Optimizing Your Sony NEX 5n/7 For Shooting Video
The Sony NEX 5n and NEX 7 cameras are quite capable video cameras but because they are more designed for consumers, the out-of-the-box video isn’t optimized for production use. With a few simple tips, we can help make our video more edit-friendly for more professional use.
View the correct aspect ratio
By default, the LCD viewfinder will display a more square (3:2 ratio) aspect ratio. When shooting video, the recording aspect ratio is 16:9 (widescreen). To view the correct aspect ratio on the LCD, go to Image Size and then Aspect Ratio and change the setting to 16:9.
Set the correct shutter speed
For the right cinematic look, the shutter speed needs to be the inverse of double the frame rate. If we are shooting at 24 fps, then the shutter should be at 1/48th second (actually, the closest you can get with the camera is 1/50th, but its close enough). If you are shooting at 60 fps, then set the shutter at 1/120th second. For more information about this please read Why Shutter Speed Matters With DSLR Video.
Automatic white balance will usually do a pretty good job but does not seem to correct well in lower light conditions. To ensure a good white balance, shoot a few seconds of a gray card so that you can use that to correct the final white balance in post production.
Get Your Exposure Dialed In
Since your shutter will be set based on the frame rate, this leaves ISO speed and aperture. If you are shooting in bright sunlight and you want to use larger apertures then you should pick up a variable neutral density filter to enable you to dial down the exposure regardless of your other settings.
Lock in your focus
Your best bet with video is to use manual focus, or at least use autofocus to get the focus set and then switch to manual. This will keep the autofocus from doing any tracking while you are filming.
Use a tripod
Shakey video is really distracting and will put off viewers very quickly. Unless you are using some form of stabilizer or glide cam system, then make sure you are using a tripod. Be sure and turn off OSS (optical stabilization system) when using your tripod.
Flatten the image
For the best results in post production, you want to flatten the image somewhat by turning down some of the color settings. Go to Brightness and Color – Creative Style – Portrait, then go to Options and use the following settings: Contrast = -3, Color = 0, Sharpness = -3. These settings will give you more dynamic range to work with when color correcting (grading) during post production. The following video from Manuel A. Calle was done using these settings and then corrected during post:
Get Good Audio
If everything else is top-notch but your audio is poor, you will lose your audience faster than anything else. For the NEX 5n, you can use the Sony ECM SST1 Microphone for improved audio. For best results, record to a second audio device such as a ZOOM H1 and then sync the video and audio together during post production.
If you have been trying to get the most out of your NEX 5n or NEX 7 video, this article should have put you down the right track. We will be doing even more articles on getting the most out of your NEX cameras, in the meantime, if you have any tips please share them in the comments.