Fall is one of the best times to be a videographer. Beautiful foliage and outdoor sports provide a plethora of possibilities for video production in the field. But along with the bright colors and fall festivities come scattered showers and depressing downpours. Because your video camera is an electronic device, water is a natural enemy. Even a small amount of moisture can cripple your camcorder. Here are five helpful tips to keep your camcorder in top condition as you capture the spectacular sights and sounds of the season.
1. Cover up.
A small umbrella is a must for wet-weather shooting. It protects your camcorder from the elements (and offers you some shelter, too). An umbrella is a great way to keep moisture off your camcorder. The only drawback is logistics. It can be cumbersome to shoot while holding an umbrella and dangerous to attach one to your tripod (one strong gust and your camcorder can be sent tumbling, tripod and all). The umbrella may work best if you have an assistant willing to “cover you.”
Many shooters make ponchos to protect against the elements. In light to moderate rain, you can fashion a cover from a plastic bag (the type that accompanies new pillows, comforters and blankets work best). Simply cut a hole for the lens. In a pinch, you can use a plastic trash bag.
2. Off the Video Production Field
Depending on the location of your subject matter, you may be able to shoot from inside a building. You can capture a rainy street scene through an office window or a drenched shopper from a downtown store. Just because your subjects are wet doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be.
Your car is a mobile shooting station that can get you close to bad weather without leaving you all wet. If rain on the car’s window becomes a problem, roll it down. Minivans work especially well. Pull out the seats and you can shoot from a tripod. Tip: When shooting through windows, use manual focus to keep your camcorder from trying to focus on the glass.
3. Shut the door.
Your camcorder is most vulnerable to airborne moisture when the tape door is open. The open door exposes sensitive components like your record head and tape transports to the weather. If you must open the door in bad weather, close it as quickly as possible. If changing tapes takes more than a second, take one tape out of the camcorder, then close the door while you prep the new tape. Changing tapes under an umbrella can help when you are out in the rain, but even then, an open door leaves your camcorder vulnerable to attack.
4. Cable with care.
If you are using a wired external microphone in bad weather, keep your connectors dry. Unless there is a break in the insulated cable itself, the wire should be able to lie on the ground without causing problems, but if moisture gets into your cable at the ends, your audio can crackle with interference.
Protect the ends of your cables by keeping disconnected ends wrapped in plastic (a sandwich bag and a rubber band do a fine job). After making connections, wrap the junctions with plastic or tape them with a waterproof electrical tape to keep out wetness.
5. Address the tissue issue.
Any time you use your camcorder in bad weather, your lens will most certainly get wet. Avoid the tendency to wipe it dry with your glove, shirt-sleeve, handkerchief or a paper towel. All of these items, while soft to the touch, can badly scratch your lens. Equip yourself with a photographic lens tissue and don’t use anything else to wipe your lens.