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Tips for Shooting Better Home Movies

 

 

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1.

Always Be Prepared for the Unexpected
Birthdays and holidays are great occasions to film home movies, but the best stuff happens when you least expect it, especially when you have small children. Make sure you always have a blank tape and a charged battery ready to go, and keep your video camera in an easily accessible location. When your kids (or spouse for that matter) are in a particularly silly and funny mood you'll be much more inclined, and able, to get it on tape if you can simply grab the camera off a shelf and hit record.

2.

Don't be Camera Shy
You're part of the family too, so show your spouse or an older child how to use the video camera. You can even use a tripod for some of the filming and get everyone in the shot. For the longest time I never appeared in any of our home movies, and my wife was never in any of our photos, until it finally occurred to us that we should take turns with the toys.

3.

Ditch the Date Stamp
It's great to know the date and time for each home movie, but don't let the date stamp run the length of the video. Turn it off after a few moments, or write the date on a slip of paper and keep it with the tape. Adding it to the title or credits during editing looks much cleaner and less like a home movie. Also, a continuously running date stamp may cause problems if your video needs to have image stabilization (smoothing out a shaky camera) performed during editing.

4.

Don't Over Use the Zoom Controls
Zooming in or out abruptly or too frequently can be very distracting, keep your zooms slow and steady and use only when necessary. The same goes for pans (sweeping the camera left / right or up / down), slower is better.

5.

Avoid Using the Digital Zoom Feature
The digital zoom (on any camera, video or otherwise) is little more than a clever sales tactic, producing poor video quality. The camera essentially magnifies the image beyond it's original resolution giving it the appearance of being closer. The resulting image however, is generally pixelated and blurry. The further you zoom, the worse it gets. Optical zoom, on the other hand, uses the lens to enlarge what the camera actually sees without a loss in quality.

6.

Keep Extra Batteries and Tapes on Hand
An extra battery (or two) is worth the investment. Sooner or later you're going to need it, so think about getting one now instead of after you miss a great shot, you'll be glad you did. Having plenty of extra tapes is also important, you don't want to be fumbling for a tape to use or accidentally record over something. You're going to use them eventually, so keep some extra handy.

7.

Shoot the Action from Different Positions
Watching a long event that's been filmed from one spot can get a little boring after a while. Move around and shoot from different angles, it will keep things interesting and fresh. This is especially true for a child's sporting event. Don't be afraid to run down the sidelines and get an up close view of the winning touchdown, just take your eye out of the viewfinder first.

8.

Buy a Tripod and Use it
Being mobile is great, but sometimes you are going to want to shoot from one position for at least a little while. Using a tripod will give you smooth, "shake free" video, not to mention allow you to be in front of the camera for a change. When your ready to shoot from a different angle just pick the whole thing up and move it.

9.

Be Creative
An actual event is not the only thing worth filming, use your imagination and film things that will add interest or sentiment to the video. A good example would be at a birthday party or wedding reception to have each guest record a personal message. On your child's first day of school, get some video of them getting ready, film them in front of the school's sign and when they get out, have them tell you about their day on camera. When on vacation, get shots of signs at land marks, notable streets, restaurants you visit and the hotel you're staying at. Just be creative!

10.

Avoid Backlighting
If you're facing a strong light source, the sun for instance, your subject is going to start looking like silhouette. Try and get the light source behind you, instead of what you're filming, if that just isn't possible, use your cameras back light setting to reduce the undesired effect.

11.

Resist the Urge to Use Your Video Camera's Special Effects
There is no substitute for editing your home movie after it's been filmed, either yourself or by a professional. The "in camera" effects built into most video cameras have nothing on modern day video editing equipment and software. The same effects (and many, many more) can be achieved during the editing process with much better results, and the best part is that you are free to change your mind and experiment because it's not actually part of the original video.

 


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