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Fundamentals of DSLR Filmmaking

Lesson 21 of 39

Hi-Hats and Low-Hats

Victor Ha

Fundamentals of DSLR Filmmaking

Victor Ha

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Lesson Info

21. Hi-Hats and Low-Hats

Lesson Info

Hi-Hats and Low-Hats

Creative production ideas. So when we were putting together this segment, there's a lot of tools out there that give you certain looks and give you certain feels and that kind of stuff. You know, it's everything from like time lapse, to hand held rigs, to steady cams and glide cams, and it's like you wanna talk about that stuff, but I feel like those are not necessary tools. They're tools that you'll get eventually if you wanna have that look, but they're not the tools that'll bring home the bread, so to speak, every day of the week. So I felt like if we kind of focused the remainder of the time we're here today on necessary tools later on, and then creative production ideas that are tool centric, that'll be kinda neat, you know. So when you look at creative production ideas, we're looking at different tools to get the footage that you want. We're also looking at current tools in a different way. Like some of you have seen like tripods, but you know if you shrink a tripod, and you put ...

it low to the ground, that's a different way to use it, you know? And then just kind of learn what's out there. Kinda see where some of the things that are peaking your interest. And then, I like this section a whole lot because it creates dialogue and questions. And I've been pushing so hard this morning just to get through content and to educate you guys that I haven't really been able to get a lot of questions. And I love answering questions, okay? So if you have questions on this segment, please, ask them, and I'll do my best to answer them. Okay? Okay, so, we're gonna start with something called a hi-hat and a low-hat. Now, its funny, but you think of a tripod as having three legs, and you wonder why you need a short little stubby tripod. The footage that I was recording yesterday for this, it was really interesting because the minute you have the right tool for the job, things get easier. Just innately easier. If you imagine, taking a camera, and I'm gonna take my camera off my hi-hat right now. But if you take your camera off your head, and you go from taking a still, right? We all take stills like this, and we always can get down here and we can do this sort of thing, right? I don't know how many times I see people do this, right? And it works, and it gets a really great shot. Heck, sometimes people even put the camera on the ground and just snap away. And that's acceptable, we all do it, there's nothing wrong with it. But if I've got my camera on the ground, and I'm trying to roll video, and I'm trying to roll footage, how do I know it's in focus? That's the first thing. How do I know I'm getting what's in my frame? That's another thing. What if I wanna do a tilt up? What if I wanna get it up? Do I stick in sand bags and camera bags underneath it like I see photographers do all the time? So that's the problem here, is we need stability and we need versatility out of the tools we use, and sometimes you need a hi-hat or you need a low-hat. Now, in Hollywood, a hi-hat is typically made out of cast iron. And it's one fixed height. And they come in two sizes, either 100 millimeter bowl ball combination, or a 75 millimeter bowl ball combination. So when you look at like, a hi-hat that's like this. It's kinda versatile, because it's your hi-hat, your typical, little, stack 'em up hi-hat. But there's some added little elements to it that photographers tend to like because we like versatility. The first thing here is we can extend it, to make it taller. Funny, right, it's so funny. You wanna get low, but then you end up adding extension to it, you know, just sometimes it works really nicely, and I'll show you some examples for it. And then here's a cool thing. Is that filmmakers are obsessed with getting low. They are obsessed with getting low, and the thing about getting low is the minute you put a camera rig or a camera on a tripod and you get it low, you're gonna wanna be able to move said tripod and said camera setup. So it's really really funny. Because when you don't have a hi-hat, you're thinking of every solution under the sun to get low, and you think of every solution under the sun to get the footage you want. When you have the right tool, it just becomes easier, it becomes that little weapon that you use. Okay? So, I'm gonna leave that there. Some people like to stack monitors, they like to stack video heads on it. It's a versatile tripod, it's perfect for shooting low situations, and it's great for even macro and tabletop work. Okay, so let's take a look at some footage that's shot with hi-hats, just so you guys can kinda see a feel for what's going on here, okay? (light music) (light music) (light music) So if we were to roll back and kind of scrub through this footage really quickly, just a second here. Start it, and then. So here's this first frame, and that first frame, you know, you've got your typical low angle, it's going for the water, and it's actually giving us an ability to pan up and down like we saw. And then you go to the next frame. (light music) Let's see here, right over here. And you see how, again, it's low and it's pointing and it gives us that look of the feet. But then you look at this. I'm on multi-level. I'm angling the legs to get on stairs. And I'm still staying low. I still have the stability that I want. Here's the neat thing, guys. If you want stability, and you wanna stay low on stairs, this is kind of the only thing that's out there that'll let you do it in this way. 