7) Manual focusing and the use of a follow-focus
One of the things you want in your video clips in consistency, and if you use autofocus your camera may recompose the focus in your scene part way through a clip in ways you don’t want. I recommend always shooting using manual focus. If you want to integrate some creative focusing techniques like doing focus pulls (bringing an out-of-focus subject into focus) or rack focusing (switching between something in the foreground or background that is in focus) you will need to use manual focusing to achieve these effects. You may want to consider investing in a follow-focus unit to make pulling focus and doing rack focusing easier. It would also help eliminate potential camera shake as you would no longer be directly touching the focusing ring on your lens with your fingers. There are lots of follow focus units on the market and many of them are cumbersome to use and expensive. Many require you to mount gear rings on your lenses. I use an iDC System Zero and have found it lightweight, compact, easy to use, and affordable.
Nikon D800 with iDC System Zero follow focus mounted and friction focusing wheel in position. This allows manual focusing while filming and not touching your lens directly.
8) Using zoom lenses
I have a longer base plate for my follow focus unit which allows me to mount a second focusing wheel to it and zoom in and out of scenes. This adds some additional creative options when I am shooting video. It is important to remember that when you use a variable aperture zoom lens with video your exposure can change during a zoom clip and it will very obvious in your footage. Always make sure that you are shooting at an aperture that will cover the long end of your zoom range so you can avoid any changes in exposure. I find that my Nikon 16-35 f/4 and 70-200 f/4 constant aperture zooms are fantastic for video as I don’t have to worry about the aperture shifting in lower light conditions. The VR on both of these lenses is also extremely helpful for video work.
9) ISO and lighting considerations
Noise is a factor when shooting video just as it is with shooting still photography and whenever possible you should always shoot at the lowest ISO possible. Since most of the time you’ll be matching shutter speeds to your frame rate you’ll be quite restricted in how you go about achieving the right exposure in your video footage. In this respect getting the right exposure in video is much harder to achieve than shooting stills where you can simply use slower shutter speeds with a tripod-mounted camera in lower light conditions. When shooting video, needing additional, portable lighting is pretty much a guarantee.
On the flip side, shooting video outdoors in bright light can also be a challenge as you will still want to match shutter speed with frame rate and so you won’t have the option of using fast shutter speeds. You will often find that even at the lowest ISO setting on your camera, shooting at 1/60th will overexpose your footage dramatically. If you’re going to be shooting outdoors you will definitely need a variable neutral density filter to cut the light coming into your lens so you can do the proper shutter speed/frame rate matching.
Noise in video is most apparent in shadow areas where it can look like a busy blob of moving dots, but it can also appear in highlight areas, looking like annoying little dots sprinkling about. To a certain degree noise can be corrected in post processing, but as is the case with still photography, it is always best to avoid it if at all possible. For best video results shooting at ISO 800 or lower is recommended. Cameras like the D4 will give you more low light latitude.
I seldom shoot my D800 at an ISO rating over 1600 and my Nikon 1 V2 is usually kept at a maximum of ISO 800 except in rare circumstances, although I have been pleasantly surprised with its low light video performance on occasion. As strange as it may seem the size of a camera’s sensor is not always indicative of its low light video performance. Some cameras like the D5200 are surprisingly good in low light. Again, each camera tends to have its own characteristics when it comes to video…and sometimes it doesn’t seem logical.
If you’re planning on doing indoor work you’ll need to rent, or invest in some decent lights and stands. Make sure the stands you buy are air cushioned (helps avoid light damage when lowering them) and that they can extend up to 9 or 10 feet as you’ll often need to get up high to create good broadcast lighting, especially in warehouse/factory environments. I prefer to use daylight-balanced, compact fluorescent bulbs as they use less power, do not get hot, and disperse light more evenly. It is best to use light heads with multiple bulbs. This allows for more precise lighting intensity by turning various individual bulbs in the head on or off as needed. My main light set has nine 27-watt compact fluorescent bulbs per head and they work like a charm allowing me to shoot no higher than ISO 800 most of the time.
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