Shutter Angle - How To Make Your DSLR Video Look Like Film

After a lot of awkward talking into a camera, I finally managed to finish my video tutorial on shutter angle! If you are not sure what shutter angle is and how it can help you make your DSLR video look more like film, please watch my latest SurfacedStudio tutorial

Shutter Angle - How to make your DSLR video look like film

In addition to the video I have written up the following tutorial to go into a few more details on shutter angle and why it is so important.

Common mistakes when shooting video with your DSLR

Have you ever taken a video with your DSLR and it ended up looking more like some cheap home made clip rather than high quality film? While there are a lot of steps taken in post-processing to make the footage look sleek and polished, one simple principle you can utilise right now to improve the quality of your videos is shutter angle.

When you take video with your DSLR in automatic mode two bad things will happen:

  • The brightness will constantly change as the camera tries to keep your film at 'default' brightness. This causes the video to look very 'home made'
  • Because the camera can not change the aperture while recording video, it will constantly change the shutter speed to adjust the brightness of the captured image
To understand why changing the shutter speed during filming is a bad thing, we first need to discuss the effect shutter speed has on your video.

The effect of shutter speed on your video

The shutter speed of your camera controls how much motion blur you will see in every single frame of video footage. Unless the amount of motion blur in the video is similar to the amount we see in our every day lives, the footage will not feel natural to us. Our brain will perceive the differences and distance us from what is happening on screen :?

Have a look at these two images:

shutter speed comparison 1/30 and 1/100

The falling ball in the left image has a lot more motion blur because the photo was taken with a slower shutter speed of 1/30s. The falling ball on the right side has a lot less motion blur because the shutter speed was faster at 1/100s. While this example is a photo, the effect of shutter speed on video is the same! The amount of motion blur in every single frame is controlled by your shutter speed.

The camera trying to maintain even brightness in your video by constantly changing the shutter speed is bad because it changes the amount of motion blur from frame to frame, creating a very inconsistent feel

Most of the time, we are used to seeing a certain amount of motion blur with our naked eye - just try to swipe your hand in front of your face and you see what I mean. Sometimes we have 'blurry vision' and all movement around us seems to leave more streaks than normally. Other times we receive an adrenaline rush and suddenly everything we see and hear appears were sharp and rich in details.

By using a specific (fixed) shutter speed we can give our film a certain amount of motion blur, depending on what effect we are after:

  • By using a slow shutter speed, every frame of video will have more motion blur than we naturally see and thus the footage will appear blurry and smooth
  • By using a 'normal' shutter speed (I will discuss this below), every frame of video will have an amount of motion blur that approximates what we see every day with our eyes. This shutter speed is most frequently used in most motion pictures
  • By using a fast shutter speed, every frame of video will have very little motion blur and the footage will look as if we were experiencing an adrenaline rush
So now to the real question: Why is it called 'shutter angle'?


User avatar
7 Years Ago
May 11, 2012 @ 6:14 am

Hi. Very informative tutorial.

I was reading up about the shutter angle and I notice your placement of the shutter disc up at the corner of the frame differs from the pictures in both wikipedia's and this article on the cinematic look.

So which one is correct, or are all the placements possible? I understand it doesn't matter for digital cameras, but it still nice to know.

User avatar
Tobias@ Dana
7 Years Ago
May 11, 2012 @ 0:18 pm

Hello Dana,

Thanks for the comment.

Yeah, it seems that most explanations of shutter angle show the rotary disc shutter attached in the middle of the frame rather than at the corner. To be honest, I haven't really noticed till you pointed it out, but I don't think it matters much where on the film the shutter sits - as long as the film and the shutter are in sync, the exposure control for each frame should work the same way.

I could be wrong and if you do find any information to the contrary, feel free to let me know and I will include a note in the video to point this out

User avatar
Dana@ Tobias
7 Years Ago
May 13, 2012 @ 0:51 am

Yes, it probably doesn't matter at all. That article also mentioned some other shutter types, so it may be camera dependent.

I was just curious.

User avatar
Bryan Wright
7 Years Ago
September 29, 2012 @ 10:17 am

AWESOME explanation of this concept for someone who wasn't around using cameras when there were rotating shutters on things! Nicely done... thank you for posting this!

User avatar
7 Years Ago
October 9, 2012 @ 6:00 pm

i've some problem how to make video with my D300s + 50mm 1.8 and 17-70mm 2.8-4.5 ..this is my questions :

how do i get the best setting video in low light?, too much noise when i shootting in low light. advice me...thank you

User avatar
7 Years Ago
October 22, 2012 @ 0:37 pm

The easiest way to get enough light is to open your aperture all the way to 1.8, that is usually enough. I would try to avoid increasing the ISO past 400 (800 max) or you will get a lot of grain. If neither of that helps your only option unfortunately is to add more lights into your scene because even good DSLR cameras (and good lenses) hit a limit eventually when it gets too dark.

User avatar
7 Years Ago
October 21, 2012 @ 0:35 am

nice tutorial but what if u take more shutter speed like 1000th what the action will look like or animated? pls reply

User avatar
7 Years Ago
October 22, 2012 @ 0:33 pm

It'll probably make it look 'extremely' intensified as each frame of your video will have no motion blur at all. You will need a great camera/lens though since higher shutter speed means your video will get darker and darker. So you need to either open the aperture up more or increase the ISO to compensate. But it should look very choppy/crisp/adrenaline at 1/1000

User avatar
5 Years Ago
March 18, 2014 @ 6:40 am

Hello! I apologize for my poor English. I think it should be noted, in order to get the desired shutter speed, nice motion blur, but not an overexposed footage, in bright light or very sunny day, the only solution is to use a neutral density (ND) filter on the lens and regulate the amount of light that enters. Sometimes is (especially if you want to shoot with a large aperture) even ISO 100 too much.

Great site, great AE tutorials

User avatar
5 Years Ago
August 11, 2014 @ 1:37 am

Thanks for a good explanation!

I don't understand why shutter angle determines the film like motion blur and not the shutter speed.

Shooting 30p at 1/50 vs 25p at 1/50 gives the same motion blur, but smoother (less jagged) motion, doesn't it?

User avatar
5 Years Ago
August 11, 2014 @ 8:17 pm

I think you are missing something. Shutter angle is just a function of shutter speed and frame rate so shutter speed DOES control motion blur. It's just not the only thing as frame rate also comes into play when shooting video

User avatar
5 Years Ago
December 24, 2014 @ 9:25 pm


Ya,the above filming speed and the shutter speed can be achieved by using the following formulae I got it from one of the article:

1/filming speed(FPS) * shutter angle opening/360 degrees = 1/x seconds.


1/24fps * 180 degrees/360 degrees = 1/48 second.

I hope it might be helpulfull.............

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