Shutter Speed, Aperture, Focus, and Frame Rate!

Shutter speed and aperture are similar for filming, in that they control the amount of light that the lens allows in. They are different in how they do this though.

Shutter speed levels deal with 1/xnumber per seconds. So if you’re doing a shoot, and your shutter speed is set to 1000, then it will 1/1000 s (s=seconds). Based on most cameras, the number will increase by doubling the previous number, and will in turn double the amount of light that is let in. If the number is lower, then it will begin halving the amount of light, as it is shorter times.

Say for example, you are taking a picture of a moving vehicle. The higher the speed of the vehicle, the higher the shutter speed will need to be in order to capture the vehicle clearly. It will in turn, blur out the background (typically).

If you are trying to get a shot of something that is moving slowly, then you can get away with a lower shutter speed.

To really really simplify what shutter speed does, is to say that it essentially allows you to capture moving objects with more clarity and focus. That is a very simplified definition of shutter speed. There is a lot more to it.

I find it tends to lend much better to people taking photographs than for video, but of course, if you are filming something that is going very quickly, to get it clearer and better focused, hope that you have your shutter speed setting high.

Aperture deals entirely with how much light comes into the scene. You’ll notice aperture settings start off around 5.6 on average, and usually go up to about 22.

Aperture deals specifically with the lens and widens and closes to allow a certain amount of light in.

To simplify it, the lower the number, the larger the aperture, the higher the number, the smaller the aperture.

So if you have a higher setting for your aperture, less light is likely to get through the lens and will be limited to only a certain part of the image. If it is lower, you will have more light entering the lens causing more of the image to be affected by the light.

Aperture also effects depth of field when combining it with shutter speed. If you have a high shutter speed, and low aperture setting, sometimes, not always, you can get a shot with perfect depth of field. This is when the background is blurred out, and the object is in perfect focus.

If you have a higher aperture setting and a lower shutter speed setting, the image is likely to have more in focus.

It sounds confusing, and the best way to understand it’s effects is to look at examples. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, I was unable to get a really good example displaying this for filming and photo. Despite playing around continuously with the settings, I couldn’t get a perfect example. Just semi-decent ones. Since I’d rather show you something that outlines it quite well, I didn’t bother uploading any examples. My apologies. Wikipedia has an example of this on their aperture page, and any google image search should give you a good idea of what the different settings mean.

Focus is relatively straight forward so there’s nothing to worry about there!

Focus entirely deals with what is clear in your shot. What stands out the most, and how to make sure that it looks good.

Say you’re trying to film a dog toy on the carpet. Immediately, you should know whether or not the ball is in focus. It is your main target and what you want to be seen first in your shot.

If it’s out of focus, the image will be very blurry. It’s possible that the entire shot will be completely blurry.

Out of focus can also relate to the wrong object being in focus. Say you want to get the ball in focus, but you accidentally got the couch in focus instead. The ball will still be out of focus and appear blurry.

Soft focusing is where most beginners tend to have difficulty. Soft focusing means that the image you have is sort of in focus. It looks like it’s in focus but it’s not crisp and sharp. The object is still just a touch blurry and just doesn’t stand out the way you want it to.

Clear focus is what you want. This is when the object – or the ball in this case – is completely in focus. You can see it’s details and it stands out from any other objects in the shot.

Clear focus and a good depth of field is ideal for not only artistic shooting but also to make a shot look beautiful.

If you are shooting a person talking, or trying to get this one shot of a snowy field with a single soccer net sitting alone, make sure you have the right object in focus first. From here, zoom in until the background is blurry. Depending on the lens, this might mean getting closer to the person or object. If you are close enough, then sometimes you might need to zoom in more. This will allow a crisp, sharp, shot of the object or person, without any distractions in the background. The background will be blurred out just enough that the thing you want people to focus on will stand there, quite clearly, without any confusion.

This type of shot is both aesthetically pleasing, and shows that you know what you’re doing. Sometimes it’s tough to get without the right equipment, but it’s worth putting the time in to get. You’ll be happy you did.

Frame rate is difficult because it varies depending on what camera you have.

In my case, on my Panasonic Lumix GH3, the setting is a matter of percentage. So if I want to slow it down really slow, I have it film at 40%, if I want it really fast, I have it film at 300%.

The percentages deal entirely with how many frames it takes in. The faster the shot, the less frames there. The slower the shot, the more frames there are.

Some cameras, as I’ve been told, use a 1/# of frames per second. On here, I’d imagine it’d be about the same thing. The more frames you have, so say 1/.5 seconds (I think that’s possible), will allow the camera to film several more frames. If you do it at a higher rate say 1/25 seconds, it will speed it up because it will not be shooting every frame. Only every so many frames. (I’m not entirely certain on the numbers per seconds so don’t take my word on that)

So, the more frames you incorporate, the slower the shot will be. The lower the number of frames you have, the faster the shot will be.

For shooting in general, frame rate also includes this:

Most standard cameras will shoot at 24 to 30 frames per second. For web videos, you will more than likely be shooting around 30p. This is 30 frames per second progressive.

Progressive means that all the lines in the frame are drawn in sequence. This allows for a generally smoother image and appears more realistic to the viewer.

Interlacing doubles the frame rate – 50i, 60i – and allows for two different sets of “lines” to appear. This essentially allows overlapping of shots as it’s shooting. It can create clearer video as it enhances motion and reduces flickers.

So which do you use to shoot? Well that depends on your camera and what you’re shooting for.

For HD TV, you would want to be shooting at a high resoultion of 1920-1080 with 60i. This shoots at a high resolution, giving further clarity to the image. The interlacing, in my opinion, is up to you ultimately. You can use progressive for this, you just need to make sure that it’s high enough to accomodate HD programming. 60i may also not be high enough. You may need to shoot in something higher like 1080p or 1080i. 6oi for HD cameras, tend to be for using broadcast cameras for video that will go on the web.

Web filming is also different. While trying to maintain quality and not having a huge file on your hands, your best bet is to shoot 1920-1080 at 24p or 30p. For web, I shoot at 1920-1080 30p. After this, because I use a mirrorless slr, I have to convert the footage to mp4 format, so that when I export as a quicktime movie, it will upload with some decent quality onto youtube. I highly recommend that if you have a DSLR, that you do this. Convert all the footage to Apple Pro RES LT, and then use those videos for editing. The file might end up being a bit bigger than you’d like, but it’s good quality and not too hefty, so it’ll make uploading video much easier and you will have nice clear quality.

I always recommend shooting at a high resolution, and as high as possible for either interlace or progressive.

All right, I think I rambled on enough. Here are some examples of shutter speed, focus, and frame rate (for sped up and slowed down shots).

The shutter speed footage is a bit difficult to tell but I think the trees blowing do change the quality of the video as the shutter speed is brought up. Of course, there’s no reason why you would need to shoot trees blowing in the wind at 4000.

Also, since I convert all my footage, it would be difficult to show you the difference between the different frames per second and resolution. I don’t know how clearly that would come across (I need to experiment more with it), so there won’t be anything in the video showing that unfortunately.

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About rachelsparling

I'm a writer working on a manuscript for a novel. I love to write and I've been doing it for 13 years. Through several story ideas I have figured out what works and what doesn't, and I've learned a lot about myself and my writing style. I love to read and escape to many different worlds. I've also learned a lot about good writing and bad writing through both reading a lot and acquiring an education in English literature. I enjoy filming and photographing all sorts of things and putting together short documentaries and videos. I love my camera.
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