DSLR Video Controls


People always ask what camera to use for high quality video. It’s less about the camera, and more about how you use it. Any digital video camera with manual exposure mode can go a long way. You just need to control how the camera is recording individual frames. It is all about controlling light.

A frame is a photo
There are two main controls over the exposure of the individual frames of a video: aperture and shutter speed. The aperture is the opening inside your lens that lets light pass through. A small aperture, like f/1.4, corresponds to a large opening. A high one, like f/22, is a small one. A large opening lets more light pass through, and it also results in a shallow image depth. For example, an image taken at f/1.4 can put the subject in focus with the background well out of focus.

The other key element of exposing an image is the shutter speed. Shutter speed is the time that light is allowed to hit the camera sensor. A slow shutter speed, like 1/5 second, will show blur if your subject or your camera are moving, and a fast shutter speed, like 1/500 second, will freeze the motion in the frame.

Shutter speed and aperture work together to determine exposure. A big aperture needs the shutter to be open for less time to get a proper exposure. For video, it is best to set exposure manually so they do not vary throughout the shot. Looking at the live view on your camera’s screen can teach you a lot about exposure! Beyond exposure, video brings on the additional concern of frame rate.

A frame sequence is a video
The 180° shutter is a rule of thumb for maintaining fluid motion between video frames. It says that your shutter should be open half of the time that you are recording video. So, if you are filming at a frame rate of 30 Frames Per Second, your shutter speed for each frame should be 1/60 second. Now that you know the rule, break it!

The 180° shutter rule restricts your shutter speed quite a bit. Luckily, there are other ways to adjust your exposure: sensor sensitivity and light filters. Sensor sensitivity, ISO, is a trade off between image quality and brightness. A low sensitivity, like 100, will give you the best picture, while a high ISO, like 6400, will enable you to increase brightness at the expense of a noisier image. A variable neutral density (ND) filter can be used to decrease exposure further below the lowest ISO setting.

With control of aperture, shutter speed, frame rate & ISO you can create some great video. Now put your cinematic ideas in motion! Hopefully this helps improve your video.

Happy filming!