Just because your digital camera or tablet can capture HD video doesn’t mean you’re the next Akira Kurosawa or Spike Jonze. But there are steps you can take to make your films more enjoyable to watch so they’re not only enjoyable for you and your family to view again, but they might even be bearable for others to watch as well. Here’s how to create better home movies on the fly:
Don’t skimp– Sure, smartphones make it easy to take videos on the fly, and even tablets can take HD video, but there’s a reason you don’t often see news crews around town holding up their phones or iPads – they’re not best-suited for the job. If you’re going to be taking lots of videos, invest in a camera that suits your needs that’s designed to be a camera first and foremost. Then figure out if you need additional features such as external mics, tripods or accessories, and how you will best want to store and edit your creations.
Experiment with your equipment – Spend some time taking videos and learning all your camera’s settings and nuances, so by the time you are ready to film important events, using the equipment is second nature and you can focus on getting the shots you want.
Let There Be Light – Don’t forget the light situation, whether you’re shooting with natural sun, indoors or even providing supplemental lights. Lighting is the difference between a good shot and a great shot, and also between a great shot and a poor shot. Don’t backlight your subjects, and even in broad daylight consider using your own light source to enhance foreground and background colors.
Notice Your Surroundings – You may be pleased as punch that you’ve got a great family moment captured at Disneyland, but you may have missed that it was happening right in front of a row of trash cans. Wherever possible, be aware of your backgrounds and the people in them, and try and best frame your shots, or coordinate the action to take place somewhere that captures the feeling of the location.
Sound Advice – Consider that more than likely, you’ll want to hear the action as well as see it, so make sure you’re recording at a close distance to your subject matter, or that you can pick up the noise you’re looking for. And be aware of unwanted sounds as well, there’s many a sporting event video with footage of the big play that has nothing but parental encouragement as the audio.
Go Easy On The Zoom and Pans – Nothing ruins a perfectly good video like an ill-timed zoom. Just when your daughter scores a goal, you decide to zoom in, causing blurry, rapid-fire motion that would make even the Blair Witch sick to her stomach and will help ensure you miss the shot. If pros zoom at all, it’s very slow and calculated, and most will zoom all the way in and ensure proper focus before even starting to record, then after they pull out and begin taping they slowly zoom into their subject. You can see how that’s not best –suited for fast-paced action. Go easy on the panning, too, and if you must move from one focus to another continuously, go as slow as you think you can, and then go a little bit slower.
Learn How to Edit – Most PCs these days come with some standard editing software, and for a couple hundred bucks you can get more serious programs with even greater effects and audio mixing. When filming, focusing on getting the shots and angles you want, but don’t just post the raw footage to YouTube. Spend a few minutes in an editing program bringing it all together, and the result will be a video that’s much more pleasant for everyone to watch.
Most smartphones are able to record video, and they do a decent job. Note the key word, here: “Decent.” Smartphones are a great option for spontaneous video recording, but you might want to consider a more specialized device for family vacations and special moments. Shopping for a video camera can be a little overwhelming, though, because there are a lot of choices on the market. The big question potential owners must ask: What are the best video cameras you can buy on any budget – and which camcorders produce the best results as compared to mobile devices?
Thankfully, as a whole, it bears remembering: Across the board, most camcorders are still an excellent buy. They offer superior quality video recording next to smartphones, they’re more durable, they offer more storage space (as well as more storage options), and they’re cheaper than a smartphone when you take into account that you’re not locked into a phone plan for years on end. Shopping for a new video camera? Here are five of the best camcorders you can buy:
Sony Bloggie Touch 8GB – The Sony Bloggie Touch has a bit of an odd moniker, but it’s a good middle-of-the-road camcorder. It shoots crisp, clear video despite its compact size, it captures audio well, and shooting is as easy as turning the system on and tapping the big red “Record” button. The Bloggie also interfaces easily with computers. It’s a good option for nurturing a young person who has a growing interest in making his or her own films. Note that Sony also offers affordable Bloggie models that let you live stream video to the Web, and shoot 3D footage as well – all worth keeping top of mind.
Toshiba Camileo P100 – The Camileo P100 is another easy-to-use camcorder, though unlike the rectangular Bloggie Touch, it has a pistol-like grip that makes extended shooting a little more comfortable. The Camileo P100 also features 8x optical zoom, can capture 8-megapixel stills, and has an HDMI connector, which allows for direct video playback through an HDTV.
Canon Vixia HF G10 – The Canon Vixia HF G10 offers a lot of features in its tiny frame. It’s a little pricier than the Camileo P100 or the Bloggie, so it might be more at home in the hands of a professional—though it’s still simple enough for anyone to use. The Vixia HF G10 has a 12x zoom, can capture 14-megapixel stills, and can connect directly to an HDTV.
Sanyo VPC-FH1A Full HD Video – The well-priced Sanyo VPC-FH1A Full HD Video is quite a mouthful, but it’s also a great little camcorder. It has a 16x zoom, it’s lightweight, and its SD/SDHC slot can support cards that go up to 32GB.
Kodak PlaySport (Zx3) HD Waterproof Pocket Video Camera – Glub. Capture video underwater with the Kodak Playsport HD Waterproof Pocket Video Camera. This little workhorse is built to weather tough environments, and can record action even when it’s submerged up to 9.8 feet. It’s roughly the size of a smartphone, so it won’t weigh you down.
For more information on great camcorder models, visit:
Pocket Camcorders vs Smartphones at About.com
5 Best Camcorders at CNET
5 Best High Definition Camcorders at The Geek Stuff
“Gosh, who needs a digital camera these days?” you ask. “My smartphone takes all my pictures!” Simply put, you do if you’re thinking of going professional, or if you want to snap family photos that print out well. Smartphone cameras are great for on-the-fly memories that you want to share online, but a dedicated digital camera is what you want to tote around for planned events like picnics, vacations, or graduations. There are hundreds of choices up for grabs at any electronics store in the country, but which models can be considered top picks? It depends on what you need. Here are five of the best digital cameras you can buy, among of the year’s newest and hottest models, including both point and shoot selections and higher-end DSLRs:
Canon PowerShot S100 – The S100 is a 12-megapixel digital camera that takes professional-grade pictures, but was designed with sturdiness and portability in mind. It manages good, clear pictures even with moving targets and/or in low light, and both the hardware and the software menu system is easy to use. The PowerShot S100 also has a built-in GPS that marks the coordinates of a photo’s location. It’s a great choice for families who want to invest in a quality long-term camera.
Canon PowerShot Elph 310 HS – The 12-megapixel PowerShot Elph 310 HS is also a great choice for a family camera. It’s lightweight, compact, and carries a lower price tag than the PowerShot S100, so if you drop it on the concrete, you won’t panic as much. The Elph 310 HS features an 8x lens, which, when zoomed out, is perfect for landscapes and group shots.
Sony Alpha 77 – The Sony Alpha 77 24-megapixel single-lens reflex (SLR) camera is a good option for someone who’s thinking of going professional, but can’t really pony up the $5000+ that most professional cameras demand. It has a built-in GPS, and can also record 1080p60 video with continual autofocus.
Olympus OM-D E-M5 – The Olympus OM-D E-M5 is a 16-megapixel interchangeable lens camera. Its weather sealing makes it ideal for shooting during all four seasons and in all kinds of light. It comes packed with a very decent kit lens (essentially, a starter lens), making the E-M5 another good choice for an amateur photographer who’s looking to begin shooting on a more professional level.
Nikon Coolpix AW100 – If you’re heading into rough territory and you need decent a camera that won’t flake out when the going gets tough, consider the Nikon Coolpix AW100. It’s a compact 16-megapixel camera that can endure quite a lot of jostling, and it also records video. It’s waterproof, so feel free to take it with you to the beach. Its performance isn’t as sharp as most professional cameras, but it won’t go to pieces on you at a vital moment, either.
For more picks for the top cameras on the market, visit:
The 10 Best Digital Cameras at PCMag
Best New Digital Cameras at Squidoo
The Best Digital Cameras at CES 2012 at Digital Trends