Nikon 1 video tips

Over the past few months I’ve had a number of readers contact me outside of this blog to ask some questions about shooting video with Nikon 1 gear. So, I thought a short article with some answers to the most common questions people ask me may be of interest to some folks. I certainly do not profess to be an expert in the use of Nikon 1 cameras for video work and I’m always trying to learn how to use my gear better. Below are some of the common reader questions I’ve been asked along with some explanation of a few things that I’ve been doing with my Nikon 1 gear that have worked for me in the past. If any readers have additional insights and tips feel free to share them!

Why does my Nikon 1 stop recording video and ‘lock up’?
Basically I’ve found this means that your Nikon 1 camera has overheated and needs to cool down before you can continue shooting video with it. Shooting video is very demanding from a power consumption standpoint and this creates a lot of heat inside the body of the camera. The compact size of a Nikon 1 body makes it difficult for the camera to dissipate that internal heat so the camera shuts down to protect itself. Unlike dedicated video cameras, a Nikon 1 body is not designed to capture long, continuous video clips and will overheat after about 20 minutes of continuous use.

To help reduce overheating I always turn off my Nikon 1 cameras between video clips. Since the bulk of my client work is video, I always take all three of my Nikon 1 V2’s with me so I can change cameras during a video shoot if needed. I also plan my projects to utilize a series of shorter length clips (i.e. 5-10 seconds each) whenever possible. Using a number of shorter clips taken from different vantage points helps to create a more interesting and involving project which is another good reason to use this approach.

Why does the exposure in my video clip noticeably change during recording?
You have likely used an automatic exposure setting of some sort. Whenever you use an automatic or semi-automatic setting, for example P, S or A exposure modes, or an auto-ISO setting, you have not locked in the exposure on your Nikon 1 camera. As a result subtle changes in lighting can cause your Nikon 1 camera to adjust exposure while filming. This can cause a noticeable shift in exposure in your video clip.

If you want to use any of the semi-automatic exposure settings like P, A or S  be sure to use the AE-L button on the back of the camera body to lock-in your exposure before taking you video clip. Your other option is to use the Manual exposure setting as well as a single dedicated ISO setting, e.g. ISO-400, and avoid any of the auto-ISO settings.

NOTE: you can set the AF-L/AE-L control to lock both exposure and focus if desired, exposure only, or focus only.

Why does my camera sometimes change its focus during video recording?
You have used one of the automatic focusing options rather than using manual focusing or locking in your focus. If the main subject in your video clip (most often a person) moves closer or farther away, your Nikon 1 camera will try to automatically adjust focus on the subject, especially if you have face recognition turned on. This can cause some ‘hunting’ by your lens which can be very distracting. You can use the AF-L control on the rear panel to lock in your focus before you record your video clip, or use Manual focusing.

It is quite cumbersome to use manual focusing with most Nikon 1 lenses. Is there an easier way to do it?
At this point in time only the 1 Nikon 32 mm f/1.2 and the CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 lens have external focusing rings. All of the other native Nikon 1 lenses require manual focusing to be done using controls in the camera body. This can be somewhat awkward and time consuming to do so I don’t bother using it.

When I shoot video I always start each clip by using single point AF with single AF (AF-S) focusing mode. I place the single AF point exactly where I want it in the frame and half-press the shutter to auto-focus on that point. Then, I have a couple of options to lock in that focusing. I can go into the menu and switch the camera to Manual focusing mode, or I can use the AF-L command on the back of the camera body. Either approach will lock in the focusing. I then record the video clip, after which I reset my camera to AF-S from Manual focus (or unlock the AF-L command) to get the camera ready to acquire focus for the next scene.

Sometimes when I try to use auto-focus when shooting video my lens will refuse to focus. What causes that to happen?
Typically I’ve found that is caused by one of two reasons. The first is that you are trying to focus closer than the minimum focusing distance of the lens. The second is that your battery may be getting low and needs to be replaced or recharged.

