How to Calculate Shutter Speed

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The speed of a camera's shutter will affect how the footage looks when played back. Calculate shutter speed with help from a filmmaker and freelance editor in this free video clip.

Part of the Video Series: Filmmaking & Camera Tips
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Video Transcript

Hi guys. I'm Justin Z. I am a Los Angeles filmmaker and freelance editor for the entertainment industry. I've been getting some basic questions on filmmaking including this one how to calculate shutter speed. Well before you calculate shutter speed you have to understand what it is. Shutter speed is basically how long the shutter in the body of the camera which separates light from the lens to the film or the sensor on a digital camera stays open. So shutter speed length can be anywhere from an opening for a quarter of a second to one one thousandth of a second and that can apply to both photography and videography or really film, because on a video camera it is simulated shutter speed. It's not actually creating shutter speed. So basically the way it works is that the longer the shutter is open, the more light comes in. You can get more light to come in with a longer shutter but at the same time it creates more motion blur because if you have a moving subject on a still camera and the shutter is open for too long then you'll get blurriness. The shorter it's open, the less light that comes in. So that means that you have a more still subject in your photograph but you'll get less light coming in. So you have to compensate with opening up your aperture on your lens which is a different subject entirely. Look up basic photography on the internet. When it comes to videography or film, shutter speed determines how blurry or not blurry or how much motion blur there is when it comes to the film and this is entirely dependent upon the subject you are shooting. So in low light situations you are definitely going to want a low shutter speed so you get more light. In brighter situations you're going to want a higher shutter speed because of how much light is already coming in. From a more aesthetic point of view, if you are shooting something that's fast such as an action film or somebody punching or moving around really fast then you want a very high shutter speed because it creates much less motion blur and you can see the subject moving around much clearer. So when it comes to calculating shutter speed it depends on a couple of factors. The first is how much light you already have and the second is how your subject is moving around. So if you have a lot of light and the subject is moving around, you want a very high shutter speed so you can catch all their movements. Also it makes it so there's not too much light coming in. If it's a low light situation you want to have a higher shutter speed so you have more light coming in. To give you a quick example we're going to use my camera to change the shutter speed on a subject. My camera is basically set up right here, it's showing a few objects, up and down, etc. Changing the shutter speed will change how much light comes into the camera and will change how much motion blur I get. So when I change the setting to let's say 100, that means the shutter simulated of course, is opening 1/100th of a second every second. So that means 1/100th of a second of light is entering and that means that there's less light coming in but there's also less motion blur. So like I said, if you want to have less motion blur then you need to have a lighter situation. So you can either change the settings on your camera or light the set better but generally you're going to be in a brighter space altogether such as outdoors. Now if you want more light coming in, then you lower the shutter speed. That's as low as it goes on this camera when it comes to shooting video but when it comes to shooting photography, you can go down to a quarter of a second, a half a second, one second, you could even have the shutter speed open for ten seconds. That's usually good for something like a still object like a bridge looking while you see cars going by. It makes it look like they're nothing but red and yellow lights. So once again, general idea, higher the shutter speed the less the motion blur but the less light that comes in. The lower the shutter speed, more motion blur but more light that comes in. So if you have any extra questions about this or any other filmmaking techniques, feel free to ask.


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