SHOOTING VIDEO ON YOUR X-SERIES CAMERA – A QUICK START GUIDE

Introduction

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My handheld rig: 1) Fujifilm X-H1, 2) Fujinon MK18-55mm T2.9 lens, 3) RODE VideoMic Pro

Fujifilm’s X-series cameras are known for their producing beautiful images straight out of the camera with the use of their film simulation modes and their excellent selection of high-quality and affordable lenses. Whilst these features primarily benefit stills images, they are also equally, if not more, compelling for users who shoot video.

I started video with Fujifilm cameras ever since the X-T2 was released and now with the X-H1, which has more video-friendly features, I’ve found that I’m shooting more video than ever. Not only that, I’ve surprisingly found myself encouraging other Fujifilm shooters to try their hand at video because I’m just enthralled by the beautiful footage I’m recording with these amazing cameras.

However, one common barrier that I’ve noticed users (who are primarily photographers) encounter is that they are unsure about how to transition from photography to video. The two broad areas of concern are:

  1. Camera craft – how do I make the camera do what I want?
  2. Cinematography – how do I effectively tell a story with my footage?

The purpose of this article is to assist you in tackling mainly the first issue – camera craft. With that in mind, here’s a quick-start guide on how to set your camera to shoot video.

Basic settings to get you started:

  1. Set your Movie Mode. I recommend FHD 1080 / 25P.
  2. Set your Film Simulation mode (Eterna, ProNegStd or Provia).
  3. Set your shutter speed to TWICE the frame rate. For 25P, your shutter speed should be 1/50s. Set the rest of your exposure accordingly (aperture, ISO). Manually your white balance to ‘Daylight’ (don’t use Auto).
  4. Set your Mic Level to Auto (or manually set it if you wish).
  5. Press the shutter button to focus and start recording!

You can of course stop reading right now and just start shooting straight away, but if you’d like to know more about what these settings mean and gain a deeper insight into shooting video then please read on.

Movie Mode

MENU PATH: Menu Button > MOVIE SETTING tab > MOVIE MODE

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The Movie Mode settings determines the resolution of your image and the frame rate of your video.

The resolution is usually expressed as the number of pixels of the frame height. In this case, FHD (or Full HD) quality is 1920 wide by 1080 pixels high, which is usually abbreviated to 1080p. 4K quality is 3840 x 2160 pixels and abbreviated to 2160p. 4K contains 4 times more resolution than FHD, hence the term ‘4K’.

The frame rate is the number of still frames recorded per second. Video is essentially a series of still frames viewed over a period of time. 25 frames per second (which Fujifilm expresses as 25P) will give natural looking movement whilst keeping your video file size at a reasonable level.

The higher the resolution and frame rate, the larger your video files will be, and the more space they will take up on your SD card and hard drive.

WARNING: Fujifilm cameras (and most prosumer digital cameras from other brands) have a recording time limit of between 10-30 mins (depending on resolution and brand) after which it will stop recording. You can start the recording again immediately after it stops, but this means that you will need to monitor your camera to ensure it’s still recording. If you’re wanting to do a continuous recording of an interview, concert, etc, of longer for than 30 mins, you will need to hook up an external recording device like an Atomos to your camera via HDMI (if it has that feature).

Film Simulation

MENU PATH: Menu Button > I.Q. tab > FILM SIMULATION

Note: For some cameras like the X-T3, X-T2 and X-H1, go to the MOVIE SETTING tab (instead of the I.Q. tab) and choose FILM SIMULATION (MOVIE).

As Fujifilm shooters we have our favourite film simulations. With photography, you can shoot in RAW and make your choice of film simulation, but with video, we don’t have the luxury of shooting in RAW. So we need to decide at the start what look we want our video to have. This will be up to your individual taste. Want to shoot some noir-style scenes ala ‘Sin City’? Load up that Acros film sim! Want your nature/landscapes footage to have vivid colours like the ‘Planet Earth’ series? Choose Velvia!

