What’s up guys, Sagi here and welcome to another Tech Gear Talk. Today we’re going to walk you through how I set up my Sony A7iii for video. A lot of people buy a nice camera and then use it with all the default functions and button and they aren’t getting the most or the best user experience out of their gear. I think that one of the best things you get when you buy a higher end camera is the ability to customize it to exactly how you shoot. So I have been experimenting with different ways to customize my A7iii and I now have all the buttons set up in a way that makes so that I only have to access the menu for two functions – not sure why I can’t assign them to a button or menu, but we’ll talk about that later.
Let’s get started, I’m going to go page by page through the MENU settings, then we’ll do the buttons on the camera and finally we’ll customize the Function menu.
To start off, go ahead and put the A7iii in Movie mode on the top dial, obviously, we’re shooting video so if you don’t do this first, some of the features I show you next will be grayed out.
Next we want to go to the 2nd Camera Settings, page 1 and set it to Manual Exposure. This means that we’re going to manually control Aperture, Shutterspeed and ISO so that we have full creative control over our exposure. If you don’t do this and you leave things on Program Auto, Aperture Priority or Shutterspeed priority, you’re going to start noticing that the a7iii will start altering your exposure as lighting conditions change and that’s going to ruin your video.
Next we’re going to set resolution and framerates. It’s on the same page as Exposure Mode, you’re going to go to File Format and choose between 4K and HD. One of the reasons I go this camera is because of the incredible 4k quality, so I shoot in 4K even if I plan on downscaling it back to 1080p in post. And I have a video that talks about 4K and why you may or may not want to use it, so I’ll link to it up in the corner and in the description. Next we’ll go to the next item down which is Record Settings and we’re going to select between 24 and 30 frames per second. If you want the most cinematic look, go ahead and choose 24p 100M which will give you the best 4k footage the a7iii can produce. When I shoot for clients I mostly use this settings. I shoot all of my channel videos at 30p 100M because I happen to like that look right now. There is a 1.2x crop when using 30p instead of 24p, but it’s not something that bothers me. Also, make sure that you have a fast SD card that can handle these higher bit rates. We also have the option to shoot 1080p which I use when I want to shoot the best slow motion this camera can do. To do this, I select XAVC S HD and then 120p 100M – and I’m going to talk about this more in the next section.
Next I want to stay on the same page and go down to S&Q settings which is a feature that I use to quickly get slow motion or quickly start a timelapse. So essentially, S&Q lets you pick a framerate between 1 and 120fps and then a playback speed of 24 or 30 fps. If you choose 120fps and the playback speed of 30fps, you’ll get slow motion by a factor of 4, if you select 24fps, you’ll get slow motion by a factor of 5. On the other hand, if you pick 1fps and playback of 30fps, you’re speeding things up by a factor of 30 – which creates a timelapse. Now, I don’t use these features very often and here is why – for slow motion, this uses a lower bit rate than 1080p at 120fps. The S&Q feature uses what ends up being 60M and in 1080P I can shoot at 100M. As far as timelapse, now that Sony released interval shooting, I’d rather do an actual timelapse at a much higher resolution and with full control, the ability to drag my shutter, etc. If you want me to do a tutorial on that, let me know in the comments section. Ok, so why am I telling you to set this up if I don’t use it a lot? Because there might be a situation where I’m shooting at 4K and need to very quickly switch to slow motion or I’ll miss the action.
Ok, next we’re going to set up the autofocus drive speed and tracking sensitivity. We’re going to Camera Settings 2 page 2 and we’re going to set Drive Speed to Fast. This dictates how fast the A7iii is going to rack focus once it decides that the footage is out of focus. So basically, this controls how fast that transition happens, and I like it set to Fast with the A7iii which is not true for every Sony camera – some models I don’t like the fast because it’s too abrupt. Next we’re going to set the autofocus tracking sensitivity to Responsive. This controls how much of a change the AF system needs to detect before it initiates pulling focus. Again, for me and how I shoot, I like to have this set to responsive rather than Standard.
Next we’re going to set the audio options and we’re still on Camera Settings 2 page 2, Audio Recording, of course you’ll have this set to ON and Audio Recording Levels and this is going to depend on the microphone that you’re using and how far away your subject it from the microphone. If you’re using a non-power microphone like Rode videomicro, then you’re going to need to turn this up higher to somewhere between 25 – 30 or even more, depending on how far away the person is from the microphone. If you’re using a powered microphone like the Diety D3 Pro or the Rode VideoMic Pro Plus you’re going to want to use the microphone to amplify the sound instead of the A7iii not-so-great preamps. These powered microphones have different +db settings which allow you to let the microphone’s high end audio components do the work and you’ll get much more crisp and clean audio. If you watched my A7iii Accessories you Need video, I show you exactly what I do to get incredible audio and I’ll link to that video it up in the corner and in the description. Finally, make sure that Audio Level Display is set to On so that you can see your levels while you’re recording.
