Features Worth Noting
Electronics manufacturers love to make bulleted lists of features. Some you may never need or want, while others can help you improve the footage you shoot.
It's a safe bet that you want the subjects in your video to be in focusbut which subjects, and when? Camcorders feature automatic focus control, which is great when you're shooting footage on the fly. Who wants to try to manually focus when following animals in the wild (
Figure 1.12. Gratuitous vacation footage inserted here. But really, when you're shooting video on the run, trying to focus manually tat the same time would have
losing the shot. You can view this movie clip at this book's companion Web site (
However, sometimes the automatic focus can be too good, bringing most objects in a scene into focuswhich is why camcorders include an option for manually focusing the lens. (Higher-end models include a focus ring built around the lens, like on a 35mm still camera. Most smaller camcorders sport small dials or scroll wheels to control manual focus.) Manual focus is essential for some situations, such as interviews, when you're not moving the camera (see Chapter 2).
"shutter speed" is a bit misleading here, since a digital camcorder doesn't technically have a shutter (a door or iris that opens quickly to allow light to enter the lens). However, it's possible to duplicate the effects of different shutter speeds by changing the setting on the camera. This is good for
action with movement that would
appear blurry (such as
events). Shutter speed is measured in fractions of a second, so a setting of 1/60 is slower than 1/8000 (see Chapter 3).
Night vision/low light
You have a few options for filming in low-light conditions. You could always carry around a full lighting setup, but that's not realistic. To compensate, some
include a night-vision mode that picks up heat from objects near the camera and displays a greenish representation of the scene.
Other cameras may include a low-light setting, which boosts the amount of available light that's picked up by the camera's image sensors (
). It's surprisingly effective, though the playback can be stuttered or blurry if a lot of movement is in the scene.
Figure 1.13. Some camcorders feature a low-light setting, which boosts the effectiveness of the avail able light.
All camcorders offer some type of output port so you can hook up a television or monitor to play back your footage. Usually, RCA-style plugs are included, but some models also offer an S-Video port. Hooking up your camera to a TV with an S-Video cable provides a clearer picture than with other AV cables. Use it if you've got it.