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Introduction to ISO, Aperture, Shutter Speed & Other Advanced Settings for DSLR Video

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.

1. Frames Per Second
2. Resolution
3. Shutter Speed
4. Aperture
5. ISO
6. Gear

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.

Resolution

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.

Nikon - At the heart of the image

Shutter Speed

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.

Aperture

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.

ISO

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.

Gear

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.

About The Contributor

Photo by Sam Garcia

Steve Heiner

After working as a photojournalist for several hometown newspapers in his native state of Utah, Steve Heiner joined Nikon in 1985 as a Technical Representative in Dallas, Texas. He later worked in Sunnyvale, California; Salt Lake City, Utah and eventually New York. During his time in the field, Steve provided technical assistance and training to pro photographers during major sporting and news events. He has trained government and military specialists around the country and while at sea. For two years Steve also taught courses for the Nikon School of Photography. He joined the Nikon management team in the Melville headquarters in 1999. Today he holds the position of Senior Technical Manager and Media Spokesperson. Photo by: Sam Garcia


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  • Patrick Pfister

    As a life long Nikon still photographer, I find this lesson on video very helpful. Perhaps this old dog will learn a few new tricks!

  • Joseph Glaser

    Thanks for a great video. Short, and to the point – many excellent tips!

  • Thomas Leather

    Thanks, great information, much appreciate

  • Penelope

    This was just about the most professionally developed informational video I have seen online. Thank you! Job well-done, Steve! I’m recording my boy’s basketball game (indoor high school bball court) and just wanted to refresh my memory.

  • Amarok

    I think, that problem is Shutter Speed changes during movie record.

    Let me explain it:
    Nikon D5300 does not hold suggested double shutter speed related to fps. For example 1/60 s for 30 fps. Even if I set 1/60 by hand in M or S mode.

    This applies to Manual movie settings OFF, of course.

    Am I right?

  • Steve

    Great video, thanks for the info!