Tips: Shooting on DSLRs and editing in Premiere
Issue: July 1, 2011

Tips: Shooting on DSLRs and editing in Premiere

Out of the box, DSLR cameras are set-up to perform well for shooting stills, but they require a different approach when shooting video. Here are some tips to make the editing easier in Adobe Premiere Pro:

1 - Sync Audio/Visual for DSLR Cameras

Premiere Pro CS5.5 features a new method for synchronizing audio and video called Merge Clips. This will streamline the process by which users can sync audio and video clips that have been recorded separately (a process sometimes called double-system recording). You’ll be able to select a video clip and synchronize it with up to 16 channels of audio by using the “Merge Clips” command. To arrange your clips for the best possible synching when you edit, do the following:

- Use a clapboard. When picture and sound are recorded to two different systems, a clapboard will help synchronize them by using a visual and audio cue point. If using multiple cameras, be sure to point all cameras at the clapboard for the initial sync and to re-sync if any camera stops recording. Placing a slate at the beginning of each shot will help to identify takes when browsing your clips as thumbnails in Premiere Pro.

- Use a slate application. Several applications exist for smart phones that allow you to load information about the production. They can also generate a countdown slate and sync point.

- Use an audio sync point. You may need to sync from an audio sync point. Be sure to expand your waveforms in the Premiere Pro timeline so you can see similar patterns. The sync point might be a clap, the start of applause, or the first word of a speech—just find something in common on all tracks.

2 - Choose a Storage Card for HD Video 

If you want to shoot HD video on a DSLR camera, you need a storage card that's fast enough to support the transferring of the video frames from camera to storage card. If you try to use a slow card, the capture could fail or the camera might even refuse to record. Camera memory manufacturers use a baseline standard of 150 kB/s of throughput to describe their cards. So a 1X card can only record and play back data at 150 kB/s.

For most cameras you'll need to use those rated 133X and above. Having an even faster card can come in handy when shooting still images in burst mode (such as timelapse applications). Be sure to compare both speed and capacity when evaluating cards for purchase.

Table 14.1 Common Storage Card Speeds


133x - 20 MB/s
200x - 30 MB/s
266x - 40 MB/s
300x - 45 MB/s
400x - 60 MB/s
600x - 90 MB/s
3 - Calibrate DSLR Cameras

Often you'll find yourself using more than one camera while shooting footage and the closer your camera settings match, the more seamless it will appear when editing the different footage together. Ideally the acquired footage will match as closely as possible, which means that you need to adjust both the aesthetic and technical properties.

- Aesthetic Matching: Look inside the camera and check your menu settings. You'll typically find several options that will aesthetic properties of the footage. Ideally, you'll closely match these settings across multiple cameras:
- Color settings – Use the same color space for each camera if it's a choice.

- Picture Style – Many cameras offer different modes that stylize the footage. We recommend shooting flat and adjusting your color with Premiere Pro or After Effects after the shoot for greater flexibility.

- Shutter speed – Your shutter speed should typically be 1/60 if shooting 30 fps or 1/50 if shooting 24 fps. You can alter this number for different looks, but be sure the cameras all match.

- Technical Matching: You’ll also want to check several technical properties for each camera. Be sure to identically match the following properties across each camera:

- Frame size. Your frame sizes must match. Be sure that you aren’t mixing 720p with 1080p.

- Frame rate. All your cameras must match frame rate (exactly). Be sure to check that you have a precise match. Make sure the firmware of your cameras is also up to date.

- Color calibration. Be sure that all angles color calibrate at the same time, on the same subject, under identical lighting conditions. Otherwise, you’ll have a lot more postproduction work. 

4 - Stabilize Your Shot

Holding a DSLR for a still image is fine, but holding one for long periods of time can lead to fatigue and “wobbly” shots. Although you can use the new Warp Stabilizer in Adobe After Effects CS5.5, to steady footage by removing jitter caused by camera movement and to correct unstable parallax, it’s best to plan ahead and get the best footage beforehand. 

The number of choices for DSLR rigs is almost endless; from small handheld rigs from ikan Corporation to over the shoulder rigs from Redrock Micro and Cinevate. Each of these has their own strengths but it’s important to use the right tool for the right job. If you’re shooting for longer than 2 hours with a heavy lens, an over the shoulder rig with a counterbalance is the best choice. If you need a small and agile rig to run through corridors, then pick something you can hold with one or two hands. Nothing beats a good tripod with a fluid head. 

5 - Invest in a Good Monitoring System

One of the biggest mistakes to make is to trust the small LCD screen on the back of the camera. The previews they provide are too small and hard to see in bright daylight.

There are many monitor solutions available today including small LCD screens that attach to your rig, or viewfinders that fit onto the back of the camera and magnify the image. Using a proper monitoring solution will guarantee your shots are composed correctly and, most importantly, in focus.