An almost complete guide that will introduce a seasoned photographer to the world of videography.
In my most humble unscientific opinion, if you know photography, you are not halfway there to videography, but just 30%.
You already know composition and lighting, the other 70% is storytelling with motion and sound.
Some general facts to note when shooting videos.
- You are shooting still photos continuously
- You are shooting moving photos in JPEG quality
Shooting video is easy. Just press the record button. The difference is knowing what to shoot and how to sequence the shots in editing to actually tell a visual story.
Let’s get deeper into the things you need to know about videography.
Again, the information I present here is only my opinion as a corporate videographer who has been paid to produce business videos for nearly 20 years.
I make events and business videos that are mainly distributed over the internet, instead of TV and cinema.
You may read other articles and the advice may be different, depending on which point of view the writer is coming from.
Storytelling with Sequences
In photography, you capture the moment. In videography, you capture a sequence.
For every scene, capture at least three versions from different perspectives, angles and focal points.
Lead the viewer from one moment to the next moment. Tell a visual story.
Ask yourself what the viewer may like to see next. Capture that and then ask the same question again for every following scene.
Always ask yourself TWO important questions throughout the video-making process from conceptualising to shooting to editing: (1) Who is the target audience watching your video? (2) What is the ONE message of your video?
Stick to that one message or one goal in your video. Speak to one person in the narration. Use the three-part story structure to captivate the viewer from the beginning to the end.
Remember, the storyline is most important in any video.
Ok, let’s get into the technicals.
Frame Rate (Frames Per Second or fps)
When setting your camera in the video recording mode, you will be given options to select for Frame Rate, measured in Frames Per Second or fps for short.
The common options are 24p, 25p, 30p, 50p, 50i, 60p, and 60i.
If the frame rate is 24fps, that means the camera is capturing 24 still images in one second. Hence 30fps is 30 stills in 1 second and so on.
The “p” behind the frame rate number represents “progressive”, which is how images are captured, one full picture after another progressively.
The “i” behind some of the frame rate numbers represents “interlace”, which means images are captured line by line, then interlaced to form a full picture. That’s how traditional TV cameras work.
So choose “p” over “i”.
If you are in Singapore, or most Asian and European countries, or PAL TV system countries, choose 25fps.
If you are in USA, Japan, or countries that use NTSC TV system, choose 30fps.
Choosing the wrong frame rate may result in flickering videos when shooting under fluorescent lights.
24fps is usually used to create the film-look feel.
60fps and higher are usually used to create smoother slow-motion.
Exposure is Done Differently
In videography, it is a good practice to keep the exposure constant throughout the shoot.
Use manual (M) or Shutter priority (S) mode as far as possible.
Put aside whatever you know about exposure setting for photography because it’s a different method.
What’s the difference? Here goes.
Shutter Speed – Set your shutter speed to 1/50 if you are shooting at 25fps frame rate and 1/60 at 30fps. Once it’s set, don’t ever change your shutter speed during the shoot. This is the major difference when compared with photography. 2 things may happen if you change the shutter speed, a blurry motion or a stuttery motion.
Aperture – Aperture is the control we will adjust most often to compensate for varying lighting conditions. In fact, in a regular video camera, the aperture is the only adjustment for exposure. On a DSLR or mirrorless camera, the aperture is also used to control the depth of field.
ISO – The way ISO work has evolved since photography changed from physical film to digital. In the film days, ISO is the measure of the light sensitivity of the film and remains the same as long as the film is in the camera. Today, ISO in a digital camera refers to the overall sensitivity of the scene, which does not make sense till you know how a similar function called Gain works on a regular video camera. Simply put, increasing the ISO, merely increases the brightness of the image electronically, which has a danger of introducing grains if set too high. Again set ISO once and never change it during the video shoot. I like to set ISO at 100 for sunny outdoors and anything less than 1600 for indoors.
ND Filters – Ok, this one works on the same principle as photography, to block out part of a harsh sunlight situation.
Stabilizing Your Camera
You need to keep your video shot steady at all times. Remember, it is not a still.
