The Hybrid Shooter: Mirrorless Video Tips (Part 1)
But ever since they gave us true hybrid shooting capabilities, many camera makers have been dragging their feet by arbitrarily crippling their DSLR and mirrorless video modes to make them look almost great — but not great enough to cannibalize their sales of dedicated “prosumer” video cameras.
Until recently, this crippling pain left out things like full-frame 4K, high frame rates, professional video file formats, and most importantly, the ability to switch between stills and movies quickly. and transparently.
So why finally give us the whole cake? Along with faster processors, a few other things helped usher in this latest generation of mirrorless cameras. The hybrid capabilities of smartphones have killed the profitability of the low-end consumer market.
Additionally, upstarts like Sony and Panasonic have entered the fray with amazing mirrorless mirrorless models. The result was that in the mid-2010s competition intensified.
This brings us to the current generation of mirrorless cameras which come with a bunch of innovative inclusions such as body combo lens image stabilization, super precise eye tracking focus, insane low-light capabilities and high-performance movie formats, including 10-bit 4:2:2 recording (meaning a billion color combinations) and 8K RAW video.
Finally, we have all the ingredients to be both a VERY skilled photographer and cinematographer.
Master photography first
Stanley Kubrick was a genius director who initially developed his eye as a still photographer. He became famous for directing many iconic film shots and scenes. Whether motionless or moving, he understood the aesthetic and emotional power of the image.
So if you’re good at photography, you really won’t find this to be a big leap into cinematography. Framing, lighting, lenses – these are pretty much the same concepts. After all, a film is just a series of photos played back together or, as I like to think, a camera movement “take” is just a “still image” with two, three or more “shots” between which you are transitioning.
Configuring your camera
1) Frame rate
Do you remember those old BW movies and how they looked so “choppy” and comedic? This is because they were shot between 12 and 20 fps. Generally, modern movies are shot at 24 to 25 frames per second (fps). This is the minimum speed needed to capture video while maintaining realistic motion. It’s also a speed we’ve become accustomed to.
30fps videos can end up looking a bit like a “soap opera” look, but are slightly better for capturing sports. That said, there are advantages to shooting at higher frame rates such as 50(PAL) 60(NTSC) 100(PAL) or even 120(NTSC).
It not only looks cool to see things in slow motion, but it also helps stabilize footage. But whatever frame rate you settle on; the result will eventually display at 24 to 25 frames per second. I often shoot at 100 fps to capture “dream” / B Roll cut frames. The key is to make sure you’re shooting anything you want to see ‘normal’, or with sound, at 25fps at 1/50th of a second shutter speed – see more on that below.
2) Shutter speed and ND filters
Get used to filming everything manually. The general rule of thumb is that you’re going to want to keep your shutter speed at around double your frames per second. So 25fps = 1/50s, 50fps = 1/100s, 100fps = 1/200s etc.
With normal shooting, this “slow” shutter speed can lead to overexposure issues in sunny conditions. For example – say you want to shoot outdoors at say 25fps, 1/50s @ f1.4 @ ISO 100. The way to keep f1.4 is to use a neutral density 32 (ND32) filter which reduces the amount of light in five stops without altering the color. Or you can stop at f8 – urgh!
You can think of ND filters as essentially dark sunglasses for your camera. You can use a variable ND which is basically two polarizers glued together, but this can lead to uneven distribution of light on the sensor.
You can buy ND in different densities which have their own annoying and useless scientific labeling system. For example, ND 4 = 2 stops, ND8 = 3 stops, ND16 is 4 stops, ND 32 is 5 stops, etc. Depending on your lens speed and the aperture you want to shoot with, an ND 16 or 32 is a good start. I have an ND4 and an ND32 in my kit bag and although not recommended, in a pinch you can double them up and use them together.
3) HD, 4K or 8K and Intraframe and RAW codec
While the idea of filming in 8K sounds great, the current reality really isn’t. Do you already know someone who owns an 8K TV? HD, aka 1080p, is usually good enough for anything you’ll see on YouTube or social media on your phone, laptop, or big screen, or even on a 4K TV. It is also easier to edit and store all footage on hard drives. Setting your Intraframe Codec to ALL-I is also better than IPB because you have more information in the frames to correct in post.
If you’re shooting a short or feature film, make sure you’re shooting in the highest quality possible. This includes the RAW file format. It allows for better quality and the ability to crop or even “digitally zoom”. Just be prepared to fill tons of CF Express cards / SD cards and hard drives and have to add a bunch of RAM to your computer to handle the editing process.
Look out for part two next week.