Moving on to the next page, so we’re on Camera Settings 2 Page 3, we’re going to the last option, Movie w/ Shutter and we’re going to turn it to ON. This is going to allow us to start and stop recording with the shutter button, rather than having to use this little tiny RECORD button that’s by the viewfinder. This is just a better overall user experience and is even more important if you plan on using a cage.
Moving on to page 4 of Camera Settings 2, make sure that SteadyShot is turned ON so you enabling In Body Image Stabilization and that SteadyShot Settings are set to Auto, where the a7iii automatically detects the focal length of the lens. The only time I would not use this is if SteadyShot was encountering some problems with the lens I was using and I needed to set the focal length manually.
Skipping page 5 and going to page 6 of Camera Settings 2, we’re going to set the Finder/Monitor to Monitor (manual). By default a7iii is set to automatically activate the viewfinder and deactivate the LCD when you put the camera to your face. This makes sense when you’re shooting photos and you’re going to use the viewfinder a lot. However, for video, I very rarely use the viewfinder and what ends up happening is that this “switch” is triggered when I’m trying to change a setting on the camera. So I’ll try to press MENU and the screen turns off because I got too close to the sensor and setting this to Monitor (Manual) will mean that it stays on Monitor until I change it. I wish this feature was Mode-dependant so that I could have it set to Auto when shooting photos and Monitor (Manual) when shooting video, but I have not figured out how to do this. If anyone watching this knows how do to that, please let me know in the comments section, I would super appreciate it.
Next, on the same page, we’re going to select Grid Lines and select whichever one of these options you like best. This will bring up guide lines on the LCD and in the viewfinder which can help you with leveling and alignment. Some people like the squares, some like the rule of thirds, it’s really a personal preference, so pick whatever works best for you.
Now I want to change the dial setup feature so that the back dial changes aperture and the front dial changes shutter speed. Unless you’re switching framerates, you’re not really going to use the shutter speed dial very often when shooting video, because you’re leaving it at twice your current framerate. Your aperture, on the other hand, you’re going to use all the time so it makes sense to have it on the back of the camera.
Next I set the Power Save Start Time to 5 minutes. I feel like anything under that is too short and 30 minutes is just absurdly long.
Next we’re going to go ahead and enable the touch screen for focus. We’re going to go to Setup2 and then turn Touch Operation to On.
Now I’m going to go and set the Recording Media settings. I’m going to want auto-switch media to be on so that if a card fills up the camera automatically switches to a second card.
Now we’re done with the settings and we’re really going to start customizing the buttons and dials on the body so we’re going to go to Camera Settings 2 Page 8 and we’re going to the second option which is Custom Key for video. You can see that the first option is for stills, the second is for video and the third is for playback – so again, we’re going to the one for Video.
The first thing we’re going to do is set Control Wheel to Not Set, telling the camera not to assign any function to the wheel. The control wheel is this thing right here, and it’s totally up to if you want to use it for something, but I found that I unintentionally bumped it and I would activate or change that setting all the time which got old real quick.
Moving on we’re going to set the C1 button, and we’re going to set it to white balance which is on page 7 of the Custom Key Options menu. This is such an important feature and one that I change all the time and want to have available to me very quickly. This way I can just click on the C1 button, it will bring up the white balance options on the left and I can quickly make adjustments.
Next I’m going to assign the APS-C/Super 35 to Full Frame which is on page 1 of the Custom Key options menu. This toggles between Full Frame and APS-C/Super 35 which uses a cropped version of the sensor. This works for me in two ways: first, if I’m using a lens that is designed for an APS-C lens line my Sigma 18-35 f1.8 , I need to change this because it will not project an image big enough to cover a full frame and I will see the edges of the lens. Next, when I’m using lenses designed for a full frame sensor, I can effectively change my focal length by cropping in. This is great when I’m working with primes or if I want to get some more range out of my zoom lenses. Of course I’m giving up some image quality but the results are still outstanding.
Next we’re going to set the C3 button to Picture Profile which you’ll find on page 7 and will let you quickly select a different picture profile without going into the menu. If you plan on doing some work in Post and want to maximize the amount of color information you’re getting using most dynamic range, I recommend that you select Picture Profile 7 which is set to S-Log2 On the other hand, if you still want to do better than the standard profile you can set one of the profiles to cine4, HLG2 or HLG3 but that’s for another video.
Next we have the C4 button which I have set to Focus Area which is on page 3. This will let me change from Wide which I use a lot, to Zone, Center (which I almost never use) Flexible spot to Expand Flexible Spot which I also use quite a bit. If a scene quickly changes on me and I’m no longer in the best focus area option, I can easily change it on the fly.
Next we’re going to set the Multi-select Center Button to Audio Record Level which is on page 9. This will quickly bring up the audio record levels we discussed during the setup and will let you make adjustments, even while you’re recording. This is super handy when the person you’re shooting starts speaking louder or more quietly than they did when you tested your levels – you just click on it and make the adjustment you want.
