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Easy Tips to Make a Good Camcorder Video Movie That Looks Professional

The beauty of a digital video camcorder is that all you really have to do is turn it on, use the automatic settings and shoot a movie. The automatic features will focus for you, perform white balance, adjust the exposure and the set the sound levels. But the difference between creating an average-looking video movie and an exceptional one that looks professional is a matter of using the features of the camcorder.

A professional video movie requires planning and proficient use of the camcorder. Making a good video is a process of learning. Here are some easy tips and tricks of the professionals.
  1. Use aperture control and shutter speed to to control the light levels of the video
  2. Set the depth of field to focus attention on the faces
  3. Turn off automatic gain to shoot night video
  4. Control the white balance to warm up your videos
  5. Slow the shutter speed for softer transitions between frame
  6. 4 ways to improve lighting for your video
  7. 5 tips to get better video sound
  8. Panning and zooming in your video

Planning to Make a Camcorder Video

When we make a video, we reflect on life. We express this through creation of narrative videos. We tell the story of activities, people, interests, loved ones and places in our lives all for future generations to discover.

Your first video movie could be a party, wedding or trade show, all events that are easy to shoot. For tried and true camcorder mastery, watch a Hollywood DVD with the sound turned off. Notice the details of each segment. Notice how the movie has an opening shot to establish the location in wide, medium or close-up shots. Learn to introduce the event and the subjects. Before filming begins, think about the basic scenes you want to shoot. Plan your video with a storyboard, an outline, diagram or sketches of the development of the story. It will keep you organized as you shoot the event.

A good video is the marriage of composition, lighting, movement and sound. Making a video is different from still photography. The video movie is built up from frame to frame, like construction a house. Theres a lot to think about. Youll be concentrating on framing the image, sounds, action and lighting, while at the same time you watch battery level, filters, tripods and microphones. All the camcorder settings can be confusing, too. A good software editor can help by correcting some problems with sound, contrast and color balancing tools, but making a good video movie requires knowing your camcorder.

The Settings of a Video Camcorder

Before you make a video, know your camcorder and its features. Read the manual, too. Many new camcorders are menu driven with touch screens. Locate the features, settings and controls on your camcorder, and learn how to turn them on and off. Learn how to shift from manual to automatic functions, and back again.

Learn simple functions like switching between recording and viewing modes. Youll need to locate image stabilization, white balance, and automatic and manual focus. Locate the audio settings. Some camcorder menus are hard to learn, so you might want to prepare a cheat sheet to rely on during a video shoot. Learn how to change recording media. Learn how to switch in and out of night vision. Set the audio to 16-bit, 48kHz quality, for ease in editing later.

Using the Camcorder Aperture Control When You Make a Video

You can control the light levels entering the camcorder by changing settings for aperture and shutter speed. Aperture, shutter speed and gain are the three controls that affect the light used to record the video. If the camcorder is in automatic mode, it will choose the settings for you. But there are times when youll need to set these controls manually. Aperture is the interior part of the lens that controls the amount of light coming through the lens. You might want to control the aperture when you want to capture the glow of candles in a dark room. When you want to capture the glow of candles in a dark room or a fireplace on the faces without overexposing the whole image, youll want to set the aperture manually.

Depth of Field for Your Video Movie

A shallow depth of field using ND neutral-density filters will give your video a pleasing effect. A high depth of field makes everything appear in focus in the video, both foreground and background. The resulting video image seems flat and sharp. However, professional movies are shot with a shallow depth of field to focus the attention on the subject and to blur a distracting background. You can reduce the depth of field by opening the camcorder aperture manually. When you do this, a higher aperture setting will increase the exposure of the frame or make your shutter speed too high. In this case, pros use a ND neutral density filter over the lens to reduce the level of light. ND filters are designated 2x, 4x and 8x, which means that they have 1-stop, 2-stop and 3-stop light reduction. Better video camcorders have ND filters built into the lens system for your convenience.

Setting Shutter Speed When You Make a Camcorder Video

The shutter setting controls how long the video frame is open to the image passing through the lens. The camcorder regulates shutter speed by controlling the length of time a chip registers a signal for each frame. The shutter speed determines the light level and the sharpness of the frame. Professional Hollywood movies look different from home videos because they are shot at 24 frames per second, a relatively slow shutter speed, which introduces a certain amount of motion blur. This makes one frame blend more smoothly into the next one. Home video is shot at a faster shutter speed 1/60 second, 60 frames per second which gives a crisper look. A slower shutter speeds and a shallower depth of field will soften the look of your video. A faster shutter speed makes for a sharper image in full light. It is often used for better action shots and fast-moving subjects.

