BASIC CAMERA OPERATION
BEGINNING BASIC TOOLS
This class will not be one of those, here is the camera, this is how to turn it on - and now - you go shoot with it. This first page has been designed to give you a start with your camera. Please read and print this page, then take your camera out and practice with it.
You are wondering what video camera is the best, Lets ignore that question, because with our changing technology, and the fact the companys are changing adding and discontinuing camera models monthy, there is really no way to answer the question. Which format is the best is answerable, in terms of color bandwith and lines of resolution the DV (digital mini and pro) cameras deliver 5 times the color bandwith at 500 lines of resolution, this is above vhs and 8mm at 240 lines and SVHS and HI8 at 400 lines. For all practical purposes the DV format is equal to all of the other most professional formats (this analisis does not include HDTV).
The student should not worry what camera is used, If you were really smart you would only shoot B/W "Film Noir", style. With this technique you would eleminate most of your problems. Color is more of a liability than asset, especially for the beginner.
This Class will expose you to the mechanical functions of the video camera and give you some basic instructions in shooting techniques. We will touch on the basic idea of story telling when taping. The purpose of this is to give you the tools to create an acceptable program the first time out. You are asked to tape 5 minutes of scenes telling a story. In the basic editing class you will cut this video and produce a program no shorter than 3 minutes. You will add titles, music, and sound effects to make the program interesting. Dont worry Editing will be easy.
Keep in mind now the little section on scripting - story telling. You can put together all of your, stories from these individual shoots in your final video.
Although the mastery of what this short class teaches is a lifetime effort, you can make a good program with what you are to learn.
This section of the class will teach you two things 1. How to shoot the camera and capture good video and, 2. What the classic shots are and how to use them to produce a good video program. The following discussion will describe a documentary technique, for example going to the farmers market and telling a story about it.
To start this learning exercise, just forget that you have a zoom or can move the camera - pretend you are using a still photo camera, we will get into panning and zooming later, but for now we are learning the classical and simpler methods of taping.
A picture has three areas - the immediate foreground - the middle or action area - and - the background area.
The immediate foreground - helps to supply depth to the picture - this may be a tree limb hanging down to one side of the picture, or flowers, anything that does not take away from the action area.
The middle area is where your people will be; there they do the performing.
The background is the pretty picture - think of this as a photograph - make a really nice shot here. Make sure this picture is not tilted - have all of the vertical lines straight up and down.
FRAMING YOUR SHOT - TYPES OF PICTURES
The Wide Shot, or the Establishing Shot tells your audience where they are, in one sense it gives them a feeling of belonging. This Shot can simply be a freeze frame that you roll your titles over at the beginning of the program. The establishing shot will show the location, or shots of the crowd, or the Interior of the location. Please NOTE an empty room doesnt make it, you want people or something alive moving around. Animals, Insects or even leaves blowing in the wind will do, motion will bring the shot to life.
The Medium Shot, or Head to Toe Shot, supplies much information to the viewer, the actual scene where your action is going to take place. This shot will also introduce the individuals in your tape. Dont pose them rather have them interacting and doing something relevant to the rest of the video you have planned.
The Close Up, or Head and Shoulder Shot this is a standard shot, you will see it in most of your news broadcasts and interview shows. These are called talking heads.
I want to introduce the RULE OF THIRDS.
This rule has two different applications
In your mind draw a grid on the viewfinder THREE ROWS ACROSS AND THREE ROWS DOWN - you will use the tic-tac-toe grid to align your pictures.
when you are shooting people put their eyes at the top 1/3 line
when you re shooting landscapes with a wide shot put the horizon line on either the top 1/3 line or the bottom 1/3 line
Now the up and down lines -lets say you have a standing figure of a person or just a head and shoulder shot - you may place the person to the side on either of the vertical lines. This will leave approximately 2/3 of the screen for a pretty or interesting picture. You will also use these lines to place moving figures or objects, give them the big area to run toward. This is called leading the action - for example you are at a football game the runner is on one side of the screen running into the open part of the screen. This idea will hold true with all action shots.
Only use the center area - C 1/3 C - when you are illustrating a detail of some object - most of the time a perfect centering is just not interesting.
The Extreme Close up or detail shot
This shot does many things It will lend impact to the tape, the viewer will become familiar and can identify with the emotion they are expressing. The ECU will show the tiny details, which would otherwise be unseen. The set in the ring the inside of the flower, the parts and movement of a mechanism
These are the basic shots now we will look at camera placement. Where you shoot from is always a challenge, in many cases you have little choice. Your Wide Shot is one of the first places you have almost total control scout the area and look through your viewfinder. You can usually find a really pretty view of the area. The medium Shot also follows this rule, first you find a scene in the viewfinder and make a pretty picture then you take your talent and place them in that picture. You can ask them to walk into the picture for an interesting effect. You will have to experiment and have a mark on the ground, which you will have them walk to.
