Now you have a camcorder in your hands and under control. You need to shoot something. At this stage it doesn't matter what you shoot; you just need to get some footage on tape.
A good starting point that will illustrate some shooting basics is a simple personal portrait.
Record 5 seconds of black.
Before you start any project, it is good form to record a few seconds of blackof nothing (the floor, the lens cap, your hand). With a new videocassette, this gets the tape to roll away from the head; for a variety of technical reasons, material at the very beginning of a tape is hard to use. This trick has the added benefit of providing a very clear demarcation of where a particular scene begins. When you're watching the videotape on fast-forward, the black gap gives you a cue that something new is about to start.
Record three unique shots of where you are right now.
Each should be about 5 seconds long. The first shot should show the audience where you are located. In a classroom? At home at a desk? Lying in bed? The second shot should tell us something about who you are. What personal items are with you? What sets you apart from the next person? And the third shot should represent what you're doing at the moment. Reading a book? Snacking?
Make the shots very different from each other. Each should be unique. Practice holding still while you shoot. Practice using the composition rules you learned from still photography.
When you're done with your shots, record another few seconds of black.
Switch your camcorder from camera mode to playback mode (sometimes labeled VCR or VTR).
Shuttle controlsthose familiar play, fast-forward, and rewind buttonsshould appear on your camera somewhere (maybe on the LCD, maybe on the body).
Rewind the tape to the beginning.
Play the tape and watch it on the LCD screen.
Notice the counting number on the top right of the LCD. That is your timecode number. It starts at 00:00 and counts seconds and frames. Timecode is really useful for locating shots on your tape.
Stop the camera when your last shot concludes and the black rolls into view.
You always want to stop your camera on the black and never let it roll into the "blue" area. If you do this consistently, the timecode counter on the tape will never reset to zero, and every shot on the tape will have a unique (and thus useful) number.
Now that you've got some video recorded, it's time to put it into iMovie. You can follow along with your video, but I'll use Christopher's video to demonstrate.
Keep Video Short
The example you're about to see from Christopher, and probably the video you just shot, is quite short. When you create your own videos independently of this book, keep in mind that digital video consumes a lot of hard disk space even though the image quality is actually inferior to that of the poorest digital still-camera image. The reason video requires so much space is that it comprises many quickly moving still frames (just like film). A second of video is made of 30 discrete frames; even at low quality, that's an awful lot of images to be stored. A video clip of 5 minutes takes up a gigabyte on your hard disk. In other words, that 60-minute tape you shot at the party, if copied onto your Mac, is going to fill up 12 GB of space.
Because of this (and other factors), start by keeping your video projects limited: Shoot fewer than 20 minutes of video for anything you intend to edit. This not only will save precious hard disk space, but also will keep the project relatively short and manageable.