Diving into video can confound even experienced still shooters; here are 12 tips to help you make the transition with ease
A shotgun mic like the Røde Videomic ($150, street) boosts your DSLR’s audio chops.
Photo by: Dan Bracaglia
Motion can flummox even the most experienced still shooters. To get you started making great video with a DSLR or ILC, here are some essentials. Grasp them and you’ll soon film like a pro.
Plan your shoot.
Making a video people want to watch starts before you pick up the camera. “Storyboarding, shot-listing, and conceptualizing are ultimately what sets good motion work apart,” says photographer-turned-director Vincent Laforet. While you don’t need Hollywood-style storyboards to shoot a birthday party, planning your shots in advance will make editing simpler.
Film like a photographer.
When you compose in video, many of the usual photography rules apply. Horizons should be straight and backgrounds uncluttered—and you’ll need to get it right in the camera, as you won’t have enough pixels to crop. Plus, since you probably won’t be shooting RAW, you’ll have less leeway with exposure and white balance.
And don’t forget the B-roll. When you photograph an event, you always shoot details to set the scene; in video, this is called B-roll, and it gives you leeway when you edit. “If possible, have at least one static master shot and then a bunch of details,” says Vu Bui of The Bui Brothers cinematography team. “If you’re shooting live music, you can have a camera that just shoots the musicians’ feet. You can cut to that at any point in the song.”
If you have just one DSLR or ILC, his brother Lan Bui suggests using it for the creative shots and shooting the static master with a compact or even a phone. “You can surprise a lot of people like that. It looks really good,” he says.
Consider the screen on which you’ll show your final video.
In the age of cathode-tube TV sets, the boxy 4:3 aspect ratio was common in video cameras. But today’s widescreen monitors and HDTVs demand a 16:9 picture to avoid letterboxing; get this ratio with either 1920x1080 or 1280x720 HD resolutions. If you do want to shoot in 4:3, the HDV standard 1440x1080 gives you plenty of resolution in a taller format. Not all cameras offer this, but the Panasonic Lumix GH3 and action cameras such as the GoPro series do.
Pick the right shutter speed.
In still photography, a fast shutter freezes action. But with video you need a little motion blur to help each frame blend seamlessly into the next. As a general rule, a shutter speed roughly double your frame rate will produce a pleasing look. So, if you’re shooting at 30 fps, 1/60 sec should be safe: Slower than that, things start to look a little sloppy, but go much faster and the footage will look jittery and unnatural. This naturally limits your options for exposure and depth of field in bright light.
To reduce the amount of light entering the camera without changing the look of the image, use neutral-density filters. If you can afford it, go for a variable ND filter; fixed ND filters are less expensive, but you’ll need a few of them to be able to adjust the density.
Heliopan’s Variable ND filter ($420, street) can block from 1–6 stops of light.