DSLR Filmmaking

 What does DSLR stand for? 

DSLR means Digital Single Lens Reflex camera.

The DSLR camera was originally invented as a stills camera, the video feature was added to the camera as an ‘extra’ and it has now become the equipment of choice for many filmmakers. 

The advantages of using a DSLR for Filmmaking:

  • The cost to quality ratio is superb. The cameras we looked at (the Canon 550 and the Canon 5D) both recorded in full HD (1920×1080)
  • The cameras are more adaptable, the lenses can be changed.
  • They are smaller and more manoeuvrable, this also makes them good for guerrilla filmmaking because you can pass as a tourist taking photographs and are relatively inconspicuous.
  • You can get a ‘pro’ feel from using the camera. Very cinematic films can be shot on a DSLR.

The disadvantages of using a DSLR for Filmmaking:

  • The DSLRs are less forgiving, shake is detected more easily and it can ruin your shots.
  • They can be a bit too technical for casual users, you really have to master using it to produce great quality shots.
  • The lens prices, the lens can cost almost the same, if not more than the actual body of the camera.
  • There is a stigma attached to using a DSLR, people don’t think its a ‘real’ camera and expect to see a great big z1. However the BBC are currently experimenting to see if it would be possible to broadcast footage shot on a DSLR camera. In my opinion if filmmakers such as Gareth Edwards are able to shoot features on a DSLR surely they can air a programme shot on a smaller camera.
  • The sound quality you get with the onboard mic of a DSLR camera is very poor. Chris who ran the course recommended getting an external mic such as a Roland Sound Recorder with a road mic.
  • The main problem with the DSLR cameras is that there is no way to monitor sound on them with out using a special hack.

We then had the chance to use the Canon 5D to film a few short clips and experiment with the depth of field and different lenses. I was blown away by how easy it was to create beautiful looking shots.

Using a DSLR checklist: 

  • Check what size memory card you have (16GB is about 30 mins worth of filming)
  • Check the settings you have your video at (1920×1080? 24frames?)
  • Set your ISO (The higher the number the more grain but  it becomes brighter)
  • Set your Aperture / F Stop level (the lower the number the more light)
  • Set the shutter (50 standard)
  • Set the zoom and the focus (the zoom button can help this)
  • Press record and each shot shouldn’t be longer than 4/5 minutes
  • Clapperbord/clap to sync sound
  • Record your masterpiece 🙂
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4 thoughts on “DSLR Filmmaking

  1. Pingback: DSLR Filmmaking Workshop. | elizabethvalentinasutton

  2. Hi, I just finished shooting my first independent film on a 550 D. Although the results were beyond my expectations, doing sound was a nightmare. I used a lapel wireless mic for recording dialogues, but there was no way I could record ambient sound without using an external sound recorder. Is there an alternative method of doing sound when using a DSLR apart from independent sound recorders?

  3. Hey there, I too recently filmed my first short film with my 550D and struggled with sound. I used my external Zoom H4 recorder which is great because I could monitor the sound with it etc. I have heard about a software for DSLR cameras called Magic Lantern which supposedly enables a sound monitor for your cameras built in mic. I cannot speak from personal experience about Magic Lantern as I have not yet used it and have some reservations about downloading the software onto my DSLR in case it stopped working or something but it could be something you want to look into if you aren’t happy using external sound recorders.

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