Choosing and Using a Camcorder

Get the Right Video Camera for your Application

There are many video camera formats now. This article is by professional videographer Chris from, and outlines some common uses for a Video Camera and helps you select the right Camcorder format for your intended use.

Choosing a video camcorder is getting harder as there are increasingly more formats to choose from. This short guide to the various types of camcorder helps you select a range appropriate to your needs.

Shooting fun clips on holiday to share with your mates back home requires a different sort of camcorder to shooting your baby’s first steps in the hope of making a family archive to be watched for generations to come. Before getting hung up on the technology, you should first ask yourself how you will use your video camera. What will you be shooting? What sort of videographer are you?

Family Archivist

One of the commonest uses for a video camera, this often coincides with the arrival of a baby. Kids are fun subjects for the video camera – you will be well served by either a standard definition MiniDV camcorder or a high-definition HDV camcorder, if you are thinking of your children’s future high-resolution screens.

Holiday Videos

Taking a video camera on holiday can be enjoyable – but it can also be stressful at the same time. We have all seen the type on vacation, studiously waving his video camera at a particularly imposing European cathedral. Video is all about action, and this church has probably not moved for hundreds of years.• Accept that many vacation subjects are suited to a stills camera.

• Keep the video camera for action involving the family and friends.
• If you will be editing the video down to highlights on a computer then a good basic MiniDV camcorder will work well and give you as much shooting time as you have blank tapes for, or, if you do not shoot more than a few hours of video on vacation, a hard disk camcorder will serve well.
• If you want to email clips of fun events to your mates, a mobile phone with video feature is a great instant way to share the fun.
• Alternatively, a good solid-state or flash card camcorder will be rugged enough to take the knocks and the compressed format will be small enough for email or uploading to the web.

Shooting Weddings and Family Events

If you are planning to shoot weddings you need much more advanced information. However, one rule for events is do not hand-hold your camera – you need firm support. You will probably be using high-definition video by now – so MiniDV or HDV are the way to go here.

Filming Kids

Kids love the instant feedback of video and like to see themselves on TV. You need something simple, robust, and cheap.

• A low-cost MiniDV camcorder will do, though changing the tapes may be a challenge for younger children.
• A solid-state camcorder or one that records direct to DVD is well suited to this application, though the DVD recorders do not like being jolted when recording.
• DVD recorders have the advantage that the results can be viewed on the family DVD recorder or watched on most computers.

Shooting Tips

Selecting the right camcorder is the first step, but your video will be made much better by learning a little bit about the art of videography. However, there are 2 things every new videographer should know:

1. The number 1 shooting tip that will improve the quality of most amateur video is use a tripod or other stable support. There is no camcorder technology that will give you good stable results hand-holding the video camera, whatever the marketing hype may try and tell you.
2. The second greatest improvement you can make to your video is to edit ruthlessly. Decide what story you are telling the viewer and trim out anything that is not critical to the story. Your audience will appreciate a 5-minute action-packed summary of your European tour far more than a dreary hour-long viewing of the unedited tape.
3. The third tip is something to avoid: Do not hosepipe or pan your video camera over a large subject like a landscape or large building as if you were watering it with a garden hose. The results are hardly ever watchable, and the viewer never gets a feeling of the scale of the object.

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