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Stand Still, Shut Up, and Focus

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  1. Stand Still, Shut Up, and Focus
  2. Shut up
  3. Focus
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Scott Smith, author of Making iMovies, explains three fundamental techniques for shooting better-quality footage with your digital camcorder.

Adapted from Chapter 2 of Making iMovies, by Scott Smith

This article is provided courtesy of Peachpit Press.

NOTHING IS MORE exasperating than watching a piece of potentially powerful footage that has been undermined by the cameraman’s jerky shooting techniques. It can make an editor yank hair from their head and scream, “Stand still, shut up, and focus!” The term “focus” is used here in the technical sense: to maintain a sharp picture at all times. But it certainly implies the other meaning of the word as well: stay alert as you are recording video.

Handycam DV

Stand still

Patience is a worthwhile trait to cultivate if you plan to make movies; steady, smooth camera movement delivers the best results. Fortunately, most digital camcorders have some kind of image stabilization built in. And most of them are lightweight, so holding the camera in a stationary position shouldn’t be too big of a strain.

Although it’s not essential, a sturdy tripod will help mitigate the camera operator’s natural movement. If you don’t own a tripod and don’t want to spend money on one, there are other ways of stabilizing the camera. When standing up, for example, place the elbow of your support arm firmly against your body, using the other hand on the camera body for guidance.

Better yet, put the camera down on a solid surface. Find creative ways to use everyday objects for interesting camera locations. The top of a bookshelf, a tabletop, or a sturdy crate can support the weight of the camera and provide different angles for your shots. Even outdoors, you’ll discover some wonderful camera supports. At the park, try using a seesaw for a tilt shot that gives the look of a professional crane in motion.

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