'Cause the leg is extended, your legs are splayed out. So we're trying to put a camera on it, now I've got a really minimal camera setup there. But later on you're gonna see my camera rigged out for when I actually do interviews and studio work, and if I had to get low with that rig, I would need the support for it. Okay? So, it's a creative production idea only in the sense that I don't think when we decide as photographers to go low, we don't really ever understand how much work actually goes into getting low. What's up? A question from Mike. What about suspending the camera upside down from under a tripod and then flipping it in post? That's a great idea. That's a great idea, so what you can do is, center columns, in still tripods, can be removed and flipped upside down. However, you're fixed at that point. And let's make believe you wanna get wide. If you get wide, you're gonna get the legs of the tripod in, right? So, that's getting really creative with an existing tool, but then you're hindered because you wanna be creative, you're hindered by the boundary of that tool. So, if I let's say here, do this. So some tripods let you suspend from underneath. So there's only a given focally that you're able to use within the spread of these legs. So if you wanna get super wide, you're gonna end up having the legs in frame. Okay? It'll work for some people, 'cause sometimes they'll go longer lens, and that works really really well. But then, what if you wanna move the camera? What if you wanna tilt it, pan it? It becomes really really hard, right? So like this shot right here, you could probably achieve because it's a single static shot, but if you wanted to track it as he's going up-- Yes. You're limited. So you could probably do this with a tripod, right? And then if you take a look at the rest of this, I'm gonna mute up we can talk over it. So we'll keep watching, so you could probably do this, you can't do this with a tripod. 'Cause you're gonna have to pan and tilt. This, if it's static, you could definitely do. Okay, 'cause I'm just walking up the stairs there. This one could be tricky because you're kind of on a different level, stairs, you know. This last one would probably be next to impossible if you're trying to suspend from underneath. Okay? So, that's where we're going with this section. How do you guys feel about it? Kind of interesting, right, what's up? What's your feeling about using like a gorilla pod? So, a gorilla pod- You can get on uneven surfaces. So what's my feeling about using a gorilla pod on different surfaces? So they're actually really wonderful tools, 'cause they actually have an ability to kind of wrap around stuff. For people who may not know what a gorilla pod is. Oh, so a gorilla pod is like a, think of a tripod that has these flexible legs that can be wrapped around a tree branch or something like that. Typically, they only can take a certain amount of weight. And after a certain amount of weight they start to sag, and it's really hard to kind of, if you want to pan, you'll try to pan and the legs will move out and kind of give out from under you. So, what did we learn the first day? We learned the first day that stability is key. Okay, and if you're gonna put something on the tripod it's gotta be rock solid, it's gotta be rock solid. So when you think here, it's like if I'm gonna put this on this guy, it's gonna be rock solid, even if it's on stairs it's gonna be rock solid, it's gonna support that weight. Okay? And, you know, is it a necessity? I would say no. Is it a nicety? Absolutely. Why is it a nicety? Because after awhile, you're gonna get sick of tripod footage, you're gonna get sick of monopod footage, because it's gonna be all eye level or somewhere around knee level. You're gonna wanna change your perspective, right? So, a lot of what I try to encourage photographers to think about the tools for video like, is in photography, we invest so much in our lenses, don't we? There's a fish eye, there's a wide angle, there's lens babies, there's zooms, telephotos. I mean, in my camera bag alone I've got six or seven lenses. Right? And every time I wanna change my perspective in photography, what do I do? I change my lens. If I'm doing a portrait, I'll go to a 7200. If I go to a landscape, I'll snap on a wide angle. I change my lens because I wanna change that perspective. In filmmaking, you gotta treat the tool like you treat a lens. And when you treat a tool like you treat a lens, it becomes something that's like, oh, okay, this tool is for this type of shot, therefore I'm gonna use that tool in this way. And then you start to refer to your tools as almost like your lenses. 