I am addicted to it…

  49. T WHYTE

    Zach you are not alone, there are a lot of us with the same problem…

    “Any fool can take fine tomatoes and make a great tomato soup, but how many can take chicken shit and make a good chicken salad?”


  50. Mat

    Zack, I can’t wait for part 2! This is really helpful as I am moving toward motion myself. I’m a couple steps behind you though! Thanks for all you do here.

  51. Andy

    Zack, ya do whatcha want, but I very much hope you do not leave us hangin with the completion of moving from FF whatever to the Fuji system; as was indicated in the last lines of your accessories entry. I’ve been checking back to only slump forward in sadness that your last entry has not surfaced on DEDPXL.

    Thank you

  52. Richard Wintle

    I was taken right away by this line:

    “I’m going to take my time finding my voice in video.”

    Without (I hope) sounding too much of a fanboy… I think you might already be there. The Onelight videos are very stylish, beautifully produced and immediately recognizable as your work (even in scenes without either you or Carl the Squirrel in them). Seriously. I’ve watched a lot of photography videos and tutorials and the production values and “look and feel” of Onelight are very distinctive. Not saying I wouldn’t look forward to more artistic rather than didactic pieces from you, but it really seems to me that there’s already a DEDPXL/Zack Arias “video voice”.

  53. Frank Grygier

    Video production is the under-lying passion that got me into still photography. I traded one obsession for another. Video is pulling me back in. I am torturing myself with a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera. Water boarding is a jump in a kiddie pool compared to this. I will either be cured or create the epic that I know lives somewhere inside me. Kudos to Caleb. I admire his work.

  54. Louis LBNC

    I think you’re on the right track Zack. Find your voice before throwing money at your camera until you can make a video of your cats in your basement have enough dolly moves, shallow depth of field and “cinematic” grading that it’s palatable. You have a strong sense of contrast, lighting and composition and nobody can take that away from you. But more importantly, you have a real honest voice and seem to easily connect with people and have experience directing. I think you could leverage that and make very compelling content.

    I also jumped on the Canon bandwagon in 2011 with a t2i (ok, as a 18 y/o with no photo experience) and had vision of making these super slick videos. What I quickly realized is that it’s insanely time consuming and I didn’t have anything meaningful to say. Time travel 4 years, I’m just starting to put videos up (at a meagre pace mind you), mainly because I simplified things enough that it makes shooting fun.

  55. c.d.embrey

    Some good comments from people who have been there. Now I’ll add my $0.02.

    Video production is Not For Control Freaks, you have to learn to delegate. Hire the best people you can, and let them do their job without micromanagement.

    At the very least you need a REAL Gaffer. No need for you to revent the (“lighting”) wheel. BTW many gaffers their own lighting/grip package that you can rent from them.

    Sound is another “can of worms.” Sound mixers have their own recorders and mics, no need for you to buy a Zoom H1.

    People have mentioned all the software you need to learn (After Efx, etc) Why ? It’s quicker and less expensive to hire someone who already knows editing and owns all the necessary tools.

    Now the fun stuff — you get to spend money on two books.
    1. Film Directing Shot by Shot: Visualizing from Concept to Screen

    2. Film Directing: Cinematic Motion, Second Edition

    BTW Many video producers went straight from the Canon GH1 to Sony Broadcast PMW-EX3 And skipped the VDSLRs.

    • Zack Arias

      Thanks for the well thought out comment! Great advice there.


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  57. Constantin Menier

    At almost every wedding I shoot someone asks me if I do video as well. My typical customer are from Greece, Romania, Hungary, Poland, and United Kingdom, for eastern european countries video is a must, in UK it starts to kick this “fusion” between video and photo.

  58. PKA

    Late to the fray, me, but here’s a buyer’s remorse story for you. I did a brief stint at a fly-by-night film school in London in 1995 because I wanted to quit print journalism for filmmaking. We shot on 16mm and Super 8 film. A fellow student and I even went to Mozambique to shoot – on Super 8 – a documentary about landmine disposal.

    Fast forward to 2008 and I am still a print journalist, this time for a big South African weekly. I figure it would be fun to get back into Super 8 filmmaking which in the late 2000s was undergoing a renaissance with lovely new Kodak negative stocks. Also, the process of digitising Super 8 with decent frame-by-frame scanners has lowered production costs enormously.

    So I scour the web for the best possible Super 8 camera money can buy and ignoring my head (which is screaming “buy the mint Bauer, buy the mint Bauer, it’s only $200!”), I let my heart do the talking and plunk down 900 euros for a mint-condition Beaulieu ZM2 4008 with a Schneider zoom instead.

    The camera duly arrives from Ireland – along with a single roll of Ektachrome film – and it is, indeed in mint condition. I slap the Beaulieu on a Manfrotto fluid-head and shoot off the roll and realise I have forgotten every single thing about cinematography and that it is going to be a long and expensive lesson to relearn it all on Super 8.

    The camera goes back in its case, while I try figure out exactly what I want to do. After some serious soul-searching, I realise I do not want to be a DoP and I don’t want to work in Super 8 – I just want to shoot stuff that complements my daily work on the paper. And that means clips for web.

    The camera is sold – still mint, with its new battery unused – in 2008 for a lot, lot less than I paid for it. But what a relief to let it go.

    For my current needs, an iPhone and a couple of Moment lenses is enough camera. Because sound is 40% of the art, I’m more interested in getting that part right, so I have a Rode shotgun mic connected via a 2003-vintage preamp/XLR minidisc interface into whatever digital recorder I have to hand.

    For when I want that cinematic look (and I can feel that time coming), I will spring for a Black Magic Pocket camera and some decent Panasonic glass.

  59. Rob Oresteen

    Hi Zak – I feel my extended trips to Europe would benifit from some footage of the back roads and out of the way places not found in a DK travel book or a Rick Steves episode.

    I was hoping the latest iteration of Fuji X would have included a partnership with Black Magic cinema, but I guess we can’t have it all.

    In addition to expanding my X kit this year, I hope to get the new Black Magic Micro Cinema 4k with a couple of 4/3’s and micro 4/3’s lenses and call it a day. I can’t think of a better kit to learn on (GH-4 included) that wouldn’t be doubling up my still kit.