How to Shoot Great Video With a DSLR

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Matt Brown is an award-winning producer with nine years of experience in professional video production. He has used a Canon EOS 7D DSLR for many of his recent video projects, and he has shot and produced TV programs for the BBC, as well as documentaries, music videos, and commercials.

Why Should You Use a DSLR for Video?

Shooting video with a DSLR camera
Even when compared to shooting with a professional broadcast camera, filming video with a DSLR camera provides an unexpected freedom that can be fun and exciting for seasoned videographers. DSLRs are capable of shooting professional-looking video, and they're cheaper and more accessible than your average professional-level camcorder.

One nice thing about using a DSLR for video is that you can pull the camera out of the box and start shooting right away. But to master the craft, you need to invest time and money in other equipment to get the most out of shooting video with a DSLR. For anyone used to broadcast cameras, this extra investment is understood; for people accustomed to consumer-level camcorders, however, this is a bit of a new setup. When budgeting for your DSLR, be aware that you'll need to set aside some cash for accessories if you want to get serious.

This guide is an overview of the general aspects of shooting video with a DSLR. Picking the right camera model is just as important as following the basic steps in this guide. The most important thing to ask yourself is what environments you'll be shooting in most frequently, and then buying a camera accordingly. Each camera has its pros and cons: Some are built for low-light shooting, some are very light, some are easy to use, and a lot of older DSLRs don't shoot video at all. Make sure to do your research by reading reviews, studying spec sheets, and getting some presale hands-on time with cameras before you make your initial investment.

Until recently, I've primarily used dedicated professional-level video cameras and even film cameras to shoot projects. So why would I switch to a DSLR for shooting video? For me, it came down to the following factors.

1. Cost: The cameras and lenses are much cheaper than any other professional broadcast option, but they give you similarly high-quality results.

2. Size: DSLRs are small and compact, and the benefits extend to the front of the camera. People are generally more at ease when being filmed with a DSLR than they are when a big broadcast camera is pointed at their face.

3. Ability to shoot high-quality stills and video: I came from a fashion-photography background, and being able to go back to using a camera to take film footage is great for me. I love the aesthetics and the different ways you can use a DSLR.

4. The look of the footage: Even now, after using many different DSLRs for a couple of years' worth of video projects, I am still amazed by the video quality. I've used DSLRs on big shoots for TV shows, advertisements, multicam setups, and interviews. The quality never disappoints.

What We'll Cover in This Guide

Here's a rundown of the topics I'll discuss in this guide; you can skip ahead to the sections you're interested in, or just click the Next link at the bottom of each page to read the guide in order.

How to Select a DSLR Lens for Video

How to Focus Manually While Shooting Video

How to Use a Zoom Lens While Shooting Video

How to Use a DSLR's Controls for Video

Tips on Clip Length and Storage Media

Next-Level Tips: Camera Rigs and Stabilization

Next-Level Tips: Audio and External Microphones

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