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Camcorder Usage Tips

Camcorder Usage Tips

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Tips for better video:

Lighting is vital to any camcorder

Put simply, good lighting is essential to good footage and poor lighting will typically translate into poor footage. In fact, a lot of image quality problems can be solved by being aware of and arranging for better lighting. Given, not many people are interested in investing in an entire lighting kit, and are even less inclined to carry that gear while shooting, but making the best use of natural light or other available lighting is usually enough to get you good, memorable pictures.

To get a good idea of lighting levels, let's look at the following examples:

  • The average room lit by a 150 watt bulb will be around 300 lux in brightness
  • A cloudy day outdoors will average 10,000 lux, and
  • A bright sunny day outside is typically around 35,000 lux

From these examples, it isn't hard to see that shooting indoors or in the evening can suffer from lack of light. Whenever possible, shoot in a well-lit area, with the light hopefully the brightest on your main subject. Make sure there is no bright light source, like the sun, behind your subject. If your subjects are in shadow or insufficient light, see if they can move into the light, or move some light to them, and the video will come out much better. Using additional lighting when filming indoors or in low light conditions, when added to slow shutter speeds and wider aperture settings can help the shot. Be aware, though, that a wider aperture will not capture detailed motion quite as well.

Learn when to Pan, Zoom and use other functions

One of the most common video mistakes is to "create" motion, which is to make constant movements and adjustments, which are completely unnecessary. An example of this would be walking while recording video. It is almost impossible for an amateur without additional equipment to keep the video smooth and the subject in proper composition.

When shooting, take your shot, of whatever it may be, stop recording, and then start a new shot instead of quickly panning the camcorder from one subject to the next.

Please keep repeated zooming in and out to a minimum. Excessive zooming can lower image quality and makes your audience's experience less pleasant. Zooming is acceptable, of course, when you are recording a speech or play where continuous audio is necessary (keeping your focus on your subject) and panning is not done. Do try to keep zooming down, though.

When panning and zooming, use slow, smooth and deliberate motion. This will make your videos look much better, and your audience won't feel like they are riding a roller coaster.

Get a tripod for steady images

Jumpy, erratic and shaky camera movement is one sure sign of amateur video production, but a tripod can help. If you need high image quality, use a tripod whenever possible, especially for sporting events, concerts, interviews or anything where you need to shoot from a single position for longer than 5 minutes. Shots taken from a tripod can be much better than handheld shots.

You can still pan and tilt when using a tripod and expect far better image quality versus handheld. Still, please remember that the purpose of the tripod is to keep the camcoarder still. Therefore, try and keep movement to a minimum.

Do not pan to follow subjects during close ups

When performing close ups on distant subjects, or when following a subject that is very close to the camera, the subject will appear to move faster than the camera. Therefore it is not recommended that you pan to follow your subject under these circumstances. Instead, zoom out for a full-body shot, and leave some room around the subject to give you a little extra room to work with for panning.

Gear to pack while traveling

An extra battery is always nice to have if you perform a lot of outdoor shooting or traveling. Also remember to recharge your battery every night to avoid getting caught with a half-drained battery. Bring as much recording media as you can carry comfortably when traveling as well, since you never know how many spectacular views or once in a lifetime opportunities you will find during your trip. Video cables are also a good bet to allow you to watch your recordings on TV in your hotel room. Be sure you have the right ones if you're visiting another country.  Not all countries use the same system.

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Camcorder Care Tips

  • Carry your camcorder in a dedicated bag/case. Never place them in the trunk of a car or with the luggage at the airline baggage counter.
  • Always bring a special lens cleaning cloth with the camcorder. This type of cloth does not scratch the lens and are commonly used for wiping glass. They are perfect for camcorder lens and LCD screens.
  • Remember to put the lens cap on after shooting; this will help to keep out dust and protect the lens from scratches.
  • When traveling between very cold and warm environments, there is a possibility of dew forming on the video head drum, so be sure not to use the camcorder immediately. Leave the camcorder for around half an hour with the cassette door open and cassette removed to warm up the camcorder and dry the video head drum.

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DV tape media care tips

New Tapes

It might be helpful to "condition" your new tape before actually using it; the trick is to record from start to end with the camcorder lens cap still on, instead of capturing real scenes. This will apply a continual timecode to the tape, which makes locating a particular frame easy. There is another benefit as well - it will re-tension the tape and reduce the possibility of tape jitter.

Precautions for handling DV tape media are not that much different from any other tape product (such as VHS tapes, audio cassettes).


There are a few basic rules for day-to-day DV tape care:

  • Never disassemble the cassette, or touch the actual tape (you can touch the cassette of course).
  • Avoid shock, impact, and dampness or any liquids hot or cold. Keep away from strong magnetic fields, and humid and dusty conditions.
  • Do not leave a cassette in the camcorder when the camcorder is not in use, and place any cassette in its own case.
  • Warm up a cassette before use in cold conditions.

Extended storage

In addition to the above rules, here are two more tips:

  • Store a cassette vertically, rewound, and in its own case
  • Fast forward and rewind tapes once in a while after extended periods of storage.

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