Before you begin shooting, it’s important to learn about your camcorder. You need to take time to get acquainted with it. After all, you’ll be spending a lot of time together.
You don’t have to read the camcorder manual from cover to cover, but you do need to know a few of the camera’s most basic functions. Of course, over time, you may decide that reading the camcorder manual is much more exciting than you would have guessed! (That’s when you know you’re hooked.) Your manual has a lot to tell you about this powerful piece of equipment.
The following sections describe the top 10 fundamental functions you need to learn.
You should find out where the On/Off power button is and learn how to use it.
Record/Standby is generally a red button on your camcorder that you push to start. When you’re powered up, you see a signal on your camcorder that you are in standby mode. When you push the Record button, the signal turns to red, and you’re recording. Push the same button again, and you are in standby mode.
The Widen and Tighten controls are usually labeled W and T. You use these controls to zoom the camera lens in and out. You need to find out how the W/T rocker bar or controller works and then avoid the temptation to use it while you are recording. Constantly zooming in and out is one of the most obvious, irritating, and often repeated sign of a bad home movie!
4. Inserting Tape
You need to find out how to load tape into your camcorder. Do not force the tape loading mechanism. It is very delicate—and it is very expensive to fix if you break it. I have done this, so I speak from experience.
5. Autofocus and Manual Focus
Most cameras have autofocus, which is a wonderful feature for many situations, but sometimes it can get in the way. Often, the only manual control you should really get to know is manual focus, so you can choose when you want to use autofocus and when you want manual focus. (You’ll learn more about manual focus later in this chapter.)
You need to find the feature on your camcorder that tells you how much battery life is in your camera batteries. And you need to learn how to charge the batteries. If you have extra batteries or a separate battery charger, you should make sure you can charge them. And you should find out how long it takes to charge them, too.
7. Camera Case
It is important to keep your camera in a case and protect it from extreme temperatures and moisture. Keeping your camera in a nice, protected camera case is a very good way to protect your investment. You can also store all your accessories with it in the case, so you will be ready to shoot at a moment’s notice.
You should store your camcorder and your tapes in a cool, dry place. Don’t leave your camera in the car for months at a time, in a hot or cold climate, thinking you’ll have it in case you need it right away. Aside from preventing theft, you need to keep it safe from extreme temperatures.
If you have a tripod, you should put the camera on the tripod and practice using it. If you have a tripod with camera controls on the tripod handle, you should practice using the controls on the tripod handle to control your camera.
9. External Microphone
If you have an external microphone, you need to learn how it connects to your camcorder and test it. You should make sure the microphone battery is working properly and carry an extra battery in your camera case at all times.
10. White Balance
In your camcorder manual, you should find the section about white-balancing your camera. What is white balancing? Your camcorder reads white and then calculates all the other colors from it. The camera has to find white in the scene it sees.
Shooting under incandescent light (which makes images yellowish/orangey) or fluorescent light (which casts a blue tinge on images) changes the color temperature of the light, so what should be white is not read by the camera as white.