As Canon’s latest wonder, the compact, 4K XC10 video camera is in high demand among image specialists. The Biological Photography team over at the University of Nottingham got their hands on the XC10, so our very own Anthony Corcoran and Liz Sunter sat down with David McMahon (Director of Photography & Imaging) and Steve Galloway (Taught Course Specialist) for a chat to find out their thoughts on the camera, and how they’ve been using it on the Biological Photography and Imaging MSc course.
AC: Do you find it’s students who already have a degree in science that want to do more media type stuff coming to the course?
DM: We get students who’ve come straight out of doing their degree, but we also get a large percentage of students who’ve been out in the working world as well who are coming back to do our course, so they might decide on a career change. So our youngest student would be 22 just coming out of their undergraduate programme, right up to… we had a student who was 65, was she?
SG: I think she was, yeah.
DM: Anyway, getting the budget to buy the kit and so on is a big problem. We ask them to bring along a basic kit, which is a DSLR with a basic lens, flash, some other bits and pieces, and then we supply them with extras to top that kit up, like a 70 – 300mm lens, macro lens and things like that.
AC: So traditionally you’re using basically photography based kit and these days you’re doing bits of video production on DSLRs?
DM: Yeah, we used to use the Sony 1000Es, which we got from Jigsaw24 years ago, but the problem was they were tape-based, so there was a lot of time spent importing the tape into the system and stuff like that. And then we went on to the Canon 7Ds, but then we saw the XC10s at the Rutland Bird Fair.
AC: Good to know Canon are nailing absolutely every possible market.
DM: Steve said “I want to show you this camera.” And as soon as I saw the camera – terrific.
AC: I thought the same, because of the small form factor and the little flip out screen. And in fact I quite like the fact that you can’t change the lens. Just having the large sensor and fixed lens means you can move quickly. And then also things like, the five axle stabilisation system’s pretty smart, and it can do 4K or HD, all at a 1200 quid price point.
DM: In terms of education kit, and the reason one of the bits is really good is the actual restrictions it puts on you as well. You can’t change the lenses, so the student is actually stuck with what you have to give them, and they have to learn to work with what they’ve got, [whereas] instead of being like, “Ooh, I need to get closer” they’ll put on a longer lens, and then vibration will start coming into it and they’ll go “Well why is it vibrating?” So give them a piece of kit that is very restrictive and first of all it does mess about with their heads, but secondly they start to learn how to get round these problems.
AC: So what was in the shooting kit?
SG: It was the camera and accessories, and then we gave them a tripod with a video fluid head, sound kit, so they had a field recorder, an on-camera microphone and a shotgun microphone in a blimp and a boom pole. They had some sliders, some tabletop dollies and some jibs. And they were all trained up on that, they did a practice exercise first. They have to learn the motions themselves.
DM: The first part is more about how you’re going to be working together as a team. They don’t know who’s going to be working with who, that’s put together at the last minute, so it’s getting them to work with someone that they haven’t necessarily worked with, bringing other people into it – they might have to find a voiceover artist – they need to then communicate with outside organisations to arrange filming and such. And it’s all done over a really short period of time, so it makes them really sit up and think about what they need to do. The video aspect is actually secondary to what we’re trying to teach them – to think on their feet and arrange things, working together, coping with the stress of editing and learning how to edit.
AC: There are so many factors. Traditionally editing was a craft done by only an editor, and I know it’s kind of more simple now doing it on a computer [but] at the same time you’ve got a million more different types of codecs, a million more different types of plug-ins, a million more different types of software, so you could argue it’s more complicated in some respects. A guy could have spent years at the BBC learning that craft and that camera inside out, but that’s not going to happen today. There’s all sorts of stuff, whether you’re doing After Effects or Photoshop, tweaking it, and also mixing media inside your films, using bits of stills or bits of photography –
DM: Again this is what they had to do, they had to bring in their own kind of animation into the film as well, so it’s not only about filming on the XC10s but also using other Adobe programmes like Photoshop and Illustrator to actually do animations and to use that within the films as well. So there’s a whole mixed bunch that we actually give them to do in a three week period. The photography side of their learning is quite laidback. The video side is quite an intense programme that we throw at them.
LS: And lastly, how was your experience working with Jigsaw24?
DM: I think that Jigsaw24 is a fantastic company, I really wouldn’t shop anywhere else for computer equipment or things like that. We’ve had issues before with other companies, but with Jigsaw24 you know they’re going to deal with any problems properly.
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