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This weekly course covers the most common questions videographers encounter when shooting and editing with DSLR cameras, from choosing a frame size and frame rate to understanding moiré. Authors Rich Harrington and Robbie Carman will also help you understand the impacts of compression and the difference between cropped (or micro 4/3rds) and full-sized sensors in cameras, and much more. This continual FAQ guide is a handy way to find the answers to the questions that plague you the most.
Robbie Carman: Okay. So Rich, we've defined the exposure triangle and we've talked about adjusting aperture. Richard Harrington: Yep. Robbie Carman: The next thing I want to talk about is ISO. What does ISO stand for? Richard Harrington: Well, it's the International Standards Organization, and that's just a group that set standards, but basically it's an electrical measurement. Robbie Carman: Okay. Richard Harrington: So the more you increase it, the more you're increasing the sensitivity of the sensor. Now this is great, and with modern sensors we can get a lot of value out of it compared to the days of film, it's amazing how high you can go. Robbie Carman: And by value I am assuming that you mean that we can go to high ISO settings without bad effects.
Not a lot of noise. Richard Harrington: Yeah. It's pretty amazing how much you can boost the ISO these days and still get an image that's usable. It used to be you went over 800, even at 800 on a film shoot, you would have all sorts of noise and problems. You would only use that for concerts. These days shooting at 800 is a piece of cake. Robbie Carman: I mean 800 is low. I shoot at 1600, 3200, sometimes, it's just fun. Richard Harrington: Yeah. So what happens is, is it does produce noise. So in the case of our shot here, you notice that we've got an okay base exposure. We set the aperture for the depth of field we wanted and I am at a shutter speed of 50.
Robbie Carman: That's a really interesting point though, is that often times we'll go to ISO after we are basically satisfied, right? Richard Harrington: Yeah. Robbie Carman: With the aperture and the depth of field that we have, but the exposure might not be perfect yet. We like the depth of field, but in this case it might need to be a little brighter still. Richard Harrington: Yeah. And remember it is better to slightly underexpose than slightly overexpose. Robbie Carman: Absolutely. Generally speaking, once you start to overexposing something all detail and information is lost. Richard Harrington: So I am just going to hold on the ISO button here and I'm at 640 right now, and let me go down a little bit and you see as we turn that down.
Robbie Carman: It starts to get a little darker, yeah. Richard Harrington: Yeah, and you're going to use things like 100 for shooting outdoors on a bright bright sunny day, 200 for shade. Robbie Carman: Now just to be clear, you haven't changed the aperture or the shutter speed. We are just adjusting the ISO. Richard Harrington: Yeah, and you see that Overlay number there, those are accurate. So as we open this up it depends. Am I going for a moody, shadowy shot, or do I want to actually see all the details including the table and where the seam is? I mean this is changing immensely. Now I'm in High 2.0, which is as high as this camera goes.
Robbie Carman: It looks a little overexpose there, yeah. Richard Harrington: It's both overexposed and you see all of that noise and grain. Robbie Carman: So you bring up a really interesting point about noise and grain though, especially at the higher ISO values. I think a large part of this is sort of tolerance, what you or a client or a producer can tolerate in terms of noise. What I like to do is a simple test that a lot of people are not aware of, and that's what I refer to as the Lens Cap Test to test ISOs. What do I ISOs? Well, for a couple reasons.
You would think that say on Canon 7D here that, I don't know, ISO 600 or 640 is less noisy than ISO 800, right? That's not always the case, right? Richard Harrington: Right. Robbie Carman: Our cameras, even cameras of the same make and build and model number, have different ISO performance. So one of the tests that I like to do is to simply put my Lens Cap on the camera. So I'm recording black. I go into Record mode and then simply dial through the various ISOs, and record four or five seconds at say ISO 100, then 125, and step through your different ISOs.
Once you're done doing that recording, what you can do is bring that footage onto your machine and then look at it closely to see the grain structure and the noise structure at different ISO values. Richard Harrington: Yeah, and as we get this up here, we are not going to see any noise most likely down here in 640. Robbie Carman: No nothing. Richard Harrington: And it doesn't mean that there should be some noise. Noise and grain is a natural phenomenon. Robbie Carman: Right. Richard Harrington: With both photography and film and video. But as we start getting here into 1600, it starts to become visible, and as I crank this up here and we are getting into 3200, that's sort of the upper threshold that just about anybody I know is comfortable shooting at.
Robbie Carman: Well go all the way up to your High mode there. Richard Harrington: Yeah, 64. Robbie Carman: Yep. Richard Harrington: High 0.3. 0.7. Robbie Carman: And you can see that the image definitely starts to get more noisy. And again, this is a good thing to do just to test this specific ISO performance of your camera. And it's something I always like to do before I go out and shoot in the field. Richard Harrington: Yeah. So I'm just going to pop that lens off and when we look at the shot itself that noise really becomes visible when you're looking at it. So in this case, I mentioned that 3200 is sort of the threshold cap for most folks, that's more exposure than I need there.
I would actually go back down, in this case, all the way down to 1600. That's still plenty of Exposure to work with, a little curves adjustment in post. Robbie Carman: Yeah, gives you a less of moody kind of shot there. Richard Harrington: Yeah, yeah. Robbie Carman: Yeah. Richard Harrington: Right. So to recap, you're going to go ahead and have shutter speed locked down to start and that's going to be typically somewhere between a 30th and a 60th. Richard Harrington: You're going to set aperture to give you the depth of field that you want, the lower the number the shallower the depth of field, but the more light coming up. Robbie Carman: And to set your base exposure. Richard Harrington: Right. Then ISO is just a refinement.
It's basically adjusting the exposure by giving it more sensitivity with the camera sensor. Robbie Carman: Yeah, and that's a perfect way of thinking about it, as a refinement. I don't think that you should depend on ISO solely as an exposure tool, because as we have talked about before, it's all about the exposure triangle and how these three parts of exposure triangle work together. Richard Harrington: Right. And if it doesn't work, and that's when you get desperate, then you will go to shutter speed.
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