HD Video: is it the new megapixel?

video_camera Previously it was megapixels that marketing materials used to influence the less well informed into thinking one camera was better than another. Now it seems to me that the megapixel war is over, or has at least been forgotten for the moment. It’s HD video capability that is the latest feature used to market cameras and camera-equipped mobile phones.

Not that I’m denying that these HD video claims refer to valid, useful features. The point is that the marketing claims lead the less experienced buyer to assume they will be able to produce professional looking videos all by themselves, using just their shiny new camera. This is clearly not the case.

I don’t yet own an HD video capable camera nor have I any experience of making videos beyond quick, jerky clips grabbed with my non-HD compact camera or cell phone. But listening to podcasts like TWIP I have come to realise that just because we hear that some TV show episode was shot with an HD-capable digital SLR camera, we can’t make the assumption that they used just the camera. After listening to these podcasts I’ve come to realise that many accessories, often very expensive accessories are used as well. Professional quality external audio recording equipment, a variety of rigs to steady the camera or move it smoothly and devices to allow a focus puller to focus the camera are just some I have heard mentioned. Learning this has made me realise that just buying a new DSLR that shoots HD is not going to let me produce anything approaching decent videos; not without learning a lot about how movies are made and buying more equipment any way.

This was brought home to me on Monday when I came across a blog post highlighting Apple of My Eye, one of the first HD videos to be shot with the new iPhone 4. The movie is short and deceptively simple and the blog post says “Shot and edited entirely on the iPhone 4 / iMovie App (in 48 hours)”. This doesn’t mean that some guy just grabbed his phone and fired off a quick video though. At the end of the movie is additional footage showing how the movie was made. This makes if abundantly clear that without specific knowledge and extra equipment, you are not going to be producing quality video.

So, go ahead and buy yourself a new, HD capable camera; but realise that you will have to go through a steep learning curve, invest in buying or renting more equipment, and enlist the help of friends before you will be able to produce that hit movie you dream of.

Creative Commons licensed image courtesy of Damon Duncan.


Not too many days left until the 2010 FIFA World Cup kicks off here in South Africa. I’m not really a sports fan but I’m even getting caught up by the excitement and though I have bought no match tickets I’ll surely watch many matches on television.

The design of the official match ball is called Jabulani and I saw this giant version at the V&A Waterfront the other evening.

Jabulani, official 2010 FIFA World Cup match ball

In For Repairs

A ship in dry dock

Stadium, Hill, Mountain

Cape Town Stadium

The new Cape Town Stadium, built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup seen against a backdrop of Signal Hill, with Table Mountain in the distance.



Walking around at the V&A Waterfront I passed this very friendly woman who said "Hi" and struck up a conversation. We chatted for a few minutes and I snapped some photos, with her permission, as we did. She introduced herself simply as Cheryl.

This picture is #4 in my 100 strangers project. Find out more about the project and see pictures taken by other photographers at www.100strangers.com.

Don’t photograph me, bro!

censored A strange thing happened to me on Thursday afternoon.

I was at the V&A Waterfront, walking around with my camera; shooting my usual mix of people and objects. As it began to get dark I bought a drink and snack and sat on a bench to eat them. When I was done I got up and was walking towards a dustbin when I was approached by a young guy; perhaps 17 years old.

He said that his mother had noticed that I was photographing her; she was uncomfortable with this and he asked that I stop. He wanted me to delete any photographs of her from my camera so I scrolled through the images showing to them so he could identify the relevant photo or photos. I must have had at least a hundred photos on my card so this took a while. He eventually spotted just one in which he said you could see her back. I remembered the shot and was doubtful that the subject was what he thought it was but deleted it anyway, knowing that I could undelete it later if I wanted.

And undelete it I did, to find the main subject of the photograph was four young women leaning over a bridge railing, photographing the seals below. In the background were two men and half the back of a black woman. Of the females in the photograph, four were too young to have a child of the age of the guy that approached me; the other was black while the guy that approached me was white so she probably wasn’t his mother either. Rather odd then that he wanted me to delete the image. Perhaps after flipping through many images he began to realise that I may not have photographed his mother after all and picked a random image rather than admitting error. Or maybe the LCD on the back of a camera is just too small to positively identify the subjects of a photograph.

Besides the son who approached me, it seems the woman had also complained to a security guard. He approached us just as we were about to part company and wanted to know why I was taking photographs. I told him it was a hobby, that I belong to a photography club and had already deleted the photograph that was pointed out to me. He was happy with this, saying that I was allowed to photograph there, it’s a major tourist spot after all, but that he had to take heed of complaints from customers.

Some days later, as I write this I wonder what prompted this. Clearly the son could not identify his mother in any of the photographs on my card. What made his mother think I was photographing her then? Did I perhaps photograph something near her causing her to mistake where my lens was pointing? Is she simply paranoid? Perhaps the strangest question of all; why didn’t she approach me when she thought I was photographing her, or even just wave and shout “Please don’t take my photo”? Why have both her son and a security guard approach me some thirty minutes after I took my last photo and a good distance away from the spot I took it? It’s all rather odd.

Crazy Face

I was walking around at the V&A Waterfront when I passed these young women coming the opposite way. I asked if I could take their picture and without any hesitation they smiled and agreed before the blonde made this crazy face. I snapped the photo, thanked them and we continued on our respective ways.

This picture is #3 in my 100 strangers project. Find out more about the project and see pictures taken by other photographers at www.100Strangers.com.

Rising Sun

Rising Sun, the world’s sixth largest luxury yacht, visits Cape Town. Rising Sun is co-owned by Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and record executive David Geffen.

Rising Sun

Rising Sun

Rising Sun

Rising Sun

Rising Sun

Back Seat Barker

Back Seat Barker

Phone Man

Phone Man