Summer is a great time to use your camcorder, but there are several important things to consider when shooting during this sultry season.

As the summer arrives, many of us find ourselves with more time on our hands to make video. Summer conditions are unique, so here are a few things to bear in mind.

Clothing

People tend to wear less clothing in the summer. So videographers tend to capture lots of exposed skin. This can cause some problems. Many people are particularly unhappy being videotaped while wearing skimpy summer clothing, especially bathing suits. Male or female, young or old, some people are unhappy with their bodies and don’t want it captured for posterity. My advice is to give these people a break.

Try to avoid making people uncomfortable with your camcorder. If you really need to tape them, try not to make a big deal out of their discomfort. Be as unobtrusive as possible. If you really need to tape their images, try to compose the most flattering shot possible.

Heat

Camcorders don’t like too much heat. Never leave your camcorder or videotapes in direct sunlight in an automobile. If you do, you may return to find nothing but lumps of distorted plastic. In some parts of the world, the temperature in a car in the summer can exceed 200 degrees Fahrenheit. This is more than enough to soften the plastic that forms the camcorder’s body or the tape cassette’s shell. And even if the plastic shell of a videocassette is not heated enough to soften, the heat can affect the videotape inside. The tape’s polyester backing can dry out and become brittle. When this happens, the metallic particles are more likely to flake off the tape, causing image dropout. And the heat can partially demagnetize the tape, degrading the recorded images.

Sand

Camcorders don’t like sand. They have lots of delicate moving parts that require smooth, low-friction operation. Sand can jam or destroy a camcorder’s mechanisms, and can scratch the surface of the videotape. Wind can kick up sand and blow it into camcorders. Your camcorder is especially vulnerable while you’re inserting or removing a tape. Avoid doing this in a sandy area. If you must load or unload tape on or near the beach, try to do it while the wind isn’t blowing. If there’s only a slight breeze and you decide to risk it, do it with your back to the breeze.

Sand can also scratch the lens. Never go to a sandy area without a lens cap.

Sand can also damage the camcorder when you’re not using it. Casual videographers tend to place camcorders on blankets or towels. It’s OK to be casual, but don’t be careless. Between shooting sessions, try to keep your camcorder in a high-quality camera bag (with the lid tightly closed). If the bag is dark colored (especially if it’s brown or black), cover the bag with a light-colored towel to protect it from the sun’s heat.

Vacation

This is one of the main uses of a camcorder: to permanently save the “feeling” of the vacation for which you’ve you waited so long and paid so much. For some vacationers, there’s a temptation to videotape too much. But try not to record too many basic scenes–a generic beach scene, for example. You can get all the beach scenes you want from watching TV. Instead of filling the tape with generic scenes, personalize it. If there’s something particular about that beach that’s important to you, go ahead and record that particular something. Or try to get your fellow travelers in the scene. Consider having them narrate the scene explaining why it is meaningful. This is so much better than just another “beach shot.”

Some vacationers, on the other hand, tend to tape too little. While on vacation, some of us don’t want to do any work (and let’s face it, making video is work to many of us). If you’re not looking forward to this type of “work” but you don’t want to end your vacation with too little video, you might have hauled you camcorder all over the place for nothing. Try to designate certain times of the day when you’ll devote a minimal amount of energy to videotaping.

Kids at home

Most children are off from school in the summer and are always looking for something to do. Don’t be surprised if the kids are tempted to use your camcorder while they’re home and you’re at work. For those of you who don’t have to worry about this because you have obedient kids, congratulations. But if your kids are willing to take

the risk of disobeying your rules against unsupervised camcorder use, hide your camcorder. A more constructive solution might be to make video with them and train them to use the camcorder carefully. Once they’ve demonstrated their abilities to be responsible with a camcorder, consider letting them make video on their own occasionally.

Escape the heat

Sometimes people are more inclined to seek indoor activities on the hottest days of summer. It’s a great time to edit home videos. I’d venture to guess that just about everyone that owns a camcorder has some home video that needs editing.

Shoot video while the sun shines In many parts of the world, the summer is the best time to shoot video outdoors. Take advantage of this by shooting lots of video. This may be especially true if you’re making video programs that are not time sensitive. You can shoot lots of tape all summer and edit during the winter months.

Matt York is Editor/Publisher of Videomaker Magazine (www.videomaker.com) and Smart TV Magazine(www.smart-tv-site.com).

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The Videomaker Editors are dedicated to bringing you the information you need to produce and share better video.

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