Creating a Video Setup Checklist

Creating a Video Setup Checklist

As video becomes more widely adopted by companies, it's clear that you may be approached  to shoot video. However, when it comes to shooting video there are a lot of rules, some similar to photography, to keep in mind. Setting up a check list is the best way to make sure your video shoots go off without a hitch. 

Set Your Picture Style

The first thing you want is to set up a custom picture style for your camera. This picture style should be giving you the "flattest" style possible. What this means is that your saturation, contrast, and sharpness are turned down. This is going to give you more control over your image in post. 

*Many DSLRs and mirrorless cameras come with picture styles. I recommend checking out the manual that comes with your camera to find ouch the options that are available. Or looking at online user groups to see how other videographers have their cameras set up. 

Set a Custom White Balance

For most photographers this goes without saying. When it comes to video this is arguably the most important thing to do aside from setting your ISO. Learning how to set is monumentally key. This could be intimidating for new photographers and videographer, but is a breeze once you learn how to do it. Typically you have two choices when setting a custom white balance. The first being to use a gray or a white card, shooting a still image of it, and then setting that custom profile setting to the video you are shooting. Or if you are going to a more specific look using Kelvin temperature settings. Which involves  opening up white balance settings and choosing the Kelvin temperature you want for your video. 

Set Your Frame Rate

Given the plethora of options that come with cameras today, it's good practice to always check this. While you can always adjust frame rates in post, why make life harder on yourself? Go in and make sure you are shooting at the appropriate frame rate that you want for your shot. If you are shooting an interview make sure you are at either 24 or 30FPS. Nothing worse than realizing you just shot 15 minutes of someone at different frame rate. 

Enable Manual Focus

I'm not against autofocus in anyway shape or form, but when it comes to video you will save a lot of time and headaches. There is nothing worse for you or your talent as your video struggles to autofocus as they move around the frame. Not only does this mess with your video but your mic will most likely pic it up. 

Set Your Focus

Before you even start shooting make sure you set your focus. When shooting in live view mode most, if not all cameras will let enlarge the image on screen. As you enlarge the screen you can see more detail, find the area you want to focus on and manually focus your camera to that area. 

This list only covers a few tips and tricks. It should also be noted all of these should be used once you have set up your scene and the lighting within it. What other tips do season videographers have for those looking to venture into video?

Miles Bergstrom's picture

Miles is a Western Massachusetts native. He is a videographer and photographer living in Boston currently. When not working you can find him at the movies, alone. He enjoys obscure movie quotes, skiing, and other outdoor related activities.

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Honestly, if you need this checklist, you should NOT be shooting with a flat profile. Just saying.

You can't really adjust your frame rate in post. You can deliver the final product at a different rate than what you shot at, but what's shot is shot. Different frame rates give different looks, much like shutter speeds on still shots. And I can slow a shot from 60 fps to 30 or 24 for a slow motion effect, but that's still not the same as saying you can change it in post. At least not in the way I'm reading what you're implying.

Fair enough Jason. I think it was mostly just trying to get the point across that you can vary frame rates depending at what you originally shot them at. Appreciate the clarification for readers.

Shooting flat is fine, so long as you know what you're doing in post. But if you're not the one editing, you should check with the client to see what they are expecting. The last thing you want to do is give them something that they believe is 'ready for airing' when it needs a massive amount of correction. There is also the issue of certain codecs not being very conducive to heavy color grading. It's similar to how much post you can do with a JPEG before it breaks up. Some well-known DP's suggesting 'baking in' the look you want, so you won't have to go crazy in post and possibly end up with a worse image.
Finally, but perhaps most important, where is the checklist for audio? Unless everything is being dubbed, audio should be a major consideration, second to none. People will forgive a slightly soft shot, or poor white balance, but have you ever watched a video with terrible audio? Yeah, me neither. Photographers have it easy when it comes to audio, so they might forget how crucial it is when they decide to dip a toe in motion pictures.

I was thinking of making a completely separate checklist for audio. Mainly because there are tons of different ways to capture audio. I think article was more geared towards the folks with DSLRs and Mirrorless systems. There are just so many factors to capturing good quality audio, that it really is an article within itself.

However, in the spirit of this article. Do Not use your onboard mic, ever.