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Camcorder Basics

Hobbies are great outlets for creativity. Using your camcorder to record special events and then edit what you have captured can be very rewarding.

First of all, you need to decide what kind of camcorder you will need to purchase. This will be dictated by how you want to use your camcorder.

Do you simply want to record video for family situations such as kids playing, birthday parties, barbecues, etc. or do you want to use your camcorder for business (real estate for example) or lastly do you want to be a professional videographer who video tapes corporate events or weddings?

Cameras can range from just a few dollars to many thousands of dollars depending on what you need to use it for.

For this article we will concentrate on consumer camcorders rather than professional video camcorders.

Consumer camcorders usually range in price from about 300 to 1500 on average.

Camcorders come in analog and digital styles. Today, digital is the most popular style, which provides far superior results to analog.

Camcorders can be found with many features and special effects like black and white recording, sepia mode which adds an antique effect to images, fades, night shot mode which is helpful when there is little light and more. Much of the latter effects can also be done when editing your video.

Some camcorders offer still photos as well, but may not be as sharp as your digital camera. Looking for a camcorder where an external microphone can be plugged into it is preferred, especially when good audio is important.

Wearing headphones to monitor your audio can be very helpful as well.

Extra batteries are a must when videotaping. An external charger is great because you can be charging a battery while another is being used.

Another very important feature to consider is optical image stabilization. This feature helps to prevent shakiness in your videotaping especially when a tripod is not being used.

Your images will be sharper and clearer. Tripods can also help to steady your filming and take the load off.

Camcorders come in many sizes from ones that fit in the palm of your hand to very large sizes. Consumers usually have smaller hand held video cameras, whereas more serious videographers will buy larger, more expensive camcorders with more sophisticated features.

Mini DV (Digital video) is the most popular format today for consumer digital camcorders. This format is great for editing video on your computer.

When first getting your camcorder, practice shooting scenes and get familiar with the controls. Avoid jerky, quick movements when videotaping. You don’t want your audience to get dizzy watching your movie.

For steadier shots brace yourself against a wall for example or use a tripod. Too much zooming in and out can look amateurish. Zoom slowly and infrequently.

Try to get a variety of shots from different angles to give interest to your movies. Take shots from high up angled down on your crowd or slouch down and angle the camera up to get a different angle.

Take a lot of different shots as you can edit out what you don’t like later. If you take the time to plan your sequence before you shoot you will be more organized and have more interesting shots.

To get better audio you may want to use an external microphone. The store where you bought your camcorder can show you the different types of external microphones available.

For additional lighting the easiest way is to add a light to your camera. You can also buy a couple of fill lights that are put on either side of your camera to reduce the harsh light from your camera.

To edit your video you will need a fire wire connection. Your video camera should come with a fire wire cable that connects to your computer.

There are many video editing software packages you can buy. Your computer may already come with software such as Windows Movie Maker.

You can buy editing software for windows and Mac computers of which there are many choices. Pinnacle, Sony Vegas, Adobe Premiere and Final Cut Pro are a few names that are popular today.

If this is your hobby, you can practice with an inexpensive camcorder at first and then graduate to a more professional video camera as you become more skilled.

There are many books you can get on digital video. One, I recommend is Digital Video for Dummies by Martin Doucette. Read as much as you can but most of all get out there and practice. You will get much better with experience.

Good Luck and Happy Shooting!

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