There are many ways to manipulate DSLR cameras for video work. Here are a few tips I have picked up along the way that I would recommend to anyone shooting video with a HDSLR.
1. For all Professional Canon HDSLR’s, we have discovered what we call “Native” ISO’s. They are 160, 320, 640, 1250 and 2500. We have found that the other ISO’s are either a pull down or push up from the native ISO’s. This will improve the quality of the video dramatically.
2. Decrease your depth of field and use it to isolate the subject. DOF is a very powerful tool in cinema. It is much more aesthetically pleasing to the audience. ND filters will help you get into the f2.8-f4 zone that works well for cinema.
3. Take advantage of Neutral Picture style. The H.264 Codec is always trying to loose information before its compresses it onto the CF card. A Neutral or Flat picture style will give you more latitude in post for corrections.
4. Use a Tripod. Unless you have a rig or are a rock solid hand held shooter, a tripod will keep it looking steady and save you time in post. DSLR’s were not designed for handheld video work. A viewfinder and image stabilized lens will help greatly for handheld work.
5. Shoot 24 fps to get a cinema aesthetic. Shoot 30 fps for sports or live action. One takes you away from reality; the other puts you in the middle of the action. If you are trying to shoot slow motion, 60 fps is better; however, in most cases you will sacrifice some image quality.
6. Use an on-camera monitor. The 3” LCD is just too small. I dig the Marshall 5”and Small HD DP6 for the False Color Feature. The IRE scale is a fast and easy way to check exposure. HDSLR cameras have a very limited dynamic range. It is in the neighborhood of 4-5 stops from shadows to highlights. No clipping allowed. This cannot be fixed in post.
7. Shoot as much B-Roll as you can stomach. It will save your ass in post every time. I also try to shoot stock video whenever I can. This is an emerging market and most still photographers are familiar with the stock photo world.
8. Do not erase clips on your CF or SD card in camera. This will reduce the life of the card. Always format to erase images. I keep a camera at the DIT station when I can. This way any card on set is ready to go.
9. Switch over to manual focus. The ergonomics are completely different. This will also hone your focus pulling skills. Remember the days before autofocus? Well, they’re back.
10. Record separate sound. This is a must. The sound on the camera will work in a pinch. However, using a separate sound recorder like the Zoom H4n will improve your sound quality two-fold. Plural-Eyes makes syncing sound in post very simple.
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