Videomaker – Learn video production and editing, camera reviews › Forums › General › Video and Film Discussion › When to go Manual from Auto
March 6, 2014 at 6:07 AM #73976Trolley RonnieMember
I would lke to pose a very simple question that I seem to have trouble getting answered elsewhere.
I realise that a lot of my recording is done with my Canon XM2 on Auto, and so far I haven't had any really bad experiences. Simple question – if what I see in the vewfinder looks Ok, why would I change any settings?
Question has arisen as I am considering getting a Canon XF100 and read a review that included the comment that this camera requires professional understanding of setting all the manual functions. Is Auto that bad?
March 7, 2014 at 12:18 PM #209966Kevin McMember
I can tell you that there will be those pros who say go manual 100% of the time. I shot a TV commercial years ago all on auto with no problems; mainly because it was all shot outside on a sunny day and the lighting conditions varried only slightly. One of the biggest places where you'll run into problems comes when you swing your camera around from bright to dark and the camera goes into auto adjusting mode. This is just bad footage to use professionally.
With manual settings you can adjust your white balance, which I put near the top of the list for reasons to go manual. Additionally, you can control your iris for depth of field. Now, even in auto mode, you can force great bokeh by standing further from your subject and zooming in. In manual mode you need to plan your shots, and reduce the use of zoom during a shot, as it can change everything. If you can envision your shot, from color to depth of field to shutter speed for fast moving sports (or whatever), before you ever hit the record button, then you'll start to understand why manual is your best friend. You can get the shot you see in your head in manual mode.
At the end of the day, it really is best to know your camera and how to use all of its manual settings. But an argument could be made for shooting in auto mode. Whenever I get a new camera, as I did just two days ago, Canon Vixia HF G30 (oh my), I spend days only shooting in manual mode; inside, outside, in a church, on a mountain …etc. Then I try similar shots in auto mode to compare. I always go back to manual. Auto mode almost always gets the wrong white balance, and may boost the gain so high as to intruduce grain on dark shots. Dark is ok (to a point)! Grain is not. I recently watched a "professional" wedding video, where the videographer clearly did not have a good enough camera to be shooting dark scenes. They were horrible. You could barely tell what you were looking at. He needed to add a light to his rig to compensate, but instead just kept the scenes really dark and grainy. I guess his client didn't care. I guess he didn't either.
One trick you can use is to shoot in auto mode, then study the settings that your camera chose for the shot. Get to understanding those settings, then try them yourself in manual mode. Then you'll start tweaking your exposure, white balance (most important), shutter speed and aperature to refine the shot. Let the camera teach you!
Hope that helps.
March 8, 2014 at 5:34 PM #209969composite1Member
As a pro shooter, I rarely if ever shoot on auto. Some of the later model cameras have good tracking in auto but most don't. With use, it becomes second nature using manual focus. AF has its uses particularly during action when it may not be possible to use two hands while shooting. Bottom line, you don't want to leave too much up to the camera.
There are many excellent controls in today's rigs, but they can't 'shoot for you'. What happens if a servo in your only lens available freezed and you can't rely on autofocus? Are you just going to stop the shoot? If it's an event or one-time only occurrance, you'll have to keep shooting. However, a client is not going to pay for out-of-focus shots or listen to your excuses as to why you were incapable of getting proper footage.
Being proficient in shooting 'Full Manual' is a skill anyone serious about being a videographer or photographer must attain. Funny thing is; once you master manual shooting you'll rarely if ever go 'full auto' again.
March 10, 2014 at 1:14 PM #209983Laguna HikerMember
I'm one of those guys who almost always shoots with manual settings, even on the best cameras. I do get better results, but the main reason is that it forces me to think about what I'm shooting. I might not get better results from the camera, but I get far better results from myself.
So, the simple answer would be "always shoot manual".
March 10, 2014 at 2:01 PM #209987makoParticipant
"One of the biggest places where you'll run into problems comes when you swing your camera around from bright to dark and the camera goes into auto adjusting mode"
So what do you do if you have to do this shot and can't light it?
March 10, 2014 at 4:49 PM #209988Kevin McMember
@mako: I just had to shoot this shot several times today for a real estate listing video. I favor opening the lens and giving the room (inside the house) all the light I can, and allow the window to wash out. If your subject matter is outside – do the oposite. It depends on "what is important" in the shot. I did shoot a few shots today using auto and let the camera adjust acordingly. I'll decide in editing which shots to use based on how they look.
March 10, 2014 at 7:17 PM #209989
March 18, 2014 at 9:57 AM #210044gary1947Participant
For me, it depends on the type of shooting I'll be doing. If I'm inside the studio shooting an interview, I'll be on full manual, because I can direct when and where the action will happen. If I'm outside shooting a construction project, for example, I'll be on full auto to capture all the action.
There are other times when I shoot partially on auto, partially on manual. I recently shot a seminar where I used a wireless mic and the presenter was walking back and forth in front of a large tv screen. I set the audio to manual (to avoid AGC) and set the exposure to manual to keep the camera from automatically darkening the scene when he stepped in front of the TV screen. White balance and focus were on auto.
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