For cinema-like results, nothing beats shooting on a digital SLR. The size of the image sensor can be 20 times larger than what’s found in a video camera, resulting in a brighter, crisper, and more HD-looking image. Put a beautiful fast lens on the camera at its maximum f-stop—like f/2.0 or f/2.8—and the background goes out of focus for a wonderful image with a dreamy quality (Figure 4.10).
Figure 4.10 You’ll want to learn how to check and adjust your focus on your DSLR for different effects.
However, making videos on DSLRs such as the Canon EOS Rebel line can be a frustrating experience for a beginner, even though the final result can look amazing if you held the camera steady with a tripod and have the hang of how to keep the Rebel T3i or older models in focus. The newest Rebel, the T4i, addresses focus issues, but earlier versions don’t stay in focus once you start recording and move your position. It can be a challenge. Here’s how to focus with the older Rebel T3i and other DSLRs like it:
- For the Rebel T3i, start by clicking the movie button on the back of the camera by the red dot. This sets the 3-inch LCD viewfinder to “live view.”
- You’ll be composing directly on the LCD, which can be tough if you’re outside in bright sun. If this is an issue, pick up an LCD shade, which could be found at any camera shop.
- I usually set the lens to manual focus (on the lens, switch from A to M) because it won’t stay in focus automatically. On the Rebel T3i, you set focus by pointing-and-clicking the button on the far right, the one normally used for choosing where your focus dot will go in your composition. This button lets you magnify the image—for image-composing purposes only—and will give you a much clearer focus check.
- Once filming begins, be sure to be on your toes. The subject will go out of focus if he or she moves. To prevent this, try to use a medium f-stop setting like f/5.6 or f/8, which will give you more focus latitude. The image will look best at a wide opening such as f/2.8. This gives you a big, blurry background, but the amount of area in focus will be limited.
On several Sony and Nikon DSLRs, along with the Canon Rebel T4i, autofocus will stay in place when you start recording. However, finding the record button is different on these cameras. Sony has the best-marked red record button—it’s even labeled Movie. For Nikon, there’s a little lever next to the red button labeled LV, which stands for “Live View,” which indicates the ability to compose directly on the LCD instead of through the viewfinder.
A good tripod is a must while recording videos with DSLRs, whether it is a small camera such as the Rebel T4i or bigger cameras such as the Canon 60D and Canon 5D Mark II—the image will look way too shaky if you try handheld recording.
There are tons of accessories for DSLR cameras, but this one will probably help you more than any other: the Hoodman H-LLP3 HoodLoupe 3.0 Professional 3-inch screen loupe (Figure 4.11). Attach it to the LCD, and you’ll not only be able to compose in direct sunlight, you’ll also be able to fine-tune your focus because the loupe brings the image directly to your eye with 1-to-1 magnification. (Spend another $20 for Hoodman’s Cinema Strap and you won’t have to hold the loupe over the LCD—it will lock in place.) Hoodman also sells a $25 lens shade that goes directly over the LCD to block the sun.
Figure 4.11 The HoodLoupe Pro is a great investment, especially if you are shooting outdoors.