Manage The Blur

You can see two still frames from motion capture at 45 degrees and 360 degrees, respectively. In these examples, the difference between each shutter angle is barely noticeable at the start of the race (when the action is furthest from the camera), but becomes progressively more apparent as the motion comes closer to the camera. At that point, the screen grabs from the videos show dramatically different motion blur.

Although many film-based cameras were capable of only certain shutter-angle ranges, digital is providing many exciting new possibilities. Just as focal length and aperture have been used as creative tools for controlling sense of scale and depth of field, shutter angle has the potential to do the same for motion.

This progression from sharp (minimum shutter angle) to 45º, 180º, 270º and 360º shows how a hypothetical volleyball would look over three frames. As a rule of thumb, 180º is a good choice, but depending on the scene, you may want to adjust that faster or slower to make a smoother or choppier look.

The optimum setting ultimately will depend on other factors, such as the speed of subject movement within the frame or the creative intent of the cinematographer. For example, one might wish to use a larger shutter angle to increase the exposure time and reduce image noise in low light, or to give the impression of softer and more fluid motion. Alternatively, with fast action, one might place more importance on depicting crisp details in each frame by using a smaller shutter angle.

Another consideration might be the film era one desires to emulate. Shutter angles much less than 180 degrees more closely mimic the style of old 1950s newsreels, for example, and a shutter angle of 180 degrees typically will give footage a standard cinematic style.

Ultimately, how you use shutter angle will depend upon your preferences and the looks you’re trying to make. As many still photographers are migrating to doing at least some motion capture, they’ve been under the impression that the creative control of the shutter speed was for still shooting only. As you can see from this article, nothing could be further from the truth. Not only is the shutter still a creative control, but how you use it can have a profound effect on the overall look of your project.

This article by Sean McHugh was originally published by RED Digital Cinema. Visit for more.

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