Back when Nikon and Canon engineers first started getting requests from field reporters to add video to their high end still cameras, I’m sure the top two manufacturers were doing it so they didn’t lose business to the other. It wasn’t an unreasonable request at the time because video capability was turning up in all kinds of appliances. If your toaster had a camera, someone would have added video recording.
Even though they were reluctant participants at first, that all changed when the first video from the Canon 5Ds hit the internets machine. The film world experienced a collective jaw drop as video from a full frame 35mm sensor behind quality glass hit home. I remember there was a great disturbance in the Film Force that went through the normal stages of grief: Denial, anger, bargaining and, ultimately, depression. Hard to believe that was just 2008.
Today Canon DSLRs, particularly the Canon 5D and Canon 7D are as common on movie sets as Assistant Directors. The film world recovered from their initial shock and life went on.
For still photographers, the transition to video isn’t always easy because the rules are different. Instead of framing a shot and pushing the button, you’re scripting a scene that might feature multiple angles. The normal rules for exposure and composition go right out the window when you flip the selector switch from the little still camera over to the little video camera and DSLRs have some quirks that you need to aware of when shooting video.
There’s so much information about what goes into quality video, I’ve divided this into two separate features.
I’m continually amazed at camera reviewers who take the position that 30 fps is “better” than 24 fps. It’s not a question of better or worse, when it comes to quality the two are almost indistinguishable.
A frame rate of 24 progressive frames per second is a hold-over from film days. When the film vs video worlds first collided, there was 24p on the film side and 30i (okay, 29.97) on the video side and neither was about to budge. DSLRs changed all that. Video from a 5D was good enough to be inter-cut with film, only the frame rates didn’t match. So some techno-wizards came up with the Magic Lantern firmware update which gave the Canon 5D the ability to output 24p video and, shazam, film and DSLRs were suddenly BFFs.
Today, most high end DSLRs support 24p, 30i and sometimes 60i. As movie theaters move away from film projection and production switches to video over film, the 24p/30i argument is less critical in production. Still, if you are thinking about shooting a video feature on a DSLR, you’ll want to stick with a 24p timeline. Mixing 24p and 30i on the same video timeline does not work. Sure, there is expensive software, like Twixtor, available that changes the frame rate and it looks decent, but the motion is still always a little off.
Unless it’s a quick cut-away shot, when you start a project in 24p or 30i, you’re stuck there for the entire project. Choose wisely. If you’re just grabbing some quick video at the beach, it doesn’t matter. If it’s a feature length documentary or film, you’ll want to shoot 24p. I shoot exclusively in 24p.
This one trips up a lot of photographers new to the video world. They think they have have the same exposure control they do over a static image. If you want a smaller f-stop, just bump up the shutter speed to compensate. Easy, right?
Wrong answer in video, where your shutter speed options are dictated by the frame rate:
24 fps → 1/48 (or closest, usually 1/50th)
30 fps → 1/60
60 fps → 1/120
Ignore those rules and your video with either look smeary at slower shutter speed or the motion will look choppy at higher shutter speeds.
If you want to change to lower f-stop for a shallow depth of field and the light isn’t right, you’ll need to use ND filters. To get a wider depth of field at a higher f-stop, you may need supplemental lighting.
In Part Two we’ll talk about color space, presets, audio, moire, and camera settings.