Tips For Shooting With DSLRs
HD video is almost a standard for DSLRs these days and, fantastic though it may be, there’s still a long way to go before we can start to use them without having to think too hard.
HD DSLRs can offer you depth of field control, interchangeable lenses and awesome low-light performance to name but a few of the benefits.
But – and there’s always a but – there are a few shortcomings associated with shooting video on HD DSLR. Here, we’ll address a few of the issues and discuss how to work around them.
Not all DSLRs require manual focus during video recording – a lot of them do, though. Even those cameras that give you the capacity to continuously and automatically focus while recording can be awful.
You have to remember, though, these cameras are designed to be exactly that – cameras. So you’re bound to come across a few issues like this. However, you don’t need to just accept it as there are a few ways around it.
Essentially it’s down to your own abilities but here are a few tips that will help.
Aperture: On occasions where you don’t necessarily need or want a shallow depth of field, make the lens a higher, narrower aperture and it’ll give you more room for error when it comes to focusing. If you choose a wider aperture your depth of field will be a heck of a lot more shallow, showing up even the slightest mistakes in focus.
Bokeh: To avoid losing your subject in the bokeh, remember that you’ll need to twist the focus ring faster or slower according to how far away the subject is. It’s not really an issue when the subject is a distance away, but the closer they get, the faster you’re going to have to twist that ring to keep up.
Stationary Objects: When the subject is approaching, it can be difficult to keep the focus. Usually there will be other objects in the frame at varying distances from the lens. A handy tip is to pull focus to those objects as your subject moves past them rather than try to follow your subject step for step. The fact that the other objects will usually be stationary helps.
The Ring: Probably completely obvious but something that can be easily mixed up, the direction of the focus ring can change depending on what DSLR you’re using. For instance, Canon and Nikon are the other way round when it comes to focusing. Canon will focus in by turning to the right, whereas Nikon will focus in by turning to the left. This is particularly important to remember when switching between lens adapters.
Familiarise: Because lenses vary, the speed at which you’ll need to turn the lens will change depending upon what you’re using. Spend a little time familiarising yourself with the lens and make sure you’ve got it spot on before going ahead with any real recording.
The Jello Effect
CCD and CMOS are the two primary imaging sensors that you’ll find in digital cameras. Both have a few upsides and a few downsides. However, what we’re going to focus on (excuse the pun) is how each exposes images.
CMOS sensors employ a rolling shutter while a global shutter is used for CCD. CMOS, CCD, global, rolling? ‘What on Earth does it all mean’, you may ask.
The difference is fairly simple. A global shutter simultaneously exposes the image. A rolling shutter doesn’t. Allow me to explain.
A rolling shutter’s sensor becomes sensitive to light at different times throughout the ‘click’, meaning that the full image isn’t exposed instantly.
When using a camera which employs a rolling shutter, quick panning can cause the frame to wobble, or cause a ‘jello effect’.
Thankfully, there’s a simple way around this; be careful not to move your hands too quickly and try to find a lens with image stabilisation. All basic stuff, really, but it’s surprising how much your images will improve just by taking a bit more care.
Should you not have a camera with image stabilisation, you can find external stabilisers on the market but beware, they’re not all that cheap. So, my tip would be just to get better at controlling your camera.
Straight up, it’s quite difficult to get great sound recording from yours or anybody’s DSLR. This is mainly due to the fact that some cameras have only an internal mic, whereas others have manual controls and limited inputs.
That aside, there are a few ways to get around this. If you have a 5DII, you can get Magic Lantern, a 3rd-party firmware that allows you further control.
It’s a great little option, but to gain total control over sound recording, your best bet is to consider dual-system sound.
Put simply, dual-system allows you to record the video and the audio separately and combine it during the video production phase. Synchronising the sound without time codes isn’t all that difficult so long as you keep a track of which audio files correspond with the correct video files.
An easy way of matching up the audio with the video is to use a clapperboard slate to make a loud sound at the start of the scene to allow you to find a similar point in both audio waveforms.
These are just a few little tips that can help you to improve the quality of your imagery and sound. At the moment this kind of dual technology is still in its infancy when compared to how long dedicated video recording technology has been on the scene.
However, it’s rapidly improving and if you can master it now, you’ll be in a great position to push forward and stay on top of any future developments.
A lot of what’s been covered here is relatively straight forward but it’s these practices that will set you in good stead in the coming years. Good luck!
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