In this tutorial, we are going to walk through our 10 step checklist when shooting DSLR video for multiple DSLR camera productions. Regardless of whether you are shooting a wedding, music video, advertisement or just out for fun, these 10 tips for DSLR video learning should help in getting higher quality out of your productions.
This is the first part of a 2 part training series designed for Lin and Jirsa and SLR Lounge Production Staff. We thought we would make the videos public since it might be of benefit to the community as well.
Remember, these are our production workflow steps, and yours may differ depending on the type of shoot and overall look you are going for. However, for SLR Lounge and LJP Staff, we do expect you to memorize and follow this list for all productions.
DSLR Video Tutorial (Written Tutorial Below)
Step 1. Match Frame Rates and Shooting Modes
For this step, we want to make sure that the frame rates and shooting modes are identical on all cameras. There are some exceptions to this, for example, if you are doing a slow motion video capture on one camera, then the frame rates may vary. However, choose the frame rate that best fits the look you are going for. Our studio generally uses 24p as it has that nice cinematic feel to it. However, if smoother motion is required, we may step up to 30p or even 60p if we need the clip for slow motion.
Now, shooting ALL-I or IPB is up to you. But, after quite a bit of testing with both we couldn’t tell much of a difference between the two. ALL-I is supposed to capture slightly more detail (as well as be easier for your computer to edit), but IPB has a better compression rate providing much smaller file sizes. For our shoots, we will stick with IPB because of the smaller file size.
Step 2. Use Optimal Shutter Speeds and Sync Shutter Speeds
Just as we matched the frame rates and shooting modes, we want to make sure that we are using optimal shutter speeds, as well as syncing shutter speeds across all DSLR cameras.
Note that when shooting DSLR video, shutter speed also controls how motion will look in the frame (in addition of course to exposure). The higher the shutter speed, the more sharp/jittery the motion will appear, while the lower the shutter speed the more smooth motion will appear. The optimal shutter speed for us is around 50 – 100 for the look that we are going for.
It is also important to use the optimal shutter speed increment. The shutter speed increments should be in multiples of the frame rate. For example, if our frame rate is 24p, the shutter speed should be 50, 100, 150, 200, etc. or for 30p, the shutter speed should be 60, 120, etc. If the specific multiple isn’t available, choose the closest available shutter speed.
Note: Keep in mind, there may be instances where you can’t match the shutter speed frame rates due to lack of certain filters or exposure. Or perhaps you’re going for certain looks with a particular camera, so you don’t want to match the shutter speed. In these situations you are going to have the make the call as to what shutter speed you need for the scene and look. However, for all of our shoots, we want to do our best to match up the shutter speeds, so we have a uniform look to the motion in each camera.
Step 3. Match Overall Exposures When Recording Video with DSLRs
The next step of our checklist is to make sure we match the overall exposures between all of the cameras. With matching exposures, color grading is going to be much easier and more efficient in post production.
Step 4. Check Exposure Using the Histogram
Checking the exposure using the histogram, instead of the LCD screen, is a really important tool to use to check the highlights and shadow details. This is because depending on the brightness of the screen, we may not be able to tell where we are blowing out some highlights or clipping shadows. Using the histogram, expose towards the right so we don’t have any highlight blown out and have encompassed most of the shadows as well.
Step 5. Match Picture Styles and Color Settings
Again for a more efficient post production workflow, we also want to make sure we use identical picture styles and color adjustment settings for all cameras.
Note: Remember once again, that if you need each camera to have a different look and feel for story telling purposes, then it may be necessary to have different picture styles and color settings on each camera. However, since we primarily are doing production on weddings, behind the scenes videos, and interviews, we will match picture styles and color settings between each camera.
Step 6. Match White Balances When Recording Video with DSLRs
Just like the picture styles and color settings, we want to also make sure that our white balances are dialed in correctly on each camera for a uniform look to our video. Again, the same note applies in regards to creative story telling scenes. You may find it necessary to have cameras on a different white balance setting if you are going for a different look with each camera.
Step 7. Use Manual Audio and Adjust Levels
We want to record the cleanest audio possible, so set your audio to manual mode for consistent audio levels. Absolutely do not use the “AUTO” modes when it comes to audio. This is because when a scene is quiet, the camera will adjust up the audio gain and vice versa when the scene is loud. This will cause audio levels to fluctuate throughout the video becoming a major distraction to the viewer.
For all of our shoots we will use an external audio device to record the primary audio. We will do the exact same thing on all devices setting our audio modes to MANUAL and then adjusting the levels appropriately. We want the audio levels to peak to be within -12 to -6 decibels. Any higher than this and you will run the risk of louder noises clipping out the audio causing a nasty static clipping sound. If levels are too quiet, then they will need to be raised digitally which can reduce the overall quality of the sound and introduce background noise.
Step 8. Check Media and Batteries When Recording Video with DSLRs
This is a pretty straightforward and obvious step. Check your media and batteries prior to your shoot. Nothing is worse than finding out 10 minutes into your shoot that a memory card has been filled or battery has died in one of your cameras, making you have to rerecord the scene.
Step 9. Check Scene, Models, Wardrobe Details When Recording DSLRs Video
Just prior to recording, make sure to check that everybody and everything looks good in your frame. Don’t get into a situation where you notice things that should have been fixed once you are behind the computer. Take a few moments, make sure that the models look good, their wardrobes are neat and tidy (or look however intended), and that the scene looks as intended as well.
For example, in the image above, the person behind the camera (Chris) had to make sure that Pye’s awesome basketball shorts and all the other junk in this scene wasn’t in frame prior to shooting (and yes, Pye did actually record this tutorial dressed exactly as you see it here, thought you might all enjoy a true behind the scenes, haha). — Chris
Step 10. Record, Monitor Audio and Clip Lengths
Once you press the RECORD button, your job behind the camera isn’t done. During the recording we want to always be monitoring the audio levels and the overall scene. You will need to have the primary audio line running through a headset where you can listen and monitor for static or clipping issues. In addition, if you notice anything in the scene that is going awry, then it is your job to stop the actor/model and retake the scene.
Make sure that you are also monitoring the clip lengths on each DSLR. Certain DSLRs may only allow for 10-12 minute clip lengths, whereas some others allow for 30 minutes. It is crucial that you monitor the clip lengths on each camera to make sure there are no breaks in the recording.
We hope you all enjoyed this 10 step multi-camera production checklist. Hopefully, it will serve as a helpful tool for all of you in the SLR Lounge community. For staff, we do expect you to take this list to heart ;)