Or you may simply have them already be in the picture doing something. It is not really necessary to have any dialogue in this shot.
The Medium shot may be used as introduction to a dialogue or speech in this case you may use your ZOOM to as a transition to a CLOSE UP HEAD AND SHOULDER
These are various places you can shoot from to help you tell your story and make the video more interesting. You may use pillows or your camera bag for support, tape or clamp your tripod to and existing support, you imagination will be your guide here,
The ZOOM is one of the most misused and difficult controls on your camera. The beginners most common mistake is to turn the camera on and FIRE-HOSE, you know what I mean, they zoom in and out - point the camera up and down, never stopping or looking at anything.
You will have to use the camera and practice zooming many times to get used to the way your specific camera works. At this point of your education the zoom should be used very little.
Common ZOOM problems:
Being unable to control the speed of the zoom going fast and slow in the same shot.
Going too fast
Going too slow
Stopping the zoom before you were ready and then zooming some more to make frame the shot the way you wanted it.
Shaking the camera as you try to zoom
Reasons to zoom
To zoom in from a wide shot to show a detail
From a detail to a wide, medium or close up.
As a rule of thumb make it short, and when you stop STOP
HOLD ON THE SHOT YOU WHERE END UP. It really looks bad when the cameraman makes a lot of little zooms in and out to finish the framing. Also keep the picture square and plumb as you zoom - if you are going to adjust the tilt do it while you are zooming. If you are using a tripod the shot should remain aligned - handholding is when you must be continually aware of the vertical alignment.
Play video in classroom
Now we will discuss the most valuable and important tool you have for making good video. The majority of good video is taken from a tripod. For your first shoot you are required to use the tripod. Our reason for this is, it is almost impossible to hand hold the camera and produce consistently good video.
The WIDE SHOT OR ESTABLISHING SHOT has to be taken from a tripod because any shake will be visible to the viewer. The wide shot of the scenery or building are static, they dont move, so any movement on the part of the camera will be visible, the same will hold true of the MEDIUM SHOT.
You have noticed in some of the news interview stories where the camera is moving. If the cameraman was in a situation where he could not move, the video you saw was of the subject jiggling in the frame. In other types of coverage the camera man is almost performing a dance, moving around the subject and showing the interviewer at times and the subject from different angles, the movement he tries are all smooth. Shows like Xtra and MTV use this technique. These techniques take much practice to master.
The first thing you will do after you set up the TRIPOD is to level it. On most cameras there is a BUBBLE LEVEL also called a spirit level. You want the picture to be square; the vertical lines must be square straight up and down and the horizontal lines across the screen parallel to the top and bottom of your screen.
If there is no Bubble Level, you must use your eye. Turn the camera on, and look through the viewfinder. First look at a horizontal line such as the horizon; adjust the tripod to make the top and bottom of the screen parallel to the horizon. Second, find a vertical line such as the corner of a building or a room and adjust your tripod to make that line parallel to the left or right of the screen.
This technique of leveling by eye is somewhat more time consuming than using a bubble level.
My personal tripod does not have a bubble level, so to compensate I purchased an inexpensive small carpenters level. You will view in the video the technique for using this type of level.
Always keep this in mind; unless you have planned for the picture as, out of square or tilted you have done your audience a real disservice.
Tilting the picture is a specific technique to create tension in the viewer. This type of shot makes the viewer anxious and expectant.
TRUCKING AND DOLLYING
These are terms used with the Studio Tripods, simply you "TRUCK" in and out, and "DOLLY" side to side.
The Studio Tripods are very heavy and stable units, they usually have a hydraulic column, which you use to raise or lower the camera highth. The wheels are lockable so you will not drift off of your station, but the support will move almost effortlessly when you do have to make a move.
PANS AND TILTS
Pans = side to side
Tilts = up and down
Pans and Tilts like all movements need to make sense, have a reason for being there. The reason you pan or tilt are to give the viewer a new picture to look at. Sound simple, it is and it isnt. You are attempting to change from one good shot to another good shot.
Pans are used far more frequently than tilts human life is on a horizontal line and you will discover as you look through your view finder that, looking up or down is far less interesting than looking side to side. We have a natural sight line, an area which we normally view the world, we are all pretty much the same and so the world we have built fits in this sight line/area.
Many times you will want to introduce a new thought to your audience. You should practice this shot before you record it. Remember you are going from one good picture to another good picture.
With practice you can learn to incorporate all of the movements, - pans tilts zooms I encourage you to work with them and learn to make smooth well considered movements.
This chapter may seem simplistic and short, yet is may be the most important sections you will study. I cannot stress too strongly the importance of the TRIPOD. Your work will benefit.