Adding Gain When You Make a Camcorder Video

Gain is the additional signal processing the camcorder applies to the video image. Automatic gain amplifies the video signal when light levels are too low and makes it possible to shoot in low light. The drawback is that gain boost adds extra noise to the image. If you are shooting a night scene, the automatic gain will add light to make it look like daytime. When you want a night image to be dark and shadowy, turn off the automatic gain.

White Balance on Your Camcorder Video

Light has color. Fluorescent lights impart a green color. The noon sun has a colder bluish light. Incandescent light has a yellow cast. A person standing in the shade of a green tree will reflect some of that green. When you make a video, the goal is to keep the color balance consistent. You can correct these color shifts by using the automatic white balance feature, which adjusts every light source to a neutral white. Or you can control the white balance manually. Here are 3 ways to use the white balance to make professional looking video movies.
  1. You can use a white card to set the color balance manually under various lighting. By setting the color white, the camcorder compensates for the color of the lighting. You can also use white balance manually to add a tone or wash to your video.
  2. Videos look better when the colors are warm. Professionals have a trick to warm up their movies with a slight color adjustment. You can warm up your camcorder video by setting the white balance setting to cloudy. You can also manually add yellow or blue in some camcorders, to warm up or chill down an image.
  3. You might want to turn off the automatic white balance in other situations. When you want to capture the glow of candles or a fireplace on the faces without overexposing the whole image, youll want to use manual settings for white balance and aperture.

Image Stabilization for a Better Camcorder Video

Amateur camcorder videos often have a shaky, hand-held result. Here are 3 way to get a steady image in your video movie.
  1. Your videos will be steadier if you use a fluid-head tripod for the camcorder.
  2. The automatic image stabilization feature of your camcorder is another way to keep the video image steady. Electronic image stabilization is a software function of the camcorder that adjusts the position of the image.
  3. Optical stabilization in better video camcorders automatically uses a lens to shift the position of the image from an unsteady camcorder. Optical stabilization is preferred to electronic stabilization because there is no loss of image quality.

Lighting When You Make a Video

In professional movies, the gaffer is the chief lighting technician. As videographer, you will probably be your own gaffer. Here are 3 ways to use lighting in your video.
  1. Using the light attachment that comes with the video camcorder adds stark spotlight lighting to your video. The best way to add light is with a key light to the side of the subject. Balance the key light with a fill light on the opposite side of the subject. A good light kit will take your video to the professional level. A lighting kit has tungsten or halogen lights to use on collapsible stands. They come with reflective hoods to direct the light and baffles to diffuse the light.
  2. To help with lighting the video, consider hanging a curtain or background near the subject. A piece of poster board or a folding reflector will fill in unwanted shadows. You can try cheesecloth or sheets of clear plastic across a window to change the quality of the light.
  3. Use natural light to your advantage in video work. Video photographers prefer to shoot in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the harsh deep shadows of the noon sun. It is tricky to edit video segments that have been shot at different times of the day, because the quality of light changes throughout the day.

Your Video Sound Track

Sound quality is even more important than image quality. Extraneous background noise can irritate your audience. Here are 5 ways to improve the sound for a more professional video.
  1. Before filming, notice if heating and air conditioning fans are likely to turn on. Airplanes flying, high wind, passing autos and background conversations will provide unwanted noise in your video.
  2. A small shotgun microphone that plugs into the connection on your camcorder will focus the audio pickup to a narrow range.
  3. A clip-on lavaliere microphone, either wireless or cabled, will also improve the audio quality.
  4. The closer you get to the subject, the better the sound pickup will be.
  5. Professional wild sound, like background crowds, wind or ocean, can be purchased or recorded separately. When it is added in the editing process it will smooth and enhance the recorded video sound.

Continuity When You Make a Video

Continuity refers to the moving or cutting between shots. The professional Hollywood movie has a continuity staff to make sure that costumes and scenes remain the same from shoot to shoot. If the runner is traveling from left to right in your video, shoot all the running scenes with the same orientation. Similarly, the subject should be looking in the same direction during a conversation.

Zooming and Panning When You Make a Video

Pan the camcorder back and forth across the scene to follow movement. Zoom in on the subject to draw the viewer into the close-up. But pan and zoom slowly and inconspicuously. You never want to make your audience dizzy from fast zooming and panning. Here's another video tip. When you are using a tripod during panning, turn off automatic image stabilization, so that it doesnt blur the image at the end of the pan.

Making a camcorder video movie that looks professional is both skill and art. We have barely scratched the surface here. Students go to school for four years to learn the basics of videography. As you practice, each video you make will be more polished and memorable.

I wish you much success in life. I hope you have a very happy day.

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