Should You Be Using Shutter Angle or Shutter Speed?

Transitioning to a Blackmagic Cinema Camera from a DSLR or mirrorless camera can be a bit of a challenge. The settings and terminology – like Shutter Angle on the BMPCC4K – may be different from what you are used to working with. However, if you learn the differences well, you could make your life easier.

The BMPCC4K actually allows you to (in some capacity) fix errors in ISO, white balance and log settings in post-production. This allows you to focus more on getting a good shot – not getting your camera settings exactly correct. However, don’t use this as a get out of jail free card. You should still try to get the right settings and only allow the camera to make inevitable mistakes in white balance and exposure easier to manage.

Source: Frame Voyager YouTube Channel

What is Shutter Angle?

One of the first differences you encounter after making the switch to a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K (BMPCC4K) is the option to use Shutter Angle instead of Shutter Speed. Before we discuss the benefits of Shutter Angle, we have to define what these two terms mean.

The camera shutter is what allows light to come through for your shot. The amount of time the shutter is open directly determines the amount of light. Essentially, shorter time is less light and longer time is more light. Therefore, Shutter Speed is exactly what it sounds like – the speed at which a camera closes. The faster the speed, the smaller amount of light.

Shutter Angle, a feature available on the Blackmagic cinema cameras, performs essentially the same function by determining how much light the camera lets in. For example, think of Shutter Angle like a disc that rotates around and around and allows light through. However, unlike Shutter Speed which requires the user to adjust based on every frame rate change, Shutter Angle automatically adjusts based on your setting.

Shutter Angle vs. Shutter Speed

So what is the difference between shutter speed and the shutter angle that we see in the Pocket Cinema Cameras? As you can see, these are essentially the same thing. It’s easy to think of it like the difference between the metric and imperial systems – performing the same function but presenting the information in a different way.

What makes Shutter Speed more difficult is remembering to adjust it based on your frame rate when you need to use another shot that requires a different frame rate. This action, however, is crucial for the success of your shot. So it can be a challenge on run and gun shoots to keep up with shutter speed and remember to change it.

Shutter angle allows you to not have to worry about changing the speed by automatically doing it for you when you change the frame rate. Who doesn’t want to take the option that is easier and potentially leads to fewer unfixable mistakes?

How to Calculate

Before we explain how to calculate your Shutter Angle, we have to look at how to calculate Shutter Speed. And, apologies in advance, this is going to involve some math.

Let’s say you’re recording in a standard 24 frames per second. You typically would use the rule of 180 to determine the best shutter speed for the camera. In this case, that means a shutter speed of 1/(2xFPS). So, in this case, you would shoot at a shutter speed of 1/48th of a second.

Generally the best way to formulate shutter speed in normal situations is to have your shutter speed be double your frame rate. This is called the rule of 180. This speed allows for the most natural looking movement on camera and is considered to be the closest we can get to how we actually perceive motion in real life.

The formula for understanding the relationship between Shutter Speed and Shutter Angle is:

Shutter Speed = Shutter Angle divided by Frame Rate times 360.

That means if you’re shooting at 24 frames per second at a shutter angle of 180, you’re exposing each frame to half the time period of each frame.

Here’s that formula:

180 divided by 24 times 360 equals 1/48 of a shutter speed.

Basically setting your shutter angle to 180 means you’re setting your camera to shoot at double the speed of your frame rate.

Using Shutter Angle on BMPCC4K

Turning on Shutter Angle in the BMPCC4K or another Blackmagic cinema camera is simple. First, open the menu and go to the setup tab. From here, you’ll have the ability to switch between Shutter Angle and Shutter Speed.

As always, you have to pick the setting that you are most comfortable with – especially when you are out on a job. Take some time and experiment with both options and make the decision that works for you and your routines and techniques.

Ready to pick up a BMPCC4K? Here is a list of our gear:

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If you would like to see this information in a video format, check out the YouTube video below.

We’re always updating our library of helpful resources for Blackmagic Design cameras. Check it out here.

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