Getting started shooting video with your DSLR camera is easy. Like still photography, DSLR cameras offer a range of setting options from automated through full manual. Once you’ve been shooting video with your DSLR and feel confident enough to experiment with various settings, you’ll find your creative, inner cinematographer breaking free.
In addition to using aperture and ISO creatively, you also have the option of changing the frame rate, video resolution and shutter speed for unique video looks.
Frames Per Second / FPS
Frame rate is the number of frames being recorded each second. Most videos in the USA are shot at either 24 FPS or 30 FPS. At 24 FPS, you are recording a more cinematic or filmic look. At 30 FPS, its more of a video look that you’re used to seeing when watching TV shows.
Some DSLR cameras, like the Nikon D4S, D810, D5300 or D3300 allow for 60 FPS (1080/60p)—this means that 60 frames are recorded in one second. This comes in handy when you need to slow down your footage for 24 FPS playback (60 FPS played back at 24 FPS is 2.5x times slower). The 60 FPS option can also be used for ultra smooth playback, which is especially helpful when shooting fast paced scenes.
The resolution of “Full HD” is 1920×1080. With some cameras you can choose to record Full HD at 60 FPS, 30 FPS or 24 FPS. The resolution of regular HD is 1280×720 and you can choose to record HD at 60 FPS or 30 FPS. Because HD is lower resolution, you also have the choice of recording HD 1280×720 at 60 FPS which when the footage is conformed back to 30 FPS in post-production or editing software, can give you a really “heroic” looking slow-motion effect.
It is suggested that you double the FPS to get your working shutter speed, so when shooting at 24 FPS, use at least 1/50 of a second shutter speed and when shooting at 30 FPS, use at least 1/60 of a second shutter speed.
You can use a slower shutter speed, which will show more blur in moving objects—and likewise you can use a higher shutter speed, which will freeze the action on screen.
If you are going for a cinematic look, shooting at 24 FPS is recommended; the shutter speed at 24 FPS is usually 1/50th in order to allow enough blur in each frame to match the way humans perceive motion—in video, the natural blur created by the 1/50th of a second for 24 FPS playback is preferable because it yields what some may call a more “natural” and cinematic look. However, just like with still photography, it is always good to experiment with different shutter speeds for different looks—many filmmakers use higher shutter speeds to add intensity to a scene with great success, so be sure to play around with the shutter speed until you get the results you like, and know that you can always default to 1/50th of a second when shooting at 24 FPS for a classic cinematic look and feel.
Use a wide aperture when you want to separate the subject from the background, or show only a small portion of the action in focus and a smaller aperture when you want both the foreground and background in focus. The shallow depth of field achievable with DSLR cameras is one of the main reasons why some filmmakers are shifting to the DSLR platform. Just as with still photography, shallow depth of field can add intimacy to a scene, while isolating the subject and guiding the viewer to concentrate on the desired subject—it is a powerful way to enhance the look of your video.
When shooting video with shallow depth of field (wide aperture), be aware that it will be more challenging to keep the subject covered in the range of focus—this is because the wider the aperture the smaller the depth of field, so if your subject will be moving a lot it may be best to close the aperture down a stop or two in order to have enough depth of field in case the subject is moving in the scene.
You can increase the ISO, however remember that the higher the ISO, the more noise may be visible in your video footage. Remember to check your DSLR camera’s User’s Manual for instructions on its particular menu navigation and dial layout. In some of the new DSLR cameras, such as the Nikon D4S and D810, a new feature called ISO-Auto for manual exposure while recording video allows you to manually select your shutter speed and aperture while the camera automatically adjusts ISO for correct exposure.
This feature will change the ISO incrementally and smoothly in order to capture a consistent exposure even through varying lighting conditions and it can be limited to prevent the ISO from going too high.
Nikon makes several movie-capable DSLR cameras that can help you shoot your short film, music video or even just capturing special moments with family and friends in a beautiful cinematic way—here are a few DSLR choices:
If you are looking to add lenses to your setup in order to add variety to your production, then you can find a list of all NIKKOR lenses here.
For a quick, “at-a-glance” comparison of Nikon DSLR video features, check out the Video Features Guide here.
This article was originally posted in Nikon Learn & Explore—see more Learn & Explore Articles here.