What is the best shutter speed for movie mode?

I have seen this question a few times in various forums so I thought it would be another good fit for the “The Basics” section.

Since people rarely explain what they would consider “best”, I assume they are talking about the best shutter speed to achieve a filmic look.

This brings us to the question “what makes a film look like film compared to tv or Canon 5d standard clips” ? Contrary to the general belief, it is not the number of frames per second but the duration of each exposure that creates the look.

In a 24fps clip, each frame is exposed 1/48 of a second and for the next 1/48 of a second, nothing is captured on the film. The 1/48 sec exposure is the key. At this speed moving objects generate just enough blur to make the image pleasing. If you made a 24fps clip using a shutter speed of 1/2000sec, the clip would look much less fluid, you would get the harsh style used in Saving Private Ryan or Crank 2.

The ratio of the shutter duration vs shutter obscuration is often called shutter angle, referring to the angle used to create the opening in the rotating camera disk. Since I am getting technical here, you better look this up on wikipedia, they have a very nice animation to explain it. You can also read Stu talking about the importance of 24fps in The DV Rebel’s Guide.

So, getting back to our original question:

what is the best shutter speed for video on the Canon 5d Mark II ?

If you have been following the explanation, your answer should be 1/50sec (closest setting to 1/48)!

The last step is to convert the 30fps clip to 24fps which is very easy to do for any FCP user as demonstrated in this screen cast from Philip Bloom.

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  • Mansoor

    The exposure of the movie can be controlled in Manual mode allowing full control of shutter speeds and apertures. It is possible to select frame rates from: 30 (29.97), 25, and 24 (23.976), with 60 (59.94) and 50 available at 720p as this is Canon 7D.. is Canon 5D Mark II getting a new firmware.. any news onthat

    • admin

      Nope. The 7D was a total surprise and I dont know what is going to happen with the 5DMrkII. I am writing a post about this right now…

  • http://www.kwabenaphotography.com Ivan

    I just came across your site and must confess that I really like it because I too am entering the video world with the 5Dmk2. Anyway back to the topic, since the frame rate of the 5dmk2 is 30fps, shouldn’t the correct answer (correct shutter speed) be 1/60?

    • admin

      Thanks Ivan. The post was directed at replicating the look of movies, so 1/50 is closer to 1/48 than 1/60.

      The key thing is not to have a 180 degree rotating shutter (close/open half of the time), the goal is to have an opening lasting close to 1/48, this is what people call ‘the movie look’. The rotating shutter only prevent the jelly effect since the whole sensor (or film) is exposed for the same duration at the same time while in the case of VDSLR, the sensor is scanned from top to bottom.

      I hope I made it clear. But don’t sweat too much about this, most of the time you can get away using shutter speeds between 1/40 to 1/125 depending of the subject movement speed.

  • Frederik Imschoot

    If shutter durability is 150.000 cycles, how does the movie recording affect the shutter durability. 1 hour recording in 60 fps equals 216.000 frames. Hard to imagine that movie recording has such an influency on shutter durability. Does anyone know more about this shutter cycle durability?

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/IG2UPBIQ23YOEHSQMBMYHRCKMM jack

      becouse in movie mode electronic shutter activated not manual shutter

  • http://www.kwabenaphotography.com Ivan

    No, the 150 000 cycles is referring to the shutter curtain. When you are in ‘live view’ mode (when filming), the shutter opens and stays open till you get out of ‘live view’ mode, then it closes …. thus one open/close => 1 cycle.

  • http://upthink.tv/ erikfletch

    While I thank you for taking the time to be a valuable resource of Tips, I must point out that this tip is completely wrong.

    I agree with you that most people are too hung up on the whole 24p versus 30p thing, as I’ve encountered so many people who are convinced that by shooting at 24p they will instantly confuse an audience into believing a video is actually film. What many people associate with being a TV look is not 30p, but 60i, or 60 interlaced fields a second.

    The shutter speed (or shutter angle) is just as irrelevant. The shutter is just one part of the cinematographer’s tools to influence the impact of an image. Even in your own explanation you site feature films that use high shutter speeds and the resulting effect. I don’t think anyone would argue that those films look like TV or video. While a 180° shutter angle is the standard, it will not make your video look like film.

    What I think people are asking is specific to the 5D or 7D, as I asked myself this when first working with the 5D, “what is the ‘best’ shutter for the 5D, due to its rolling shutter distortion?” In this case you are still correct, that a slower shutter is “better” in that it helps disguise the skew as motion blur. As you increase your shutter you will reduce motion blur and bring attention to effects of an electronic sensor (which is a dead giveaway of video).

    But back to your point about achieving a “filmic” look, I believe it is the filmmaker’s attitude and not their frame rate that will accomplish this. The look of film is something that developed through the constraints of the process. It was difficult to expose, required several highly trained people to operate, and was very expensive. Thus every single shot was highly planned, designed, and cared for.

    Video is the exact opposite. It requires very little light, one person, and is dirt cheap. There is no need for lights, or crew, or planning of any kind. Thus the temptation for many people is to just shoot something and hope it comes out right. And if it doesn’t, there is no monetary loss to keep you from doing it again. This is an attitude that has never occurred on a film shoot, and I believe the main reason video and film seem so different.

    Sorry for the rant, but I only took the time to do this because I find this site to be a valuable resource.

    Best Regards

    • admin

      Erik: While I agree with most of what you said, and it it true that the ‘filmic’ look cant be achieve with only a specific shutter speed, it plays a big role. That is what people notice the most when they compare tv to film, not the other elements.

      The goal of the post was also to explain why 24p is seen as the holy grail of frame rate and to this effect why 1/48 sec is the preferred shutter speed. These setting are referred as ‘filmic’ because these are the settings people use the most. Anything that is different will stand out (like Crank or SPR).

      The attention to details that you think about in film vs video is a debate by itself but you are right in some regards. For example, in video the night is black while it is blue in movies. So if you want a night shot to look what you see in movies, you better shoot it with lights and add a blue filter in post…

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