Getting the settings right
As we get further into the recording process, you’ll want to start understanding the settings in your camera. Knowing how to adjust and fine-tune settings can give you an edge and better understanding of what’s happening in the camera.
Let me be clear: for most people, automatic settings work just fine. In fact, if the idea of messing with your camera settings scares you, rest assured that you can set your camera to “Automatic” and it’ll be great!
That being said, if you like a little more control, you’ll want to get familiar with whatever features your camera has to offer.
Do note that every camera is different and yours may not have some of the settings discussed on this page, and that’s okay. Spend a bit of time in your camera and see what it offers.
If you want to start getting into fine-tuning your camera settings, here are the primary settings to familiarize yourself with.
Frame rate, or frames-per-second (FPS), describes how many single images that construct a video will be captured over the span of a single second.
At its core a video is simply a series of images stitched together to trick our brains that something is in motion. If you pause a video, you’ll see a single frame, one of which makes up the entire video.
There are only a handful of standard (and acceptable) frame rates. At an industry level, here are the most common frame rates:
- Film (cinema) – 24 FPS. considered to be more cinematic and is most commonly used in feature films. There is also 48 FPS which has less motion blur because there’s more information, but not everyone likes the clarity it brings.
- Video/broadcast (television) – 25 FPS is the broadcast standard in Europe, while 30 and 60 FPS are the broadcast standards in US
A modern camera is going to capture in most if not all of these frame rates, so it really depends on what your camera has.
Frame rate depends on the kind of look and feel you’re going for. 24 FPS has been associated with a more film-like feel, while higher frame rates like 30 or 60 allow for better clarity at the cost of looking a bit like a soap opera you might see on TV.
I actually record most of my footage in 60 FPS but edit and export in 24 FPS. This gives me the option of slowing down the footage for a slow-motion effect, but I can still maintain a video look and feel I like.
In short: my recommendation for beginners is to film and edit in either 24 or 30 FPS. These are acceptable frame rates that are pretty standard and you can easily manage.
ISO stands for International Standards Organization and it is the standardized way of measuring sensitivity to light.
In simple terms, the higher your ISO levels, the more sensitive to light your camera sensor becomes.
In simpler terms: ISO is a digital way to brighten or darken an image.
If there’s not enough light in your scene or location, the camera will attempt to make up for it and pretend there is light in certain spots, which can result in noise or graininess.
ISO should be as low as possible to get the best image you can, unless you have no other option and possibly a good plugin to take the grain out of your video.
Good light is not always possible, and sometimes you‘ll have to just deal with it if you want to use the video.
In any case, the lower the ISO is the better the image quality will be, but you can use it to brighten the image if you want.
Shutter speed is probably the most confusing of all the settings for most people just getting started. Don’t worry, it will make sense.
The shutter is a mechanical segment inside the camera that opens and closes for a set period of time. While it’s open, light is let in from the outside and hits the sensor.
The longer the shutter is open, the more light comes in. This can result in what we see as blurred images, because what the camera is looking at is hitting the sensor for a longer period of time.
- Fast shutter speed = sharper image but darker
- Slow shutter speed = lighter image but not as sharp
This is simulated with modern digital cameras, but is basically the amount of time the light is allowed to hit the sensor inside the camera.
For vlogging it’s not as important to monitor and adjust shutter speed, as long as it’s fast enough for your image to not be blurry (unless that’s the effect you’re going for.)
A good rule of thumb is to have your shutter speed at least twice your frame rate. So if you’re filming at 24 FPS, you’d set the shutter to be a minimum of 50 (or 1/50th of a second). Or if you’re filming at 60 FPS, the shutter speed would be a minimum of 120 (or 1/120th of a second).
Like I said, manually adjusting camera settings can be confusing. If you’re not comfortable with messing with shutter speed, just leave it alone and the camera will figure out the rest.
In most cases, the automatic settings on your camera will work just fine. The camera will do the heavy lifting to determine how all of these settings should work together to produce a good image.
If you like the idea of messing with the settings, take some time to familiarize yourself with your camera. Play with the settings, record some test footage, and play it back and see what you think.