Taping video movies. To make home video movies you will need a portable videocassette recorder (VCR) and a video camera with a built-in or external microphone. You can get one-piece units that include everything you need for taping, but some of these require a separate VCR for playback. Others use 8-millimeter tapes that can only be played back with special equipment that comes with the unit; this equipment will not play back standard 1/2-inch tapes.
Shooting a program
Most of the problems that might crop up in taping a video production have been taken care of in the design of the camera. Focus, color balance, and lighting control are either fully automated or very simple.
When taping a home movie, pay close attention to sound, color, movement, and the selection of images. Tie the piece together with a simple story line; otherwise your tape will be dull often the case with home movies.
Remember that you are working with moving pictures, not snapshots. Don’t pose people or have them line up and wave at the camera. Show a scene, focus on a colorful detail, then bring in the people a few at a time. Let the camera show what they’re doing and seeing, get close-ups of the expressions on their faces, and record their comments. Use chance happenings to bring your images to life. If you encounter street musicians or a marching band, tape them. If you prefer, you can dub in music or narration later.
If possible beforehand, map out a tentative scenario with a simple story line. For example, instead of just showing the family eating Thanksgiving turkey, begin with preparing the bird for the oven. Make an image of a clock. Show the cook making other preparations, have someone setting the table. Picture the clock again to indicate the passage of time. Tape the crispy, golden-brown bird coming out of the oven. Then move in on the carver. Finally, tape the smiling family and guests giving thanks and beginning to eat.
Implicit in these suggestions is the notion that you and the camera can select. Pick out details that provide pace, interest, color, and movement. Vary your camera shots. Panning (moving the camera horizontally) and tilting (moving it vertically) are effective pacing techniques and offer visual variety. But don’t move the camera too quickly-try to move it at half the speed at which your eye registers the changing subject in the viewfinder. Use zoom shots (coming in close to a subject) sparingly. Instead, use the zoom lens between segments to change the viewpoint, alter the distance from the subject, and select key images.
As a general rule, hold the camera at the same height as your subject (particularly when taping people), just as you would when taking a still photograph. Shooting people from above can be unflattering and disconcerting. While operating the camera, standstill unless the shot calls for vertical or horizontal movement. Walking with the camera requires a great deal of practice to avoid obtrusive shaking and jiggling.
Bright sunlight is perhaps the worst illumination for any kind of picture taking, and noon is the least suitable hour. In both cases, the light is overpowering, and the shadows on the subjects faces are unflattering. Over
cast days produce softer, more flattering light, and early morning and late afternoon have great potential for unusual color effects.
If your camera is rated for minimum illumination of less than 15 lux, you can tape indoors with normal household lighting. Otherwise, you may have to supplement the lighting for indoor shots.
Caution: Never point a video camera at the sun or at any source of artificial light. Exposure to unfiltered direct light will permanently burn the camera tube and cause streaks and spots on your picture, or may entirely destroy the tube. Also avoid reflections caused by eyeglasses, jewelry, and other metal or glass objects.