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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Solutions: Video Fundamentals

A primer to get you started shooting video with a DSLR

Your DSLR probably has several options for image resolution. It's debatable which one is best for you, and as always, there are trade-offs to choosing one resolution over another. In general, it's best to go with the highest resolution you can. So-called full HD is 1080x1920, meaning 1080 horizontal lines of resolution by 1920 vertical lines of resolution. Your HDTV set at home is probably only capable of 720 horizontal lines, so some people suggest that it's overkill to choose a higher resolution. It's a valid point, but by choosing the higher value, you're future-proofing your videos as much as possible. On some cameras, you'll see the resolution expressed as a single number followed by a "p" or an "i" (e.g., 1080p or 1080i). The letter refers to "progressive" versus "interlaced." Without delving into the technical virtues of each, you'll get the best results by selecting the highest progressive setting you can. If you have 720p and 1080i, go with 720p.

The biggest trade-off to selecting the higher resolutions we suggest is in memory. Higher resolution takes up more space faster. This is why we recommend that you always have plenty of memory card capacity. Once you're importing your video into the computer, you'll also find that higher resolution is more cumbersome to edit together and process, but as long as you have a reasonably up-to-date system and software, this really won't be a huge issue, and the higher resolution will be well worth it when you're watching the finished video.

Shooting Tips
Shooting motion isn't exactly the same as shooting stills; it helps to think a little differently. Even for motion snapshots, try to imagine the action unfolding on the screen before you shoot. Think of an establishing shot that shows the broad context, followed by a tight shot that shows the intimate detail. If possible, have some action sequences. You don't need to sketch detailed storyboards, but try to make a mental list. The variety really will pay off when you're editing things together down the line.
When it comes to the action shots, remember video should record action, not create it. Beware of doing a lot of zooming—usually no zooming is best—and keep pans and tilts smooth, steady and as minimal as possible. Let the action in the frame carry the moment.

Keep your shots short. You can control this while you're shooting, as well as in the editing process. Keep shots brief to keep your audience engaged. The next time you're watching a movie, notice how many cuts there are in just a few minutes of the movie. Keeping shots short makes for interesting video. Remember, you don't need to make something several minutes long here. A good 30-second video is much more interesting to watch than a boring 2-minute video.

These are just some of the basics to get you going on your first project. In future issues of OP, we'll explore the basics of editing and making more narrative videos. Once you take the first steps, you'll find that you'll quickly get the hang of making something that's fun to watch and fun to make.


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