Tips For Recording Better DSLR Video – Part 2

DSLR rigged for video
A simple DSLR video rig - photo by Bill Pryor

In Part I we covered the basics of shutter speed and frame rates.  Today we’ll delve into some of the more technical aspects of video production with DSLRs and you’ll understand better why you can’t just run out and shoot amazing video with your camera without some education.

Turn Auto-Everything Off

It’s hard to turn off all the automatic settings on the average DSLR, there are quite a few you might not even think about.

The easy ones are turning off auto exposure, automatic white balance and auto focus.  Less obvious are turning off auto ISO, Peripheral Illumination correction and Long Exposure Noise Reduction.

Anything that automatically adjusts the picture quality in the middle of a shot has to go.  The reason for that is when doing color correction in post, if auto anything is enabled, your color settings will be changing in the middle of shots.  Nothing will get a video colorist on to a new career path faster than color settings jumping around in the middle of a shot.

Shane Hurlbut recommends the further step of changing the color space from sRBG to Adobe RGB, but that’s the where I draw the line.  I’ve tried them both and never run into a situation where the color curves where that far off.  Be aware that if you change your color space, the camera will change the file naming format.  I’ve had panic moments because my file browser didn’t recognize files with a “_” at the beginning .


When it comes to getting good audio out of the camera, you can pretty much forget that.  Occasionally the camera audio will be adequate, which is only proof that even a blind sow gets an acorn once in a while.  Most of the time you’ll need to record second sound.

Luckily there are many good options for portable recorders.  The Marantz PMD661 and H4N Zoom are popular among DSLR shooters, matched up with mics like the Rode NTG-2 shotgun.

For syncing up video and external audio, it’s a lot easier if you make a loud noise at the beginning and end of a shot, or use a clicker.  If you don’t want to do that then invest in software like PluralEyes which will save your sanity.

Aliasing and Moire

Aliasing and its French cousin moire are two challenges that have been with DSLRs from the first day they were fielded.  Aliasing can be seen in any tight pattern shot at a higher f-stop.  Strong side lighting can make the effect even worse.  Brick walls, composite roofs, and herringbone fabrics are famous for producing the kind of alias strobing that makes it looks like the background is alive with crawling ants and patterns.

To reduce moire you’re going to need to use your ND filters to stop down to a wider f-stop and pull the focus just enough to soften the background as described in this article.  For herringbone clothing, your talent is going to need change or you’re going to need to go really tight on their face.  No way around it.

Or you can buy a $400 anti-aliasing filter.  It really depends on how much video you plan on shooting.

Color Presets

I could write a book on custom presets for DSLR video and there are several good articles on the internet that go into great detail on creating custom presets for DSLR video.

Simple interview setup
A simple interview setup for a DSLR

Luckily there is one custom profile, developed by people who really know what they’re doing at Technicolor.  It’s called the CineStyle preset and it’s the one I use for all my video work.Use the Technicolor CineStyle custom preset, turn off all the automatic functions of your camera, shoot at 24p and watch tight patterns and the video people you work with will be both pleased and impressed.