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How to get the best home movies

Thu 1 Mar 2012
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Who doesn’t love home videos? And although we now have the capability to film action on everything from our computers to our phones, if you’re a real movie buff then you definitely need a proper video camera for all of the best features and quality. This month in NetGuide we’re looking at the range of video cameras out there to help you find your perfect fit, as well as offering some top tips for capturing the best videos possible once you have your camera. STEP ONE: Buy a video camera SIZE/LEVEL Camcorders today come in all different shapes and sizes. You can find everything from a pocket-sized device to a shoulder-mounted one. Of course professional cameras are going to be bigger in size, but bigger isn’t always better. The level of video camera you should choose depends on what you will be using it for. Pocket Camcorders These usually range between 80 and 250 dollars and they’re ideal if you’re looking for a relatively cheap option that you can carry around with you anywhere. Most of these little cameras come with a flip-out USB jack that you can plug directly into your PC and use the MPEG-4/H.264 codec, which allows you to transfer video onto your computer quite quickly and easily. Of course quality is going to be of a lesser standard with these little guys, but they’re convenient and will do the trick at a great price. HD Consumer Camcorders The new and improved version of the standard camcorder is the HD camcorder. Although you can still buy standard-definition video cameras (and they’re fairly inexpensive, ranging from 150 to 350 dollars), we would encourage you to go with HD, as you’ll get much better quality and a richer picture. Not to mention, standard-definition is slowly heading into the realm of technological obsolescence. HD cameras can usually be found anywhere between 300 and 1000 dollars. They’re bigger than pocket camcorders but are still reasonably sized and portable. Professional Camcorders If you are the type of person who needs a professional level camera, you probably wouldn’t be reading this article! These cameras are a huge investment, often pricing upwards of 5000 dollars, and are used to shoot professional videos. You can swap lenses and they offer many more controls and features as well as built-in XLR connectors for amazing audio, but unless you’re planning on switching careers into the film industry, you’re probably safe with a lower level camcorder. If you’re looking for something in between the HD consumer camcorder and the pro, however, consider an HD prosumer model. These usually offer higher quality lenses and sensors, more controls, 24-frames-per-second progressive shooting (for motion-picture film quality) and better audio options. You can usually pick one of these up for between 1000 and 3000 bucks. FEATURES AND SPECS When shopping for a video camera, keep the weight of the device in mind. This is going to affect the ease of use and portability, so if you’re looking for a camera you can carry around every day with you this will be especially important. Also consider the screen size. A larger screen will make it easier to see what you’re recording and play it back while you’re working, but it will also drain the battery more quickly than a smaller screen. The size of the screen will also tend to go hand-in-hand with the size of the device itself, so the bigger the screen, the bulkier the camera. Some new models also offer touchscreen, which is awesome for some people but it depends on your personal preferences and, again, what you are using the camera for. Finally, look for a camcorder with at least a 10X optical zoom. Optical zoom is when the lens moves in and out to get you closer to the object you are shooting. The higher the optical zoom the better. You may also hear about digital zoom, but this isn’t all that important. Digital zoom is what takes the pixels of your picture and enlarges them, making the picture appear closer (and often a bit blurry). You should also try to find a device with a front-mounted microphone if possible, and the ability to connect an external microphone can also be a great asset. Whichever video camera you choose, make sure you do your research! This will be the tool you use to capture many memories and important moments and you want to ensure you’ve found the camcorder best suited to you. STEP TWO: Get familiar with the on/off switch, the zoom feature and the record button. STEP THREE: Choose a location and try taking some footage before your characters (or friends/family) arrive. This will help you adjust settings, lighting etc. ahead of time and also determine how the backdrop will look. STEP FOUR: Consider a tripod. Depending on what you will be filming, a tripod can be a great tool to keep your camera steady and prevent shaky, uneven footage. Scenes with a great deal of action (for example, a soccer game) benefit greatly from a tripod. This is because if you’re holding the camera yourself, chances are you’ll be running up and down the field and jerking the camera around, which will make for a dizzying viewing experience – not to mention compromise the sound quality. STEP FIVE: Use the three basic shots: A wide shot establishes location; a medium shot follows action; and a close up shows something/someone specific.  Try to shoot at least ten seconds of each shot, holding the camera still. STEP SIX: Limit the amount of zooming in and out, as tempting as it may be! The more camera and lens movement, the shakier and more awkward the video will turn out. STEP SEVEN: Now it’s time to edit your video! You may need to purchase some video editing software for this. Macs are the best computers for this type of work, as they come with iMovie – an easy and straightforward program for video editing. PCs often come with editing software as well, such as Windows Movie Maker, but PCs are just not designed for video and graphic design in the same way that Macs are. That being said, if you’re just making some casual home movies and aren’t looking for anything particularly fancy, a PC will serve you just fine. To begin the editing process, upload your video onto the computer and feed the video clips into your editing program of choice. Try to tell a story not only using video, but audio as well. Pick out some cool songs and add graphics and titles to make things more interesting. If you’re really serious about your movie, we recommend the "Sony Vegas” software program. STEP EIGHT: Enjoy all of your hard work!

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