I confess, I struggle with the discipline to double check my camera settings before I start shooting video! Especially the frame rate and the shutter speed.
And if I struggle, I suspect that maybe you do too – so when I found this article from Noam Kroll, I wanted to share it.
5 Essential Settings You Need To Double Check Before Shooting Video On Your DSLR (Or Cinema Camera)
While this article can largely help up and coming camera ops/DP’s that are just getting started, it also serves the purpose of highlighting the importance of each of these settings for more advanced shooters as well. The problem with becoming an expert on something is that you sometimes forget why you’re doing something. You don’t need to stop and think any more when you set up your camera, and although it may get reliable results every time, they may not always be the best results and you may not be experimenting any more.
Let’s take a look at each of the settings and why they’re important.
Most indie films, music videos, and even commercials these days are shot at 24p, (or 23.976 progressive frames per second). You may or may not want to use this setting – that’s a whole article in itself, but you absolutely need to be consistent with your frame rate throughout any given scene that you’re shooting. This may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s precisely because this seems so obvious that you may forget to double check before every take. Not to mention, some cameras can get buggy in certain modes and may change to a different frame rate if you’ve turned the camera off and then on again, or stepped into a different shooting mode.
The point is, taking 5 seconds to check this each time will be a lifesaver, as you’ll never get a perfect 24p image from a 30i video clip that you’ve accidentally recorded, even when using advanced software to do a clean pulldown (meaning you de-interlance, and re-compress to make it a 24p file).
Here’s an example of film-style motion blur that’s associated with shooting at 24p. As a still it may not look ideal, but it can make motion look much more organic:
Advanced Tip: Stay open to shooting more material in different frame rates other than 24p. Personally speaking, about 90% of my work is shot at 24p, but some of my best looking shots have been slow-motion (over cranked) or time-lapse (under cranked). If you’re shooting a scene that is MOS (without sound) or an action sequence, don’t be afraid to try out a few takes at a different speed – you may end up liking the results.
When editing footage that has been shot by another DP, the most most common issue that I’ve come across is footage that was set to the wrong shutter speed. In fact I’ve had some extremely good, professional DP’s deliver footage to me that was basically unusable because the shutter speed was off. This is often because the setting for shutter speed (especially on DSLRs) is often on a place on the camera that is easy to change accidentally. The other issue that can occur is that the DP is changing frame rates, but forgetting to change the shutter speed to match (your shutter speed is dependent on your frame rate).
The easiest way to know what your shutter speed should be is to use the 180 degree rule. In other words, your shutter speed should be exactly double your frame rate. So for a 24p frame rate, you’ll want to have your shutter set at 1/48. Most DSLRs don’t have this setting so 1/40 or 1/50 will work. Some cameras have the setting in degrees instead, so you can actually set it to 180 degrees rather than 1/48. This is ideal if you’re changing frame rates a lot as your shutter speed will always be set properly no matter what frame rate you’re at.
Shooting at a higher than normal shutter speed can be a great technique for high-action scenes. All of the motorcycle chase shots in ‘Place Beyond The Pines’ were shot this way:
Advanced Tip: Remember when you were first experimenting with shooting and you would shoot at strange shutter speeds all the time? Why not consider experimenting with some more unique settings on your next shoot. Shooting at a slower shutter speed can look great as an effect or to simulate a dream-like state, and a high shutter speed is amazing for high action scenes, music videos, and other scenarios. Personally speaking, there have been some great shots that I’ve captured that I later wished I shot at a different shutter speed to get an in camera effect that couldn’t be fully replicated in post.
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(cover photo credit: snap from noamkroll.com)