'Cause I know, when I've got two people, I'm gonna put a 3500 millimeter on at five six. I just know that, right? But now, when I wanna get low, I'll slap a hi-hat down low, put a video head on it, and I'm good to go. Does that make sense? So, do I use all these tools all the time? No, I don't use all the tools all the time. Do I use them some of the time, and when do I use them? Well you know, it really depends. It's like, do you use a fish eye all the time when you're working? I don't use a fish eye all the time when I'm working. But I do sometimes, because that shot requires it, doesn't it, okay? So as we go through this segment, that's what I want you to focus on. Is not a tool that you're gonna use all the time, but a tool that you'll use when the right occasion occurs. Make sense? Cool, so moving on. I get a lot of questions about this. These guys. Alright. So, GoPros are action cameras, and if you're not familiar with a GoPro, just Google GoPro and watch all of the hundreds of thousands of videos that people have made with a GoPro. And they only keep getting better. They literally just keep getting better. They go higher resolutions, faster frame rates, narrow, wide, medium lens angles. I mean, they're at the top of their game right now. And for us as like filmmakers, let's think of some creative ideas for a GoPro. So we talked about yesterday, the peanut butter and jelly videos, right? And someone said, well, what if we put something in the peanut butter, well, hey. These guys are tiny. So you can put them into a jar and then shoot upward and there's your peanut butter, right? I mean I've coated this thing in salt, sugar, dunked it in water and Coke. I've put it in a glass of whiskey, really bad whiskey. So, I've done a lot just to see what stuff would look like. A lot of the times with these things, you kinda just try it, and see what it looks like, and then it's a throw away. With GoPros, I don't know if you guys ever watch Shark Week? So in Shark Week, they had an episode last year, there was a little counter in the bottom right hand corner of the episode, and it kept counting up, and it was the number of GoPros they lost making that episode. So they're disposable, this is like a few hundred bucks, and they're kind of expensive for us, but when you think about the whole grand scheme of things, 5D Mark III costs $3,000, ish? Right around 2500 to $3,000? And then this guy's 300, so I can buy like of these guys for the cost of one DSLR. So when you put it in that perspective, it's like, oh, dude. That's why a lot of reality TV, that's why a lot of people who, oh, what's that big, Deadliest Catch? Uses nothing but GoPros. So you see nothing but GoPro accessories now. You know, little sticks that people can carry with them while they're snowboarding. Helmet mounts. You've got car mounts for GoPros. You've really got everything, I mean they're now making like legitimate outdoor backpacks for GoPros so you can stick all the material, all the stuff, and the nibbles and bits inside of a case. These things are huge. But from a filmmaking standpoint, how can this be applied in a wedding? Like where can we put this in a wedding? Well, heck, if the client would let me, I'd stick a body strap onto one of the flower girls, and let 'em just run around. Okay, find a kid and strap it to a kid and let 'em run around for a half hour and look at the footage and see what they see. You know? I think we are in an age so much where we can take a tool like this, and really stretch the boundaries of what they're used for. One of my favorite videos that was done with a GoPro, I think they're using it in one of their adverts right now. The camera fell off like a plane or something, and it landed in a pig pen. And then, just by stroke of luck, it landed face up, so this pig comes in and starts eating it. You couldn't pay for that, it's crazy. And I have to believe that was like a happy accident, I don't wanna believe they staged it, but it's amazing. And it's just because people are now recording so much of their lives every day. We talked about the other day, we've taken more photographs in the last year than all of history. Think about how much video we're capturing now, of ourselves. It's crazy. Lenny? Mike has a question about mixing footage between GoPro and a DSLR, especially if audio is different, syncing them, do you have any recommendations on how to mix video from different sources? Okay. So by nature you can't really control the footage that's coming out of this, you're gonna get what you get. Okay? So as you work in post, you're gonna use your tools for like vector scopes and way forms. I would probably capture a target prior to, if I can. Capture a target in the lighting that I'm gonna be in. That way in post I have all the necessary tools. Now inside of the camera there is a microphone. So it does record reference sound. So if you're doing syncing, and you have an ability to get that sync in there, that's a great way to in post make it all come together. Now inside of the camera, depending upon the version of the camera that you have, you can either record in 720, 1440, 1080, 2.7K, 2K or even 4K. If you pick different resolutions, you're gonna get different frame rates to shoot at, and also different angle of lens. So at the higher resolutions, what ends up happening is you actually have wider angles that can only shoot at. If I'm shooting at 1080, I get a narrow angle, a medium angle, and a wide angle. So I typically, because of the versatility, I'll shoot my GoPro at 1080, that way I can get 60 frames, 30 frames, 45 frames and 24 frames a second. And then I can get my choice of angle and view. So I can get wide, medium, and narrow too. Now as the cameras get better, you can kind of pick the camera that has the more resolutions and more angles, but this is the GoPro Hero Three, and I know that they have a Hero Three Plus now that has different resolutions and different frame rates and stuff too. Also, be careful of using those higher resolutions on the GoPro because it's a huge file, and you have to crop it, so just know what you're doing when you do that. Yeah, so what you're gonna wanna do, is if and when you're using a GoPro, you're gonna wanna make sure that you run test footage. Okay? And there's a couple things in terms of accessories, like these things die really quickly. So I invest in the battery backs. Extra batteries and battery backs are key. Are absolutely key. And then if