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Q&A with the Authors of From Still to Motion

Peachpit talks to James Ball, Robbie Carman, Matt Gottshalk, and Richard Harrington about their new book and DVD, From Still to Motion, what photographers struggle with the most when learning video, and how to stay up to date on the latest in the world of video.
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Peachpit: What was the motivation behind writing From Still to Motion? Why this topic, and why now?

Authors: We've been thinking about and actively working on the book for more than a year. When we first starting seeing video-enabled DSLR cameras we were excited by their potential. They can be challenging to work with, but have great rewards with incredible visuals.

We decided there needed to be a definitive book and DVD that explored the entire process of using these cameras (from pre-production through delivery), and one that explored both the art and the technology. Camera models and features constantly change, but the process of creating video is relatively constant and we felt there needed to be thorough coverage on how to create video with a DSLR camera. What we've created is an in-depth case study that explores how we used these cameras for six months and all the cool things we learned along the way.

Peachpit: There are four of you that contributed to the book, all with amazing and diverse backgrounds. Can you tell us a little about how you came together and what your approach was to this topic?

Authors: We knew that it was essential to look at DSLR video from all angles. It doesn't matter how good a shooter you are if you're preproduction planning sucks. What good is a beautiful image if you can't edit it into a cohesive video and publish it for others to see? Because of this need, we built a team of professionals, fortunately it was a team that's been working together over the last decade... so we already had a great rapport.

Rich Harrington was the director and producer on the project. It was his job to build the team and work with the client. He’s also a video editor by trade, so tackled a lot of the editing tasks. He has also had the good fortune to teach at the Photoshop World conference for several years and work with many photographers as they've explored video.

Our Director of Photography was James Ball, a tremendous talent with an incredible eye. Jim shoots for folks like National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, and HBO. He's also a photographer so he knows and has worked with all types of cameras. Jim brings an artistic vision to these cameras which is superb.

Robbie Carman is a talented colorist as well as an experienced book author. Robbie knows how to take footage and enhance the color and tone to perfection. He works on all sorts of international television shows and commercials, and brings that to the book.

Matt Gottshalk is the fourth author on the book and a technical whiz. He jumped into these cameras from day one and knows them inside and out. He's also a balanced professional who works in production and post and a talented videographer himself. Matt added a lot of depth to the team and made sure we pushed the limits of the gear.

Rounding out our team were two great technical editors. Jeff Revell who is a photography author himself, kept us honest. He looked at the book as a photographer and made sure we were clear, precise, and accurate. Our other technical editor, Gary Adcock, is a genius when it comes to HD and tapeless workflow. He's a member of the American Society of Cinematographers and he added a ton of expertise to the project.

Peachpit: Who needs to read From Still to Motion? What do you think readers will find most useful about your book?

Authors: The book is targeted first and foremost at photographers. Every decision we made was with the professional or advanced amateur in mind. We didn't rehash anything they should already know about photography, rather we used that as a building block to explore what's unique about the video process. We used analogies that made sense for photographers and we also profiled 5 great photography pros who share how DSLR video is impacting their professional lives.

With that said, we're also video pros who make our living producing video and cinema for a global audience. We've had a ton of video pros get a sneak peek at the book and they've loved it too.

In the book, we focus on professional-level techniques, but we also offer solutions at a range of price points. We know that some people will have bigger budgets and some will be scraping by. We don't judge you for the gear you use, but we do focus on getting the most professional-level results possible with the tools you have.

Peachpit: You tackle topics such as preproduction, lighting for video, audio, editing, compression, and delivery. What do you think photographers struggle with the most when learning video and what solutions do you offer them in the book? Can you give an example?

Authors: I think most photographers are very talented with a great eye for composition and storytelling, but video is different. We broke the book up into 5 sections that we think really serve the audience.

