An introduction to shooting films using high-definition DSLR cameras
Text of dSLR Cinematography
Digital SLR Cinematography
An introduction to
Why use dSLRs for filming?
With demos and big-screen blockbusters!
Getting started with filming using dSLRs
Basic cinematography concepts and dSLRs
Advanced setups: taking it to the next level
Why shoot films on a dSLR?
Compact and light
High-def(1080p), high bitrate(50mbps) capture
Advanced creative control (Av/DoF, Tv)
High-quality, interchangeable lenses
Large, high quality CMOS sensors:
Optical capture area is larger than 35mm cine film
Unrivalled low-light shooting ability
High dynamic range
3 years ago, to get all this in a video camera, the *least* it
would have cost is $50,000 (body only)
Vincent Laforet- Reverie the clip that started it all. Shot on 5D
Mark II no colour grading.
Shane Hurlbut, ASC The Last Three Minutes. Shot on 5D Mark
Phillip Bloom Sofias People. Shot on 5D Mark II with just one lens,
a Zeiss ZF 50mm f1.4 no lighting or colour grading.
Recent big dSLR productions
"if youre [not] using the 5D [Mark II], you arent making your movie
the best it can be.
Iron Man 2
Black Swan (filmed in Australia!)
AFI Movie of the Year
1 Academy Award & 4 nominations including Best Achievement in
Cinematography and Best Motion Picture of
House Season 6 Finale (clip), and ALL of (current) Season
The minimum youll need (kits from $600!):
A dSLRbodywith HD 720p or better
Full frame (35mm) vs crop sensor (APS-C)
5d Mark II 7D
A lensPrime Zoom
35mm Full Frame (5D mkII, Nikon D3s)
APS-C (crop)(7D, RED One - $25,000)
Broadcast Camcorder (Sony EX3 - $10,000)
Light from lens falling on focal plane
Full frame sensor imaging area
Crop sensor imaging area (1.5-1.6x zoom)
Why use primes
Faster than zooms (esp. kit lenses)
(Generally) better optics & image quality
Many primes are comparatively cheap
E.g. Samyang14mm f/2.8, 35mm & 85mm f/1.4 + Canon 50mm f/1.8
for less than the price of a 24-70 f/2.8 zoom - & is optically
superior in every way
Zooming (while filming) is usually avoided
(unless you are Stanley Kubrick, BazLuhrmann, Alfred Hitchcock,
Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Andrei Tarkovsky, Robert Altman,
Francis Ford Coppola, Peter Bogdanovich, Quentin Tarantino )
But need lens changes/less convenient
so less suitable for documentary/event work which needs
(for narrative filmmaking)?
Adapting old/cheap len$e$
Many old lenses can be attached with adaptors this is a great way
to pick up a bargain lens!
You will usually lose electronic control - so most adapted lenses
need a manual aperture ring!
This adaptor has electronic connectors BUT
Refers to the amount of image magnification.
Wide Angle perspective exaggerated
Normal natural perspective
Telephoto perspective compressed
Video exposure basics
Exposure - controlling the recorded video image for correct
brightness and contrast.
Lighting is the foundation of exposure. If you can control the
light, you can use the cameras exposure controls for creativity and
finesse - rather than just to get a shot.
Aperture, ISO and ND filtersare used for controlling exposure
in-camera. Not shutter speed(though it does affect
Video exposure basics (cont)
Fast lenses have a large maximum aperture e.g. f/2.8, f/1.8, f/1.4
Note: f/x is a fraction! So the smaller the value of x, the larger
the number f/x - and the larger the aperture! (e.g. f/1.4 >
Let in more light
so you can
Shoot in dimmer light(with good exposure)
Blur fore/backgrounds [subject focus/bokeh]
Create beautiful images!
f/1.4 f/2.8 f/8 f/22
More light Less light
Video exposure basics (cont)
Doubling ISO doubles the sensitivity of the sensor and makes the
However, high ISO results in more noise, reducing image
Multiples of 160 are real ISOs for Canons others
Video exposure basics (cont)
We can also reduce the amount of light entering the lens with a
Neutral Density (ND) filter. This is useful if we want to shoot
with a wide aperture on a bright day.
ND4 (1-stop) Graduated ND Fader ND
What about shutter speed?
The shutter speed of each frame is limited by the frame rate.
(Shooting) at 24 fps, the LONGEST exposure possible is 1/24s.
To mimic the appearance of film, shoot as close as possible to half
your frame rate. E.g. at 24 fps, set your shutter to 1/50s.
You can increase your shutter speed, for a stroboscopic, choppy
appearance (e.g. Saving Private Ryan, Gladiator).