there's a way for you to rig up, you know if you're not going to be in an all weather situation where you need the underwater protective housing, they make an open housing as well that allows you to plug in a USB power. Now there are batteries out there that we've been using to charge our smart phones. They're from Anker, there's one from Mophie. And the output the right amount of current to actually power these things. So if you need it to run for an extended period of time, you can actually run them off of those external batteries, and not have to cable it up, okay? So give me a second, I actually have one that I'll show you. It's funny, when I was going down to California recently, I did a road trip, and I took my GoPro, stuck it on the front of my car, and just took a USB and plugged it in to the cigarette lighter, so yeah. So, I mean, this is just a little battery that I charge my iPhone off of, but I keep it with me at all times if I'm shooting because if I need to power my GoPro, this will charge my iPhone like three times. So this will keep it going I think for, I wanna say an hour. If I'm recording full footage all the time. But there's one from Anker that's really good. And you're looking at milliamps, so you wanna get like a 9,000 or a 12,000 milliamp battery. Those are really really good. Okay? Now, other accessories that are kind of necessary, I don't use the LCD back. A lot of people like the LCD back, but the minute you put the LCD back on you lose the ability to stack an extra battery on top of it. So there's some limitations to the camera because they're so narrowly focused, but as these cameras get better, you're seeing like, you have WiFi connectivity now, where you can actually see the image and frame it up properly. So when you get to the point of using a GoPro, you gotta remember that it's just a tool that you've gotta learn, it's just an added thing. So you gotta learn what the framing looks like, you gotta learn what the file looks like, you gotta learn in what situations you can actually use it in, and then go from there. Okay, now I'm gonna show you a video that one of my friends made. And give me a second. Let's see here. Okay. (upbeat music) (upbeat music) So you take a look at GoPros now, that was a friend of mine who took a video workshop that I did, he had never shot video prior to, he had a GoPro, he went home that day after class was done and just shot that video with his kid. And then he sent it to me. So, here's the thing, guys. When you think about doing stuff with GoPro, he just wanted to shoot something, and that was one GoPro, having fun with his kid in the backyard, what was the action? Oh, he was just swimming, playing around, messing around. Okay? Find a tool, learn the tool, use the tool, get inspired by the tool, and actually, again, practice your craft. Practice it, learn what the limitations are, you know? Because I mean there's some definite limitations to that thing, right? But, it was still fun. How are we doing if we move on? Good. Any questions, comments, concerns? Now I really encourage you to watch- Oh, really quick. The battery type that you had, what's the brand on that? Oh, actually I got it overseas. So they don't sell them here in the US. So I bought it overseas. The brands that I would recommend are Mophie. Mophie has one that's a single USB jack and a dual USB jack, and I think they're rated at 9,000 milliamps. And the other one is Anker. Anker has wide range of different batteries. I think they are rated a little bit higher, like around 10,000? And it's spelled A-N-K-E-R. Okay, A-N-K-E-R. Victor, one final question. How often do you mix GoPro footage with DSLR footage? So, I do it very little. I do it very little. I think it would be a per case basis. And a lot of the times when I shoot GoPro footage, I'll do it as a toss away, knowing that I might not use it. So I'm always gonna shoot a backup, or some version of a backup in my DSLR. Okay, and it's like, sometimes when you get into production mode, you shoot shoot shoot, and then you end up not using a lot of footage. And in the cases where I've shot GoPro footage, it just didn't quite turn out the way that I wanted it to, in order to make it work properly. But I still shoot it because there's gonna be one day where I shoot it, it's gonna nail it, and it's gonna be good. Okay? So don't, like I've got the camera, every time I go on a shoot, I'll break it out and shoot a couple frames with it, you know, and shoot a couple scenes with it, but to my personal education in terms of using like actual cameras like that, I haven't used a lot of GoPro footage in my own work, as of now. Because I'm still getting used to it, I mean I just recently purchased one, probably, I wanna say a few months ago at this point, you know? So there's kind of like a learning curve aspect of it. But there are people out there who use it a lot. And interchange it back and forth. And I've worked with GoPro footage, and production footage, and there is a challenge, but when you learn how to edit, and you learn how to grade it and use some of the tools in post, it makes it a little bit easier. Do you ever take your DSLR on the water, have you ever used one of those casings, or you wouldn't trust it? So I wouldn't take my DSLR underwater and put it into a housing. The only housing that I would ever wanna put it into would cost so much money that I'd rather just take a GoPro. So, so, I'm kinda like not putting my foot down on that, but there's a method to my madness and there's a limit to how much money I'll ever spend on something.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.

