Do it with a Tripod
You may find it hard to get video without the shaky camera look to it. Most home videos always look shaky and unprofessional. If you get a $20 tripod and mount this to your camcorder you can get better quality video. You can perform zooms and pans and even get in front of the camera yourself. The camera digital stabilization feature isn’t something you want to rely on, often narrowing your frame. Purchase a tripod to get the shakes out of your video. In the meantime, you can try leaning against a wall or proppping camera on top of something to keep it steady.
FREE Natural Lighting
You need good lights to have good video. If you shoot outdoors you’ll have good lighting most of the time. On cloudy days you’ll still have enough light for a good video. When the sun is out, try to shoot your video earlier in the day. When the sun is overhead there are shadows on the subjects.
When you can’t shoot outdoors try to get as much light as possible into the room. Make sure you open blinds and turn on lamps and use the light on your camcorder if it has one built-in. This will help you get good face shots. You can adjust light on many camcorders but only the high end models really have any impact on the light in the room. When the light is low, disable the auto-focus as you may end up with a pulsing effect that will make your audience dizzy.
It’s difficult to get good audio when using a camcorder. The microphone that is built into most camcorders isn’t the best and is quite basic although they will record audio from any direction. In noisy areas the sounds may drown out someone that is talking. You want the subject to be as close to the microphone on your camcorder as possible to get a better quality sound. You want to get an external microphone in most cases and the camcorder should have a jack for this. For shots in front of the lens, a shotgun mic works great and the tie clip mic is great for those sit-down interviews. You will also want a camcorder with a headphone jack so you can monitor sound levels as you do your recording. The last thing you want to find out is that one of your mic batteries was dead or that the cables were swtiched and no audio was recorded.
Get Your Shots Set Up
When you look at your viewfinder, think of a tic-tac-toe board. The lines intersect in four spots and you want to line up shots by framing your action in one of these spots. You don’t want to rely on the special effects of the camera to do the work for you. Don’t use the auto-fade feature or other built-in effects; you can add this in later when you use your video editing software. You are aiming for solid, crisp video without a lot of extras as this just takes away from the quality of the video. The effects can be a fun thing to play with but I recommend you shoot the kind of shots you notice on movies and tv shows that you watch.
Don’t Use the Digital Zoom
The optical zoom is great but the digital zoom is not. You don’t want to buy a camera because it says it has a huge digital zoom on it like 240x or some other insane number. The result is pixellated and grainy footage. The camcorder just crops into the center of the image as you increase your zoom level. The cropped portion gets enlarged so it fills the screen which makes the video look terrible. Use the menu system to turn off the digital zoom and just use the optical zoom feature. Use your lens for the magnification and your video will have a much higher quality.
Shoot the B-roll
B-roll is secondary footage that you can splice into the video to flesh out the story more. Yes, even if you are just shooting family footage, there is definitely still a story to tell, so this applies to anyone holding a camera. When you shoot something you can film extra video, which you can add in at a later time to complete the final movie. You can have anything as your B-roll for the video. For example, if you are filming your grandparents, and they are talking about how they go on walks together, try getting them to go on a walk later and record to splice into the interview later as they are talking about it. You will need to plan your B-roll footage but it can add a lot to the finished video you create.
I hope this has inspired you to pick up your phone or camcorder and look at it a little differently next time you hit the record button. Will this footage sit around forever unnoticed, or will you shoot to create a masterpiece someday? That is what directors do: They shoot with a purpose.