Settings on a DSLR can be overwhelming for a beginner - heck, it can be confusing for intermediates if they didn’t grasp the correct concepts early on in their journey to becoming a great photographer/videographer. Well, if you are one of those that are overwhelmed, that stops for you today.
We are going to touch base on every aspect of shutter speed, when it comes to video. I will be posting an article for the photography side of things here in the near future. Just know, the concepts that I explain in this article in terms of video, can be applied to photography as well. The concepts are just slightly different.
am sure that you have heard about how important shutter speed is in video. So why is it so important?
Yes, shutter speed directly affects natural motion blur. Motion blur is incredibly important in film because it is what our brain is used to seeing on a daily basis. From passing people and cars around you, to you turning your head quickly. You “see” motion blur all of the time, even though you may not even notice it.
Here is an example that I want you to do. Stand up out of your chair (couch, love seat, whatever you are sitting on) - and look straight ahead. Stand there for a couple seconds, and then quickly look or turn left or right by 90 degrees. What I guarantee you saw was motion blur. Everything in front of your eyes, while turning, was moving so fast that your eyes and brain were not capturing everything while turning. This I believe is a way your brain attempts to not overload itself.
The same can be while looking out of the window of a fast moving car. It’s blurry considering you are moving so fast, but have you ever attempted to constantly focus on something that is moving that fast? To me, I start getting a headache - because my brain and eyes are attempting to focus on something that is moving so fast - and it is something it is not used to interpreting.
The result of lack of motion blur
Seeing as we see motion blur throughout our everyday lives - what does it do to the outcome of your video?
It’s simple, you will notice there is something wrong. The majority of people will see that there is something wrong with the video but they can’t put their finger on it. Some may say that your video looks “jittery” or just doesn’t “feel” right. This most likely the result of not having your shutter speed set correctly.
Set your camera to manual
I am sure you have heard this many times over - but it is highly recommended to set your camera to manual mode.
This ensures that your shutter speed stays consistent throughout your shot. If you need more guidance on other settings such as ISO and exposure in general, be sure to check out my other articles on those aspects by clicking on those links.
The worst thing about automatic mode, especially in video, is that your camera will constantly change your settings as your environment changes. The changes in the environment is generally caused by change in light. This change in light will cause your camera to change settings to compensate for the changes in light - one of those is shutter speed (others would be ISO, white balance, etc.)
This is something you want to avoid at all costs - you want your settings to stay consistent throughout your shoot - and adjust all of the settings yourself, manually. Keep your camera in manual - once you get used to shooting in only manual - you will most likely never use automatic ever again.
Where shutter speed is located
Above is an example of a canon camera - of what the shutter speed actually looks like. No matter what camera manufacturer you have - the shutter speed will always look like this. I’ll explain in the next section what the numbers actually mean.
What do the shutter speed numbers mean?
If you have read this far in the article, you are doing great. Do not get discouraged or overwhelmed. You are learning the fundamentals of DSLR videography/photography - these are the things you need to learn to be able to get everything out of the camera you paid good money for. Just keep going!
Getting back to the numbers - the numbers themselves are quite simple, it represents how fast your camera is capturing the image. It’s essentially how long your shutter is open for, to take the image.
For example - if your shutter speed is set at 1/500 - that means your camera is taking an image at 1/500th of a single second. This idea does not change if you are taking photos either. This is how everything works. If your shutter speed in set for 1/30 - that means your camera is capturing a single image at 1/30th of a second. 1/10 means 1/10th of a second etc. etc.
Next we will talk about how this affects your image.
How shutter speed affects your image
Ok, remember when I stated that shutter speed is essentially how long your shutter is open for to take an image? Well, knowing that will better support my next statement.
An example would be - if you start a shot at 1/500 shutter speed - and increased the shutter speed to 1/1000 - the shutter is now faster (double the speed actually) - which means only half of the amount of light is getting to the sensor. This equates to lower light and a darker image. This will directly affect your exposure. Keep this in mind.
Everything is done digitally now - but in the early days of film and photography this is how it actually worked. The standards have stayed the same ever since - but everything now is somewhat “simulated”
The 180 degree rule
I contemplated on whether I should include section of the article - seeing as I don’t associate my shutter speed rules with this 180 degree rule. But...
You may have heard people talk about the 180 degree rule - and honestly, it’s something people shouldn’t even be “teaching” in today’s day and age - because it’s something that was used decades ago with actual film. In a nutshell - it’s the amount of time the film was exposed to light when it was revolving through the reel and lens. I will leave the photo above that explains it in a nutshell as well.
