Shoot­ing HD video on your HD DSLR 

This is a very sim­ple guide to get you out there and shoot­ing with your HD DSLR cam­era.
Why shoot HD on a video-capa­ble DSLR when there are numer­ous HD video cam­eras on the mar­ket to suit your bud­get.
The sim­ple answer, apart from afford­abil­i­ty, is because most peo­ple want to get the ‘film look’ with­out spend­ing the big bucks on real movie cam­eras and lens­es.
Cin­e­ma look
What is the cin­e­ma or ‘film look’? As usu­al every­thing is in the eye of the behold­er, but put sim­ply the ‘film look’ is asso­ci­at­ed with a shal­low depth of field (DoF) — keep­ing your sub­ject in focus and throw­ing the back­ground out of focus allow­ing the film­mak­er to con­trol the audi­ence atten­tion and draw them into the sto­ry.
Let’s look at what these pro stills cam­eras offer. First­ly, unlike video cam­corders, pro­fes­sion­al stills cam­eras are full-frame (35mm) or have a cropped sen­sor, which is big­ger than the largest 2/3inch broad­cast cam­era sen­sor. These cam­eras allow for inter­change­able lens­es, unlike most video cam­eras, which have fixed zoom lens­es. With inter­change­able lens­es you have the choice of primes (fixed focal lengths) or zooms. Fast lens­es (low F-stops) give you shal­low DoF, which is what you are look­ing for to get that ‘film look’.
Oth­er than lens­es, in order to achieve the ‘film look’, video should be record­ed the way film is made. Film cam­eras run at 24 frames per sec­ond where­as most video-capa­ble stills cam­eras run at 30p (pro­gres­sive scan or one full frame), which is slight­ly slow­er motion and will cause audio sync prob­lems. The Canon 7D sup­ports var­i­ous film rates includ­ing the all-impor­tant 24p and the Canon 5D Mark ll has had a recent firmware upgrade to 24p.
Low light is anoth­er advan­tage HD DSLR’s have over video cam­eras and can be used to great effect.
Size counts
Next up is form fac­tor. HD DSLR’s are small and light and are great for tight spaces where most pro­fes­sion­al movie cam­eras would be too big for such spaces. This has huge advan­tages on a movie set sav­ing you time and mon­ey. For exam­ple, if you were shoot­ing on a kitchen set and want­ed a reverse angle on one of the actors you may have to remove one of the walls of the set to get your movie cam­era in the right posi­tion for the shot you want­ed. With a HD DSLR on a much small­er rig you would have no prob­lem.
On the move
For a steady shot hand­held on a stills cam­era you would need to shoot at 1/60th of a sec­ond. These cam­eras are not designed for 24 frames per sec­ond. How­ev­er, many com­pa­nies pro­duce sup­port sys­tems to sta­b­lise these cam­eras, which allows you to get sta­ble shots even on the move. One sim­ple and inex­pen­sive solu­tion is Steady­bag. For more pro­fes­sion­al dol­ly shots there is Glide­track.
This is HD DSLR’s Achilles heel. The built-in mic does not fea­ture pro­fes­sion­al XLR input. Also, mon­i­tor­ing the audio by head­phones is dif­fi­cult as the LCD is turned off when you attach a head-set. Again, there are com­pa­nies out there that sell devices to solve this prob­lem. Here is one such device for pro audio record­ing and suit­able for HD DSLR shoot­ers, the Zoom H4n. It is a mobile record­ing jack-of-all-trades at an afford­able price that includes built-in stereo micro­phones, pro­fes­sion­al XLR and abil­i­ty to record four inde­pen­dent chan­nels at the same time. For portable recorder reviews and rat­ings go to This excel­lent web­site also gives sound sam­ples.
Syn­chro­ni­sa­tion is done in post with a ref­er­ence sig­nal. A sim­ple clap­per board will suf­fice for this pur­pose.
View­ing while you shoot
The cam­eras viewfind­er is blocked on DSLR’s when record­ing and it is dif­fi­cult to see detail on the LCD when light is falling on it. There­fore, hav­ing a sep­a­rate LCD screen can prove use­ful. If you are work­ing with a crew, espe­cial­ly a focus puller, a sep­a­rate screen is a must have piece of equip­ment. Small­hd cer­tain­ly lives up to its name with a screen size of 5.6” and excep­tion­al res­o­lu­tion for its size.
Rolling shut­ter
Bet­ter know as the ‘jel­lo effect’ when the image wob­bles. This only affects cam­eras with CMOS sen­sors (Can­non, Nikon to name but a few) and not ones with CCD sen­sors. The effect occurs when the cam­era is panned or when fast mov­ing objects enter the frame. The solu­tion for both prob­lems is record slow­ly and speed it up in post or if you are only pan­ning across a sta­t­ic frame try doing it very slow­ly and smooth­ly. Here is a plug-in for After Effects and Nuke called Rolling­Shut­ter, which will solve the prob­lem.
AVCHD, Canon 5D Mark ll and Canon 7D edit­ing
AVCHD uses the H.264 codec, which requires a lot of com­pres­sion. The colour (Chro­ma) sig­nal is record­ed in a for­mat known as 4:2:0 (com­pos­ite video) which is half the colour res­o­lu­tion of pro­fes­sion­al (com­po­nent video) 4:2:2 for­mats.
With soft­ware like Neo Scene by Cine­form, your dif­fi­cult to edit footage will be con­vert­ed to indus­try-stan­dard AVI or MOV files for more accu­rate colour pro­cess­ing dur­ing edit­ing. Neo Scene sup­ports most Windows/Mac soft­ware includ­ing FCP, iMovie, Adobe Pre­miere, Sony Vegas, Movie Stu­dio.
As more and more peo­ple start using these cam­eras we can expect more stun­ning images in con­tent made for the web that look like they have been cre­at­ed using pro­fes­sion­al movie equip­ment.