What settings do I need for DSLR video?

Question: I want to start making some movies of my family on my DSLR. Is there anything I need to know before I start?

Answer: Almost all modern DSLRs, CSCs and advanced compacts have Full HD video functionality built-in. The quality is so impressive that many leading video companies are using professional DSLR cameras for high-end TV productions, including 24 and House . So if you own a modern DSLR, you already have everything you need to start shoot professional looking video.

The basic principles of videography are the same as they are for stills photography, therefore so long as you understand that aperture, shutter speed and ISO work together to control exposure you’re already halfway there. You’ll be shooting in manual mode, but the shutter speed stays the same for most of the time, so it is actually more similar to working in aperture-priority mode. This means that you only have to worry about ISO and aperture when balancing your exposure. 

Control audio
Your camera will have a built-in microphone, the sensitivity of which can be changed in the menu. You can buy higher quality external mics that plug into the audio-in port on the side of the camera. There may also be an audio-out port so that you can connect headphones and hear the audio as it’s recorded. Finally, take a quick look at the other video options in the menu, as there may be some useful features, such as wind reduction. Before you start shooting, follow these three steps to get your camera properly set up

Set your camera up for shooting quality movies

1. Set the resolution and frame rate
Put your DSLR in movie mode and select the highest video resolution from your camera’s menu, which on most is Full HD (1080p, not 1080i). Choose a 25fps frame rate, or 50fps if you think you’ll want to slow your footage down. Next change the mode dial to manual, and set a shutter speed of 1/50sec (or 1/100sec if you’re shooting at 50fps).

2. Balance your exposure
Select an ISO of 100 for minimal digital noise and adjust the aperture while looking at the lightmeter through the viewfinder until the exposure is at 0. If you’re shooting in dark conditions, you may need to use a higher ISO to balance the exposure, though this will introduce noise. Note that wide apertures may not be possible in particularly bright conditions.

3. Focus and stabilise
While most cameras can now autofocus during video recording, manual focusing is more accurate and much smoother than an autofocus motor jerking back and forth. So flick the switch on your lens from AF to MF. While you’re there, also turn on image stabilisation if it’s available, unless your camera is mounted on a tripod, in which case it’s best to leave it turned off.