PLANNING YOUR SHOOT
You are now ready to take the camera and go out into the world and shoot your first video.
Now it is time to think of the possibilities for your video. The place and the subjects you are going to shoot will be determined during your class. Now you have this process to execute before you go out
You have two things to consider, the total video story, and the story in each scene. Each shoot you make, should have its own small story, you should make the individual stories complete, even if they are a short series of shots. You will be able to make your final overall video make more sense if your small vignettes are complete.
Write a one-sentence description on what your story will be.
Now write a page that describes the:
Body of the Video the Story
The conclusion wrap it up
Do not try to be too specific, and you may wish to rewrite the plan after you arrive on location. This is a learning exercise.
Do have all of the basic shots listed and do attempt all of the camera movements
Shoot the majority of the video from a tripod but shoot at least one or two scenes handheld.
You are asked to limit the shooting to 5 minutes of tape but 6 or 7 minutes will be acceptable.
When you edit your video you will be asked to discard some of the video and make your final production approximately 3 minutes long not including titles and credits.
Finally Have Fun you are learning an interesting and changing field you may only want to use your knowledge for your own use or you many want to go on and become a professional.
The world of Video is expanding rapidly now. The Internet is going to create a demand for professional video producers beyond all imagination. The expanding field of Satellite and Cable Video services and the low power television stations, which are now coming on line, will offer the competent producer opportunities for careers.
(Note) the videos listed above should all be short and all on one tape. The students should be encouraged to purchase this tape at a low cost or copy it themselves in the future.
You will want to have as many batterys for your camera as you can afford. there is nothing worse than running out of power in the field
Clines Corner, is a page on care of batterys in cold weather.
AUTOMATIC AND MANUAL CONTROLS
I want to assure you that the new cameras automatic controls are wonderful, and in 95 percent of the time you can use them. However they cannot compensate for every condition, so the manufactures have included manual controls also, on every camera they make.
THE MANUAL CONTROLS WILL INCLUDE
1. MANUAL FOCUS
2. MANUAL IRIS - OR EXPOSURE
3. MANUAL SHUTTER SPEED
4. DIGITAL EFFECTS
The manner and degree of adjustment will be different with every camera. They may be referred to by slightly different names, but you will be able to figure it out, with a little experimentation.
For your first practice exercise, I want you to shoot everything on automatic. When you come home really study the video you have made. What scenes just didn't turn out for you? Please really be critical of your work, and refer to this section as you view the video.
Again the auto focus on the camera is going to adjust faster and better than you will under most situations, but there are a few times you will want to set it on manual.
A. The most common time for this is when you are taping one person or thing, and the focus keeps changing and they go in and out of focus.
1. Set the camera on MANUAL FOCUS
2. ZOOM in close and manually focus on the subject - now when you zoom out the subject will stay in focus.
IRIS = EXPOSURE
Back light - is the most common single problem you will encounter. There is more light coming from behind your subject, than you subject is reflecting. This causes the subject (person or object) to be dark. The remedy is set your camera on manual and open the iris until the subject can be seen.
I stress in most cases the automatic setting will serve you well. If you have a color viewfinder you will be able to see when the camera has it wrong. Your first clue is the color doesn't quite look right.
This setting on Automatic, is one that may or may not work for you. The reason is your camera will look for the brightest light it can see, and then set the exposure for that light source or the camera will look at the entire scene and set the exposure for the average of the available light. An incorrect setting will result in one of two things; your subject will either be overexposed (to white) or underexposed (to dark).
PROBLEM - UNDER EXPOSED - THE SUBJECT IS TOO DARK AND I CAN'T REALLY SEE IT.
1. Set the exposure on manual
2. Frame the picture, not zooming in to close 3. Open the Iris - Exposure setting until the subject can be seen (this will cause the background to become white - this is a trade off for you - but the subject will be recognizable)
PROBLEM - THE SUBJECT IS TO WHITE AND THERE IS NO COLOR
1. Set the exposure on manual 2. Zoom in so you can see the skin and clothing. 3. Close the iris - decrease the amount of light entering the camera.
This condition is most common when you are shooting in a theatre, club, large hall or the subject has a strong light on them.)
The shutter speed controls how long the light is allowed to enter the camera. Manual control of this function is used for two completely different reasons. First to allow more light into the camera, when you are shooting in really dark situations and then secondly when you are shooting a subject that is moving really fast, i.e. Sports and Nature videos will present these situations
You are shooting a dance recital, the stage is lit with dim blue lights, and you cannot see the dancers. You have opened the iris up as much as you can, and still can't see the dancers.
Your shutter speed controls may be slowed to in steps - readings usually look like this 1/1000 - 1/500 - 1/250 - 1/100 - 1/50 - 1/25. Your personal camera may be slightly different but should offer some variation on these controls.
