The primary purpose of manipulating your shutter speed is to control how motion is portrayed in a scene. In other words, how do moving things and people look on video. Do they look normal, the way your naked eye sees it? Blurry? Or, sharp strobe like, and surreal? To best understand shutter speed. Think of a still film camera that actually has a little mechanical shutter door. That opens and closes to expose each frame of film for a given amount of time. Such as 1/48 of a second or on the other extreme, 1/1000 of a second.

The longer the shutter stays open, the more light and motion are captured on that particular frame of film. So a race car zipping by shot at 1/48 of a second will be blurry. Whereas the same race car shot at 1/10,000 of a second, will be much sharper and clearer. Because it didn’t move nearly as much in that short a span of time. The shutter speed simply indicates the length of the moment in time that is captured on each individual frame of video. Once you’ve got this basic concept down, you can start to apply it to the all important goal of telling your visual story in new and creative ways that complement, manipulate and play with motion.

Now for normal shooting, where you want something to look natural, like your naked eye, your shutter speed should be set to double your frame rate. For normal video shooting, you’re usually going to be shooting at one of two common frame rates in the US. And that’s 30 frames per second, if you want a more traditional video broadcast look. Or more common now with film makers, 24 frames per second, if you want to get a more traditional and cinematic film look. Since 24 frames per second is the same frame rate as film.

So if you’re shooting at 24 frames per second, you should set your shutter speed to 1 48th for normal motion. If you’re shooting at 30 frames per second, you should set it to 1 60th for normal motion, etc. Now if you’re coming from a film background and more used to shutter angles then you want to set your shutter angle to 180 degrees for normal shooting. So let’s take a look at some examples. If you’re shooting at a slower shutter speed. Motion appears more blurry. It let’s more light into the lens.

And it’s not very good for slow motion or freeze frames and post production. Now with normal shutter speeds everything appears the way it does to your naked eye. There’s some blurring, but no more than occurs naturally. And normal shutter speeds are not good for any footage that you intend to freeze frame or slow down in post. Fast shutter speeds cause motion to appear very strobe like and surreal. Fast shutter speeds also allow less light into the lens so you’re going to need to open up the aperture. And fast shutter speeds are primarily used for freeze frames and slow motion unless you just like that strobe like effect.

So now that we know how to adjust shutter speed to control how motion is portrayed on video under normal circumstances. Next up, we’re going to take a look at the ways we can manipulate shutter speed to help us better visually tell our story.

Reference:

  • Artis, Anthony Q. (2014) Shutter speed overview. Retrieved from https://www.lynda.com/Shooting-Video-tutorials/Shutter-speed-overview/129017/176175-4.html