Low-cost Battery Sentinel
Many batteries are easily damaged by overcharging, and unfortunately many battery chargers let out a slow trickle of electricity even after charging is completed. To solve the problem, use a lighting timer. This device, designed to turn your lights on and off while youre away on vacation, can be set to shut off the current feeding into the charger after a specified amount of time. I purchased one at a discount department store for $4.99.
Fill the TV screen with shots of family album photos, stamps, etc. using a +3 still photography close-up lens accessory attached to your camcorder. Sure, you have a macro function on your camcorder with its very shallow depth of field, but with a close-up lens, you can zoom into photos and pan across the picture while remaining in focus. Make sure the camcorder is on a tripod and use the remote to start and stop. Also, you can use the digital functions on your camcorder to transition between images and put music and narration with your album story.
Those Hazardous Rental Tapes
If youre like me, your budget demands that your editing VCR do double-duty as a home VCR for viewing rental tapes. When renting videos, I sometimes come across tapes that are defective, damaged or generally not fit to put into my expensive machine. At one time, I even found a tape that someone had spliced with PVC electrical tape. Can you imagine what that might have done to my expensive Panasonic AG-1960 editing VCR?
Ive since come up with some basic inspection practices that I give to my friends and family for watching rental tapes. First, visually inspect the outside of the cassette. Look for tears or rolls on the labels, which tend to get caught in the cassette loading mechanism. Next, inspect the cassette shell and its mechanics. Check to see that both spindles float freely in the shell. Operate the access door carefully, and make sure it moves freely and the hinges arent broken. Finally, inspect the tape itself. Look for tears, twists, wrinkles and foreign matter. Replacing sensitive video heads damaged by bad tapes can be very costly.
Anyone can build a convenient camera stabilizer by tying a five-foot length of clothesline to a threaded bolt that fits into the camcorders tripod mount. Stepping on the cord and pulling it taut while shooting has a wonderful steadying effect on your shots. However, vibrations from the upward strain on the cord can produce an unwanted shake in the camera. The solution: splice a short section of bungee cord into the clothesline near the camera. Its easy, its portable, and it works quite well.
Return to the Ferris Wheel
If you like to shoot video at your local county fair, be sure to go to the carnival and take a ride on the ferris wheel. As the operator seats you, ask him or her to please stop the ride for a minute when you get to the top. This will give you a good aerial shot of the fairgrounds that will add a nice touch to your video.
Video Round Robin
After reading Jim Stinsons article "Writing Video Letters" (May 1997) I realized a great potential for this kind of videography. Why not send a videotape and an inexpensive camcorder around to several members of your family and ask each of them to add their own segment to the video? This has the dual bonus of giving each family member an update on whats going on with the others, while also giving everyone the chance to participate in the creation of a family video. I have tried this method with great success, giving everyone involved a deadline (my birthday) to get the video back to me. When thousands of miles separate family members and family reunions arent feasible because of conflicts in scheduling or distance, the video round robin is an excellent way to stay in touch.