Moving down on the back of the camera, we’re going to set the Center Button to Focus Magnification which is on page 8. This goes from 100% to 400% so you can really see what’s in focus and then click it one more time to get back to the regular view.
The next button we’re going to customize is the left button and I like to set to Monitor Brightness which is on page 14. This lets me quickly adjust the brightness of the monitor to accommodate for different shooting conditions and also to save battery life. I put this on the left button because it’s closest to the LCD which makes it easier for me to remember.
The right button, I set this on ISO because it’s the perfect spot for me. By default, this button is already set to ISO because it’s following the settings for photo but in case I ever change that and move the ISO button closer to the shutter, I don’t want the video setup to be impacted. I’m almost always shooting video in a manual ISO value and not in Auto, so it’s great to have this feature so close to my thumb when I need to quickly change it.
Next I set the down button to Peaking Display which is on page 6 and this lets me turn on focus peaking when I’m using manual focus. Depending on what we selected during setup, we’ll see white, yellow or red outlines on the items that are in focus.
The next button I’m going to set up is the AEL or auto exposure lock which lets you lock the current exposure settings when you’re taking a picture so that when you re-frame the camera doesn’t make any adjustments. We are going to set this to Center Lock On Autofocus which is on page 4. This feature activates subject tracking and pressing the AEL button and then the center button will bring up a square at the center of the screen, we can point it at a subject and then press the center button again, the camera will draw a white square around the item and begin tracking it as it moves through the frame. Once you select an item, you can click on any other item to move the square and start tracking this new subject.
This next button I’m going to give you two options. If you plan on shooting in S-Log2, S-Log3 it’s difficult for you to visualize what the image would look like because it’s so washed out. You can set AF-ON to Gamma Display Assist which is on page 17 and will automatically apply a REC709 lut to give you a more pleasing image to preview while you’re shooting. If you don’t want to use it for that, you might want to set it to zebra which will turn on the white lines that show you what areas of your video are overexposed. This way you can quickly toggle this on and off and you’ll get the highlight warning indicator that shows you if anything is blown out. I don’t have any lenses with a Focus Hold button so I’m not going to set this to anything, but if you do, I’d love to have you tell me what you use it for in the comments section.
Most of the settings in the Function menu are pointless for video, so the first thing I did was wipe out the upper row of functions which cleaned up the menu.
Next, I started adding functions, starting with the Focus Mode. This allows me to quickly switch between autofocus-continuous and manual focus. Some of my lenses don’t have a toggle that puts them in manual focus mode so this is a shortcut for me to activate that mode.
The next thing I add is Prioritize Recording Media which lets me tell the camera which card to shoot to. A lot of times I’m shooting b-roll for 2 products at the same time and it’s nice to have all the footage split up on two cards.
Remember the S&Q feature we talked about? I also add the ability to quickly change the framerate when needed. Remember that I mostly use this feature when I’m in a hurry, so every second counts.
Finally, I added the Subject Detection function which is mostly because I use animal eye detection all the time when I’m photographing our dogs, and sometimes I leave it on and wonder why face tracking is not working for video. This lets me quickly adjust that when I forget it’s on.
Ok, so that is how I set up my A7iii for video and it’s something has been working for me for a few months now. I would love to know how you set yours up and I’m always happy to learn and get new ideas from you guys. If you haven’t yet, make sure you check out my Must Have a7iii Accessories video and my detailed review. I have more A7iii content going into detail about low-light shooting, color grading, interval shooting, autofocus modes and a lot more, so if you’re interested in learning more, hit that subscribe button on my YouTube. I’ll put links in the description to the body as well as some lenses and accessories that I liked because there are always specials and discounts and the links will be automatically updated with the lowest pricing. I really hope I was able to give you some ideas about how you can set up your Sony A7iii for video. If I did, please let me know by sharing this article, and if you haven’t yet, join the community by hitting the subscribe and notification buttons on my YouTube.
You can also find me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @techgeartalk.
You know what I always say, buy it nice or buy it twice!
Good luck and see you soon.
Great Additional Sony A7III Len Options:
Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Lens: https://geni.us/sony-fe-24-70
Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM Lens: https://geni.us/sony-fe-70-200-28
Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G Lens: https://geni.us/sony-fe-12-24-f4
Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens: https://geni.us/sony-fe-16-35
Cage used in this video:
SmallRig A7Riii/A7III: https://geni.us/smallrig-sonya7iii
SmallRig Universal Wooden Side Handle: https://geni.us/smallrigunivwood
SmallRig Top Handle with Cold Shoe: https://geni.us/smallrigtophandle
Beachtek DXA-Micro Pro+: https://geni.us/beachtekdxamicropropls
Extra Batteries: https://geni.us/powerextrasonynpfz100
Used in video: https://tarion.eu/collections/monitor/products/x7s-fieldmonitor-hdmi-4k
Another option: https://geni.us/lilliputa7smonitor