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Depth of Field in Your Video: Why and How to Use It

Depth of field is a very technical-sounding term, but don’t let that scare you off. It’s simple to understand. If you use it well, you can transform ordinary images into cinematic marvels that your friends, family, and clients (and you!) will love. Aiden looks at his fingers

Today I’m going to share with you what depth of field is, why you might use it, how to create it, and also throw in several helpful tips that will make it easier to work with.

First, what is it? Continue reading Depth of Field in Your Video: Why and How to Use It

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Three Tips for Shooting Video Outdoors

Cristina at the castle

Do you like to shoot video outdoors? I do. The sunlight looks amazing, especially in the morning and evening.

I could give you many tips for shooting video outdoors, maybe enough to fill a book. But in this article, my goal is to give you three big tips that will dramatically improve the quality of video you shoot outdoors.

By the way, I’m going to assume that you’re shooting video of a person. (The tips would be slightly different if you were shooting video of a building, for example.)

Here we go…

Tip #1

Place the subject between you and the sun. This will light your subject from their back. That’s why the subject is said to be “backlit.”

Why put the sun behind them? A few things happen when you do this…

Your subject gets rimmed by a halo of light. This creates a bright line that separates your subject from the background. Because it appears to be separate, it also layers your subject in front of the background elements, emphasizing the 3D nature of the world — even though the video image itself is a 2D image.

Backlighting also emphasizes your subject’s form. If there is something important about their form that you want to emphasize (pregnancy, cowboy hat, unique nose. etc.), you can use the rim light to emphasize the characteristic.

Also, backlighting places their front in shadow which creates a more dramatic look. This is a good tip in and of itself — if you want more dramatic lighting, place the shadow toward the camera.

Tip #2

Blur out the background behind your subject.

Zoom in on your subject and use a wide aperture so you get a shallow depth of field. People ask me all the time how to do this, and it’s very simple. To get a shallow depth of field requires two things:

  1. A long focal length. If you have a zoom lens, then move it toward telephoto.
  2. A wide aperture (low F-stop, wide iris).

If you open the aperture and zoom in, you’ll get a beautifully shallow depth of field and that will create a blurry background.

Tip #3

It’s possible that your subject won’t stay in one place, so…

Use a fluid-head tripod to follow your subject with a smooth movement. Try to emphasize either tilting up and down, or panning back and forth. My personal preference is to try not to mix them. Either I’m tilting or panning, not doing both (usually).

One bonus tip about using a fluid head tripod: If you have the ability to adjust the resistance, turn it up very high. If you’re like me, you might find you get smoother movements with the resistance turned up. It looks better when you ease into the pan or tilt, and the extra resistance helps create that effect.

Bonus Tip #4

The best time to do backlighting is when the sun is at a 45 degree angle in the sky. If the sun is too low, the light shines directly into the lens, creating lens flare and reducing the contrast in your image.

If the sun is too high in the sky, the light falls too much on their shoulders and head. Also, it creates deep shadows in the subject’s eyes. This might not be the look you want.

I could say a lot more about shooting video outdoors, but these tips should help make a big impact in the quality of your video.

As always, I’d love to hear what’s worked for you and any ideas you have. Please give me your thoughts in the comments…

* Photo by Florin Draghici
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Izzy Video 166 – How to Shoot Video in Low Light Situations

Izzy Video 166

When you shoot video in low light situations, the results can be very frustrating. You’ll find the image is full of noise, particularly in the shadows. The overall look is muted, under-saturated, and flat. Sometimes the image looks soft.

Yet we see examples of great-looking low light shots in television and movies all the time. How do they get those shots?

This tutorial will answer that question. In it, I show you the seven keys to shooting video in low-light situations.

This video is available to members only.

You can click here to watch the trailer.

If you like this tutorial and want access to more than 150 other video tutorials like it, you should learn about an Izzy Video Membership.

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Izzy Video 149 – Shooting Video with a Digital SLR: Part 2- Exposure

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This episode of Izzy Video is part 2 in my series on shooting video with a Digital SLR.

Digital SLR cameras are excellent for shooting video indoors and at night because you can increase the ISO until you have a nice exposure. One of the challenges though is that when you’re shooting video, you usually don’t want a shutter speed other than 1/60th of a second.

This can become a problem in the sunny outdoors because when you want to blur out the backgrounds (shallow depth of field), then you need the aperture open all the way. This lets in too much light which leads to overexposure, and you’ll see in this video, how you can solve that problem.

The variable ND filter you’ll see in this video is this one.

The full version of this tutorial is available to Izzy Video Members only, but you can download the Quicktime version of the trailer here.

