Journalists' Toolkit


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7 Do’s and Don’ts for Video on Point-and-Shoot Cameras

Video shot with a still camera costing less than $300 is often better in quality than video shot with a video camera in the same price range.

For best results when shooting video with an inexpensive still camera, follow these tips:

1. Do NOT zoom. Ever. EVER! The quality for video on these cameras is only acceptable at the widest angle (not zoomed at all). This is true even though the zoom works great for your still photos.

2. Do NOT move the camera around while shooting. This will make your clips difficult to edit. VERY difficult. Stand completely still, like a rock, while you are recording video. Do not pan (camera moves left or right). Do not tilt (camera moves up or down).

3. Do NOT shoot inside an apartment or a house. They are almost always too dark! Some indoor settings are fine — for example, a brightly lighted classroom with the overhead fluorescent lights on.

4. DO pay attention to the light — not only the amount of light, but also the direction. If the light is BEHIND your subject, the person will be a dark blob in silhouette — and that’s not good!

5. Do NOT shoot in dark places. Video game rooms, pool rooms, bars and indoor performance venues are usually too dark for acceptable video with these cameras. A more expensive digital video camera ($600 and up) can often get decent video in low light, but most of these little cameras can’t compensate for darkness. (For exceptions to the rule, look for a camera with a bigger sensor size.)

6. Do NOT turn the camera into a portrait position (vertical) for video — EVER! Always hold it in landscape position (horizontal).

7. When shooting a video interview, DO stand VERY close to your subject. The microphone built into the camera is going to capture all the sound around you, and unless you are quite near the person who is speaking, the voice will be drowned out by surrounding noise.

More tips for shooting video: Five Shots, 10 Seconds.

Avoiding the shakes: How to hold the camera.

Category: Tools|Software, Video

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4 Responses

  1. Andrew Lih says:

    Number 6 is the most important: don’t do Portrait mode!

    I’ll take a slight issue to #1, where the advice is valid ~90% of the time. However, newer P&S cameras have recognized this and have optical, slow zoom instead of the inferior and useless “digital zoom”. The Panasonic DMC-ZS3 and higher models, for example, have this feature, as do some Canons.

    Number 2 can be broken if you know what you’re doing — basically have one concept per shot. If you know how to edit video, you can pan/tilt. Otherwise, shooting a set of “still” videos is a good basic approach.

  2. You are correct about No. 2, Andrew — when you are experienced, it’s okay to break the rules. I find that beginners do not notice they are moving the camera, and that leads to a lot of unusable shots. So first, train yourself not to move at all. Later, you can choose to move (when it makes sense to do so).

    I haven’t used one of those newer point-and-shoots with real zoom for video. It sounds nice!

  3. Joe Gullo says:

    Excellent tips!

    Another helpful tip would be the use of a tripod.

    Joe Gullo

  4. Gustavo says:

    Hey man, great tips.
    I translated your text and put in my site with your credits. Thats ok ?

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