Have you ever had this experience? You grab your new digital camcorder (replete with the latest features) and happily shoot that wonderful family event or vacation.
Only later do you realize that the video footage was too dark, or the video quality was terrible. Isn't that a terrible feeling? What makes it worse is that you can never re-shoot that video as the happy moments are now gone.
The best way of avoiding these problems is to learn some basic video shooting skills. You need not learn complex cinematography or directorial skills, of course. But you should have some fundamental knowledge of what goes into a good video shoot and doesn't.
Let's take a look at these shooting tips in turn.
Many digital camcorders come with a super duper 1000X zoom in and zoom out feature. This is a good thing, but the problem is, many people get carried away. I've seen countless videos which keep zooming in and out during the shoot - they generally succeed in giving me a bad headache.
Use the zoom in and out feature sparingly. Even if you must use it, do it slowly. A slow, well-controlled zoom is much more professional looking than a quick zoom. Another tip is to restrict the usage of the zoom in between scenes.
The professionals always say "Keep It Steady". There is no doubt that when we're shooting videos, our hands tend to vibrate a little. If the vibration is too much, it will badly affect the quality of the video footage. There are two ways to overcome this.
One way is to do it like the professionals - get a good tripod stand. These can be obtained rather cheaply. Another way is to brace yourself against something like a wall, or perhaps stoop down on your knee while filming.
One tip that I've picked up while shooting family vacations is to always, always look for a landmark, a sign or natural monument that tells the audience where you are.
Do you notice the professionals do this as well? For example, in the movies, you may see the camera zooming in on the Statue of Liberty first, before cutting to a scene that happens within. Or there is a shot of the White House before the director cuts into a scene within the Oval Room. Another tip is to make the people you're filming talk or smile. This makes the whole video much more lively and interesting.
Another good video shooting trick is to use the end of the story at the start of the video. Again, experts do this all the time. If you're filming a wedding video, you can start off with an interview of the happily married couple on the wedding day before you cut off into scenes of how they met, how they grew up, etc.
Never, ever, shoot long, drawn out video clips of more than two minutes. It bores the audience to death! Using many short clips of 5 to 10 seconds duration is much more effective. It also brings variety to the audience. Imagine if a television commercial lasted two minutes focusing on the same video scene - wouldn't that be boring?
Of all the factors listed here, nothing spoils a video shoot as much as poor lighting. Sure, you can use video editing software to brighten up the scenes, but they can only do so much.
I've seen many innovative videos marred by poor lighting. One important tip is to shoot video with the light source behind you, shining on the subject. An example is an outdoor shot where the sun is shining. Make sure the sun shines on your subject and not on your camera lens! Another tip is to use the camera's backlight feature if there is one. It allows you to compensate for overly bright light.
Don't limit your shots to one angle only. Approach your subject from all angles. Come from behind, come from the top, whatever. Perhaps you can even film yourself walking up the steps and opening a bedroom door before reaching your subject.
You'd be surprised how much you can learn about shooting video from the movies. Very often, we just sit down and let the movie scenes come at us without considering what went through the director's mind. Try it - for once, when you watch your next movie, consider how the director framed that shot or scene. You will learn a lot and maybe even get interested in directing films!
I've seen or heard so many people forgetting about the battery that I must emphasize it here. Please buy extra batteries! Preferably two extra batteries. Nothing is worse than shooting a video outdoors and having the battery die on you. Also, always bring the AC adapter too - so that you can charge your current battery whenever time permits.
This tip may not be important for the average home user. But if you're a serious videographer, you'll have a microphone attached to your camcorder. Microphones are an essential tool for sound focusing and result in better audio quality during video shoots.
It's not tough picking up better shooting skills. Once you've learnt the basics, I assure you it will come to you very naturally, almost like riding a bicycle or swimming.
If you're truly interested in enhancing your shooting skills, I'd recommend you check out some books on the topic. This was the way I learnt digital videography - reading, reading and more reading - then constantly experimenting with what I learnt.
If you've been looking for a good video editing program, you may want to check out Corel VideoStudio Pro. This software allows you to quickly create and share a movie using built-in templates, special effects, titles and transitions. You can apply unique effects such as stop-motion animation, time-lapse and chroma key to create brilliant digital videos.
You may also wish to read the following related articles:
How to buy your first digital camcorder
A guide to selecting a computer for digital video editing
Video editing software and how to choose the right product
A guide to selecting and buying VCD and DVD authoring software
Top 5 video editing software programs