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Izzy Video 147 – How to Shoot Video with Multiple Cameras

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Whenever possible, I like to shoot with one camera. It’s a lot more of a simple process. It’s easier to light for one camera. You only need one operator, and so on. However, there are times when you absolutely need to use multiple cameras when you’re shooting video, and this episode of Izzy Video will help those of you who are new to multi-camera shoots.

This episode is once again for members only, but I’ve provided a trailer above that includes a helpful tip.

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Izzy Video 139 – How to Focus an HD Camera

Izzy Video 139 - How to Focus an HD Camera

One of the big challenges of working with an HD video camera is ensuring the image is in focus. Unfortunately you can’t just rely on the LCD for this, because the actual resolution of the recorded image is much higher than the resolution of the LCD screen. It’s quite possible that the image on the LCD appears to be in focus when the recorded image is blurry.

Luckily HD video cameras have autofocus. The camera automatically focuses the image, and it usually does an excellent job. However there are times when the autofocus doesn’t work:

  1. When the subject isn’t in the center of the frame. – Sometimes you want the subject of the image to be off to the left or right of the frame. The problem here is that autofocus adjusts according to what it sees in the center of the frame. If the object in the center is closer or further than the main subject, then the camera will adjust the focus for that object, often leaving the main subject blurry.
  2. When somebody or something passes through the frame between the camera and the subject. – I demonstrate this problem in the video, but it’s something that happens a lot. Let’s say you’re at the zoo shooting video of your children with the animals. As people walk through the frame, the camera will autofocus on the people walking by, and then refocus on the children. This gets distracting. It’s a much better image if the people in the foreground remain blurry as they walk through the frame.

In this week’s tutorial I demonstrate several different ways to ensure you have a focused image:

  1. Use autofocus when appropriate.
  2. Use manual focus when appropriate.
  3. Use the ‘focus assist’ function available on many cameras.
  4. Zoom in, focus the image, and then zoom out to frame the image, making sure you don’t adjust the aperture.
  5. Use the “peaking” function available on many new cameras.

Another thing you can do (and I didn’t include this in the video) is use an externally attached monitor with a bigger image. This can help ensure you’re always in focus.

Few things are as frustrating as shooting some great footage and then later when you’re editing it, discovering that it’s out of focus. It’s inconvenient and frustrating, and if you’re doing commercial work, it’s expensive.

I hope this week’s tutorial helps you make sure you get a focused image.

This video is available to members only. If you’d like to see this video in HD resolution, as well as gain access to the large archive of video tutorials, you can learn about an Izzy Video Membership.

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Izzy Video 135 – How to Energize Your Video

Izzy Video 135 - How to Energize Your Video

If you want to pump your video full of energy, you have many obvious options. A couple that come to mind: Using high energy music in the background, and using several fast cuts. But in this installment of Izzy Video I review a few less-obvious tips that will help you get the energy you’re looking for.

Have more tips for the Izzy Video viewers? Please post them in the comments…

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You can download the Quicktime version of the episode here.

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Izzy Video 134 – How to Use Contrast Ratios [Members Show]

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Previously I showed you how to use a light meter to set a proper exposure for your subject. In this installment of Izzy Video, I demonstrate how to use a light meter to deliberately create contrast ratios on your lighting. This is one of the most fundamental ways of creating specific ‘looks’ in your video, and this episode will make it easy for you.

Also, I added a section that delves into F-Stops, how they work, what they do, and how one relates to another one. If F-Stops have ever been confusing to you, I believe you’ll find this section helpful.

Become an Izzy Video Member

Want more? Izzy Video Members get access to the complete collection of Izzy Video Tutorials. Please follow this link for more details on becoming an Izzy Video Member.

Want to automatically receive all the free shows as they’re released?

Subscribe to the free version of Izzy Video in iTunes, and have this episode plus future free episodes delivered to your computer by clicking on the following link:

Free Izzy Video Tutorials in iTunes

You can download the Quicktime version of the episode here.

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Izzy Video 133 – How to Use a Light Meter

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Photography and videography have a lot in common. Many of the tools that photographers use can be useful for video shooters as well. In this installment of Izzy Video, I review the difference between reflected light meters and incident light meters, and I also demonstrate how to use them.

Become an Izzy Video Member

Do you like this tutorial and want more? Izzy Video Members get access to the complete collection of Izzy Video Tutorials. Please follow this link for more details on becoming an Izzy Video Member.

Want to automatically receive all the free shows as they’re released?

Subscribe to the free version of Izzy Video in iTunes, and have this episode plus future free episodes delivered to your computer by clicking on the following link:

Free Izzy Video Tutorials in iTunes

You can download the Quicktime version of the episode here.