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Opportunities Emerge With Lower-Cost 4K Cameras

ImageIf you're a young person seeking to become a Video Journalist, it has never been a better time. There's an old saying: "With chaos comes opportunity." Nothing could be truer today in the scrambled field of image-making.

A friend who is a veteran still photographer told me the other day that he can't advise anyone to aspire to being just a still photographer anymore. Today, he said emphatically, the new field of choice is multimedia storytelling -- video, photography and a mix of everything else thrown in.

The market for video-centric image-making is growing fast. But it's not just the old image-making categories anymore. Now you are expected to combine text, images, video, audio and other elements to tell a compelling story. How you do that and how unique your talent is will make or break your career.

Virtually every business worth its salt is now producing online video for its customers. Every venture needs to tell its story in a forceful way. Video production is a growth business in many fields, from music videos to an endless array of new television productions. The market is there and getting larger by the day.

Yet, the tools and techniques are changing fast in this chaotic field. Every component in the production chain is being redefined. It's a roller coaster ride of new technology. Wrangling it all together and using it effectively is a key to success.

A good example of the new technology is the emerging field of hybrid photography -- part video and part still photography. Billboards and other advertising media love the new concept. Say your ad features a still image of a model, but her earrings move slightly. It's an image easily created by shooting 4K video, freezing a frame of the model and using Photoshop to isolate the video elements, allowing the movement. The eye-catching ad, projected in 4K video, appears to be a still image with slight motion.

While most of the hype about 4K video has been about its projected use in delivering higher-quality video to the home, the 4K phenomenon is also having a huge impact on small format video and photography. New 4K DSLR's allow the multimedia storyteller to select high resolution still images from moving video. This is a radical departure from the past and redefines the long photographic adage "the decisive moment."

Henri Cartier-Bresson, the French photographer considered to be the father of photojournalism, was a master of candid photography and an early user of 35mm film. He coined the term -- the decisive moment -- that has inspired generations of photographers ever since.

In 1952, Bresson published a book, The Decisive Moment, and took his title from the 17th century Cardinal de Retz, who said "There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment." Cartier-Bresson applied this to his photographic style.

"To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression," he wrote. He called his photos "images on the run" or "stolen images."

"Photography is not like painting," Cartier-Bresson told the Washington Post in 1957. "There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative," he said. "Oop! The Moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever."Image

Today, with the development of 4K photography, the decisive moment has become less decisive. One can now shoot 4K video with a DSLR, put the video in Adobe's Lightroom software and select any frame as a still image from the moving video. What used to require getting that exact fraction of a second in a photograph has now come down to simply picking an exact frame. And it all comes after the photograph has been taken.

One of the leaders in hybrid 4K video and photography is Panasonic, whose DMC-GH4 DSLR ($1697.99) is one of the definitive 4K cameras because it records full 4K resolution self-contained on a single memory chip. The camera has become one of most popular 4K video DSLRs on the market.

ImageOther Panasonic 4K cameras are priced at under $1000 -- the DMC-LX100 ($897.99) and the DMC-FZ-1000 ($987.99). Panasonic even has a wearable 4K point of video camcorder (Model HX-A500) for $347.99. All of these new tools open the way for many new image-making techniques.

In multimedia news gathering, for example, a videographer can shoot 4K video, pull extraordinary action still frames for a web site, and use the video for telling documentary stories. It can all be done simultaneously and edited from within the camera. Images can be sent via Wi-FI to other systems.

Another exploding new area for videography is the use of flying drones -- remote-controlled miniature aircraft with cameras attached. A quad-copter equipped with a GoPro 4K camera can cost as little as $2,000, while more advanced professional models are far more expensive. Very low-cost models also exist. Some drones are connected to iPads and the user can draw a simple line of where to begin and end a shot and the aircraft will track the path precisely.

ImageThe capability for extraordinary shots is enormous with flying aircraft. Many categories of shoots, especially where large numbers of people are involved, require a licensed pilot on location. The videographer with flying skills will have a far quicker entry into the emerging new drone photography business.

A little closer to the ground is the growing area of action photography, created by the tiny GoPro cameras and other action camera brands. One can get a 4K GoPro model for about $500 and kits of accessories are available to allow the camera to be used for shoots ranging from action sports to music video production. The use of these cameras is limited only by the imagination.

The trick with all this new technology, of course, is to create a signature way to tell unique stories in a special way. That will be your claim to fame. Not everyone has the talent to pull it off, but for the ones that do, the sky is the limit.

In addition to 4K cameras, nearly every component of the production chain is being miniaturized and redefined. There are now tiny super fast video-centric prime and zoom lenses, newly designed high-quality on-camera microphones and ultra bright and lightweight battery-powered compact LED lights. Miniaturized camera support gear from stabilizers to jibs, cranes and tracking equipment has also come to market. All of it is so light in weight it can be carried in small shoulder bag.

For those with the ability, the talent and the desire, there has never been a better time to begin a new career as a Video Journalist. It's open season for opportunity in this period of chaos and change.