Ask Rod: Tools, camera settings, and more…

Hi Rod,

My name is Jose, I live in Fort Worth, Texas. I recently bought the Canon T2I (Christmas present). I was so amazed and happy to see that you were using the same camera to produce some awesome results. I really wish I could get the same results….lol. So you just started videography last year or DSLR videography? Either way, your work inspires me to learn more!!

I just bought the LCDVF because of your recommendation. Seems to be a great alternative to the Zacuto. I wish I would have bought this sooner because focusing is such a challenge with just the LCD screen.  Also, what ND filter do you recommend for the Tokina 11-16mm? I was trying to shoot outside for my son’s birthday party and had to crank up the setting to get descent exposure (which I think is a no, no). I have been hearing some mixed reviews of the Fader ND on the Tokina. Do you have this lens?

I must say, I am a little overwhelmed with all the “rules” and settings for proper DSLR videography. Following the rules, I have not been able to get the same results that you and a lot of people on Vimeo are getting. When I see everybody else’s videos, they look so crisp and sharp. All my videos seem to have a ton of noise. I am not sure if this makes a difference but I am reviewing the native video straight from the SD card. It just doesn’t look impressive. Maybe I am not focusing correctly. I am to the point where I think something is wrong with the camera or I dialed in a wrong setting in the menu. I am tempted to set everything back to default and start over.

I was really hoping you could give me some tips on what settings to use. I went into the menu settings when I first got it and made some tweaks per Phillip Blooms website (i.e. picture styles, highlight tone priority, AF mode, etc…)

Maybe I could send you small clips of native files and you can critique them. I would really love to know what “Your” rules are when shooting and what user settings and camera settings you use. That way, I can focus more on producing great video then running around in circles trying to trouble shoot my video quality issues.

Thank you so much for your time and keep up the awesome work – Jose

Hello Fellow Texan!

Great questions!  I get these a lot and it’s about time I answer them.  Let’s see if I can clearly answer them, and hopefully help some others at the same time.

1)  Yup, I started shooting for the first time on any camera system, last year, May 2010. My wife and I initially picked up our first DSLR camera to shoot images of our newborn son. I started seeing the video capabilities of the Canon DSLR’s online and began researching more.  Soon I was shooting my own videos and sharing with family and friends, and it quickly evolved from there into my first music video.  Quick tip..practice, practice, practice.  That first month I was shooting everything possible and it drove my wife and kids nuts!  Shoot in different enviroments and lighting situations, practice focusing on objects in motion (kids are great for this).  :)

2) Yup, cranking up the exposure is a no-no if you are looking for a more “cinematic” look.  The rule of the thumb to follow is to double your from frame rate. So if you are shooting 1920×1080/24fps, your shutter speed should be set to 50 (or 48 with the latest verion of Magin Lantern for T2i), and if you are shooting at 720p/60fps, shutter speed should be set at 120 or 125.  This is known as the 180 Degree Shutter rRule.  To combat a blown-out image, I use a ND Filter by Light Craft Workshop out of Hong Kong.  It has 8 stops and is a must have for outdoor daytime shooting!  Just remember, if you do pick up one of these filters, you will need the appropriate size to fit the particular lens.  So for your example, the awesome, Tokina 11-16mm lens, you would need the 77mm Fader ND Mark II, linked below.  I have used this filter with this lens, and it works fine.

3) If you shoot following some basic rules, your video’s should be coming out crisp and sharp as well.  I have viewed directly off the card, and it looks the same as when viewed from my local computer, however, the performance is better when I save and watch on my machine.  Before I start shooting there are a few things I check.

a.  If I am shooting at 1080p/24fps, is my shutter speed set to 48?

b.  Am I using the correct ISO?  With the Magic Lantern software for the T2i, I now have “native ISO’s” available.  So I only use 160, 320, 640, or 1250.   However, to avoid the chance of noise, I try, try, try, to never go over 640.  More info on this here.

c.  How is my white balance? Again, with Magic Lantern, I now have the option to manually set by kelvin.  However, before that was available, I would always use custom white balance.  Check out this video by Dave Dugdale that will guide you through the process.

4)  Whoa..whoa..I am getting a little ahead of myself!  Before I even step out the door to shoot, I make sure my camera is setup correctly.  This is very important to get the best images out of the camera as possbile!   Check out episode 2, “Know Your Camera“, by cinematographer, Shane Hurlbut.  He goes over several settings your camera should be set at.  He’s not doing it on a T2i, but most of the settings do carry over.  Very important step!

5)  Yep, I have no problem viewing some of your native files and may give me a better of idea of what is going on.  I do a lot of work in post-production, so maybe that’s what you are seeing in difference in quality and “look”.  Get a DropBox account setup, upload and send me an invite to download.

Well that’s about it, and should give you a good starting point.  I use no special sauce, just follow some basic rules and you will begin getting the same results.

Hang in there, thanks for the great questions, and best of luck!


Tools Discussed In This Article:

One response on “Ask Rod: Tools, camera settings, and more…

  1. Arthur says:

    Great to see these answers Rod! If Jose doesn’t mind, could you post those videos on the blog with your comments? I recently saw Salton Sea by Philip Bloom and he was using a T2i. I swear I can’t get my images to be as clean has his. He used a 50mm 1.2, 70-200 2.8, 100 mm macro, and the wide Tokina. I have 2 of those but haven’t been able to duplicate the quality even when viewing an unedited file off the sd card. Seeing what others are having the same problem as I am with your comments would be great! And congrats again on the contest!

  2. Rod says:

    Arthur, yep if Jose does send me the files and give me the ok, I will post then up here with my comments.

  3. Jose says:

    Rod, I don’t mind if you post my video example. I have to get one put together first :). I am trying to implement your tips to see if that makes a difference. I do have another question for you Rod:

    You had mentioned that you liked using the “Eugenia Extra Flat” picture style when shooting. Is that the picture style that you use for all your shoots? If not, why and what are the others you like to use and in what scenerio?

    Also, there have been complaints about not being able to expose correctly when shooting with very flat picture styles. Are you getting this issue with the “Eugenia Extra Flat” and the T2I? If so, do you have any tips for us?

    Thanks in advance,


  4. Drew says:

    Another simple thing that hasn’t been discussed is make sure you’re shooting on a high quality SD card. The extreme’s are some of the best out there. What you write to makes a huge difference.

  5. Hi Rod, watch out! The Tokina 11-16 has a 77mm diameter not a 72mm as you say at the end of the post! Anyway, I am thinking in buying one for my Tokina but I have a doubt; since the lens has quite a big curvature, will the nd filter fit perfectly?

    Your blog is so great. Keep up the good work! Greetings from Spain!

  6. Rod says:

    Tomas, you are totally correct, my mistake! I have updated the post with the correct diameter. Thanks for letting me know!

  7. Conrad says:


    I just bought a T3i not too long ago (would of bought the T2i if I knew about Magic Lantern) and like you I have fallen in love with the video capabilities that todays DSLR’s have. I take my camera everywhere I go, taking pictures and video of everything. I have made some little video collages and camera test clips, all edited half-hazardly with imovie(on youtube dropdown305). Now after seeing some of your work and others like you (Phillip Bloom etc.) I’ve decided start building a rig, (which your website has helped with a great deal) and buy ADOBE Premiere Pro and After Effects CS5.5…My question to you is how did you learn these programs? Did you have help? Use tutorials? Anything in particular you suggest? I seriously want to learn, if nothing else just to do it and say I learned and made something I could one day be proud of…Like your self. Anyway thank you! You’ve definitely been an inspiration to me and I look forward to seeing more of your stuff!

    Conrad De La Torres

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *