Getting Acquainted with Video Camera Operation

Camera Mechanics:

Here are the concepts you need to understand:

  • Always, always, always make sure the batter is charged.
  • Better—Save the battery; use the AC Adapter.
  • Know how your camera stores data
    • Load the tape (Old, but reliable in case you need a hard copy for years.)
    • SD Card (More common today)
  • Know how to open the lens and record.
    • Only shoot in a single ratio.  (e.g. No swapping between widescreen 16:9 and full screen 4:3.)
  • Play back your recording
    • But don’t record over what you have recorded.

Camera Aesthetics:

Experiment with the follow to discover some cool camera effects: 

    1. Image focus
      1. Auto—default for amateurs. Easily confused with multiple subjects.
      2. Manual—Most pros use this because it is more reliable, esp. if you have time to set up the shot.
      3. Lens Length—Short, medium, and long lenses create an effect called distance compression.
        1. Wide—for short-focal lengths
        2. Telephoto—for a narrow, magnified view of the frame
        3. Zoom—a lens for variable distances


        1. Optical zoom—uses the lens to magnify the image
        2. Digital zoom—digitally enlarges the image revealing pixilation
          1. Calibration technique: Zoom (push) in first, and focus. Then everything else will be in focus for that shot.
    2. Image exposure
      1. Small f-stop (a fraction) = large apature (hole letting light into the expose the film)
      2. if using multiple cameras, be sure that they are all set to the same f-stop.
    3. Depth of Field
      1. Lens focal length—”longer the lens, the shallower the depth of field.”
      2. Subject’s distance from the camera—as the subject moves closer to the camera, the back gets thrown back into blurriness.
    4. Lens aperture size
      1. low f-stop = infinity depth of field.  high f-stop = small field.
    5. Image framing—(I can’t remember how this specifically applies.)
    6. Shot variation—varying your field of view
    7. Camera movement
      1. Controlled—use camera stabilization for grand, cinematic shots
      2. Use of jibs, cranes, dollys, etc.
      3. Spontaneous— shaky cam, more realistic
        1. Be sure to have a spotter so your steady-cam operator doesn’t fall.
    8. Composition—Rule of thirds is still a fundamental balance in film.
    9. Line of screen direction—don’t cross the line! It will appear like your subject is headed in the wrong direction. 
    10. Headroom—not as necessary anymore, now that we’ve moved away from 4:3 ratio, and now that we can capture greater emotion with better resolution.
    11. Lead or nose room—Still a must.

Assessment (If you can do this, you know your stuff):

      1. Shoot at each of the three common distances:
        1. 4-Feet
        2. 15-Feet
        3. Infinity (e.g. a distant mountain)
      2. Practice zooming slowly on the subject, and slowly back out again using:
        1. auto-focus
        2. zoom to calibrate the lens, and focus manually
      3. Shoot outdoors, tilting from the ground to the sky, and back again.  Do this two ways:
        1. on auto-iris
        2. on manual exposure
      4. Go indoors.  Place a subject in front of a window.  Shoot the subject two ways
        1. on auto-iris
        2. on manual exposure, opening the iris to see as much detail as you can in the subject.
      5. Experiment with depth of field:
        1. Shoot a subject with the lens in the short focal length position (wide angle), getting foreground and background in focus.
        2. Shoot a subject with the lens in the long focal length position (telephoto), getting the foreground in the focus against a soft, blurry background.
      6. Try the following camera moves, to follow the movement of a subject in the frame.  Try to make these moves as smooth as possible.  For moves that require an actual moving of the camera rather than a pivot on a tripod or a change in the zoom position of the lens, get someone to help you, and try shooting from a moving vehicle, wheel chair, wheelbarrow or other method.  Be creative!
        1. Zoom, pan, tilt, dolly

About bryantanner

I'm obsessed with learning via the appropriate technology. My professional mission is to effectively deliver instruction to learners in a way that yields the greatest results for all stakeholders involved.
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