Video Camera Settings

October 4, 2017

The “Why”

Why did I create this page?  Well, when using one or two cameras, and trying to get the best possible results, the preparation can start to get a little complex.  There are enough settings to change before starting to take video that I possibly could forget one and slightly lower the quality of the final result.  In the real world for me this would likely make no real difference, I could just set everything to AUTO and shoot away, but then I would know these are not the best that I could do, and honestly, even thinking that if I took an extra 10-15 minutes in the setup and get better results… well, that would bug me, so I take the time and I do the best that I can with my current level of knowledge and the tools I have.  Over time, if I learn something else, or buy a different piece of equipment, I add it to this page.

The “What”

There are a lot of settings to make sure that are properly set when I make my videos, and to add to that, I often have two cameras to make sure that they are properly configured.  This is why I made this post here, to identify the settings I needed to get good videos with proper exposures at the highest possible quality using my standard lighting equipment.

Let’s discuss the lighting a little, because of course the settings below are all based on my lighting and how it is prepared.  I use a setup that doesn’t change all that much, but it can vary a little from video to video.  Basically I use different umbrella setups.  Sometimes I use two 32″ silver reflective umbrellas and other times I use a 32″ silver and 45″ silver for coverage over a slightly larger area.  In all cases I like to use a double light bulb setup on the camera left side to illuminate the accordion right hand (where I sometimes use that 45″ umbrella), and a single blub as fill-in lighting on the camera right side to give detail on the left hand of the accordion.  Because I like to position myself a little more on the camera right side of the shot for aesthetics, this always gives me the opportunity to place the camera right umbrella closer to the accordionist, offsetting the stronger double light bulb setup of the opposite side.

Canon Vixia HF R70

The settings I modify on this camera are:

  • P-mode (Programmed AE mode)
  • Custom white balance settings
  • Disable the IS (image stabilization)
  • Use a manual focus setting
  • Use a manual audio setting
  • Use the highest file quality in MP4 format (usually 35MB/60 FPS)

Nikon D4

This being a proper dSLR, I can go full manual and get very precise and stable settings.  The things I want to change on this camera are:

  • Switch to full manual mode
  • Custom white balance settings
  • An aperture somewhere around F/5.6 at 65-70mm focal length
  • Movie settings of 1080P at 29.97 FPS
  • A shutter speed of 1/60th when I record at 29.97 FPS
  • ISO somewhere around 200-400
  • Manual audio settings

Now for the best possible video quality, one could use the output straight out of the D4’s HDMI output port and record to something like an Atomos Ninja.  This permits recording at 1080 qualities of 4:4:2 at 10 bits, but for what I use, the output of the D4’s maximum quality settings are more than adequate for the few YouTube videos that I put out there.


This page is basically just a reminder or checklist, if you will, to help me remember the settings I want to change before I start shooting video.  It helps me to configure the cameras to give me their highest quality video (and audio when needed), and give me the cleanest, best results possible.

One thing that I did not yet cover is how to use my equipment to get the highest quality audio.  Though I do have the knowledge on how to do this, the setup of this aspect along with the making of the video adds a whole other level of complexity.  Though I will document and add that knowledge here one day, right now, I am very happy with the current results and how things are coming out.

Later, I will add more info on how I could ultimately record a multitrack recording, multi-camera setup and multiple additional audio and video tracks and cook it all down to one video with a beautiful soundtrack and advanced level video… but that is all planned for a future post.