I personally prefer a neutral, slightly de-saturated look for my footage which makes it easy for me to apply a colour grade during post-processing so I like using the Eterna or Pro Neg Std film simulations. I also will usually lift the shadows (-2) and pull back the highlights (-2) and reduce Sharpness (-1) and Colour (-1) to give a more muted look to my footage.

If you have your own favourite film simulation ‘recipes’ saved under the Custom profiles in-camera, you can use them as well!

Shutter Speed

As with photography, the shutter speed affects the freezing of motion for a given frame. With a single still frame where our eyes can linger for a long period of time, we notice sharpness (or lack of it) much more easily than in video. With video, where our eyes view each frame for a fraction of a second, it is not necessary to have each frame critically sharp. A general rule of thumb is to set your shutter speed at TWICE the frame rate, so if you’re shooting at 25P (25 frames per second), you should set your shutter speed at 1/50s. This will give you acceptably sharp images with natural looking movement.

Exposure

With your shutter speed locked at twice the frame rate (1/50s) you should then set the rest of your exposure triangle, aperture & ISO.

Aperture affects your depth-of-field so set this so that your subject will be in focus. With video, your subject may be moving so I recommend using a smaller aperture (larger f-number) to give yourself extra depth-of-field for your subject to move around in. Where I would use f2.8 for photography, I would use F4 for video, depending on how much your subject will move around.

ISO would typically be the last setting to balance up the exposure equation. As with photography, a higher ISO will increase your exposure with the side effect of introducing more noise into your footage. I’ve shot scenes with ISO as high as 10,000 with the footage still looking useable so don’t be afraid to boost your ISO if you need to.

However, a more likely scenario that you will encounter is that your video is OVER-exposed. You’re trying to shoot an outdoor scene at midday and you want to shoot at an aperture of F2.8 to isolate your subject from the background. You’ve set your shutter speed to 1/50 and your ISO is already at the minimum of 200 but your footage is still 3 stops over-exposed. What do you do? The solution is to use a ND (neutral density) filter to cut down the amount of light. I usually have a variable ND filter attached to my lens for this very reason which allows me to dial down between 1.5 to 5 stops of light. If you plan on shooting a lot of video, a good ND filter is one of the first investments you should make.

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The histogram is your friend.

Try not to blow out the highlights – it’s difficult (if not impossible) to recover them during editing if they are blown. Set your histogram to display on your screen to assist you in keeping an eye on this.

I also manually set my white balance, usually to Daylight rather than rely on Auto White Balance. The reason for this is that some lighting situations can cause your white balance to change suddenly in the middle of recording if it is set to Auto.

Audio

MENU PATH: Menu Button > MOVIE SETTING tab > MIC LEVEL ADJUSTMENT

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There are two major differences between stills and video. One is motion, the other is sound. Your camera has an internal mic to record sound. If you’re trying to isolate a particular sound (eg. someone you’re trying to interview), and you may capture too much environmental sound (traffic, other people talking, etc). In such a scenario, I recommend using an external shotgun mic like the Rode VideoMic Pro that will record sounds from where the mic is pointing (ie. the subject in front of your camera) and reject sounds to the sides and back of it.

 

If you want to record the ambient sounds of the environment (eg. you’re at a live gig, or you want the sounds of the street) then the in-camera mic can suffice. But beware that the in-camera mic can also pick up sounds like your hands on the camera, the clicking of dials and pressing of buttons, etc.

The most important tip for getting good audio is to get CLOSE to the source – around 6 inches if possible. If you’re using a shotgun mic, for example, set your mic 45 degrees above and to one side while pointing your mic directly at your subject. Then get your mic close to the subject which will make the audio louder and clearer relative to the background noise (traffic, air conditioning, other people talking) and result in better quality audio. You can also use a lapel mic if you’re recording an interview.

