Sunday, 11 September 2011

10 Reasons Why Climbing Photography is Easier Than Making Climbing Films

When I was shooting 'The Long Hope' on Hoy this year I had a running joke with climbing photographer Lukasz Warzecha that he had it easy and that shooting video was much harder than shooting stills. So, with that in mind here are my 10 reasons why:- 
(Warning: please don't take this too seriously!)

1 Sound Acquisition

Stills don't need sound! Recording good quality sound in an extreme position is incredibly difficult.  You have to compete with the environment (wind, water etc). It requires specialist equipment, radio mics, broadcast quality mics, wind shields. It also requires set up and monitoring with headphones (which are a real pain when hanging from a rope!).

2 Sound Post Production

Sound is such a biggy it deserves to get two in the list of ten. About 20% of the post production of a film is concerned with sound. 

3 Tripods

To get good GVs (General views - eg landscapes, pans and tilts etc) you have to use a tripod for video; with stills you can just snap away handheld. Yeah sure, there are a few times when you might shoot a still on a tripod, but it's rare. Good video tripods are heavy and a real pain to carry. (My top tip for any budding climbing filmmakers out there is always try to make the talent (i.e. the climber) carry the tripod!)

4 Lighting

When photographers talk about lights often they just mean flash guns; they only need to light their subject for a fraction of a second. Video needs continuous lighting. I recently shot some video of a climb in a cave. As well as 3 x 800 watts spotlights with stands I also had to carry in a large petrol generator to power them. Compare that to a couple of flash guns and a handful of AAs!

5 Media Size

After the two week shoot on Hoy I now have 1500GB of video to trawl through. I bet Lukasz came away with only about 50GB.

6 Editing

When I hear a photographer talk about 'editing' that really sets me off! They have it so easy! All they have to do is skim though their images from the shoot and pick out the keepers from the choss. Then they spend a pleasant evening tweaking setting and 'playing' with filters until they have their final images. Editing a film can be a 500-hour life altering journey, resulting in lack of sleep and social contact, malnourishment and an existential crisis.

7 Photoshop Trickery 

Whether its HDR (high dynamic range) or de-cluttering, photoshopping is easy with stills. Try fixing shots like this at 25fps. For a short 5 second clip that's 125 frames which need to be fixed and even then it might not work and look a little odd.

8 Video Formats

HD, SD, MPG, Quicktime, AVIs, PAL, NTSC, progressive, interlaced, anamorphic, frame rate, data rate, pixel aspect ratio, field dominance,  etc. Video formats is a whole world of hurt!
Compare with stills: RAW or JPG!  It's not just the number of formats that is the problem, it's trying to convert from one format to another. With stills you just select 'Save As' doesn't work like that.

9 Portrait Composition

Climbing is mostly a vertical pursuit; one goes from the bottom to the top mostly (usually!) in a upright position. Therefore it is so much easier to compose a good climbing shot in portrait orientation. Video is a landscape / wide screen format, we just don't have that option. When I shoot stills its a joy to be able to turn the camera around 90 degrees. Warning, if you ever ask a photographer to shoot some video for you on his DSLR ("my camera shoots HD video you know!") remind them to shoot landscape! 

10 One Frame for Glory!

For a photographer to win praise and even prizes they only need to produce one stunning image, or as a filmmaker would say, one frame. My new film 'The Long Hope' is 60mins long, so that's 60mins x 60 sec x 25fps = 90,000 frames! That's 90,000 frames that all have to perfectly exposed, composed and colour corrected. Not to mention in some sort of order so that the film makes sense. 

So that's why stills are easier than video.  This is an open and public invitation to Lukasz to defend his profession, or bow down before all filmmakers and admit that stills are easy ;-)

Finally, I have to come clean and say that I will be attending Lukasz's photography workshop in North Wales at the end of this month (if he is still speaking to me after this post!). Just because stills are 'easy' it doesn't mean that I can't learn something from a pro!

Still a few places left.



Anonymous said...

Look, I'm still not paying more than £20 for the film, so stop whining and get on with the editing.

Lee Cujes said...

Totally! But really, is anyone arguing?

Hotaches Productions said...

You so right 'Anonymous', I should stop wasting tie bloging and bellyaching and get down to business... how about £30 for a Blu-Ray ;-)

Hotaches Productions said...

Hi Lee, we'll see I'm hoping to to a rise out of a climbing photographer. Thanks for following the blog. Diff.

Kirk Watson said...

All very true!

ulf said...

i'd like to add the awkward positions where you hang in the wall moving the camera during the shot what sometimes makes the hanging position even more awkward....and yes one more ... i just say "Hauling"

Hotaches Productions said...

Good point ulf, I saw that on Hoy with Lukasz, he would just lean out and snap a few frames, now way you could shoot video for 10 mins like that.

Dan Lane said...

Yup, stills are easier, that's why i'm a stills photographer! Either way i'll be teaching you something at Lukasz's workshop as i'm helping him out with it. See you over there.

Hotaches Productions said...

Read Lukasz'z response on his blog here:

Laurent Triay said...

So good to read this, I recognize myself so much on this: "it's like 500 hours working, with bad sleep, bad nourishment and existential crisis"! ... And reminds me working with my photographer friend Sam BiƩ, He has it way more easy for sure! That's fun!