Shutter Speed Explained for Content and Video Production

19 Feb 2020

3 Min Read

Filmmaking is somehow bound up with movement, whether it is for the camera or the subject. Yet, this aspect of filmmaking is still a bit complicated for some people as it needs some preparations. When shooting a moving subject or let’s say an action, the very first thing you should be aware of is your camera’s shutter speed to capture the actions as you intended. So what is shutter speed and what settings should be taken care of when shooting? Well, let’s jump into it by simple description.

What is shutter speed?

The shutter is a device in a camera that is responsible for the duration of the light coming through. So if the shutter speed is low the amount of light will be more and if the shutter speed is high the less light will get through. Somehow you can compare shutter speed with a door. The speed of opening and then closing the door determines the amount of light that crosses. On the other hand, shutter speed clarifies the sharpness of the shot so the faster shutter speed produces sharper images and vice versa. In motion photography, shutter speed is an elemental part as you want to show the action alongside its sense of movement clearly. It’s in these cases that photographers come across some creative changes and create their own styles. These creative alterations can also be applied in filming to change the feeling of a shot but we’ll get to that later. Now let’s get familiar with the shutter in filming a bit more.

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Different Shutter Speeds and their effect

Shutter speed and filming

Filming actions requires a complete understanding of the rules and principles of camera shutter speed, that’s what we’ve said before. But there’s more to it. You also need to put framerates into consideration for the best results. The usual framerate out there is 30 fps that are set for many cameras but cameras are evolving and framerates like 60 are being available on more cameras. But if you want to use 60 fps, you need to think about the playback platform and its capacity. But as they say, shooting at 60 fps provides more detailed images of actions you’re filming. But how to set your camera right, according to the relationship between shutter speed and framerate? Well, there is a rule called 180-degree that tells you what to do.

What is the 180-degree rule?

Based on this rule, the framerate determines shutter speed on a ½ basis, so the shutter speed should be twice the framerate. If you plan to shoot on 30 fps, your shutter speed should be set on 1/60, or on 1/120 when shooting in 60 fps. To ease the process, professionals usually use variable ND’s to get what they want. A variable ND (variable neutral density) is a lens filter that controls the incoming amount of light. This way, you can set the shutter speed exactly at the point that it must be, according to the framerate. 

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Still Frame from 360 Degree Video (credit: red.com)
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Still Frame from 45 Degree Video (credit: red.com)

“the framerate determines shutter speed on a ½ basis, so the shutter speed should be twice the framerate”

Shutter speed and creativity

 Although there is a specific rule for setting shutter speed, playing with it will give you special results that might be interesting for you. One of the ways you can get outta the line is by setting the shutter speed four times higher than the normal (180 rule) to get actions more vivid and somehow dramatic with more emphasis. If you take the process conversely and reduce the shutter speed to one-fourth of the framerate, the result will be a dizzy, motion-blurry video that can be useful to show an unstable state for the character. You can also increase your shutter speed while capturing actions in slow motion to show every movement clearly.

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Creative use of Shutter Speed
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Creative use of Shutter Speed
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Creative use of Shutter Speed
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Creative use of Shutter Speed
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After all, once you learn how shutter speed works, you can play with it as you want and find the right settings for your project based on the feeling you want to create in the video. Pretty much like any part of the production and post-production, you can get creative and make your own ways of using tools so, go ahead and good luck!

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