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Will video kill the still-photo star?

New SLR cameras capture jaw-dropping HD video. Outdoor communicators will never be the same. Just give it time.

By Paul Queneau

hdtvA good writer can paint a picture for their readers, and a good photographer can capture the essence of a story. Many outdoor communicators do both.
Telling a story in professional video, though? It’s an art unto itself, and one that has always required a mountain of pricey gear.
Yet in this era of electronic publishing, including video within an online article is as simple as posting a still photo. Yet we still only have two arms and one back to tote our mess of gear around, and it’s been impractical for one person to do it all, much less do it all well.
Enter 2009, the year digital SLR cameras sprouted legs—and immediately signed up for the New York Marathon.
Basically every new camera body released in 2009 can record HD video. But not just high definition—we’re talking gorgeous, shallow depth-of-field video like you’re used to seeing at the movie theater (think pleasant background blur and selective focus).
New cameras finally have the processing power to scale their full-size images down to 1920×1080 or 1280×720 at either 24, 30 or even 60 times per second (I can already see the bighorns butting head in slow motion). These cameras take full advantage of an image sensor many times larger than any camcorder’s, as well as the superiority of all that glass in front of it.
Need proof? Check this out. Or this. Or this. Or this.
(If you computer won’t play these smoothly, that’s because of the heft of the videos).
As far as I’m concerned, it’s a game changer. Before all the video folks jump down my throat, there are trade-offs: The built-in microphones are a far cry from that of anything but the cheapest camcorders (but some have a jack for an external mic). There is often no swiveling screen for holding the camera at interesting angles…the list goes on.
But look at it from my perspective. I’m conservation editor of Bugle magazine at the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation; I’m regularly hiring writers to cover issues having to do with wildlife and hunting, as well as the many conservation projects we complete every year.
When I hire folks like Jack Ballard, I can rest assured that they will also take stellar photos in addition to writing up a mean story. But the Elk Foundation needs good video of our conservation projects and the people that make them possible.  For our television show. For our Web site. For DVDs. That’s a market for anyone who can pull off writer/photographer/videographer—the new triple threat.
And for those of you whose bread and butter is shooting outdoors-people in the field? Most of the magazines that publish your work also have a TV show. And a Web site. And who knows what else. Take a 15-second video clip of your subject hiking by you or casting that fly-rod. You may well be able to sell it as b-roll. Or if you’re interviewing someone for a profile? How about hooking them up with a lapel mic and taking some video of their responses.
It’s a brave new world—probably the biggest seismic shift since the digital camera. And it’s a growth market. Those of us that can make the leap the fastest will be ahead of the curve and stand to profit. In fact, I shouldn’t even be telling you this. I should be out shooting video.
Think I’m crazy? Comment! ◊
PaulQueneauPaul Queneau grew up in Colorado hunting, fishing and backpacking. He started with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s Bugle Magazine as an intern and is currently the conservation editor.
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