Golly, Why Didn't I Think of That?: * Unusual Uses for Your Camcorder

Has anyone ever asked you the question, “What do you use a camcorder for, recording weddings or mending the faucet?” If they did, you’d be likely to answer “Weddings” and miss the $1000 prize.

The camcorder is a unique tool with a host of unsuspected uses. It can become an inspection pit, a third eye, a golf pro and a driving instructor. It will help you with problems you wouldn’t want to discuss with your best friend, serve as a microscope and entertain your guests while you pour the drinks. When you buy a video camera, you get a great deal more than a great deal.

The following have all been employed by satisfied camcorder owners.


The Family Album

Showing folks the family album calls for you to pass it from hand to hand or open it up in front of a group sitting shoulder to shoulder. “This,” you say, “is Mom when she was a little girl–she’s third from the left.”

“I can’t see from here,” complains Aunt Maud, grabbing her specs.

No, that’s old-fashioned stuff–and it’s the same when you pass around the vacation photographs; everyone asks questions.

Before your guests arrive, set up the photographs and videotape them. Talk into the camcorder’s mike and play some soft music. Zoom in on Mom to separate her from the other kids around her. Everyone gets to see big pictures on the TV screen and you can sit back and enjoy your family album together.


Double Insurance

Sure, it’s tough to have your house burgled–it’s even tougher to have it destroyed by fire. But in either case, you’ll need an inventory of your goods for insurance purposes.

So get your camcorder out now. Record each room in turn from opposite ends. Open drawers and cupboards and tape their contents. Record the most valuable items separately and clearly against a suitable neutral background. Take closeups of receipts and important documents.

Remember to video the contents of the garden shed and garage and when you’ve finished, give a copy to a friend for safe keeping. Never include your name and address or other means of identification–thieves might get hold of the tape.


Small is Big

Cabled to the TV, your camcorder will enlarge small objects like coins, stamps or insects up to twenty times their original size. You can also use this technique to enlarge small-scale maps. Trace the enlarged portions off the screen using either tracing paper or clear plastic film and a suitable solvent-based felt pen.

Artists who want to blow up a photograph or outline an object they’re going to paint can use this method. Not only does it save all that squaring up, but the TV picture gives a fair idea of what the finished drawing or painting will look like.


What Did I Do Wrong?

If you’re a golfer, your camcorder will tell you–in the friendliest way–just where you’re making mistakes. It’ll record your swing, your stance and the positions of your feet without making a single sarcastic comment.

Set the camera on a tripod and take wide shots of your action, but do spend time on the task. Move the camera around so you can see yourself from every angle. On the green, you can set the camcorder down low looking towards you–the view of your putting you’d never normally get.

But don’t neglect to make notes–it’s easy to forget what special things you did when you examine the tape back home. If you don’t want to write things down then talk to the camera. The bonus is that your faithful video camera will stay out there with you as long as you want and never demand a fee.


Let’s Take A Look

Your camera can go where you refuse to go–or can’t. When someone in the house complains that the rain gutters are blocked with leaves, you can check their suspicions by using your video camera on an extended, unopened tripod or long pole.

Has the family automobile developed a noisy muffler or signs of dripping oil? If you’re arthritic or getting on in years, you won’t want to climb underneath–so send in the video camera and examine the problems in the comfort of your lounge.

For dirty work of this kind you need to wrap the camera in a clear plastic bag (you’ll need to see the controls) and cover the lens with a plain filter. Protect it from scratches or knocks by taping plastic foam or bubble wrap around the vulnerable areas.
Store a plastic bag and filter near the camera–you might need them in an emergency.


Going Down


Readers may remember that someone once lowered a camcorder down a hundred-foot dry well. With its video light switched on, it captured fascinating pictures of the ancient digging and provided a unique archaeological record that has fascinated visitors ever since.

Similarly, people have lowered camcorders into locked and empty buildings to search for missing pets and down cliff faces and under bridges to record the nesting habits of birds. Ship’s safety officers have used them to check for fires in their vessel’s cargo holds. Some vacationing curiosity-seekers have used them to take pictures inside beached shipwrecks, and emergency crews have used them to look for victims in collapsed buildings after earthquakes.


Turn Right Here


Driving lessons get tougher and driving school fees higher–so if you’re learning to drive, why not make good use of the family camcorder? Tripod-mounted and firmly lashed to the back seat, it will record a complete lesson, highlighting mistakes and showing the pupil’s progress. Its audio system will record questions and answers and will allow the learner to see and hear everything over again. Sitting in front of the TV, he or she will travel the highway, negotiating traffic and taking turns while miming those tricky applications of the gas and brake pedals.


The Personal Service


Some have used their video cameras for “personal services.” Baldies have been known to hook them up to inspect their toupees for giveaway movement at the nape of the neck, something that can’t be done freely whilst peering into a hand-held mirror. Some videomakers have even discovered they can trim their hair this way. Instead of those contortions that occur when you try to hold a second mirror behind your head, you can simply rig the camera on its tripod.

Well, perhaps the camcorder might fail to actually mend a faucet, but it could discover a leaking pipe behind the dishwasher.

Naturally, there are many more applications like these, so next time you have a visual problem, consider using your camcorder–it’s a great little tool. And if you do find an unusual use for it, please write and tell us.

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