Most standard film is shot at 24 fps. PAL is 25 fps. To mimic the
look of cinematic film, use a setting as close as possible to 24
The 7D can shoot at 60 fps. This can be slowed down to 24/25 fps
for flawless slow-mo or even further with software (demo).
Video on frame rate and shutter speed.
Compression How the original video data is reduced for storage.
Currently, all dSLR video is compressed (lossy)
Codec how the video data is encoded. H.264 (Canon) is more
efficient than MJPEG (Nikon)
Bitrate how much data is used to store video
High quality audio capture & recording
Manually controlling focus
Controlling video and audio
Monitoring video and audio
Shake and blur are distracting!
Sturdy tripod & fluid head almost essential
I recommend WeiFang EI-717AH head.
Sturdy Rig for shoulder/handheld work
Weight and/or contact points minimise shake
I use this collapsible shoulder rig.
Or you can make one for a few dollars. Works fine!
15mm cinematic rails for mounting accessories.
Shoulder rig with integral 15mm rails
Use of rails to mount accessories (overkill for most shoots!)
Video fluid head
Supports for camera moves
Dolly & tracking: Moving the camera in one plane. Fwd-back =
dolly; left-right = tracking
(Phillip Bloom Salton Sea demo with slider)
Crane: basically, tracking up and down
Pan & tilt: Rotating camera on H or V axis. Dont do this too
fast (causes rolling shutter &/or strobing) or
Supports for camera moves
Fluid head for pan/tilt
Skateboard as dolly
(you can DIY most of these!)
Audio is arguably more important than video for quality filmmaking.
Viewers will tolerate poorly-shot images; but rarely poor
Turn off Automatic Gain in camera (AGC)!
Use external microphone (Lavalier/shotgun)
Mic setup e.g. boom, shockmount, windshield
Boost S:NR - use amp/recorder (Juicedlink/Zoom)
Use shielded cabling for longer cables (XLR)
Sync with slate/clapper board (acrylic/iPad/DIY)
Capturing audio (images)
Most dSLRs cannot autofocus in video mode
But in narrative filmmaking, we use manual focus anyway for more
For focus pulls, we use a follow focus:
Follow focus for shake-free, precise focus adjustments and pulls -
with white marker disc
Industry-standard rail mount (15mm rods, 60mm apart)
Speed crank for fast focus pull
To control flare from light sources, use a lens hood or matte
Matte boxes also enable use of 4x4 filters
French Flag helps cut glare
Filter holders: static/rotating
Matte box should attach sturdily!
Foam donut, snug around lens
Attaches to 15mm rail mount
Controlling video (cont)
Always shoot in M (Manual) setting
Need to White Balance - because we are shooting compressed video
To improve final dynamic range, use Picture Styles (Canon) to
flatten contrast. I recommend Technicolor Cinestyle(free!)
Colour-correct in Post- (Colour Grading) with Cinestyle
Look-Up-Table (LUT) (also free!)
Monitoring audio & video
External field monitor or
loupe for camera LCD
Use zebra stripes and live histogram not in standard camera
Use headphones closed ear, flat response is best
Use level meters - not in standard camera but
Magic Lantern for Canon dSLR
Some talented programmers have written free software for Canon
cameras that improves control and monitoring of video & audio:
Audio level monitor (int/ext mics)
Live exposure histogram
Zebra stripes (shows over/underexposed areas in image)
One you have shot your footage, it needs to be edited! Some options
Free, open source video editor: Lightworks
Used to edit The Kings Speech (Winner of 4 2011 Academy Awards
incl. Best Motion Picture)
Other options: Adobe Premiere Pro
CS5 can edit dSLR video natively saves hours
Apple Final Cut Pro
Free plugin imports Canon files for best quality
Converts to 4.2.2 Apple Prorescolour space
Shoot flat for detail in highlights & shadows
Colour grading: for hue, saturation & contrast
Summary - and tips!
To get started you just need a dSLR and lens:
Install free Technicolor Cinestylepicture style
Use free Magic Lantern firmware
Use free editor (http://lightworksbeta.com/)
Use free music (e.g. http://mobygratis.com/or
http://creativecommons.org/) for audio
Shoot and practice!
Summary and tips (cont)
If you have a few extra dollars:
Buy a tripod and external shotgun microphone
Make a rig, shock mount and boom pole(even cranes, sliders and
dollies if you want to!)
Use a digital audio recorder (e.g. your phone)
Shoot and practice some more!
Online dSLR filmmaker community
Latest News (Blog)
Me! [email protected] | @leonardlow