When I use full-time AF (AF-F) with subject tracking the camera sometimes doesn’t hold focusing very well and my subject tends to go in and out of focus. What’s the problem?
There actually isn’t any problem at all. Full time auto-focusing with subject tracking with most DSLRs and other interchangeable stills cameras that have video capability simply isn’t as good as with a dedicated video camera . This can become very noticeable when used to track faster moving subjects as the AF-F will lag somewhat. The AF-F with subject tracking should work OK if the subject is moving very slowly.

If continuous auto-focusing on fast moving subjects is an important video feature for you, buying a dedicated video camera would likely be a better choice.

If you have multiple Nikon 1 cameras another approach you  can use is to line them up with differing perspectives and record video simultaneously so you can capture a faster moving subject with multiple cameras. You can stage the scene so your subject enters the field of view with each camera in succession. You can then splice various clips together in post to create the illusion of doing a fast pan.

Why do some of my video pans look somewhat choppy?
The video produced by your camera is actually a series of individual still images. If you move your camera too quickly or at an irregular speed when doing a pan or other type of camera movement it may produce choppy looking video because of significant differences in the positions of your subject in consecutive video frames. Using a faster frame rate (or using an interlaced ‘i’ setting) can help minimize this effect somewhat. Depending on the Nikon 1 camera used (especially older bodies) shooting in a faster frame rate like 60p may mean you can only shoot in 720 not in 1080.

The next time you watch a motion picture pay a lot of attention to how the various scenes have been shot. You’ll find that fast action scenes are most often produced by linking a series of clips taken with stationary cameras with quick cut-ins between cameras. This creates the illusion of motion.

For best results, any pans or other camera movements should be done very slowly and smoothly.

Why does the sound on my Nikon 1 video clips sound ‘tinny’?
You are probably using the internal microphone with the camera. For S-series and J-series bodies that is the only option you have and it simply is what it is. The V-series bodies have a mic jack so you can hook up a Rode VideoPro shotgun microphone or other types of microphones to record better sound quality. Since the Nikon 1 V-series bodies have a non-standard shoe you will need to buy a Nikon AS-N1000 cold shoe adapter in order to mount the microphone. The other option is to use an external recording device along with a clapperboard so you can sync the sound in post production.

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21 thoughts on “Nikon 1 video tips”

  1. Hello. I am using a Nikon 1 J5 camera and I use it to film videos for YouTube. Although it does turn off after about 20 minutes, it’s fine with me. But I just have a question. I just recently discovered how to change the video settings to 60fps. So when the screen isn’t tilted up, it’s recording 60fps, but once I tilt the screen up so I can see myself while recording, it goes back to automatic video settings i think? It doesn’t record 60fps and there is not changes in the settings once I flip it up. Is there any way to fix this?

    Btw, is there a software I can use for J5 to remote live view for my macbook? Thank you!

    1. Hi Georgia,

      You have me at a very serious disadvantage as I have almost never used my Nikon 1 J5 cameras for any of my client video work. I shoot all of my client videos with my trio of Nikon 1 V2 cameras. So, as far as shooting video with the J5 goes… I have virtually no experience using the camera in that manner. Sorry I can’t be of any assistance.

      Your Nkon 1 J5 is shutting off after 20 minutes due to overheating with the camera. This is quite common when shooting video with Nikon 1 cameras. Its one of the reasons that I shoot client projects using three Nikon 1 V2s… so I can avoid losing production time in a camera overheats and shuts down.

      I will send a note to Nikon Canada to see if I can get an answer on the tilt screen issue for you.

      Tom

      1. Hi, Tom. I appreciate you replying to my comment. Thank you so much. It’s just that I like to film videos like vlogs and makeup tutorials so I was looking for tips on how to improve the quality. It would mean alot to me if you can update me once Nikon replies. Thank you!!

