Why you should be using Zebra Stripes

Adam asks: I don’t even know what zebra stripes are but I’m trying to understand how to use them. I have read several places on what it’s for, but never seen what I’m supposed to do about it.

Answer: Zebra Stripes are a feature that allows you to see where certain areas of brightness in the frame may be “blown out,” or too bright. When this happens at a certain level the Zebra Stripes show up on that area to indicate that it may be too bright. These Zebra Stripes are just a series of black stripes that move in a distracting pattern, and though you may never have heard them referred to as this you will likely find them familiar.

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How to Use Zebra Stripes

The zebra pattern will not show up on your final video recording and is really just a tool for you. For many people, these digital video Zebra Stripes are just distracting, but they really can serve a useful purpose.

What you want to use is the IRE scale to determine this, which is what the Zebra Stripes will be set against. Often you can set them at 70, 80, 90, and 100 IRE. The higher you get the less sensitive the Zebra Stripes will be as they will only register at the IRE setting and above.

For example, if you set it at 70 IRE it will register everything 70 and above. Since 70 and 80 IRE is rarely going to be too blown out you may want to stick at 90 or 100 IRE for the Zebra Stripes. This will then accurately tell you that when there is Zebra Stripes you should try to reduce them. You will not have to completely eliminate them, but they should only be in minuscule locations. If you are set at 70 IRE you can be more liberal with allowing digital video Zebra Stripes to appear, but use them as a way of focusing where you want the bright areas to appear.

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