Frequently Asked Questions About Camcorder Use

What’s the best technique for using the zoom lens?

If your lens can be manually zoomed, do so whenever possible. That saves time and battery power. Where possible, zoom between shots rather than during them, and try to edit zoom shots out of your final tape. When planning to zoom in on a subject, zoom in before you shoot, set and lock focus on that subject, then zoom out to the start position. This will ensure that the important subject is in focus throughout the shot.

How can I use the special "looks" of wide angle and telephoto lens settings?


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A wide angle lens setting increases the apparent depth of the scene. Use it to make small areas look bigger. Since it also increases the apparent speed of motion toward and away from the camera, use wide angle for dynamic action shots in chases, fights, etc. A telephoto lens reduces apparent depth. Use it to make background objects look bigger and closer than they are. Use it, too, to create dramatic compositions on the two-dimensional video screen.

How do I move the camera smoothly on my tripod?

When panning (rotating the camera horizontally) plant your feet facing the center of the pan and then turn your upper body (and the camcorder) to face the start of the movement. Start camera moves slowly, speed up as you continue, then slow down again as you complete the move.

How do I avoid shaky shots when I’m moving?

If possible, take the viewfinder slightly away from your eye. Move with your knees slightly bent, to absorb the shock of your footsteps. In general carry the camcorder as if you were walking with a very full cup of hot coffee. Image stabilization can help, but there is no substitute for good handheld techniques.

Which type of off-camera mike is best for me?

If you have a mike boom operator assistant, a shotgun condenser type is versatile. If you work alone, a lavalier ("tie clip") works well for on-camera talent. To record a conference or an auditorium event, try a PZM (flat-plate) mike. Hand-held dynamic mikes, are rugged and their pickup pattern is good for on-camera interviews.

When should I use my tripod?

Use your tripod as much as you possibly can, to minimize camera unsteadiness. A tripod is especially important when shooting extreme telephoto shots, which greatly magnify even the tiniest camera movements.

How can I shoot betterlooking shots?

Two tips for good composition: mentally divide the screen into thirds, like a tic-tac-toe pattern and frame your shots so the important lines and shapes fall on these imaginary lines. Second: use lines that recede from the foreground, like street curbs or railroad tracks, to increase the sense of depth in the visual composition.

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