        Also, while I’m at it. Can I ask, I know you use your V2 cameras, but I’m just hoping you might be able to help me out? It’s just that whenever I shoot with my camera, the quality of the images aren’t that sharp. It’s as if it lacks sharpening you know? It’s quite blurred and sometimes I use the creative settings, sometimes the automatic one, but either way, it doesn’t produce a clear and crisp image quality. I’m not sure which settings I should use or change.

        ++ You know how Nikon has this software called ” Camera Control Pro 2″? But it doesn’t support my Nikon1 J5 camera, I was wondering if you know any program that allows you to remote live view the camera, like show the camera screen on my laptop? It doesn’t have to be able to take pictures, but just view the screen so I can use my laptop as an external monitor?

        Sorry I have so many questions, but thank you so much. It means alot! God bless!

        1. Hi Georgia,

          I will certainly give you an update, should I get a reply from Nikon (there is no guarantee that I will hear back from Nikon of course).

          When it comes to shooting video I’ve found that using Manual camera settings produce the best results. Here is a link to another article that I wrote on this subject: https://tomstirrphotography.com/using-manual-settings-when-shooting-video

          When automatic camera settings and a zoom lens are used it is quite common for a Nikon 1 camera to hunt for focus whenever the subject moves a bit closer or further away from the camera. This can cause the subject to lack sharpness due to the lens hunting for focus. Lens focus hunting is made worse when continuous auto focus is used. I typically use single point auto-focus when shooting video. I shoot in Manual mode and use the AE/AF lock button on the back of my V2 to lock in both exposure and focus before recording a video clip. I use a wireless remote to turn my V2 on and off when recording myself on screen. One of the reasons that I use V2 bodies for my video work is that I like the amount of Manual controls that they give me. I also use an external shotgun mic or a wireless lapel mic when recording myself on screen for better sound quality. The J5 does not accept external mics.

          I can’t tell from your comments how you are setting up your J5 when you shoot video, as well as the ISO at which you are shooting. I always set my ISO manually with my V2s so I can control the amount of noise in my video clips. I typically would not shoot video higher than ISO-800. If you are shooting at higher ISOs it can make your clips look quite grainy. While I don’t need to use studio lights when shooting at my industrial clients’ facilities, I do have to set up studio lights when shooting myself on screen when in the office, to ensure a sufficient amount of light. I prefer to use 1 Nikon prime lenses when shooting video, rather than zoom lenses. I’m not sure which lenses you are using with your productions.

          I love my J5 cameras for all of my general photography work, but not for video as the body does not provide me with the amount of manual controls that I need to use for the type of work I do. Cameras like the Nikon 1 V2 are capable of producing excellent video results when used within their limitations. Shooting long, uninterrupted video clips with continuous auto-focus is not a strength of Nikon 1 cameras. Dedicated video cameras are typically much better for that type of application.

          I’ve never used Camera Control Pro 2 as using the controls on the body of my V2, along with occasional wireless remote use, are all I need for the work I do. I’m not sure if an external video monitor can be used with a J5.

          To get the most out of your J5 I suggest shooting video using Manual settings, using single point AF, and 1 Nikkor prime lenses if you own them. If that doesn’t improve the quality of your videos sufficiently, it may be that the J5 is not the best camera for the specific video work you are trying to produce.

          Tom

          1. Hi!! Thank you so much for your reply. It really helped me out. I will try to play around with the settings of the camera more so that I can have a clear understanding of how to properly use it.
            Hopefully I can film my videos better!

            You mentioned that you love your J5 camera for general photography, do you have any tips on how to get a crisp and sharpened photo? Because that’s what I was talking about in my previous comment, but I did also experience that on my videos as well. The picture seems to lack sharpening and it appears to be of low quality. What settings do you recommend to take the best photos for J5? I’m sorry I’m asking so many questions.

            1. Hi Georgia,

              I have a number of articles that may be helpful. You will find them under the Photography Fundamentals section of my website. I’d suggest that you have a look at my articles dealing with The Exposure Triangle, Shutter Speed, Aperture, and ISO.

