The presents have all been opened. Shredded wrapping paper lies like confetti across the living room floor. You’ve caught the entire day on tape for posterity. Your old video camera has earned its keep for another year.

“Aren’t you going to open that last present?”

You look through the viewfinder, confused, as a box is lifted into your field of view. And it’s not just any box; it’s The box for the camera you’ve been dreaming about the entire year, mumbling the phrase “Someday it will be mine. Oh, yes. It will be mine.” And there it is, right in front of you. “So,” your significant other asks, “What are you going to do with the old camera?”

Now that a new camera has entered your life, there are plenty of uses for that old camcorder.

Give it to the Kids

If you have a young one who has always loved watching you use the video camera and has even run it themselves, you’re set. Give the old camera to them in a “passing of the torch” moment and offer to help them when they need it.

Upsides:

  • The camera remains in the family.
  • You get to pass your hobby on to the next generation.

Downsides:

  • Be prepared to see your old camera go through a lot of abuse.

    Give it to a School

    Public schools are always asking for help. Be it bake sales or clipping out the tops of cereal boxes to raise funds, they always seem to be in need of cash. Consider this your chance to give something to the community.

    Donate the camera to the school’s Audio Visual department. Remember to include all of the materials that they’ll need (power supply, manuals and a few blank tapes) to make sure that they can use it right away.

    Upsides:

    • Helping the community.
    • Camera goes to students who will use it as a learning device.

    Downsides:

    • You’ll never see that camera again.

    Give it to a Budding Filmmaker

    Remember how exciting it was to tape and assemble your first scene? Remember the thrill of seeing your ideas move from the script to storyboard panels and finally to moving images? Now, imagine if you wanted to do all of those things, but just couldn’t afford a camera. Any camera. There are many video producers out there with that problem. Now you can do something about it.

    Finding a producer for your camera is as easy as checking one of the many online listing services. Sure, the old rig might only be a 1CCD baby that shoots on Digital8, but that doesn’t matter. Getting it into the hands of an aspiring producer means that you’ve made a big step to help start someone else’s career.

    Upsides:

    • The camera goes to someone who actually wants it.
    • The camera will be used in ways you may never have imagined.

    Downsides:

    • You may not like the movies it’s used to make.
    • You might be surprised – and a little chagrined – at what someone else managed to make your old rig do that you were never able to figure out.

    Video a Friend’s Life Event – and Give Them the Camera, Too

    It’s your child’s first birthday. He sputters, grins, and then buries his face in the cake. The guests squeal with glee while you try to conceal your horror. In the meantime, there’s Uncle Joey videotaping the entire event with his camcorder. Great. Like you wanted that moment captured for posterity. Later, after all of the frosting is cleaned up and the baby is asleep, Uncle Joey comes over to you. Instead of handing you a tape of the party, he gives you the camera bag and everything inside.

    “Here,” he says. “You’ll be needing this more than I will now.” Lump in your throat?

    Now, imagine being able to give that moment to someone else. After all, most camcorders aren’t used to make movies; they’re used to capture those silly little events. Events that most of us think we’ll remember, but only years later, while sitting and watching them on TV, we realize we’ve forgotten. Allowing people to see their own lives again, years in the past, is a gift that will forever be appreciated.

    Upsides:

    • The camera becomes a gift that has special meaning to someone.

    Downsides:

    • You might have to provide “tech support” for the camera in the coming weeks.
    • The camera may meet its end in a freak frosting-related incident

    Give it to Your Child’s Coach

    Sports coaches have a tough job. They have to teach a bunch of kids who “just want to play” both essential game skills and how to work as a team. Not only that, but they have to do it with parents hovering nearby, ready to second-guess their every move. Wouldn’t it be nice to make their job a little easier?

    Give that old camera to your kid’s local sports team. Show the coach the basics on how to frame shots, how to keep the exposure and focus set for fast action, and how to track the players on the field. Then let him use it as a teaching tool for the kids. Allowing the coach to show the kids what they’re doing on the field as opposed to telling them might make all the difference not only in their game, but in the chances that the coach will be willing to volunteer next year!

    Upsides:

    • Helps kids learn to play their game better.
    • Saves the coach’s sanity.

    Downsides:

    • You might end up spending time teaching the coach and his crew how to work the device in the field.
    • The camera might meet its end in a spectacular ball-smashing-into-the-lens accident that will be talked about for years.

    Give it to Your Community
    Theater


    If schools are strapped for cash, then the local arts scenes are beggars in a medieval church pleading for “alms for the poor.” Community theaters operate almost entirely in the red. So, why could they use your old camera?

    They can tape auditions and rehearsals. They can tape performances, so the director can help guide the actors and tech crew through the run of the show. They can sell tapes of the performances to help generate more revenue. Doesn’t that seem like a better use for your camera than gathering dust in your hall closet?

    Upsides:

    • The camera will have a long life being used as a workhorse.

    Downsides:

    • You might receive a fair amount of tech support calls as the owners get used to their new toy.

    eBay, Baby!

    If none of the options above appeal to you, you can always sell it on eBay, but be prepared for a shock. That camera that you bought for a pretty penny is now a budget special on the world’s open market. Nothing says “obsolescence” like seeing a camera’s price tag drop from four digits to three.

    Upsides:

    • You make a little money from the camera.
    • It’s off your hands.
    • No tech support worries.

    Downsides:

    • You’re selling to a complete stranger.
    • Your camera might meet a bizarre end involving a moose, a tub of vanilla yogurt and a Rodeo Clown. No, don’t ask; you really don’t want to know.

    Conclusion

    It’s a strangely sad experience moving from an old camcorder to a new one. There are as many memories tied up with that piece of plastic and electronics as there are on the images that you’ve captured. You probably learned most of your skills from it and know it inside and out, too. But, as the saying goes, life is all about change. If that change just happens to mean moving from a 1CCD analog device to a 3CCD HDV camera, well, who are you to stand in the way of progress?

    Tony Bruno has been making independent films for four years, is an occasional actor, and makes his living as a professional technical writer.

    Sidebar:

    Cheap Tricks!

    A nice thing about getting a new camcorder is now you can do all those fun things with the old one you wouldn’t have dared before. Here are some more options for “Old Faithful.”

    • Tree Cam

      Tired of using a ladder as a poor man’s crane? Why not use a tree instead? Just climb up a good-sized tree and suddenly you can get those ultra-high angle shots that you’ve always wanted. Just make sure to turn the camera off while you’re climbing!
    • Kid Cam

      Want to be reminded what it’s like to be a kid? Let the young ones run the old camera for the day, and then take a look at their footage. You’ll get to see the world from a whole new perspective.
    • Bike Cam

      You’ll be surprised at how fast even a bicycle will seem to go when a camera is mounted low to the ground and run right above the pavement. Be warned, though: Building a rig for this sort of thing isn’t for the faint of heart.
    • Fly Cam

      Radio control airplane pilots often send their cameras aloft to get the ultimate “I-wish-I-was-there” video. Of course, you need to be a really good RC pilot before you even try to do this.
    • Security Cam

      Mount that old camera in a conspicuous spot on your home, run some power, and turn it on. Suddenly that old camera stops being a surplus item and starts being a surveillance system that most crooks won’t even want to come near.
    • Cable Cam

      Send the camera rushing through treetops by running it beneath a cable strung between two trees. Just make sure that you’ve got a good lens-protector and a soft place for it to stop after it’s made its run.
    • Backward Compatible Cam

      Why not keep the old rig around so can watch your old videos in the years to come? After all, cameras come and go, but that old footage will always remain the same.

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