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Cheat Sheet

Digital SLR Video & Filmmaking For Dummies

Making movies with a digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera originally designed for still photographs presents some unique challenges. You can’t hold or operate it like a traditional camcorder, and you can’t handle it the same way you would if you were shooting still photos. After you get past that, you can create stunning, high-quality videos using the relatively inexpensive DSLR.

Getting Ready to Make Movies with Your DSLR

Besides making sure your DSLR is up for the challenge of making movies, the art of making movies lies in how well you plan it. Preparation is the key. Poor planning leads to poor production, so consider the following before setting out to make your cinematic masterpiece.

  • Think of the DSLR as a movie camera and not a still photo camera.

  • Keep your gear bag packed at all times.

  • Charge all of your batteries and bring extras.

  • Have an extra digital media card.

  • Follow your script and shot list.

Tips for Your DSLR Movie Shoot

Whether you’re on location or in the photo studio, be sure to consider the following tips when shooting your video footage on your DSLR camera:

  • Keep the camera steady by mounting it to a tripod or by using a camera rig.

  • Focus often and then refocus to be safe.

  • Take white balance and use a white card whenever possible.

  • Adjust exposure manually and try not to use the automatic mode.

  • Set the correct shutter speed. Sometimes you select a shutter speed to freeze action; other times, it's to adjust exposure.

  • Vary angles for each shoot. This makes it easy to construct your edit.

  • Include an establishing shot. It explains much to the viewer.

  • Consider your camera movements. From panning and tilting to dolly and crane shots, these techniques help visually tell the story.

  • Be liberal with your focal length.

  • Think about your edit when you shoot so that you get exactly what you need.

Capturing Audio for Your DSLR Shoot

Remember, even when using a DSLR camera to shoot video, the better your movie sounds, the better it looks. Take this advice to make your audio the best it can be:

  • Try not to use the built-in microphone on your DSLR camera.

  • Use a stick microphone when you’re close to the subject.

  • An on-camera microphone works well to capture ambient sound.

  • Bring a lavaliere microphone for sit-down interviews.

  • Always monitor the audio with headphones.

Editing Your DSLR Video

After shooting your movie, it’s time to edit it. Whether you're using Adobe Premiere Elements to work with your footage or some other program, keep the following in mind:

  • Transfer the video files to your hard drive.

  • Provide as much metadata as possible.

  • Always start a new project.

  • Keep your files organized.

  • Name your project before starting it and save often.

  • Make sure you have enough hard drive space to edit. Check the editing program's minimum requirements.

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