DSLR technology has evolved dramatically during the past decade. Now, even entry level DSLR cameras have video recording capability, making professional level video recording accessible to more people.
Recording video on a DSLR is much like taking a picture on one. There are a ton of options and settings to get the proper exposure, and the “auto” mode is pretty much useless. That being said, it helps to have a basic understanding of photography as well as the controls on your DSLR before you begin shooting your video.
If you have already experimented with video recording on your DSLR, you may have noticed that the results, while high definition, just don’t have that cinematic look to them. You ask yourself, why don’t my movies look like a large production motion picture?
Well it turns out that there is actually a formula for achieving that cinematic look.
1. Manual Settings
You know from your first day of photography class that “Auto Mode” is bad, but it is even worse when you are shooting video. The reason is because the ISO, aperture, shutter speed, and camera focus can all change while recording, which looks obvious during playback and is annoying to watch. So before you get started, set your DSLR to manual mode.
2. Frame Rate
This is one of the most important factors to give your video the film look that you desire. 24 frames per second is the standard frame rate for movies and TV shows. It is important to set your camera to record at 24 frames per second at a resolution of 1920 x 1080 if possible. Any more frames and your video will have an unprofessional “home video” look. Any fewer frames and the footage will just come across as low quality.
3. Contrast and Saturation
Your camera’s default settings are typically set to make the video oversaturated and with too much contrast. This is probably done to demonstrate the camera’s color capabilities out of the box; but again, this can create a “home video” appearance. It is important to record with a flat profile with no contrast or saturation boosting. This will give you more flexibility in post-production when you’re color correcting your footage. Remember, contrast can easily be added to footage with a flat profile in post-production, but if you record with high contrast, it is difficult to remove.
4. Depth of Field
Shallow depth of field is what separates DSLR video footage from your average camcorder or smart phone. Since DSLRs allow you to manually adjust the lens aperture, you can set the aperture to anything from F1.2 – F4 to create a dramatic look where only the subject is in focus and everything in the background is blurry. You can also use shallow depth of field to force your viewers’ attention to certain points of interest within your scene, as the eye is automatically drawn to the areas with the sharpest focus.
Written by Justin Buice