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Inspiration

The Red Button Complex

· 23.August.2021

Almost ten years of using X series cameras and I still haven’t pressed that video button, why?

There’s probably a name for it, or at least there should be – the fear of pressing the video button on a camera that is. Technophobia mixed with a little reticence, a dash of self-reasoning and deep inner resistance. I guess calling it “videophobia” could work for now.

My name is Steve, and I’m a “stillphotoholic.” I have some kind if inbuilt aversion to pressing what was previously the tiny red button, but which has now cunningly disguised its self elsewhere on the X camera dials.

www.thesoftsaddle.com stevethomaspix@gmail.com

It’s not that movie and video cameras are anything new, not even to me – far from it. They’ve been seriously incorporated into digital still cameras ever since the Canon EOS 5D Mark 2 came out. Now, of course, there’s a whole generation of camera users out there who’ve never known any different. Perhaps they assume that having a very capable sill camera added to a digital video camera is normal, how it’s always been. Maybe some even see the still images that come out of them as some kind of retro kickback to a bygone era, and it can often seem that way.

How often do you check someone’s Instagram profile and see them terming themselves as storytellers and filmmakers? Well, okay, that’s a whole different argument, but it does perhaps shine a little light into my own personal phobia when it comes to shooting video, or at least towards shooting video on a “real camera” as opposed to a phone or an action camera, which is something I do regularly.

Perhaps it is a generational thing? Well, yes, I’m sure that is part of it. I’ve been taking still photos for a living for 30 plus years now, and yet even back in the 90’s I was also tasked with shooting the odd film clip for a company making videos, which were at that time were output to those big and clunky tapes that we used to slot into cranky old machines that sat beneath curved TV screens.

I even invested in a Hi8 system at one point, which also never got used. Looking back and perhaps my aversion towards video did actually pre-date the digital era.

Back then video and stills shooting were seen as totally different genres, so it was no surprise when photographers were just that, and filmmakers were people with cricked necks and sore shoulders.

When the 5D2 came around there had been much made about its video capabilities. It was a true game changer (for some), and of course I bought one, although to be fair it was mostly just as an update to my existing 5D, which was my workhorse at the time.

Even so the pressure was seeping through (for me). Photographers suddenly had one seriously capable video and still camera in their hands. Almost every working photographer out there was told that they had to start shooting video and to move with the times or become extinct.

There was, and still is definitely some truth in that mantra.

Indeed, the value of still photography has fallen flat on it’s face, and in my experience and estimation video is not that far behind it when you weigh up the workload and investment against the returns. With more and more video “content” being shot and “consumed” through the various “free” social media apps and platforms this is a trend which I have little doubt will see videographers racing photographers towards the bottom rungs of the value ladder in no time at all.

Even so, I do have boxes at home full of video gear that I’ve bought with vague intent over the years. From glidecams & mics to gimbals & filters, you name it I’ve wasted good money on them, only for them to ultimately be confined to that “videophobia” box.

There was a dose semi-serious intent when buying them, but I just never got around to learning and using them. My reluctance, I think, is actually more towards the editing of video as opposed to the capture. I’m not a lover of spending hours editing still images as it is, let alone spending days editing videos.

I’ve seen many friends tied for days on end to their multiple screens editing 4k video files that my aging MacBook would choke at the mere sight of. It’s just not what I want to be doing – even if I do quite fancy the idea of making a Nat Geo style documentary.

One thing is for sure; that being that I am not alone in this. Many of my colleagues (who are full time still shooters) have also never so much as pressed that dreaded red button – the one that sends your world into “videoblivion” when the evil hybrid tyrant presses it.

There are many big name photographers out here who do also make movies now, and there are also a good number of them who don’t actually press the buttons or edit the files themselves, they often take on a more directorial role, hence sticking purely to the creative side – much as it was done in the pre digital era.

www.thesoftsaddle.com stevethomaspix@gmail.com

The X factor video

When I first tentatively switched to X cameras it was something of a video de-guilt trip for me, in so much as the older cameras were hardly considered as hybrid or video cameras, at least not by me at that time.

For year’s I carried that shame around in my backpack, that being of never actually getting around to shooting any video footage, let alone editing it into an actual film.

The X cameras were (IMO) for still photographers, and I could mask my phobia behind them. That was until things evolved, and then that angst returned. Surely now I would have to bite the red video button and make movies.

Well, no, I still haven’t managed it. Lockdowns and more time laid over to trying to figure it all out; the H264’s, the FPS’s, rolling shutters, filters, phew, and that’s before we even get to editing a multi track video.

In reality, still image shooting and editing could actually be made so seem just as complicated and daunting – or at lease close to it. When you really get down to it and simplify things then it becomes much more approachable, or at least it did for me, as it was something I had to learn when film faded into digital.

I often shoot alongside videographers and hybrid shooters, and I do still strongly believe that doing both at the same time is like splitting a bag of chips; you just do not get the best of things.

There’s a very different creative thought process, even if some do think it’s basically the same. To me they are clearly 2 different entities. I have to focus on doing one thing well. I do not think that I could do both well enough at the same time, which is often the expectation of clients – approached separately, probably I could.

In recent years I‘ve worked alongside many videographers who have also been tasked with taking still images as an add on. With the more seasoned and experienced of them I do notice that they openly struggle with the technicalities and concept of still images, of capturing it all in one solitary image as opposed to a rolling sequence – video.

It’s also noticeable that those from a video background often compose differently to dedicated still photographers, almost with more hesitance. I believe this underlines the idea that video and still photography are two completely different beasts, even if we do have a shared common denominator now – those little electronic boxes of light capturing tricks called cameras.

In the meantime I’ll persist with persisting, and will try and get over that phobia – as I know it will be worth it in the long run.

Steve Thomas

From a very young age I've been racing and riding bicycles, all kinds of bikes, as long as they have two wheels and a saddle it works for me.
My wheels and lust for the extreme have taken me all around the world, well almost. For around 35 years I've been nomadically pedalling, paddling, scrambling and trekking my way around the globe, taking on and making my living from adventure, or rather from capturing images and trapping words from my travels. During the past 20 years, ever since I first put pen to paper and picked up a camera with publishable intent, I've earned my crust this way. With an ever growing bank of images and dusty memoirs from the trail - covering more than 50 countries and taking in countless adventures my works have, and do, find their way between and onto the covers of leading magazines, newspapers, websites, books, brochures, the odd pencil case and even TV screens. I have a huge and ever-growing back catalogue or material from around the world, and am usually available for commission - be it words, pictures or media.

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