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Tech Tip 157

By Eugenia Loli-Queru
Sunday, February 17, 2008

"How To Be a Video Pro"

Tech tip After the recent price explosion of High Definition camcorders, a lot of such units sold worldwide. Consumers usually think that the best footage comes out of the best camera, but this is not exactly true. Some say that only 20% of the result should be attributed to the camera, and 80% of the credit should go to the actual user. Here is a small list of tips on how to get the best footage out of your camera, be it an HD, SD or even a digital camera with some video ability.

pod_im1. Always use a stabilization tool.

Truth is, shaky footage looks like amateurish footage. Always use a stabilization technique to shoot your videos, be it via a tripod, a shoulder bracket, or just an easy-to-carry cheap monopod. A tripod is the most common and most stable of these tools, and prices can vary from $30 to $3000. For videography, you need the kind of tripod that has a "fluid" head, which is the type that can produce smooth motion. Good-enough tripod legs with a fluid head will cost you at least $100, although it's considered money well-spent. A popular trick for smooth pannings while using a tripod is that you can use an inexpensive rubber band to drag the tripod's handle in the four axis instead of using your hand -- the rubber band will absorb the shock and jerkiness of your hand's movement resulting in a smoother motion.

2. Shoot with the sun on your back.

The best-looking footage will come if you shoot either during sunrise or during sundown. For all other times of the day, you will have to Filters_IMcarefully pay attention where the sun is located and either avoid shooting altogether when the light is harsh during mid-day, or to make sure you have the sun on your back. Learn to manually expose to compensate for light conditions, and if your camera supports "filters" (check if your camcorder has a "filter thread" in front of the lens), you might want to consider buy a "neutral density" (ND) filter and/or a "polarizer" filter. Having said that, the ideal time to capture some footage without a lot of camera adjustments is on a cloudy day.

Whitebalance3. Set your white balance.

For outdoors footage, the camera is able to detect and automatically use the right white balance, it's not usually so for indoors footage. Cameras come with white balance pre-sets that for tungsten and other forms of indoor lighting, but most of the time, footage never comes out just "right" enough. For this reason, pick a camera that allows you to manually set a custom white balance (all Canon cameras do, for example). Then, you can buy a piece of paper called a "grey card" that only costs about $5. You place the card at the position where you would be shooting and zoom in to fill the frame with the grey card, then you set the white balance at that point.  At the point your camera is ready to shoot in these conditions with the right colors, plus the camera will be automatically exposed the right way, which is a double bonus! While you can reset the white balance during post processing, digital WB is never as good or as artifact-free as the real in-camera white balance.

4. Plan your shots.

PlanRandom shots usually don't awe audiences. Always plan your shots,how you will pan, how you will zoom, andhow you will compose the picture. It's a good practice to not zoom in and out fast, or too much, and don't pan a lot either. It's preferable to have a steady, non-movable shot of a building, with the only animation being the people walking by or the birds flying around it. This gives more time to the viewer to study the subject, without your movie being too static.

Ruth5. Be a ruthless editor.

It is usually said that only 1/10th of your pictures/video must be part of the final cut. The rest is usually just not good enough to be included in a well-made work, be it a YouTube video or a family DVD. So, edit ruthlessly. Cut where there is a lot of camera shake, cut where the composition is not right, and cut when the wind is over-powering the conversation. Additionally, add some royalty-free music to your work (the Creative Commons "BY" license is ideal for home projects, it only asks for attribution in the credits). Finally, you might want to consider familiarizing yourself with the color correcting and manipulation plugins of your video editor which can help you "pop up" the colors and contrast on your video.

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