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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Exposure For HDSLR Video

How to get your motion footage to look just right

Indoors, It's ISO
Being stuck with essentially one shutter speed doesn't make things easier indoors or in low light, either. Now the problem isn't too much light, but too little. You'll hit your limit pretty fast at 1/50th of a second wide open (even if your lens is ƒ/2.8, ƒ/2 and the like). That's when bumping up the ISO becomes your go-to for exposure control. Fortunately, one of the good things about our large-chip DSLRs is their low noise performance in low light, and you'll be pushing those limits indoors very quickly.

When I first got into video, I wondered at my motion-shooting brethren's absolute fanaticism for fast glass—if they had an ƒ/2, they wanted an ƒ/1.4; if they had an ƒ/1.4, they yearned for an ƒ/1.2 or even an ƒ/0.095. I mean, how sliver-thin do you want your depth of field?

Well, it turns out that, yes, the narrow depth of field was cinematically desirable, but those wide apertures also helped in reducing noise and giving you the option to use lower ISOs. When you're up around the limit of your ISO capability, even a half stop here or there can mean the difference between usable and totally noisy footage.

So, as you get deeper into shooting video, fast glass and variable ND filters definitely will make an appearance on your holiday gift wish list, and sweating the right exposure will bring you back to the nostalgic era of narrow dynamic range slide film.

That is, of course, until they bring out reasonably priced, RAW-capable, large-chip video cameras. That day will come. But until it does, when it comes to exposing your videos, you're just going to have to get it right the first time!

For a schedule of Bob Krist's workshops and seminars, visit www.bobkrist.com and go to the "Teach and Talk" heading.


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