Constant zooming, whiplash panning, and earthquake filming are only three of the common habits of the untrained videographer. Fortunately, it’s easy to jump from raw newbie to knowledgeable amateur simply by learning what not to do. Are you guilty of the following camcorder sins?
Some novice videographers forget they are using action video camera rather than a still camera, and wind up engaging in “snapshooting.” Snapshooting means recording scenes that are too short: a snapshot, in other words. But while a photo can be looked at indefinitely, that same image in a video needs to last long enough for a viewer to absorb it.
To avoid snapshooting, hold a shot for at least 10 seconds after pressing the record button. For example, if you’re shooting a still subject–such as the Washington Monument–just press record and count to 10 before stopping the camera.
Along the same lines, try to video tape more footage that you need. Start recording at least five seconds before the action starts. Wait to push the record button again until five seconds after the action ends. It’s always better to shoot more video than not enough!
Some amateur videographers never stop panning, but instead wind up waving the camera back and forth–as if they were spraying water from a firehose!
Picture this example from a birthday party: The videographer opens with a shot of the birthday cake. Then he swings the camera to his daughter laughing, swings it to the right when a child shouts, then swings back to the daughter laughing, and finally swings left to the front door because the cousins came in. It’s enough to make any viewer seasick!
Be conscious of your camera movement. Plan ahead when panning and land somewhere specific with your camera. Begin with a stable starting shot (Point A), then pan slowly to a stable ending shot (Point B). Hold both shots for at least 10 seconds before moving. And be careful not to move the camcorder too quickly.
And while you can move your camcorder to follow action, be discriminating. For example, panning from the birthday cake to the daughter would be fine. But the camera should then concentrate on her, rather than moving to other children.
Zooming is not natural. Think about it: we can’t zoom with our eyeballs. So why do amateurs feel compelled to constantly zoom in and out? Because zooming offers an easy edit that lends dynamism to the video.
The drawback is that zooms can be distracting. Only zoom when necessary in your home movies, such as when you are unable to move physically closer to your subject. For instance, the zoom is perfect for focusing closely on your child’s entrance in the school play or a lion at the zoo.
As with panning, have a starting shot and an ending shot with your zooms. Always zoom gently, and hold the zoomed shot for at least a few seconds before moving again.
Whatever you do, avoid zooming in, pausing, and then immediately zooming back out. This gaffe is called “tromboning,” and will quickly irritate your viewers.
Holding a camcorder steady has gotten much easier over the years as manufacturers have improved their video stabilization features. Frankly, there’s no excuse for your home video to be bouncing up and down unless you are jogging or in an earthquake.