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Master your Camera Controls: Focus, White Balance, Iris and More

Don't leave important decisions up to your camera! In this video you will learn how to use the camera controls to adjust the white balance, focus, audio and iris.

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Video Transcript

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Understanding how to properly operate your camera can be one of the most difficult and challenging tasks to feeling comfortable behind the lens. That’s why this time, we’re gonna take a look at a few simple steps to help understand how to master those controls.
First up, we’re gonna look at the focus and then we’re gonna jump into white balance. After that, we’re gonna take a look at the iris and after that, we’re gonna look at the zebra stripes. Following that, we’re gonna look at audio. I’m Tom Skowronski and this is mastering your camera controls.

Now, the first step in this process when it comes to setting your focus manually is to make sure your camera is set to manual as well. Now, the reason we do this is to make sure that we are in control of the camera and what we see through the LCD, as opposed to the camera being in control. Most consumer models nowadays come with a manual setting. Be sure to use it so you, the shooter, are in control.

Next up, when you’re out there on your shoots, you need to make sure that you zoom in on your subject. You need to make sure you zoom in all the way on your subject and what you’re gonna do is focus up from there. Once you focus up from there, you can decide what it is you wanna be focused on, the background or the subject; and from there, you’re gonna wanna zoom out and everything should lie in focus. This is generally how focusing up the camera is gonna work.

The next step in properly understanding how to master your camera’s controls is understanding how to set your white balance. Now, if you don’t set your white balance, your picture can end up a tad bit blue, a little bit orange, and it’s not gonna look natural. You want your whites to look crisp and clear. The way that you set your white balance is by zooming in on a large, white surface. You want the surface to fill the entire frame. Once that frame is full of only one color, which happens to be white, you’re going to adjust your white balance by pressing the white balance button. Once you do this, you’ll notice that the color of the white surface that’s full in your frame will actually change. Once that color changes, you’re free to zoom out and you will have properly set your white balance.

The next step you’re gonna wanna utilize is manually controlling your iris. What this is gonna do is help control your exposure and your contrast levels when you’re shooting your videos. Now, with most prosumer level cameras, the iris control is actually gonna be a very small ring located at the front of the camera towards the lens and when it comes to most consumer models, it’s generally gonna be found inside the onboard menu. You’re always gonna want to control your iris because it allows you to pick what you want your audience to focus on, where do you want the light to cascade down and what areas do you want to be dark and what areas do you want to be lit?

The next step is understanding how to use your zebras. Now, what this is gonna do is tell the operator how overexposed their shot is and this is very beneficial, especially when it comes to interviewing subjects because when you get down in a medium shot and you’re shooting their faces, it can really tell you what areas are overexposed with how you’re lighting them. So, hotspots are generally the cheekbones, the forehead, the nose. These are all areas where you want to avoid having lots of zebra stripes show up. If you can do that, your shot will end up nice, crisp and very professional looking.

Last step, you’re gonna wanna make sure you turn on manual on your audio because if you’re left with auto, it’s gonna sound like this.

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If you notice, the audio had to almost catch itself. It had to pick what it was gonna focus on. First, it focused on the wind and the car noise, and then it focused on the subject actually talking. If we’re on manual, we can avoid this entirely. And one of the other tricks is to make sure that you, yourself, talk first on camera and get a test. You always wanna be prepared, especially when shooting video. The last thing you’re gonna want is to capture audio that ends up distorted and that’s why you need to make sure it’s capturing at a very high level, but not too high because then when you get higher and higher with your voice, it’s just going to distort.

Mastering the camera’s controls is one of the most difficult and intimidating processes when it comes to making video, but once you do, it allows you to finally focus on the techniques, which is what making video is all about.

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