By default, always mount your camera on a video tripod.
Know that a video tripod is not the same as a photo tripod. The head does not swing wildly when loosened.
When going handheld, try using gimbals or electronic stabilizers.
Lenses for Videography
Prime, Standard, Telephoto, Wide Angle and Fisheye lenses. That is what most video makers use. It’s more than sufficient to shoot different styles and angles for videos.
Get lenses with built-in image stabilizers, usually marker with “IS”, to reduce shakiness.
- Recommended Prime Lens for video: Rokinon 35mm Cine T1,5 Lens, Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens
- Recommended Lens for Video Interviews: Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 Lens, Canon EF-S 17-55m f/2.8 IS USM Lens
- Recommended Video Lens for Blurred Background: Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM L Lens
- Recommended Telephoto Lens for Shooting Video: Canon EF 135mm f/2 L USM Lens
- Recommended Cine Lens for Video: Rokinon Cine 85mm f/1.5 Lens
- Recommended Wide Angle Lens for Video: Canon 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens, Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 Lens
- Recommended Fish Eye Lens for Video: Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 Lens
Audio is the Other Half of your Video
We used to say audio is 60% of your video, but ever since Facebook introduced automatic silent video playback on mobile, you need to learn how to make a captivating video without sound.
If your viewer is watching your video with the sound turned on, then the quality of the audio will determine whether your video will fail or succeed.
The quality of the audio is especially important for voice-overs, narration, or people speaking.
No matter how great the visual quality of your video is, it fails immediately if a voice is too soft or drowned out by other noise.
Always use External Microphones when recording voices. Place the microphone as close to the moth as possible, preferably within 6 inches.
I have 3 types of external clip-on microphones.
- Sennheiser G3 wireless microphone. I use this professionally most of the time.
- Sony AW4 Bluetooth wireless microphone. I use this for run and gun interviews.
- Audio-Technica wired microphone. Sometimes we don’t need wireless.
The above are all “clip-on” microphone vs hand-held and shotgun microphones. We want to “clip” the microphone on to the interviewee’s clothing as close to the mouth as possible.
Many so-called “experts” advice using shotgun microphones attached to the top of your camera.
My take is DON’T use shotgun microphone if you seriously want good quality voice recording.
A shotgun mic is only as good (read as bad) as your camera inbuilt mic if your interviewee is more than 6 inches away from it.
Always wear headphones or earphones when recording audio. Why? You want to detect any audio interference on the spot and rectify it instead of going back to your editing studio and regret finding out your audio recording is not useable.
My Favourite Camera for Video Shooting
I transitioned from tradition video camera to mirrorless cameras for my professional work. These are my favourites.
- Panasonic FZ2500
- Panasonic GH5
The Canon 5D Mk III (not the Mk IV) may be the last best DSLR for video shooting, especially when used with the Magic Lantern hack.
The Sony A7R III could be the mirrorless powerhouse for both videographers and photographers.
My Favourite Video Editing Software
Photographers have long relied on Adobe Photoshop to enhance images. So the best bet for video editing software is Adobe’s own Premiere Pro. It has everything I need to enhance my videos without going out to another software. It’s only S$66 per month for the whole suite of Adobe software which we will need, like After Effects, Audition, and of course Photoshop. They run on both Mac and Windows.
Further Reading on Becoming a Videographer
Here are more articles on the same topic, but remember that each practitioner has their own recommendation. So understand your own needs before making a decision.
Attend Videography Courses to Up Your Skills
Mastering video shooting and editing take time. Start with the basics before moving on to advanced cinematics.
There is a lot more to learn, like b-rolls, cutaways, cut-ins, white balance, codecs, video formats, best video size for Facebook, Youtube and Instagram, continuous autofocus, sliders, time-lapse, slow motion, reverse motion, pre-production, storyboards and scripts, adding text, music and special effects, shooting interviews, and more.
Hence I have created a 2-day Videography and Video Editing Course for Beginners in Singapore.
Welcome to the world of videography.
~ From the Journal of Adrian Lee, Singapore