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How to Take Video in Dim Light

written by: Misty Faucheux•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 1/14/2011

Want to learn how to take video in dim light? Well, you're in the right place. Learn what equipment you need for low-light shooting and the techniques for creating crisp, clean videos.

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    Issues with Filming in Dim Light

    While you try to capture video during the best lighting conditions, you sometimes have to record video in low-light situations. This often leads to grainy or noisy video that look unprofessional. So, you need to learn how to take video in dim light. It’s not as hard as you think it is, but you will have to experiment with your camera settings and invest in some equipment.

    The main problem with filming in dim light situations is that video quality suffers. You get streaking caused by external lights, which leave small spots in your images. Your videos are grainy because you’ve had to adjust the auto gain control, which is a technology for finding the right level for your input signals. The movements of your subjects can also become blurry because you may have adjusted the shutter speed to compensate for the low light.

    And then there’s the overall problem of your videos just being too dark. While you may run into some other problems, these are the main ones.

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    Equipment and Lighting

    So, how do you improve your video? Well, the first thing that you need to do is set up your camcorder on a tripod. This will reduce shaking, which is especially noticeable in low-light situations. You may even consider using an external remote to start and stop video recording. This will further decrease the possibility of blurry video.

    Try setting up some filtered lighting. If the goal is to capture a dark scene, then you’ll need to move this light as far away from the camera as possible. But, it provides your camera with some light to work with. You could even position it above the action and give your video a moonlight effect.

    Or, just shoot when the moon is full. It provides plenty of natural lighting, and it helps set the mood for the shot.

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    Manual Versus Auto Focus

    Avoid automatic settings. A camcorder’s autofocus requires light to function properly. If not, it will use the wrong focal points, or it will take it a very long time to focus on the subject. Also, don’t use automatic gain control if at all possible. As light changes or people enter and leave the scene, it will keep changing the gain levels. Instead, manually change the gain level. Try using a gain level of about 3 decibels (dB), but less than 6 dB, which could increase noise.

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    Other Techniques

    When learning how to take video in dim light, don’t zoom in and out on your subject. This will increase the chances of noisy shots. Set your zoom and focus, and then leave it alone. If you have to, leave the zoom wide to capture all of the action.

    Also, don’t use filters when shooting in low light. It inhibits the amount of light that can enter your camcorder’s lens. Try using presets if your camcorder comes with them. Certain camcorders have presets specifically for dim light situations.