How to shoot video like a pro with your DSLR

Don’t worry if you can’t afford a swanky video camera, your DSLR will do just fine! Follow these tips from the experts and you should be shooting high quality flicks in no time at all.

Pan it like you mean it!

One of the shortcomings of shooting with a DSLR is the rolling shutter. If you’re shooting action, beware that quick pans may create some undesirable effects. The DSLR’s processor doesn’t always do such a great job producing a smooth image when it comes to quick action.

For the best image possible, Derek Kovacevic of Delirium Media, recommends keeping pans to a minimum, or at the very least, make sure they are slow and controlled. Even better, try using a dolly or crane shot, where the camera is actually moving, as opposed to rotating on a fixed axis, for a more filmic look

 

Consider the final screen

Stan Horaczek of PopPhoto.com has this doozy. Today’s widescreen monitors and HDTVs demand a 16:9 picture to avoid letterboxing; get this ratio with either 1920×1080 or 1280×720 HD resolutions. If you do want to shoot in 4:3, the HDV standard 1440×1080 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.

The tripod is a triumph

You may have mastered controlling your breathing and keeping your elbows in for steadier still photos, but when you’re starting out with video you’ll want to put your camera on a steady tripod.

“Without stabilization, your video will look shaky and unprofessional,” says Ami Vitale, a documentary photographer, videographer, and Nikon ambassador. “Don’t hand-hold your camera unless you have no option and use the strap or a ledge or anything you can find to stabilize it.”

Also, while you might be used to fast panning — moving the camera quickly from left to right or vice versa — when shooting photos, it isn’t good for handheld video. Using a tripod can help you with slow, controlled panning. Along with fast panning, Chuck Westfall, technical advisor for Canon USA’s Professional Engineering and Solutions Division, suggested avoiding rapid zooming, unless you’re going for an intentional effect.

“A steady tripod is very useful on its own or in combination with other accessories such as sliders to create video content that looks more professional,” he said.

Getting quality in low light

Moritz Janisch of Fenchel & Janisch FilmProduktion says, choosing a lens with a shallow depth of field is necessary for filming in dark surroundings. The Nikon or Canon 50mm F/1.8 lens is a great way to start into that whole new world. The build quality isn’t high, it is hard to focus properly because the focus ring is really small, and the sharpness is not the best either but I don’t expect too much from a 100 Dollar lens.

“I am using the Canon 50mm F/1.8 on a lot of our shoots because it is small and light. It can be used on crop as well as on full-frame cameras which makes it even a better choice if you are shooting with two different DSLRs. Another cheap and really small lens is the Pancake 40mm F/2.8 STM lens which I have used on commercial shoots. There are tons of other lenses out there but most of them start at $600.

“I also recommend looking for cheaper alternatives from other companies like Sigma, Tokina, Samyang or Tamron.”

Creating contrasts

Kurt Lancaster at MasteringFilm.com believes the contrast of motion and stillness will enhance the power of the moment and fuel a scene with power, whether you’re working in fiction, documentary, commercials, or weddings. But this means you need to know your story (in order to know when to make the choice of keeping the camera still or when to make it move.

If it’s a short, then there will likely be one classic story structure containing a hook/introduction, conflict/rising action/complications, climax/crisis point and resolution (even commercials and weddings express such a structure).

If you’re shooting multiple scenes for a longer project, then you should structure your scenes around this story model (minus, perhaps, the resolution).

Don’t worry about hotspots

“One of the first things that you probably learned when exposing your images is not to blow out your highlights. This advice is extremely relevant and will effectively help you achieve a better exposure, but only when you understand the difference between highlights and hotspots,” says filmmaker and cinematographer, Noam Kroll.

Kroll ads that some shooters are so afraid to overexpose any part of their image, that they will expose for the brightest area in the shot (such as a lamp in the background), and in turn end up bringing down the exposure on their talent’s face so much that the image looks horribly underexposed. It’s important to remember that it is completely okay for your images to clip to white, so long as it isn’t happening in a critical part of your frame – such as your actor’s face.

“If a window blows out in the background, that can actually look nice, as the window is a hotspot – and depending on the look you are after, it can potentially work well for your scene and mood. A blown out window in the background with a perfectly exposed face will always look better than a horribly exposed face and a window that holds detail. Unless of course you are going for something ultra-stylized,” he says.

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