Photography News 100 - Web

Video technique

Almost every digital camera records video – and still photographers are exploiting the potential of moving pictures in growing numbers. Join Pro Moviemaker editor Adam Duckworth to look at the many kit options The photographer’s guide to gearing up for video

ANY KEEN PHOTOGRAPHER with a modern DSLR or mirrorless camera and a few lenses boasts enough to start shooting top-quality videos. It can be as easy as pointing at your subject and hitting the record button. The majority of enthusiast image makers already understand

the basics of framing and composition, as well as the choice of lens and exposure for controlling elements like depth-of-field. Shooting movies brings a whole

of editing your clips into a final movie that tells the story you envisage. Certain accessories will transform your aesthetic or make it easier to record footage. So, let’s take a look at the basics of filmmaking, focusing on kit you might want to invest in to create your cinematic masterpiece.


respectively, but not exclusively! You also have bit rates and a choice of chroma subsampling, usually labelled as 4:4:4, 4:2:2 or 4:2:0. This is a type of compression that reduces the colour information. Then there’s progressive or interlaced options – the latter usually reserved for TV. As a rule of thumb, if you are editing in HD, you can film everything in HD. This will give by far the biggest choice of codec, frame rate and crop – but there’s no option to crop in post. Many cameras shoot HD in 240fps, which can be slowed down for incredible slow-motion effects. If you film in 4K, you might get frame rates up to 120fps. That’s ideal for super slow-motion and allows you to crop in, if in an HD film. As well as 4K, your camera may well record in DCI 4K, which is sometimes called C4K or Cinema 4K. Standard 4K is a 16:9 aspect ratio, while DCI/C4K is a slightly wider 17:9 ratio for a more widescreen, cinematic look.

Once the decision is made, in terms of which format to film in, there’s a bewildering amount of choice. You have MOV or MP4 to start with, where MOV is better for editing and MP4 for use straight out of camera. Then there’s the actual ‘codec’ itself. This stands for ‘coder-decoder’ and refers to the unique algorithm used to code the video signal coming off the sensor, then decode it for the purpose of editing and viewing. In stills, JPEGs and TIFFs are universal, but every manufacturer has a huge range of codecs for video. And in still photography, JPEG compression is a compromise between image quality and file size. Video compression isn’t just for individual frames, but using compression techniques between frames to record only key changes and not the whole thing. All-Intra is the better quality, while Long GOP (Group of Pictures) is lower quality, but at a reduced file size. As well as codec choice, H.264 and H.265 are largely 8-bit or 10-bit

new set of challenges, like recording formats, camera settings and how to master audio. Then there’s the big step VIVA LA RESOLUTION!

Always record in the highest possible resolution. This will give the most flexibility for cropping footage in editing. But there are a lot of downsides to this, on top of huge file sizes and strain on computing power in editing. You have to ask yourself what the final medium of your film will be. If it’s YouTube or social media, anything over HD is largely overkill. You can upload in 4K to some of these sites, but very few people actually watch the finished product that way. Instead, it’s viewed in HD on phones, tablets, computers and even most TV sets. Recording everything and editing in 4K can future-proof your footage for when everything is 4K, if that’s a concern. But right now, it’s excessive. And always going for the highest resolution possible in a camera will – in every case – drastically limit the choices you have in terms of frame rate, crop and colour information. It can also significantly worsen the rolling shutter effect.

image stabilisation system that’s even more useful for video than stills. And since all mirrorless and DSLR cameras use rolling shutter technology, where the image sensor is read from top to bottom, this can cause issues too. If you pan the camera too quickly, vertical lines becomes skewed at an angle. This ‘rolling shutter effect’ can be improved with a smaller sensor or faster in-camera processor. In terms of video resolution, various mirrorless models can record in 8K, 6K, 5K and 4K down to Full HD – 1920x1080 pixels – sometimes called 2K. As photographers, the best way to get optimum still image quality is often going for the highest- resolution files to allow for cropping when need be, usually shot in Raw. For video, the same rules generally apply, but video Raw is very rare and takes up a huge amount of space on hard drives and memory cards – as well as needing extra work in editing. It’s far more common to pick another format.

If your machine has more than 8 megapixels of resolution, chances are it is capable of recording video in 4K. Even the Sony A7S III – one of the most popular full-frame mirrorless cams specifically for filmmakers – only has a 12.1-megapixel sensor and is an incredible performer. Just as in stills, sensor size does make a difference. But for video, it’s more about the ‘look’ and shallow depth-of-field you get from using larger sensors, rather than outright image quality. For example, an APS-C sensor is often called Super 35 in video. The majority of Hollywood blockbusters and big-budget Netflix series are shot with cameras like this. Larger sensors typically give better high ISO performance for stills as well as video, so there is a benefit to going bigger. But don’t discount APS-C or Micro Four Thirds. One benefit of a cropped sensor size is that it’s easier to make an effective in-body

BASIC CAMERA SETTINGS When shooting stills, you juggle ISO, shutter speed and aperture to get the right exposure. In video, this is sometimes called gain, shutter angle and iris, but it’s essentially the same. speed of 1/250sec for 120fps or 1/500sec for 240fps. Manual white-balance is a must, as the vast majority of video cameras don’t shoot Raw video, so changing it afterwards is impossible.

You don’t change shutter speed to alter exposure. Set the shutter speed to roughly twice the frame rate, which gives a lovely, natural aesthetic. For the UK, standard TV is predominantly 25fps, so stick to 1/50sec shutter speed. Alter exposure by changing ISO or aperture, or using ND filters such as a Revoring or Marumi VND. You can often set frame rates like 50, 60, 100, 120, 200 or 240fps. This allows action to be slowed down in post-processing for slow motion. Up your shutter speed, too. With the 2x formula, this means setting a shutter

For more dynamic range, many cameras allow a variety of colour profiles such as Panasonic V-Log or Sony S-Log. These record a flat- looking, unsaturated image to retain as much shadow and highlight detail as possible. This is boosted in post- processing, letting you grade footage with a certain ‘look’. Setting a Log profile usually increases minimum ISO and removes noise reduction, so this must be added in post. Log profiles are thus more labour- intensive, ideally used on footage with lots of colour information.

MAX IT OUT The latest cameras have far more video resolution than most typical users need. Shooting 4K, 6K or 8K means more card memory, more storage and faster computers – make sure you think such logistics through

Issue 100 | Photography News 33

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