We are now going to move into what shutter speed you should be shooting at.
Your shutter speed should be set to…
Forget the 180 degree rule - to make it simple for you set your shutter speed double your frame rate.
Shutter speed for video is really that simple. To get natural motion blur in video - you need to have it set to double your frame rate. Example would be - if you are shooting at 30 fps - set your shutter speed to 60. If you are shooting at 24 fps, set your shutter speed to 48 - or if you are shooting 60 fps for slow motion, set your shutter speed for 120.
Now, before you freak out and are looking at your camera and notice that you do not have small intervals of shutter speed adjustment (such as 48 or 120) - rest assured, you’re good with using the shutter speed above the number you actually need (50 for 48 or 125 for 120).
Just keep that in mind - if you want your video to look natural - that shutter speed needs to be set double your frame rate.
Next up I am going to show you how to determine if your shutter speed was too slow or too fast - all by looking at video you have shot (or will shoot in the future).
Shutter speed in video is too slow
I will be honest - I have never ran into this issue myself. But I have had friends of mine that have set their shutter speed too low on accident by rolling the adjustment wheel on their canon camera by accident while holding it.
Needless to say, it is very noticeable. The first thing you will notice (depending on the severity of the shutter speed difference), is the fact that the movement in the video is way too blurry. This in itself can look unnatural in itself.
This is caused by the sensor capturing more of every image than it needed to. The sensor was essentially open for too long.
Shutter speed in video is too fast
Now this is something that I have done quite a few times - either by accident or on purpose (we will touch on the benefits here soon).
You will notice first off that everything is jittery. There really isn’t any other way to describe it. Something about it looks unnatural and not smooth. If you have seen it before and didn’t know what the jitter was caused from, that’s it. The first time you see it, and know what you did, you’ll know exactly what it is from that point forward. It’s unmistakable.
This is something that should be avoided at all costs - if this is what you want to avoid. There are certain movies in the past that have not stuck with the double your frame rate rule. The most noteworthy movie, Saving Private Ryan (and a couple other war movies), - It gave you a much more unsettling feeling by allowing you to see every frame of the action by freezing each of those frames instead of allowing them to get blurry.
Interesting uses to slower shutter speed in video
Seeing as slower shutter speeds compared to your framerate introduce more motion blur than is what’s needed… this can be used to your advantage in certain situations.
Take for example, if you are filming a dream scene for a film. If you want that “dreamlike” state, you would shoot at a slower shutter speed to give you that extra motion blur that is associated with dreaming. Another example would be, much like in Saving Private Ryan - when their team was getting bombarded by mortar rounds and the team was suffering from concussion-like effects (being dizzy) - that is the perfect time to use slower shutter speeds.
A third example is if you are portraying someone who is drunk. Swaying side to side and the dizzy feeling, when used in conjunction, will effectively portray being drunk.
Just be aware - as mentioned prior, lowering your shutter speed will increase the brightness of your image. If you find yourself not wanting to change your aperture - you will need to use an ND filter.
Interesting uses to faster shutter speed in video
As with slower shutter speeds, there are uses for faster shutter speeds as well.
For starters, if you find yourself filming a sports game - you will most likely need to increase your shutter speed past double. The speed of a ball or player make your image so blurry that you won’t be able to make them out. Take tennis for example. If you were to follow the double your frame rate rule - a tennis ball during a game would be so blurry you wouldn’t be able to see it. Why? Because the ball is moving so fast and is so small - that you wouldn’t be able to see it.
To capture those fast moving objects, you need to increase your shutter speed. The faster shutter speed ensures that you will capture those fast action moments.
Just know that when you increase your shutter speed, your image will get darker. You may also notice a bit of jittery movement. You shouldn’t get to the point that it decreases the brightness of the image enough to need to boost ISO - but just know that it is there if you need to use it (but use it sparingly).
Let’s wrap it up…
Well, as for shutter speed in video, you should have a pretty good idea of what it is, what you should set it at, and how you can use it to your advantage in certain situations.
Remember, if you want a “normal” film look, double your shutter speed from your frame rate. If you want the dreamy look, lower your shutter speed below that - and if you want to capture fast movement - increase your shutter speed.
If you would like to know more about ISO and exposure feel free to check out my other articles! Also, leave a comment below letting me know how this has helped you, we love reading them!
As always, thank you so much for reading. Until next time, keep shooting!