Matts Camcorder Tips  

by Matt Hawkins, 13/08/2003
Categories : Tutorials & Guides

Here are some camcorder tips you may find useful. They were written back in the days of VHS and Video8 but are just as applicable to High Definition and the wonders of digital!

WHITE BALANCE I don't really know much about the technical side of white balance but if you can adjust it on your camera then there are times when it will be useful. Basically white balance is used to compensate for different lighting conditions. There are usually a number of settings including 'indoor' and 'outdoor'. The tweaking of white balance is useful if you are filming an object against a bright background (i.e. bright sky). Without white balance adjustment your subject can appear very dark against the background. In reality you should avoid filming in extreme lighting conditions (either too dark or too light) because the quality of your footage could be affected.

AUTO FOCUS Most cameras have auto focus and sometimes this can turned off. Most of the time it is advisable to let the camera do the hard work ! Occasionally auto focus can have problems. It can result in a blurred image if the subject matter is constantly moving or has changing brightness. Problems are most likely to occur when filming objects that are within 100 or so cm of the camera. This is why it is important to review your footage on a TV frequently as problems such as focus may not be apparent on the camcorder screen.

ZOOM Most camcorders have a zoom function and when you make a film you will be tempted to use it. You will probably be tempted to use it a lot. It makes you feel like a 'real' cameraman so it has an understandable attraction. The trouble is 'zoom' can cause big problems : Zoom amplifies camera shake and encourages you to distance the camera from the subject. This will trash your soundtrack. Sound quality is a problem on its own without you making things worse by filming everything at a distance. Zoom causes focus problems. As the camera zooms the auto focus often struggles to keep up. This can result in blurred patches during the zoom sequence. Don't use it and you will avoid a lot of problems later on. If you do use it then be very careful and consider all the pit falls. Did we use 'zoom'?? Of course we did but usually we also filmed a non-zoom version of the same scene so that we had the choice of two versions during editing. It was usually the 'zoom' version that got the chop. It is just hard to pull off a good zoom shot.

DIGITAL EFFECTS These days camcorders are loading with digital effects. This include 'black and white', 'fade', 'digital zoom', 'slow motion', 'pixelate', 'mirror' etc If you are going to be editing on your computer then these effects are useless. A camcorder can do nothing that you can't do on your PC. If use an effect on your camera then you are stuff with it. If you leave the effects until the editing stage then you have got far more opti1ons to explore. My advice : forget about camera digital effects. They are gimmicks. Film raw footage and mess about with it later.

Author : Matt Hawkins  Last Edit By : Matt Hawkins
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