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Of Codecs, External Recorders, and Shooting Video Footage on DSLRs

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The latest full frame DSLR cameras used with high quality photo lenses can shoot incredible stills but the quality of the video they record is limited by the heavily compressed formats they use. On top, artists looking at also using their shots commercially are further limited by greedy software patents and the infamous H.264 encoder that requires payment of hefty licensing fees unless special conditions or “exemptions” are met. Check out what MPEG-LA, the corporation in charge of these licensing requirements, has got to say about this.

Nothing you really want to have to live with.

What It Means for You

Most DSLRs, from smaller DX sensor models to the 35mm-equivalent FX sensor variety, are equipped with HDMI outputs allowing you to route your video data directly to a separate recording device, getting out of the way of any licensing issues and also greatly enhancing your video quality in the process. What’s more, you also get a much wider choice of video formats to work with. This comes in very handy when it comes to post-processing and workflow optimization. Numerous excellent devices for separate recording are available and take HDMI directly out of your DSLR, bypassing the camera’s compression to record professional broadcast-quality high-definition video. Blackmagic’s Video Assist looks particularly promising. Not only does it offer DNxHD and 4:2:2 ProRes recording, but it also boasts a lot of other attractive features.

Lots of Advantages Coming With It

A built-in LCD touchscreen can give you a much larger monitor than the DSLR’s small Live View display in one go, so you can evaluate framing and focus with greater accuracy. Almost equally promising, albeit at a slightly higher price, are the Atomos Ninja-2 and the screen-less Atomos Ninja Star external pocket recorder. For the latter one, a separate HDMI monitor can be installed on top. This setup will help you get the best possible quality from your DSLR.