  • First we tackle what's unique about video, both the technology and the workflow. We focus on teaching photographers about the language of cinema as well as the essential preproduction tasks you have to think about. Video is much more complex and you'll be capturing a lot more content including video, audio, and stills throughout the day. This means you have more planning to do and some learning to avoid common technology pitfalls.
  • The next section of the book tackles lighting for video. For studio photographers this won't be a huge leap, but most photographers who are used to available light or small flash will need to totally rethink their approach and rebuild their tool kit. We tackle lighting essentials as well as how to work with available light. We also explore compact lights and homemade lighting.
  • Next we explore all the gear you need and how to put it into use. We show you the benefits of different types of lenses, point out the camera features that matter most, and address the Achilles heel — audio. Getting great sound is a HUGE change for a photographer. We really emphasize the needed steps to get usable sound that you'll be proud of.
  • We then move into postproduction where you put all the pieces together. Getting the footage organized and ready for editing can be overwhelming, and we demystify the big unknowns. We also cover a lot of techniques for editing and even offer specific video training for tools like Final Cut Pro, iMovie, Premiere Pro, and After Effects. Once you're done, we cover how to share your work on the web or even Blu-ray.
  • Our last section explores two additional creative ways to make video — stop motion animation and time-lapse photography. Readers learn the necessary steps to great projects with these classic techniques and also meet guest experts who share real-world experience.

Peachpit: What will readers find on the DVD that comes with the book?

Authors: Well, this is not just an add-on. You are getting a full-featured DVD and a book in one package. The DVD contains more than 6 hours of advanced video training. We cover an additional book's worth of material in the DVD, plus it’s portable and can be transferred to your laptop or iPod. Readers also get a chance to try their own cut of a music video project so they can see how editing works. There's tons of hands-n exercises too that cover advanced postproduction topics like color grading, Blu-ray authoring, and web publishing. Plus we let the reader see through our lens, as we've included hundreds of shots for them to look at, both in the finished music video and documentary as well a raw footage.

Peachpit: There are additional contributions in the book from several working photographers, including Syl Arena, Bob Krist, and Scott Bourne. How are they using video in their work and what might readers learn from their experience as outlined in the book?

Authors: We had a chance to talk to 6 great photographers who are all using video to enhance their creative vision (and client marketability).

  • Syl Arena – Syl is a Canon Speedlite expert and commercial photographer. He offers great insight into his new workflow and why video matters to his clients.
  • Scott Bourne – Scott is a generous blogger and nature photographer who shares his personal evolution. Scott has some great insight on the importance of putting the camera into motion.
  • Bill Frakes – Bill is a legendary sports photographer who's made video a key part of his work. He's also a journalist and has found that creating photo and video montages to be very rewarding.
  • Bob Krist – As a travel photographer, Bob gets to see the world. By adding video to his arsenal he's an even better documentarian of the world and can truly share some beautiful things.
  • Lisa & Ian Robinson – The husband and wife team behind Softbox Media are both talented wedding photographers. They share how video lets them capture memories for brides and grooms and what that means as they grow their business.

Peachpit: How do readers stay up-to-date on new developments in the VDSLR world in terms of new cameras, video editing software, and so on?

Authors: Well, to say that things are always changing is an understatement. In the book, we tackle the core foundation you'll need as well as advanced techniques to set you apart. We avoid obsessing about specific camera models as they constantly change. Instead we have two online communities where people can both talk tech and interact.

The book has a Facebook page ( that's totally free. People share resources, video clips, and the latest tech news. We'd welcome anyone to join and at least one of the book authors logs in every day to post resources, share news, and talk with anyone who's interested.

We also have a technical forum over at Creative Cow ( This is a cool site to ask questions, interact with other pros, and search for resources. It's also completely free and a recommended read. You'll find some of the book's authors here answering questions as well as tons of other smart folks.

Peachpit: What sets this book apart? Why get it?

Authors: We set out to write a detailed and holistic book. I feel we cover the topic in a smart and efficient way. We wrote a book for those who take photography seriously and want to grow and explore video. We know that this is a balance of art, vision, technology, and business. With this in mind, I hope we can invigorate the photography industry in a meaningful way. All four authors poured a ton of effort into exploring DSLR video in depth. Along the way we found awesome techniques, huge timesavers, and some terrible pitfalls. What we present is an honest look at using these cameras on real projects. We share all that we learned and pulled back the curtain on the hard stuff too. We want this to be a definitive starting point that gives photographers and video pros all that they need to start creating video professionally.

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