              After reading those articles, go back and have a look at some of your photographs that were not sharp or in focus. By checking the EXIF data on each of your photos you will then be able to determine the factor(s) that contributed to the prior results you achieved.

              As long as you use a fast enough shutter speed to deal with subject motion and your own body motion, an appropriate aperture, and ISO setting… your camera should be capable of producing good, sharp results.

              Tom

        2. Hello Georgia,

          I heard back from Nikon Canada today. Here is a quote from the email…

          “Hey Thomas, good news!
          As soon as I emailed you, one of my staff was still interested in exploring the J5 further. What he found was that turning the Self Portrait mode to OFF in the setup menu will ensure that you can still record videos at 60p even with the screen flipped! So that solves your mystery, I hope.
          Let me know!”

          The J5 is unable to connect to a computer for tethering.

          Tom

  2. I have the Nikon 1J 4 camera going on two years and I really really hate this freaking camera it overheat a lot it’s hard to get proper lighting it sucks at night time you only can record 10 minutes at a time before for the damn thing shut down on you and close up the battery life don’t last that long I bought like five batteries for it but time you get to the second battery the damn thing overheat and don’t want to come back on Then once it does come back on it says overheating wait to camera cool down this camera is only good for snapping photos don’t use it for recording video you would be just wasting your time

    1. Hi manmann,

      You’re absolutely correct in saying that Nikon 1 cameras are prone to overheating when shooting video. They are not really designed to record long, uninterrupted clips. For that type of application a dedicated video camera will do a much better job. I shoot all of my client video work using three Nikon 1 V2s. Part of the reason I use three camera bodies is that I often need to capture the same scene from different perspectives concurrently. The other reason is to ensure that I have additional bodies should I run into any overheating issues.

      Tom

      1. Thomas, thanks for the tip. It’s sent me along an interesting and immersive journey with a whole set of new (to me, I’m a still photographer) jargon like “colour grading”.

        I’m currently trying both powerdirector and edius. We’ll see which one wins.

        1. Hi Aaron,
          Glad to be of assistance! Video is an interesting path, which depending on the clients, subject matter and related quality requirements, can become very complex…and quite expensive in terms of gear. One of the things I’ve learned over the years is to only accept projects that are a good fit for the capabilities of the gear I own, and the expertise I can bring to a client. This has led to me turning away some projects on occasion, which in retrospect was absolutely the right thing to do.
          Tom

  3. Hi Thomas,

    thanks for the tips! I am using the same trick for prefocusing the shot, but with one little variation – I setup AF-S in Photo mode, and MF in Video mode. Before I start the shot, I switch to Photo mode, half press the shutter to focus and then I switch back to Video mode, to prevent the focus from further change.

  4. Advantages of 1″ sensor is unfortunately not used to it`s potential by Nikon company. Global shutter would be one big pro ( look Bolex16 project ). Another thing is lack of manual lenses ala Super16 ones of old days, scarce and in some cases expensive. Articulated LCD would be a great help too , would help overheating a bit too.. Choppy videos are often result of using faster frame rate then standard 24/25 or in some cases 50/60, yes they can be sharper but it`s not the point in movies, fluidity is. As to exposure what about an electronic ND filter? And so on.

    1. Hi stanislaw,
      I totally agree that a global shutter would be preferred. The V4 will likely have a tilt rear panel, but likely not articulated, but even that will help. Thanks for adding to the discussion.
      Tom

      1. Another thing I would love to see is Olympus style 5 axis in body stabilisation, That would greatly improve hand held filming and of course allowing for lower ISO in stills thus quality compensating for small sensor.

        1. Hi stanislaw,

          Since Nikon does VR in its lenses and has for a long time now I don’t see them coming out with in body stabilization any time soon. I have heard that the Olympus system is quite good.

          Tom

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