DSLR cheat sheet
Full disclosure: the Canon 5D Mark III is not a video camera. It's
actually a still camera that just happens to also capture video.
But there are some incredible advantages to using this camera over
a traditional video camera:
- It's small and really light.
- Its interchangeable lenses increase versatility and inspire artistic and creative shots.
- It's easy to produce a shot with a shallow depth of field (background out of focus).
- It's incredible in low light and variable lighting conditions.
Video settings: frame rate and aspect ratio
At Wistia, we shoot our videos at 24 frames per second to achieve
a more cinematic and artistic look and feel to our footage. We record
using the 1920/24/ALL-I setting. This produces the highest resolution
and highest quality footage the camera can shoot.
If you'd like to shoot at a higher frame rate (to produce slow-motion
footage) look for the 1280/60/ALL-I setting. This will reduce the
resolution to 1280x720, but will capture at 60 frames per second.
ISO determines how sensitive the camera is to light. In a nutshell,
the higher the ISO, the brighter the image will be. The lower the
number, the darker the image will be.
Use a high ISO (greater than ISO 640) if you're shooting inside
without a ton of ambient light. Keep your ISO number low when you're
shooting in broad daylight outside or under bright studio lights.
The fact that you can raise and lower the ISO is really, really
awesome. But as you raise the ISO, you introduce noise and grain to
your picture, so you'll want to do so carefully. The camera's going
to perform best at the lower end of the ISO range.
Aperture controls the amount of light reaching the image sensor.
The smaller the number, the more open the aperture is. The higher
the number is, the smaller the aperture will be.
Aperture works just like a pupil. When the camera's diaphragm is
dilated (open), more light will get in. When it's more contracted
(closed), less light gets let in. So use a small aperture, like f/1.8,
to let a ton of light into the camera in lower-lighting situations.
If you're shooting outside, you might want to close the aperture to
a larger number, like f/10, to limit the amount of light hitting
Aperture also controls depth of field. To get a blurry and out-of-focus
background, keep the aperture as wide (like f/1.8) as possible.
To make sure everything in the shot is in focus (deep focus), stop
down to a closed aperture (like f/22) to flatten out the image.
Shutter speed determines the amount of time the camera sensor is
exposed to light. The longer the shutter is open (like 1/30th of a
second), the more light hits the sensor (and the more blurry
on-screen movement will be). With a fast shutter speed, like 1/500th
of a second, less light will hit the sensor, meaning you can freeze
motion and produce crisper, choppier footage.
When deciding your shutter speed for video, use this general rule:
double your frame rate. If you're shooting at 24fps, your shutter
speed should be 1/48 (rounded up on the DSLR to 1/50). If you're
shooting at 60fps, your shutter speed should be 1/120.
Although that's technically the rule, it's not imperative to adhere
to it. I would much rather prioritize aperture first, ISO second,
and then the shutter. So make sure that you find the aperture that
you want to use, adjust your ISO accordingly, and then wherever the
shutter ends up should be good enough.
White balance and color temperature
Different light sources, like a light bulb and the sun, have very
different temperatures. White balance quite literally tells your
camera the color temperature of the light you're shooting.
Try to match the white balance preset to the color of light you're
shooting with. For example, if you're in broad daylight outside,
look for the sun icon. If you're shooting inside under white fluorescent
lights, use the fluorescent bulb preset. If you're shooting with traditional
studio lights or halogen bulbs, look for the little tungsten bulb icon.
There are situations when you'll be shooting with mixed light
temperatures. At Wistia, when we're shooting outside of the studio,
we could have some light coming in from the windows, which is at
around 5600 Kelvin, combined with some lights from our fluorescent
lights, which are maybe around 4000 Kelvin or 3000 Kelvin. This
mixture would give us a final color temperature of around 4800 Kelvin.
In situations like this, look for the custom 'K' icon to dial in the
temperature until the color in your shot looks natural.
The 5D Mark III's headphone jack allows you to confidently record
audio on the camera by monitoring exactly how it sounds. If something
gets distorted or you need to turn the microphone volume up or down,
you'll know right away during the shoot.
This is a super speedy breakdown of the settings we use:
- Zoom H5 powering Sennheiser ME-66 shotgun microphone with phantom power enabled +48V
- H5 input volume dial is around 4-5
- Line out from H5
- 5D Mark III sound recording is on manual, dialed way down
- Record simultaneously on the H5 as a backup
- Monitor the 5D audio by plugging headphones into the camera
Audio quality on the 5d is good, but not perfect. I like to record
on the H5 simultaneously, just in case I need to sync the good sound
from the H5 with the bad sound from the camera.
This general setup works with other DSLR cameras as well! But there
is one giant downfall to using just about any other video-capable
Canon DSLR (70D, 7D, 5D Mark II) besides the 5D Mark III: the lack
of a headphone jack.
Why do you want to use different lenses? Well let's take a look at
two lens examples.
First, the 50mm f/1.8 STM lens. There are many advantages to using
the 50 millimeter fixed prime lens. It has a low f-stop, which means
it's going to let more light in, resulting in better low-light performance.
As you let more light in and open up that aperture, you get that nice
cinematic shallow depth of field. In general, you can produce a better
picture with a fixed lens, which means sharper images, quicker focusing
speed, and way more potential to get artistic and blur the background.
Second is the Canon 24-105mm f/4 zoom lens. Now the advantage of a
zoom lens, like this 24 to 105, is that it's great for on-the-fly
shooting. If you don't know exactly what your shot's going to look
like, you can get multiple perspectives with the zoom lens all from
A lens is an investment, so try before you buy. There are a bunch
of rental houses that have awesome deals on lens rentals for the day,
week, or even month. I've found it to be pretty helpful to rent a
lens before committing to a purchase.