Shutter Speed for Video

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Today’s Question: When I’m capturing video on my digital SLR, the shutter speed can only be set as slow as 1/30th of a second. But there doesn’t seem to be any limit to how fast a shutter speed I can use. Is there any guideline on what shutter speed I should use when shooting video?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Generally speaking you will want to use a relatively slow shutter speed for video, for a smoother playback experience. Using fast shutter speeds can result in a video that has a bit of a stuttering appearance. I generally aim for shutter speeds of around 1/30th to 1/60th of a second.

More Detail: There has long been a rule of thumb in video that the shutter speed should be half the duration of each frame based on the recording and playback speed. For example, many videos are recorded at 30 frames per second (fps), which would mean a shutter speed of 1/60th of a second would be good.

I don’t consider it critical to strictly follow this “rule”, but it does provide a good general guideline. If you use a very fast shutter speed for video, the playback will have a stuttering appearance. By using a shutter speed that is close to the duration each frame will be visible in the video, you’ll get a more natural and generally pleasing appearance for the video.

The only time I would use a faster shutter speed than about 1/60th of a second for video is if it was important to freeze action in the video. For example, you may have noticed when watching movies that if the camera pans across a scene, it is often impossible to read words on signs that appear in the frame, because at a shutter speed of about 1/30th of a second the panning movement is enough to cause motion blur for each frame in the video.

So, opt for a shutter speed of about 1/60th of a second as a general rule for video. You may find a neutral density filter helpful for this purpose, especially if you want to keep the lens aperture relatively wide open to achieve narrow depth of field. Only use fast shutter speeds for videos where it is important to freeze the action, keeping in mind that the video will have a somewhat stuttering appearance when fast shutter speeds are used.