When I watch television programs showing photographs or prints, I often see them zoom in and out on the prints, while the picture stays clear. For instance, they show an old photograph of several people, and the shot starts zoomed in on the person in the middle, then the camera slowly zooms out, showing more of the photograph. The professionals do it so smoothly and clearly, but whenever I try, I always have problems with the automatic focus re-focusing when I zoom in and out. Of course, I have been using a consumer-level full-size VHS camcorder. I want to be able to shoot photos that look as good as the professional’s. Is there a special technique that I am not aware of? I would also like to know the best lighting techniques for this type of shoot.

Bill McSpadden


When the professionals "work" a photo or graphic, they are using a broadcast camera on a sturdy camera mount that allows for very smooth panning and tilting. You can’t expect to duplicate these extremely smooth moves exactly like the pros using a small camcorder and a small tripod. However, you can do it reasonably well with a steady hand and a little bit of practice. First, you’ll want to start with as large a photo as possible, 11-inches by 16-inches or larger is best. The bigger the better. Next, place the photo on an easel or music stand . Then use two lights, one on each side at 45-degree angles to the photo. The angle will reduce reflections. Use a sturdy tripod with a fluid head and a long pan/tilt handle. Make sure you adjust the pan and tilt drags to allow the tripod head to move smoothly. Finally, turn the autofocus off and zoom all the way in on the artwork to set your focus. Setting focus manually will prevent focal drift. After focusing, zoom out and work the art from there. When you zoom out, the focus will stay sharp.

I use a Hi8 camcorder but I am finding it very hard to find Hi8 tapes. My question is, am I losing much quality using 8mm tape in my Hi8 camcorder? And where can I find Hi8 tape in Orange County, California?

E.F. Witmond

La Habra, CA

Yes, you are losing quality using 8mm tape instead of Hi8. in fact, when you use standard 8mm tape you are not recording a Hi8 signal and you lose the advantages of the Hi8 format’s higher frequency response. I’m surprised you’re having trouble finding Hi8 tapes in Southern California. They are available in most electronics, department, camera stores and some grocery stores. If you are having trouble locating them on the shelves, ask a clerk for help. They are also available through mail order companies who advertise in the pages of Videomaker.

I recently tried to dub some background music onto a VHS tape while sending video from my camcorder to the same tape. The video recorded fine, but the audio, (coming from the headphone jack of my cassette deck) sounded terrible. I tried various volume settings to no avail. "Tinny" best describes the sound that I got. I suspect an impedance mismatch between my cassette deck’s output and the audio input of my VCR, but I don’t know what a possible solution might be.


John Harper


You’re right about the likelihood of an impedance mismatch. The impedance of most line inputs is 47k ohms, while the impedance of most headphones is much lower, between four and 16 ohms. It is quite likely that you will be able to make it work using an attenuator cable (available at a neighborhood electronics store), and trying different volume settings on the cassette deck. Take into account that the headphone output of your cassette player is not a very good source of audio for recording.

You didn’t say whether or not your cassette deck was equipped with line-level outputs, but most modern cassette decks are, including many boom boxes. Check your cassette deck to see if it has RCA jacks for audio output, which are usually line-level. Just run a set of RCA cables from the audio outputs of your stereo to the audio inputs on your VCR and you should be all set.

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