For this section of the lesson, break out your camcorder. Get a cassette, label it, and load it. Now you're ready to shoot. Put the camcorder in your hand and notice where your fingers naturally fall on the body of the device. There are three primary controls on the camcorder that you'll rely on almost exclusively while shooting video: the shooting/playback switch, the Record button, and Zoom. Follow along to get familiar with these controls.
Turn on your camcorder.
This may not be as straightforward as it sounds. There generally isn't going to be an on/off button, but rather a swivel switch that powers up the camera and engages one of a number of selected settings. There's probably not a single name for this thing, but we'll call it the shooting/playback switch. This toggles the camcorder from video recording to video playback. (It may do a few other things, but ignore those for now.) The switch is usually very near the red Record button.
Find the Record button.
It's almost always a little red button under your thumb. When you press it once, it starts recording. Press it again and it stops.
The camera may beep when it starts and stops recording. There may also be a small red light near the lens that flashes while recording. Both of these features are great when you're starting out but may be distracting later on. Most camcorders let you turn off these features, but the method is usually buried in the onscreen menus. Check your manual if you want to adjust them.
Find the zoom control.
On smaller camcorders, it's sometimes a little knobby thing on the side or top edge; on larger camcorders, it might be a rocker switch. Either way, the control is (or should be) under your index finger.
Adjust the straps on your camera to put your fingers in as natural a position as possible for recording and zooming.
You don't want to have to look for either of these functions. Finding the shooting/playback switch does not need to be as quick, although you do want to be able to turn your camera on (by switching to shooting) with little trouble.
In addition to these three controls, there's always an LCD screen, hinged to the left side of the camcorder and ranging from tiny (1.5" diagonally) to grande (3.5" diagonally). Larger is more useful, perhaps, but it makes for a larger and heavier camera, and tends to demand more battery power to useso find the trade-off that works for you.
Using a camcorder is usually a two-handed affair. One hand, your right, goes through the strap and is poised over the Record button and the zoom control. Your left hand is purely for stabilization. This is not a minor task. Use your left hand to steady the camera, either by lightly holding the extended LCD or gripping the camera body. Keep your elbows pulled in tight, and for heaven's sake, don't move.