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4.1 Camera Configuration

I'm assuming as a photographer, you already know your way around the camera. If you're already familiar with your camera settings and know the difference between aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, then shooting time lapse is going to be a breeze for you. If you're unfamiliar with your camera settings, don't worry, I'm about to go through the most common settings right now. Before shooting a time lapse we need to disable all the automatic features on the camera. The first thing I'll do is set my camera to manual mode. This will give me full control over the camera, and prevent it from thinking for me. Let's make sure that the lens is also set to manual. If you have an automatic lens, it will undoubtedly have an auto focus. Auto focus can be useful in setting up our shots, but once we've set the focus, we should remember to disable the auto focus feature. If we leave auto focus on, the camera might try to refocus during our sequence. Ideally switch off auto focus completely and manually focus your shots. You can always use live view to scale up your point of interest and fine tune the focus. Some lenses will come with an automatic image stabilizer. Stabilizers are designed for hand held shots to compensate for shaken motion. When used in conjunction with a tripod, however, the camera gets a little bit confused. When the camera is on a tripod, with the auto stabilizer enabled, it believes the camera is moving and tries to compensate for motion. As a result, it tries to stabilize something that is already stable and instead introduces shake. Let's make sure we switch off the image stabilizer. Another option to disable is automatic white balance or AWB. White balance is essentially informing the camera of the color temperature within your scene. White balance is simply defining a white object in your scene for the camera to evaluate. The camera will then balance the color temperature accordingly. You can manually set the white balance, but it's often a hassle. When you shooting stills using AWB it's no big deal. When shooting sequences, it can cause color temperature to shift giving inconsistent colors. You best option is to enter your camera menu and switch the auto wb to something more useful. Your options should include common light temperatures such as fluorescent or tungsten, which are useful for night shooting. You should also find common outdoor scenarios such as daylight, shade, or cloudy. Be sure to pick the color temperature that is closest to your scene. The temperature does not need to be exact, as this can be changed in post processing. What's more important is the temperature remains consistent. Next we need to consider the ISO. The ISO is your camera's sensitivity to light. In bright conditions, you would choose a lower ISO value. In darker conditions, you might need to increase the ISO. When the camera sensitivity or ISO is increased, so are the chances of unwanted artifacts such as noise and grain. Usually we'd want to keep the ISO value as low as possible. Before digital photography, photographers choose film with a ISO value that related to their lighting situation. These days, your camera might automatically decide the camera sensitivity. You should make that the auto ISO's disabled, and try to choose an appropriate value for your scenario. If I'm shooting outdoors in daylight, I'm probably going to set my ISO to a low value, such as 100 or 160. Next we need to consider Auto Exposure. Once the ISO is set, the only thing that can affect the exposure is the shutter speed or the aperture. The shutter speed controls the amount of time the iris has held opened, the amount of time that each image is exposed. The aperture controls the size of the iris and the amount of light going into the camera. Both shutter speed and aperture essentially allow light into your camera but in different ways. Both of these options will dramatically effect the look of your image. We need to understand how to control both the shutter speed and the aperture if we lower the shutter speed, we increase motion blur in our shot. The lower the aperture, the shallower the depth of field. Time lapses are much like landscape photography. In landscape photography, shots are often taken with a deep focus instead of a shallow depth of field. To retain focus throughout the shot, aperture values are often set somewhere between F11 and F16. Once the aperture is set, we need to adjust the shutter speed to correct the exposure. Your camera will have a meter that will inform you when the exposure is correctly set. If we're unhappy with the shutter speed, then we might consider using filters to increase our exposure times. In some circumstances, we might actually benefit from using automatic shutter speed. In another video, we'll explore how to do just that and use automatic functions to assist our time lapses. Whenever auto exposure setting, we should consider. Is the live view of our camera display. Many cameras will have an exposure simulation setting, where you can see what you will shoot. Other cameras might change the brightness of the screen automatically. This can trick you when you're setting up your shots. Check the manual of your camera to see your exposure simulation settings. While setting up our shot, we'll need to consider the ratio of our video. Video is often widescreen with a ratio of 16:9. This will be quite different from your default camera ratio which is likely 3:2. This means when we convert our images to video, it's going to be a crop factor. We're essentially going to lose some area from the top and the bottom of our image. You can alter the ratio on your camera to 16:9 and shoot widescreen images, but I think it's much better to crop the image in post production and have more flexibility on what part of the images you wish to keep. This will also give us the ability to create subtle animations, something that we're going to explore much later. The important thing is to try to visualize where the crop marks are going to appear. Because memory cards are in danger of filling up very quickly I'm going to shoot my images using SRAW. SRAW is a smaller variant of RAW where image sizes are smaller but the out put is still good for high definition video. I would usually disable JPEG at this stage and only shoot a raw sequence. I rarely use JPEGs and I will conserve storage space by choosing not to shoot them. However, for the purpose of this course I'm just going to enable JPEG so we can compare the differences between JPEG and raw in post production. If you don't have the ability to shoot in RAW and you can only shoot in JPEG, then I would recommend creating a flat picture style. Something that's going to give you more dynamic range than your JPEG images. Whilst considering picture styles I also tend to shoot in neutral and not any of the other picture modes. This gives me a more balanced image to work with, instead of over saturated colors or crush dark areas. So now we know more about the settings in general, I'm going to set up two different types of shots. The first we're going to do in manual using only the manual settings. In another one we're going to enable some automatic features. We're gonna head out on location and explore both of these configurations to see how they're going to work in a real situation.

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