5 TIPS FOR BETTER DSLR VIDEO
There are a few things to keep in mind when using your trusted DSLR camera to shoot video IF your aim is to get the best quality from it as possible. If you’ve ever wondered why your results may not look/sound as good as other people’s videos shot on the same camera then this article is for you.
1. THE SMALL SCREEN LIES
The LCD screen on the back of your camera won’t always accurately show you what is truly being recorded. A common mistake I see happen is people bumping their ISO levels way too high and thinking it’s ok because everything still likes fine on the small LCD screen. Also sometimes it can be hard to judge proper focus and exposure levels on the small screen so it is always recommended to take some extra steps to ensure the picture you are recording is accurate and of good quality. Use the cameras in built features to help assist you, most DSLR cameras have a magnification button which will allow you to artificially zoom in which will help you get critical focus. Also many cameras have waveform monitors or some sort of scope to help ensure the image isn’t over exposed. It’s really easy to over expose if you solely trust the LCD screen.
Bottom line is don’t just trust the small screen, get a deeper understanding of exposure, ISO and focus settings so you can make better decisions. If you have the budget, get yourself a good external monitor, which will allow you to make better judgements in most scenarios.
2. WHAT’S THAT GRINDING NOISE IN THE BACKGROUND?
On many lenses that have stabilisation features built in, you will hear an electronic grinding noise, which is generated from the in-built motors which are used to obtain a stable image. This is quite loud and will often be picked up by the camera’s internal microphone and even an external microphone attached to the camera. If you are recording with the camera attached to a tripod and require clean sound then it may be beneficial to turn the image stabilisation ‘off ‘on the camera, as this will stop the loud unwanted sound that it gives off. Just remember to turn it back on anytime the camera is being used handheld.
3. GET THE RIGHT COLOUR BALANCE
It’s important to shoot with the right colour balance on your camera to match the lighting conditions you are filming in. The traditional way of white balancing is to use a white or grey card for your camera to calibrate how colour is displayed and recorded, however many DSLR cameras have presets that do a pretty good job of setting up the cameras colour profile to match a variety of lighting conditions.
The reason for wanting to choose the correct colour setup for your camera is based on the fact that it will give you the most range and flexibility when it comes time to doing any colour corrections in post. If you shoot with the wrong White Balance preset then it will give your footage an overall colour cast, which will require correction in an editing program. Now although this is sometimes a doable fix, it still means that you are having to distress your footage which in most cases takes away from the overall clarity and quality of the video. If you pay no attention at all to your White Balance settings then you could find yourself in a position where the colour interpretation is so bad that you cant successfully fix it in post and leaving you stuck with an odd coloured video. Take the time to make sure you set your White Balance preset to match the lighting conditions you are shooting in.
4. LIGHT UP, ISO DOWN
If you want the best quality from your camera then it’s simple; CAMERAS NEED LIGHT. Even if the small LCD screen looks glossy when shooting indoors with just a lamp on in the far corner, trust me when I say CAMERAS NEED LIGHT. Now don’t get me wrong, if your purposely going for a particular look then that’s fine but in general if you want to get the best from your camera and match some of the shining examples you would of saw online which may have influenced you to buy the camera in the first place, then you should really see the difference when you put light into the situation.
Increasing the ISO on your camera will allow you to shoot without additional light and is often the go-to solution for many DSLR shooters. However this is not always the best option if quality and style is important. I always suggest adding more light to a scene when possible instead of increasing the ISO, as the latter will often introduce ‘noise’ to the image. Sometimes it doesn’t have to be professional lights, it could be something as simple as turning on existing lights or even getting an extra lamp, opening a curtain or getting brighter light bulbs. Cameras love light and they will reward you with a superior image for using them. So the next time you want to increase the ISO think about adding more light first.
5. SHOOT FLAT
Most video cameras (including pretty much every DSLR) are designed to give an aesthetically pleasing image straight out the box. In an ideal world this would fit the needs of us all but in reality the picture that is produced without any tweaks look extremely ‘video-ish’ and too sharp. This may work well in the right application but in my experience most people using DSLR’s for video are usually trying to get a more cinematic look. The default picture profiles are definitely not the way to go if this is the objective.
If you want to get the most dynamic range out of the camera then you will be much better off turning down some of the in-camera settings which by default are set too high. Things like sharpness, saturation and contrast can all be added back in post-production, but if you shoot with them baked in while filming then you will have an extremely hard time making any clean visual changes to your video. Shoot flat, your footage will thank you at the colour correction stage. My personal suggestion based on a common Canon 5D would be to turn the in camera sharpness all the way down, turn contrast down to a very low setting (-4) and the same with saturation (-2). There are several profiles and settings that you can find around the web that take this even further, have a look for the popular ‘Technicolor Cinestyle’.
I hope you enjoyed this article and it brought some clarity to DSLR camera settings. For more information or to keep the discussion going find me on Twitter www.twitter.com/dafilms
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