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In terms of camera settings, you should set the mic level on your camera so that the audio signal is not clipping (ie. going into the RED zone). In the same way that you use the histogram to avoid clipping your highlights, use the audio meter to keep your audio signal from clipping which will result in distortion.

If you have headphones or earphones, and your camera has a jack for it, using it to monitor your sound is better than just relying on the audio meter which tells you when your signal is clipping, but not much else.

Focus and shooting

You’re now ready to start shooting. As with stills, half-press your shutter button to focus and full-press to start recording. You can use single (AF-S), continuous (AF-C) and manual  focus modes (with focus peaking) for focusing so experiment with them to see which one works for you. Face Detect mode is also available.

Simone
In an interview situation where the subject isn’t moving much, manually setting your focus is a good way to go.

If your subject is still (eg. person in a chair, a landscape or street scene) then AF-S will work fine. If they are moving (eg. sports, children, animals) then try AF-C. There will be situations when the autofocus will not behave as you would like (eg. low light, erratically moving subjects, etc). For those situations I will set my focus manually and I will focus to infinity and stop down my aperture to give myself enough depth-of-field for my subject.

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The XF18-55mm F2.8-4 is an excellent stabilised zoom lens.

If you want stable, handheld footage then I recommend using a stabilised lens like the XF18-55mm or the X-H1 camera which has in-body stabilisation (IBIS) which will stabilise ANY lens mounted to the camera.

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Why does this guy keep popping up in this article?

Posturally, these are some habits that I adopt for handheld stability:

  • Try and have 3-points of contact with the camera: two hands and an eye
  • Bring your arms close up against your body
  • Use the EVF rather than the LCD
  • Adopt a stable stance & posture. Two feet planted rather than squatting down. Back straight, rather than bent, etc.

You can also use accessories like a tripod or gimbal for even greater results.

Conclusion

“Cinema is a matter of what’s in the frame and what’s out.” – Martin Scorsese

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The same principles used in photography to make effective images apply equally to framing video – composition, leading lines, negative space, colour, contrast, texture. Experiment with shooting short 5-10 second clips. Try and put together a mini-story using 3-5 scenes. For example:

  1. Start with a wide-angle establishing shot to give the viewer a sense of context (location)
  2. Move in a little closer (medium angle) to introduce a subject (person)
  3. Get a close-up shot of their face to build a connection with the subject
  4. Go back out again to a medium/wide shot to show them doing something (walking, meeting a friend, ordering a coffee, etc).

“People confuse ‘pretty’ with good cinematography.” – Roger Deakins

A great many things will play a role in how effectively you can capture your audience’s attention but the MOST IMPORTANT thing is to TELL A STORY!

The new elements that we as photographers will need to grapple with is that of motion and sound: motion of the camera and motion within the frame. When and how do we use motion to effectively tell a story? How can we use sound & music to support that story?

These will be a topics for other articles but start by watching your favourite movies, documentaries, TV shows, and pay attention to how all these elements affect the story.

Finally, just get out there and start shooting. You’ll be surprised to find out that you already instinctively know more than you realise. Don’t forget to share your video triumphs (or tragedies) on our Fuji X Aus Facebook group so we can all learn and be inspired together!

4 thoughts on “SHOOTING VIDEO ON YOUR X-SERIES CAMERA – A QUICK START GUIDE

  1. So how does a large 18-55mm MK lens without AF or OIS and costing US$4,000 make my video better than using a the 18-55mm kit zoom or even the 16-55mm f2.8 zoom?

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    1. It doesn’t necessarily. I use the 16-55 far more than the MK lens because it’s smaller and has AF. I use the MK lens if I need to use a rig with follow focus or if I need a parfocal lens, or a nice manual focus action. The electronic focus on the 16-55 isn’t the nicest to use.

      Like

    1. Cheers mate! I haven’t spent enough time yet with the X-T3 to understand what the improvements/differences in image quality are compared to the X-H1, but I’ll definitely blog about it once I get some time with it.

      Like

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