If you come from a still background, like I do, you may think shooting video with your digital still camera is as simple as hitting the record button. Nothing could be further from the truth! Yes, you’ll capture some video, but the quality will be similar to when you first started shooting still images. Video capture has some similarities to still capture, but many aspects are different. Stay in touch with your creative sense of composition, but learn proper video technique and your movie quality will rapidly improve.
Over the last year, I’ve been shooting video on various projects. Initially, the learning curve was really steep, but now I have things running smoothly. As a photographer who I once assisted told me, “Learn by my mistakes.” Following is a list of 10 tips for producing better DSLR video. Give these a try, and you should be producing good video in no time.
1. Use a tripod.The biggest indicator of amateur video is a shaky shot. Stabilizing your shot is the first step to improving your video. Even though it’s easy to grab the camera and start shooting, your video will suffer.
With still images, you’re working with one frame. If your shutter speed is fast enough, you’ll have a sharp shot. But with video, you’re working with thousands of frames shooting in real time, so camera movements will show up in the video. Fix this problem by getting a solid tripod with a good head. The best heads for video are those like the Manfrotto 701HDV, which allows you to pan smoothly during a shot. If you already have a ballhead for still shooting, tighten the head so there’s no movement during video shots.
Stabilized lenses are also helpful for getting steadier footage, though a tripod is still better. If you’re in a pinch and don’t have a tripod, try holding the camera extended in front of you with the camera strap tight against your neck. This gives a little more stability than just supporting the camera in your hands.
2. Use a video support system for moving shots.For moving shots, use a rig designed to support your camera in a video camera fashion. I use the Captain Stubling by Redrock Micro. This handy support system allows me to hold my Nikon D3S at eye level with great stability. Better yet, the follow-focus mechanism ensures silky-lgooth manual focus during shots. The Stubling is perfect for moving shots or shooting from precarious locations where tripods won’t work. The Redrock Micro system has many configurations and works with most cameras.
Another option for moving shots is the Glidetrack, a three-foot rail system that mounts to your tripod or can be put on the ground. Your camera is mounted on a slider bar that runs smoothly along the track. As you take footage, you slowly push your camera along the track, resulting in smooth panning movements.