Why do I care about file size?

The smaller the file size, the longer the clip can be (when recorded on the card in the camera). While this is not a problem for most shooters, it can be one when shooting interviews or recording testimonials. On the Canon EOS 5D Mark II for example, the clips are only allowed to be 4gb in size on the card.

The logic

Since the camera codec is using a variable bitrate, the best way to reduce file size is to make it as easy as possible for it to encode the clip. To do so, you should look for:

  • uniform background: less details to capture
  • non moving background: still sections compress better
  • blur the background: less details to capture
  • have the subject wear non-stripped/uniform clothing: less details and they are out of fashion anyways

The quick test

If you have the choice between different background or composition, an easy way to figure out which one will result in the smallest file is to turn the camera capture mode to JPEG and take a picture of each subject.

Then, look at the file size of each (info button). The smallest picture will (all other things being constant) result in a smaller clip.

Voila, that was easy!

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chief astronomer at planet5D LLC
Mitch "planetMitch" Aunger is the creator and mastermind behind planet5D.com — which covers every aspect of HDSLR cameras (and a whole lot of other cameras as well). A lover of photography since his early days, he graduated to selling stock photos to make a little bit of spare cash. It wasn’t much, but it allowed him to upgrade to better cameras as well as computers, and it wasn’t taking money away from feeding his family.
He loves the stories that the still image can tell. In the summer of 2008, he read a story written by Arnold Kim called “I Quit My Job” — Arn is the owner of macrumors.com. He started macrumors in 2000 as a hobby, and by 2008 he was making more money with the site than he was on his day job, so he quit. The surprise to the story is that he was a doctor making more than six figures! Right then and there, planetMitch dreamed about doing the same thing.
September 2008 rolled around, and Canon announced this new version of the incredible 5D — the Canon EOS 5D Mark II. It was the first Canon DSLR to shoot full HD video and the earth moved! (It really was a huge deal in the photography world.) planetMitch knew if there was ever a chance to ride a wave of something he was really passionate about, this was it — and the blog at planet5D.com was born. It is now one of the most popular HDSLR blogs on the planet, and he is making a full-time living from blogging. He couldn’t be happier!
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