If you own a DSLR camera, you already own a powerful filmmaking tool. Ready to learn how to use it? Join CreativeLive and Victor Ha for a course that will cover the core principles of capturing video with your DSLR.

Through hands-on demos - including how to create compelling video interviews - Victor will guide you through the core techniques of DSLR filmmaking. You’ll learn how to apply the compositional skills of still photography to taking video. You’ll also learn about how to navigate the video-capturing features of your DSLR, choose the right gear for your filmmaking needs, and incorporate audio into your shoots. From framing shots to producing simple projects to spatial relationships, the skills you gain in this course will leave you ready and inspired to create high-quality, engaging film projects.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Victors White Board Notes - High Resolution

Pre-Production Planner


Gear Guide

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes


Victor van Dijk

This course was quite a treat! I had been learning piecemeal about DSLR Filmmaking but never had the opportunity to follow a course that ties it all together. And my namesake Victor is ex-cel-lent!!! Fundamentals of DSLR Filmmaking is a very very clear (I would almost say, lucid!), carefully, comprehensively tied together course teaching all you need and wanted to know about DSLR Filmmaking. Massive PLUS is that the course is first and before all NOT about the nitty-gritty technical details and numbers, but all about the basics of what filmmaking REALLY is all about. And yes, technique and gear are part of that but not for their own sake. And Victor shares that it's all about fun, and telling your story your way in the way that you like. I truly admire Victor's carefully planned and laid out path, in my opinion he planned the course exactly and meticulously like he would a full-blown movie production. And he is very open and honest and not belittling at all. He is really passionate, compassionate and 'infectious' with his happy happy mood :-)! I HIGHLY recommend this course for anyone wanting to properly and thoroughly learn the ins and outs of filmmaking, with a strong focus on using a DSLR.

Penny Foster

This is a very well constructed course by Victor Ha, who is very easy to watch, and very knowledgeable about using the DSLR for more than just taking pictures. For a Wedding Photographer like me, who wants to add some moving images into a slideshow for my client, this course was perfect. Victor shows us that, with the equipment you already own as a working professional photographer, you can get started into video RIGHT NOW, with baby steps. This is not a course on video editing, so if you need that tuition look elsewhere, BUT, Victor shows us how to set our cameras up for success right from the start, so that when we are at the editing stage, the footage is in the perfect state possible to produce excellently exposed, perfectly colour balanced material. He goes over the use of a light meter for capturing video, and how essential it is to get the exposure right 'in camera', so this is certainly a Fundamental DSLR Filmmaking course, for anyone who is already using their DSLR for stills, but who is interested in adding something else to their skill set. Victor is so enthusiastic in his teaching style, and this is a course I will keep coming back to time after time.

Sara safajar

Excellent overview on how to think as a storyteller with DSLR video. Great breakdown and really accessible examples- fun video on the making of a peanut butter sandwich- which inspire and make it feel like the video beast can be conquered. This course is packed with great ideas on not only figuring out to how to make the switch from still to motion, but also creative inspiration on how to begin thinking cinematically. Well worth the price. Great course!