Three Video Tips For Still Photographers
With video and still photo equipment intersecting and more media customers asking for video besides still photos, it’s almost a given that every still photographer will get a request for video. Many still photographers think all they have to do is switch the little selector switch from camera to video and they’re ready to rock.
Looking at the footage later comes the realization that shooting good video with a DSLR is harder than just flipping the selector switch.
Here are three simple guidelines that should at least get you in the ballpark for DSLR video.
Shoot In 24 FPS
Unless the customer asks for 30 fps, do all your shooting at 24 fps. It’s sort of a throwback to film days, but if you want mix DSLR video and film, you do it on a 24 p timeline. Trying to mix 24 fps and 30 fps footage rarely works well and can come out looking really bad. Trying to convert 30 fps to 24 fps frequently comes out looking really bad, unless you want to spend the money on a product like Twixtor. Even then it doesn’t always look right.
One of mistakes Nikon made early in the DSLR video revolution was not taking into account how important 24 fps was to DSLR filmmaking. To be perfectly candid, Canon didn’t either but an enterprising programmer developed a firmware hack for early models of the Canon 5D MKII called MagicLantern that allowed users to change in the frame rate. That’s when DSLRs hit the big time in digital filmmaking.
You Have Limited Shutter Speeds
As a still photographer you have the freedom to adjust the shutter speed to fit the shooting situation, in video you don’t. With video you’re limited to a shutter speed that’s roughly twice your frame rate. It’s called the 180 degree shutter rule and you’re stuck with it unless you want your video to really look like video instead of the softer look of film, which most people prefer.
That means for 24 fps, your shutter speed is limited to 1/50th of a second and 1/60th of a second for 30 fps video.
What you run into then is when shooting outside you’re almost always stuck on f/22 or f/16, that’s fine if you want a really wide Depth of Field and really a bummer if you’re trying to get that bokeh look that’s such the rage these days. Instead of slowing down the shutter speed, you have to use ND filters to cut the amount of light entering the camera lens. Most video cameras have built-in ND filters for exactly that reason.
You can stack ND filters until you can get down to a wider f-stop while leaving your shutter speed where it is.
Speaking of shooting outside, when framing and focusing video, most of the time you’ll be working with the mirror locked up and trying to focus with the LCD screen. You will discover very quickly that trying to focus outside in video mode is an exercise in frustration. That LCD screen can be very hard to see.
To fix that you’ll need to get an LCD hood for the back of your camera. That has a lens on one end that magnifies the screen slightly and helps you focus in daylight.
Not having one means getting home and being genuinely surprised at how out of focus your video looks. It looked so good on the LCD screen! Using autofocus is a no-no as in video mode the focus hunts around like it can’t make up its mind on the subject.
Turn Off Auto Everything
Shooting video has to be done in manual mode. The reason for that is continuity of exposure. Imagine shooting video on a street when suddenly a dark car rolls through the frame. What can happen is that dark car triggers the auto settings to adjust, then adjust back when it passes out of the frame. Those exposure flickers are annoyingly visible and will drive video editors into a near homicidal frame of mind when trying to do the post-processing color work.
You’ll be amazed how many auto settings your camera has. Sometimes you have to dig way down in the menus to find them all.
The good news is once you get the hang of it, your DSLR will be capable of producing some amazing video like these clips below:
For more video tips for still photographers trying video, join us in the DVFreelancer forums.