Quick Tips for Video with dSLR

Grizzly bear photo by Bill Campbell.

Grizzly bear photo by Bill Campbell.

I will be using the Nikon D4 as an example (the d800 is set up the same way) for shooting video with a dSLR.

  1. Shooting mode– You will want to shoot in M (Manual) Mode. Why? Because if the light varies much, your shutter speed will vary and shutter speed is related to frame rate, so you will want that consistent.
  2. Resolution/Frame size– You will want to use a 1080p resolution whenever possible. A 1080p is the frame size 1920 by 1080 as indicated on the Nikon D4. The other resolution you will see is 1280 x 720. This is called 720p. On the Nikon D4, you choose the resolution and the frame rate at the same time.
  3. Frame Rate- There are various frame rates (Frames per Second or FPS), but the most common that you will use are 24 FPS, 30 FPS and 60 FPS. 24 FPS is a more cinematic frame speed (movies) where 30 FPS is more TV 9 and commercial). 60 FPS is a really low HIGH speed. When you shoot at 60 FPS, then you can slow the play back down to 10-20 FPS and have slow motion footage. In the D4, the Frame Size (Resolution) and Frame Rate are connected. You will see 1080*30 (which is 1920 x 1080 at 30 FPS), 1080*24, 1080*25 (don’t use this as it is not common frame rate here in US), 720*60. When you go to 60 FPS, your Frame Size goes down to  1280 x 720. Can you mix and match Frame Sizes and rates? Yes but it makes editing much harder and the outcome might not be as good.
  4. Shutter Speed – Your shutter speed should be about twice what your frame rate is set for. So a 24 FPS frame rate should have a shutter speed around 48 (50 is the closest we have). At 30 FPS, shoot for a shutter speed around 60. Whatever you do, try to keep your shutter speed below 100 or below. The only caveat to this rule is when shooting for high speed (60 FPS). Then you want a high shutter speed (say 500-1000) so when you slow the playback down, the images are still sharp.
  5. Neutral Density filter – One of the upsides to a dSLR is using glass with fairly wide-open aperatures (f1.4- f2.8) to give you good separation between your subject and the background. But if you have to close your aperture down to f22 to get a shutter speed of 60, that kinda defeats the advantage of shooting with a dSLR. In steps a ND filter to the rescue. A variable density ND filter such as the Singh Ray Vari ND or the Genus Vari ND will best serve you. Just get one to fit your largest lens (say a 77mm) and then use step rings to fit smaller lenses. If you plan to shoot 2 cameras simultaneously (say for an interview) then you will need 2 filters. With the ND filter, you can get a shutter speed of 60 at f2.8 even with bright sun outside.

6. Audio– Cameras come with a built in mic, but this is not the best mic to use if you plan on using the recorded sound with the video. Rode makes a great small mic to fit on your hot shoe and plug into the Mic port on your camera. The Rode VideoMic Pro is a good choice. One add on do decrease wind noise is a Dead Cat.  No, don’t go try to find a road kill cat. A DeadCat VMP by Rode is an artificial fur wind muff to help deal with wind noise when shooting outside.

This should get you started. I will talk about support in a later blog for video..

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