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What Not to Do in Your DSLR Film

In order to make a good DSLR film, think about it from the opposing side and consider the things that make a bad shot, and ultimately, a bad movie. Knowing the bad is just as helpful as knowing the good.

Too much camera movement

Nothing is worse than watching a video that looks like the camera was placed on top of a washing machine during the spin cycle. It’s not bad if you want to reproduce the effect of an earthquake, but it’s not good for much else.

Reason: Shakiness usually occurs because the operator is holding the camera by hand, especially when using a telephoto lens.

Solution: Use a tripod or some stabilization device.

Too much camera zoom

Either your audience feels as though they’re inside a trombone, moving back and forth, or they're riding the brake hard on a crash course. In either situation, it’s not a pleasant experience.

Reason: The lens zooms too much.

Solution: Lock down the desired focal length and press Record. If you want to bring the subject closer, capture at least ten seconds of footage before you zoom in. And when you do zoom, leave it there.

Panned shots

The camera moves side to side as if the action were the finals of the U.S. Open. Too much head movement makes you dizzy.

Reason: Someone who’s forgotten that movies are put together in the camera but not edited in-camera.

Solution: Make sure the subject stays in the frame by rehearsing and then watching the take closely.

Tilted frames

When you look at the movie like your dog responds to a new word, something is probably wrong, and that’s a tilted frame.

Reason: The camera showed a level horizon when you pressed the Record button, but that changed at some point, either from the tripod head not being tight enough or the tripod being accidently moved.

Solution: Always check that the horizon is level before shooting the scene. If your intention is a Dutch angle, make sure it’s properly exaggerated so it doesn’t look like a mistake. (A Dutch angle is when you intentionally tilt the fame for effect.)

Subject disappears from camera view

The subject moves across the frame, getting dangerously close to the edge until it consumes the top of her head, which makes the audience wonder if that was an outtake.

Reason: Errors in camera blocking cause the subject to walk out of the frame.

Solution: Rehearse subject movement and watch each take.

Objects disappear from the edge of the camera screen

It’s that pesky problem of parts of the shot being cut off again.

Reason: What the camera records and what different screens show are sometimes two different things. Sometimes, entire parts of the scene are absent. What shows up on one monitor may disappear off the edge of another.

Solution: Stay inside the television-safe area. If your viewfinder doesn’t display a TV-safe border, just leave a little extra room on the edges.

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