Camera Operation and Control

CC Image Canon T3i by skenney2 at Flickr


For this project, our team of four (director, cinematographer, editor, screenwriter) created a short documentary on how to use a Canon T3i camera and set basic filming settings. By doing this project we got to practice filming hands-on and work on learning more about the process of film making.

Terms, Concepts, Notes

  • Ambient Light – the natural light in a scene
  • Aperture Priority – a camera setting that allows the user to control the aperture, leaving the shutter speed to be automatically determined
  • Bokeh – the appearance or “feel” of out-of-focus areas
  • Bulb “B” Setting – a camera setting where the shutter will remain open as long as the release button is depressed
  • Butterfly Lighting – lighting where the main light is placed high, in front of the face, aimed at the center of the nose
  • Complimentary Color – pair of primary/secondary colors opposed to each other on the color wheel
  • Depth of Field – range of distance in a scene which appears focused
  • DSLR – acronym for “digital single lens reflex,” a type of camera
  • EXIF – acronym for “exchangeable image file format,” which is data attached to each image that tells the type of camera, date/time, image format, and camera settings when the picture was taken
  • F-Stop – number representing the aperture of the camera
  • FPS – acronym for “frames per second,” the number of pictures a camera is able to take in one second
  • Golden Hour – time an hour or less before the sun goes down, when the light is more complimentary to skin tones
  • Graininess – when clumps of individual grains are large and irregularly spaced out in the negative or digital image, making the picture appear “grainy”
  • Gray Card – card used to help color correct/balance a camera before taking an image
  • High Key – image mainly made up of evenly lit light tones
  • Hyperfocal Point/Distance – the nearest point to the camera considered acceptably sharp when the lens is focused on infinity
  • ISO – film or digital chip speed/sensitivity designated by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
  • JPEG (JPG) – acronym for “joint photographic experts group,” an image file format standard where the size of the file is reduced by compressing it
  • Kelvin – a temperature scale, here used to measure color temperature of the visible light spectrum
  • Lens Hood – accessory that attaches as a collar to the front of a lens to prevent stray light from striking the surface of the lens, causing flare
  • Lossless – describes file formats which do not result in a loss of data – example: raw file format
  • Lossy – form of image compression when saving image that discards data from it – example: .jpg
  • Low Key – image that is mostly dark, higher contrasted light between the dark and the light
  • Macro Lens – type of lens that can focus extremely closely
  • Megabyte (MB, Mb, Mbyte) – a million bytes
  • Megapixel – a million pixels, used to describe the number of pixels that a digital device’s image sensor has
  • Model Release – contract where a model consents to the use of his/her images by the photographer/a third party
  • Monochrome – image of a single color in differing shades
  • (Electronic) Noise – grainy look in a digital image, usually occurring in shadowy/low-light areas
  • Normal Lens – lens with a focal length approximately equal to the diagonal of the film format or of a digital camera’s image sensor
  • Painting with Light – when a photographer incrementally lights an otherwise darkened scene using a handheld flashlight or other small light source while the shutter remains open during a time exposure
  • Panning – technique involving taking a picture while moving the camera at a relatively slow shutter speed
  • PSD – image type in Adobe PhotoShop for a “work-in-progress,” must be converted to another file type before use
  • Raw Image – digital image format that contains the most info possible from a camera sensor (uncompressed)
  • Reciprocal Rule – rule that states your shutter speed should not be slower than the reciprocal of your effective focal length to avoid blur
  • Reflector – any device used to reflect light on a subject
  • Rembrandt Lighting – portrait lighting technique which casts a triangle shaped shadow on the less illuminated side of the face
  • Resampling – when an image editing program is used to change the image size
  • RGB – acronym for “red, green, blue,” the primary colors of light
  • Rule of Thirds – composition rule that divides the screen into thirds horizontally and vertically to determine placement of important objects in a shot
  • Through-the-Lens (TTL) – refers to both exposure metering of the light passing through the lens/viewing a scene through the same lens that allows light to reach the sensor or the film
  • UV Filter – a clear, neutral filter that absorbs ultraviolet radiation, with no effect on visible colors
  • Vignetting – a fall-off in brightness at the edges of an image, slide, or print
  • White Balance – when the camera adjusts the colors in an image to make the image look more natural based on the objects/areas that are pure white
  • Zoom Lens – a lens in which focal length is variable


  1. Brainstorm ideas for the documentary amongst group vocally
  2. Create a mind map for ideas on paper
  3. Talk about production schedule
  4. Create the shot list on Google Docs
  5. Create the screenplay on Google Docs
  6. Create the storyboard on paper
  7. Scout a filming location
  8. Block shots at location
  9. Take continuity notes
  10. Begin filming documentary
  11. Start editing videos and putting together documentary
  12. Create blog post

Project Skills Evidence

For our project we decided to make it like an old 60’s infomercial. To create the older style we edited the film to be black and white, have old background music and to look grainy and make the quality look older.

What I Learned

After creating this documentary I learned more about the film making process (preproduction, production, post-production) and how to go through each step. I also learned about how to work and film with a T3i Canon and how to set all of the basic settings. As we filmed the documentary, we ran into several problems. The first was time. There were things we wanted to add in to make it look more like an infomercial, but because of our limited time we had to cut some things out that were just “fluff” and only keep the required and necessary parts of the project. Another problem we ran into was continuity. We filmed most of our shots on one day and the rest on the next day. Because our editor was the person we had been filming, we decided to let him stay inside and edit the clips we already had so we could get it done and use a different person to film for the second day. This caused our video to have two different narrators, which disrupted the continuity.

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