Your camera may call this low light.
You will have to re-adjust your exposure/iris when you slow the shutter, to have the best color.
DIGITAL VIDEO EFFECTS, DVE - Digital Video Effects are common on the switchers and more recently in the new camcorders. These are special processes that the internal computer of the camera or switcher uses to make the picture look different. Examples of this are Posturization, Sepia, dissolve, wipes, and fades. There are many more effects, which you can learn about and use.
The digital effects have never been the same on any two different cameras that I have seen. The camera you have will have some variation of these, types of wipes and fades, strobes, colonization, b/w, sepia, art effects.
The Strobe effects are useful for extremely low light situations, this digital control in combination with the iris and shutter speed controls - will allow you to capture something - call it ART and be happy you got the images.
The dissolve function, which freezes your last frame and dissolves it away gradually to reveal you new video is very useful and pretty, the various wipes will allow you to transition from one very different scene to another without jarring the viewer.
The fade to and from white is basically useless, but the fade to and from black is one you can use a lot.
UNDERSTANDING TAPE SIZES - FORMATS
This is one of the most confusing things for most people. You go to a camera store to buy a camera and are offered all these choices. I want to point out here only two of these formats should be considered if you are going to buy a new camera.
CONSUMER VIDEO CAMERA TAPE FORMAT SIZES
1. VHS - this is the regular tape you play in your home VCR - this tape records 240 lines to make the picture
2. VHS-C - this was an attempt to make cameras smaller and the two-hour VHS tape was made into a one-hour tape and put into a smaller case.
3. SVHS -C- this tape is the same size and looks like a regular VHS videotape, but it is a professional or industrial format. This tape records 400 lines
4. 8MM - This was a wonderful change about 6 years ago, because it reduced the size of the tape to about that of a regular audiocassette. It records the same number of lines as the VHS tape.
5. HI-8 - This tape is the same size as the 8MM but like the SVHS tape it records 400 lines on the tape.
6. Digital 8 - This is one of the new generation of cameras to enter the market (1999-2000). The Digital 8 can use any of the 8MM tapes. The introduction of the digital format completely changes the quality of the video you make. Digital formats record 500 lines.
7. MINI DV - This tape is tiny but records one hour of video at 500 lines
8. DV-PRO - Most consumers will not buy this camera but I wanted to list the format. The tape is slightly larger than the Mini-DV but record in exactly the same digital format. The Mini-DV - DV-Pro and Digital-8 all share the same digital format.
CCD -ONE - TWO OR THREE CHIP CAMERAS PRO AND CON
At this point I am going to talk about the digital cameras specifically and generally about all other cameras.
The size of the chip 1/3, 1/2, 3/5, the bigger the chip the better the picture. It is my hope the chip size will grow as the technology advances. You can make the comparison between the 8mm film photos and the 35mm photos; most of us have taken pictures with both. The 8mm is grainy and the 35mm is clearer. The reason is the size of the film. The principal is this - with film there is basically a set number of silver grains which will make up the negative, the larger the film the more silver grains. With video cameras, this same principal should hold true the larger the surface the more information for the camera to turn into image.
The only argument, which bears on one or multiple chip camera, concerns the amount of light that actually strikes the surface of the chip. In a 3-chip camera the light enters the lens and passes through a prism, this prism splits the light into three paths, and each of the chips processes that light as red, green or blue. (In the video world these are the primary colors) and the combination when shown results in our ordinary red, blue, and yellow colors. The individual processing of color does result in better color. However under excellent lighting conditions it may be difficult to tell the difference bet
Now here is the argument for a single chip camera, all the light strikes the chip and under low light condition this single chip can create a better image than a three chip camera where each chip has somewhat less than one third the light intensity. (I say somewhat less - because there is a light loss whenever light passes through any lens or prism.
This principal is also why the better the glass lens the better the image. Another principal of lens' the bigger the lens (the diameter or the outer objective lens) the more light it focus' upon the film or the chip and there for the better the image.
USE WHAT YOU HAVE
Remember that the purpose of this training is to learn how to make the best video. You can learn with whatever camera you can get your hands on. They all have similar controls and all do the job of capturing the light. Make your goal that of purchasing a DIGITAL CAMERA after you learn. But the older VHS and 8MM video camera are available for almost nothing used, today. So why not use it to learn on? In checking Ebay is see VHS cameras in the price range from 30$ up (plus shipping). But I personally would not spend much more. A new battery will cost you almost as much as the camera and you will need one.
A last note, use the old VHS with good lighting, and have a color TV you can hook up for a monitor. The big monitor will help you a lot. You will be able to see the lighting much better.
AUDIO AND SCRIPTING
NOW I WANT YOU TO THINK ABOUT SOMETHING NEW.