Improve your Home-movies

Elvis Elvis

With the ever expanding and fast improvement of video gear, almost all of us own a handheld camcorder. And although the quality is often very good, the end results are maybe not always what we expected. Here are a few tips on improving your filming – and yes, we often refer to videography as “filming’ although its not film in the real sense but a video tape.

Oh boy! Its amazing how many people just love the zoom button on their camcorders! Please, use this little button with great care! Many things happen when one uses the zoom button: The object is brought nearer, yes, but major things happen in the camcorder. Firstly the depth of field (DOF) is greatly reduced. Depth of field is the depth or range of field between oneself and beyond the object in which images remain in focus. With the lens set to ‘wide’, the opposite to ‘zoom’, one will find that almost everything remains sharply in focus – zoom in and the opposite is true. If one really has to zoom in (mainly because one cannot get closer to one’s subject), it is imperative to use a good solid support for the camcorder. Most important to remember is never to zoom in and out and in and out, as it creates the idea that the cameraman didn’t really know what he or she wanted to show the viewer. The best and accepted way to go about it, is to frame the shot in the viewfinder before pressing the ‘record’ button. That way one gets a far more interesting shot and the viewer remains interested in what one wanted to show.

A sturdy tri-pod is a must for using any camera effectively, especially on a zoomed shot. In cases where the camera must be moved quite often or quickly, a mono-pod will do the trick. Mono-pods are lightweight and easy to handle – its also easy to take a mono-pod on vacation. The resulting video shots will be far superior to hand held shots and one’s final video will be a pleasure to watch. In cases where the camera has to be stable for quite some time, a tri-pod is a necessity. It is very important, though, to level the tri-pod so that vertical and horizontal lines stay where they should be: vertical and horizontal. Ever noticed how disturbing a videos hot (or still photos hot) of a tilting horizon can be? I’m sure every one of us has seen a photo of the ocean draining out to the one side of the photo! When it is impossible to use a tri-pod or mono-pod and the camera has to be hand held, think of it as a very full cup of tea and try to carry it without spilling. One can do this quite effectively but not for long periods of time – as soon as muscle fatigue sets in, the video shot is ruined.

An even smaller piece of equipment to have handy, is a small sand bag or bean bag of around 1Kg. This can be kept in the car’s cubbyhole and will come in handy when shooting from a car where a tri-pod or mono-pod is not convenient to use. Put the sand bag on the door frame after lowering the window and it will serve as a very steady support for your camera. The sand bag can also be used out of the vehicle where it can be placed on the ground or on a rock to steady the camera.

Improve your Home movies

Camcorders nowadays have wonderful audio capabilities – use them correctly by using a small earphone to monitor the sound. Pay special attention to audio when someone is talking so that you don’t stop recording in the middle of an important sentence. It doesn’t really matter what is being recorded visually at that time, because the visuals could be edited in the final movie and the audio could be used as an ‘audio-bridge’ to the next scene. Also pay attention to wind-noise! Microphones are very sensitive and prone to recording wind noise. Ever noticed how the pro’s use large fluffy equipment around mics? Known sometimes as ‘windjammers’, the long hairs of the sleeve that fits around the mic, cuts out a very large amount of wind noise. Surely a valuable piece of equipment.

Another important piece of advice is not to “paint the world”. Huh? When filming a scenery, don’t film from left to right and then back again – like painting with a paint roller. Decide beforehand what you would like to show the viewer and show only that. I have seen many video shots where the cameraman would pan from left to right and then from right to left and the only conclusion I could come to was that he has forgotten something that he wanted to show me!

A very simple and also very handy setting on most cameras is the “manual white balance” setting. Take time to master this setting and your shots will have the best possible colour and lighting – especially during the early mornings and late afternoons when light changes considerably. All that the setting really does is to tell the camera what he is supposed to see as “white”. From there all other colours will be recorded as close to nature as possible.

Take great care after removing a full cassette from your camcorder. Firstly, and most important, is to slide the small lock to the lock position so that the tape cannot be used accidentally. Its no fun to discover that one has recorded over a pre-recorded tape which might contain valuable footage. Careful with this one! It is also a good habit to fully log recorded tapes using the time code on the tape. Logging will make editing or searching for specific scenes much easier later on. Tapes are cheap. It’s a far better habit not to use pre-recorded tapes at all – rather use a new tape every time you want to record.

Dust is easily the number one culprit for destroying camcorder equipment. We all know that dust will penetrate where not even moisture can. It settles inside your camera and acts as an abrasive. Be very careful when you change tapes that the camera is shielded from dust or the elements.

Enjoy your camera!