Today’s digital SLR cameras are extremely versatile. They are ideally suitable for not only great quality stills, but also extremely useful for capturing family get together, vacations and any other social events that you may be called to shoot at. The fact that they are capable of shooting in full HD and being able to be used with a multitude of lenses means you can use these cameras for shooting professional quality footages for commercial and other uses as well.
With standard DV cameras you are limited in your choice of optics. You cannot control the depth of field and exposure at ease. DSLR cameras allow you that freedom, which makes it possible for the cinematographer to play around with a shallow DoF isolating the subject from the background.
DSLRs offer full manual shooting option which is also a big advantage because you can control the shutter speed and the aperture at the same time. This is critical because you can thus control the frame rate at which you shoot, matching it with the shutter speed for the right effect apart from controlling DoF.
There are a host of other advantages to shooting videos with DSLRs. Let’s take a look at some of them while also learning the basic settings.
The ability to use different lenses
A big advantage if you are looking to add value to your production. DSLR cameras can use a plethora of lenses which means you can get unique perspectives without having to spend a fortune. DSLR cameras are considerably cheaper than big budget cameras but the footages they can get are of the top quality rivalling that of true broadcast quality cameras.
Settings –Shooting mode
The first and foremost requirement is that your shooting mode should be manual. Only manual mode gives you enough control to take care of both depth of field and exposure. In other words both shutter speed and aperture. There is simply not enough room for creativity in the aperture priority, shutter priority or auto modes.
Shutter speed should be at least around 1/50 of a second. The basic rule of thumb is it should be around double of that of the frame rate. So if you are shooting at 30 fps (30 frames per second) progressive then your shutter speed should be around 1/60 of a second. Anything faster and you will have two problems. First, your exposure is going to be darker and second you will notice some artificial light sources to be flickering.
There is no such thing as the right aperture. What you use depends on your vision and the requirement of the scene. Considering that you would mostly be shooting personal videos, you would likely use a small aperture to get a big depth of field.
Having said that, the best results will come when you shoot in small f-stops. Smaller f-stops will give you a shallow depth of field. Shallow depth of field is really useful for separating the subject from the background. It is easy to get carried away with background blur. Especially when you have lenses with such wide apertures like f/1.8, f/1.4 or f/1.2.
Ideally don’t get carried away with wide apertures. If you open up the aperture in order to achieve too much of background blur you also risk your footages from getting washed out.
ISO should be round about the lowest that your camera can shoot in. DSLRs will frequently have 100 as the lowest ISO possible on them. If your camera can only shoot at ISO 200 select that. Higher the ISO, more is going to be the digital noise associated with it.
Frame rate and resolution
Frame rate depends on what you intend to do. Most cameras have a native frame rate of 24 fps and 30 fps. 24 fps is the cinematic standard and is ideal for shooting videos which are not for family purposes. Having said that you might like to shoot some fun high-speed videos of your family. For that a higher frame rate would be advisable. With higher frame rate, however, resolution will come down.
Resolution is basically how many horizontal lines by how many vertical lines the footage you are shooting has. The more the better. Full HD is 1920 x 1080 lines progressive. I means 1920 lines vertically by 1080 lines horizontally. Progressive means the whole frame is going to be refreshed every frame. Depending on the frame rate that is 24 or 30 or whatever you select.
This is important as focusing constitutes a critical element of video making. This may not have that much of an importance if the bulk of your video work is going to be for personal reasons. But notwithstanding, there’ nothing like being able to shoot in professional quality. It basically changes the quality of your family videos dramatically.
Focusing mode should always be manual. Being able to focus manually makes it possible to employ the techniques of selective focusing and pin-point something sharp while completely blurring everything else. Manual focusing brings everything in your control. You choose where to focus and not the camera.