What Does Gain on a Video Camera Do?

If you’ve ever used a video camera before, you may have noticed a setting called “gain.” But what does gain on a video camera actually do? In this article, we’ll explore the concept of gain and its importance in video production.

What is gain?
Gain is an electronic amplification process that increases the strength of an electrical signal. In the context of video cameras, gain refers to the amplification of the camera’s image sensor output. This means that increasing gain will make the image brighter, but it can also introduce unwanted noise into the picture.

Why use gain?
There are several reasons why you might use gain on a video camera. One common scenario is when shooting in low light conditions.

Increasing the gain can help brighten up the image so that it’s easier to see what’s going on. However, as mentioned earlier, this can also introduce noise into the picture, which can make it look grainy and less clear.

Another reason to use gain is when you want to intentionally create a certain visual effect. For example, some filmmakers might intentionally add noise to their footage using high levels of gain to create a gritty or documentary-style look.

The trade-off

As we’ve mentioned, using too much gain can result in noisy footage. This noise can be distracting and reduce the overall quality of your video.

So why not just use as little gain as possible all the time? The answer lies in understanding what your camera’s native sensitivity is.

Every camera has a base level of sensitivity that determines how much light it needs to create an image without any extra amplification (i.e., without using any additional gain). This is often referred to as “native” or “optimal” ISO for still cameras and “native” or “base” ISO for video cameras.

Using too little gain (or none at all) when shooting in low light can result in an underexposed image that lacks detail and clarity. Increasing the gain can help bring out more detail and make the image brighter, but using too much gain can create noise.

Using gain effectively

So how do you use gain effectively? Here are a few tips:

  • Know your camera’s native sensitivity. This will help you understand how much gain you need to add in order to achieve the desired exposure.
  • Use the lowest amount of gain possible. This will help minimize noise in your footage.
  • If you must use a high level of gain, consider adding noise reduction in post-production to clean up your footage.


In summary, gain is an important tool for video production that allows you to increase the brightness of your footage in low light conditions or create specific visual effects. However, it’s important to use it judiciously to avoid introducing unwanted noise into your footage. By understanding your camera’s native sensitivity and using as little gain as possible, you can produce high-quality video that looks great even in low light situations.