How to Get High Quality Audio for Your Internet Videos - Seven Great Tips to Maximize Internet Video Sound Quality
Creating good audio is the most difficult challenge when creating Internet videos as well as for videos and home movies to share with family and friends – especially for those of us who are using consumer types of camcorders.
Is your camcorder ready for weather? Do you know how to use your camcorder in cold, snowy and wet climates, in the rain, as well as in overheated and stuffy houses and businesses?
Many camcorders have a DEW warning function – when moisture starts condensing on the inner workings of the camcorder, the camcorder automatically turns itself off to prevent damage. This often occurs when you take a camcorder out of an air-conditioned hotel room or rental car, into a overheated room, hot and moist. To prevent this from occurring, let your camcorder gradually adjust to the new temperature before turning it on. You can also store your camcorder away from the air conditioner vents in your car.
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If your camcorder does stop and you get the DEW warning, just turn off the camcorder and wait for a few minutes for the camcorder to adjust to local temperature. If you are impatient, you can use a quick blast of compressed air in a can to dry off the camcorder innards. Or, if you are really desperate, and are careful, open up the camcorder, remove the tape and then blow some air into it. Make sure no spit gets blown in!
Camcorders and tape do not like extremely hot or cold temperatures. Do not leave your camcorders and tapes sitting in the back of your rental car’s trunk.
Shooting in Bright Spots –
It is not easy to get good-looking images in bright snowy and sunlight areas – especially if you they are wearing dark clothes and you are using automatic exposure on your camcorder. Here are a couple of tricks. First, shoot your subjects and family in the shade or against a darker background. Of course, it can be difficult to get big buildings and landmarks to physically move out of the sun.
In that case, you can use your manual controls like the Sun/Snow/Sand AutoExposure (AE) Mode. Almost every camcorder has a sun/snow mode setting. Sometimes it is clearly labeled – sometimes it is recognized by a sun icon.
Another option is to use your manual controls to limit the amount of sun entering your lens. There are two camera adjustments you can do. The best way to adjust the shutter control and reduce it from the usual 1/100th of a second to the maximum 1/5000 or 1/10000th of a second. Another option to close down the exposure – normally camcorders shoot at about f5.6 or so. Try closing the iris to f16 or so.
An even better solution is to use what are known as neutral density filters. Available in several density levels, they are the best way to cut down on the overall amount of light entering your camcorder. Essentially just darkened pieces of optical glass, they are inexpensive and are available at most camera stores. Make sure you get a filter that will screw onto your camcorders lens. Neutral Density Filter sets start at about $15 and go up from there. You don’t need to buy expensive filters – just make sure they fit your camcorder.
Speaking of filters, you have to get an inexpensive clear glass filter or UV filter. These clear glass filters essentially just protect your camcorder’s expensive lens from flying sand, blowing snow and dripping water, etc. These can be lifesavers. You should be able to get one of these for ten bucks or less.
This is an essential for traveling with any kind of camera gear.
Practice First, Then Go
If you have never used your camcorder before, practice a bit with it before you head out on a vacation or trip. A – it might be defective – it is better to find out BEFORE you hop on the plane. More importantly, every camcorder is different. They each have their own peculiarities and operating techniques. Take some time – maybe even read the manual – gosh! – Practice shooting around the house – indoors and out. Go out in the back yard and practice using the snow/sun AE and your manual overrides. Learn where to put your fingers without looking to find the most important controls. Try operating your camcorder in the dark or with your eyes closed. Practice taking out the tape and replacing, with your eyes closed. Sooner or later, you will want to shoot a scene in a dim cathedral or in a cave.
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You want to keep your camcorder clean, warm and dry. If you are shooting in snowy, wet or dusty environments, you might want to invest in a clear plastic bag and operate your camcorder with inside it.
I remember one time on a video trip to shoot sea turtles nesting in the beach; the clear evening quickly transformed itself into a fierce jungle shower as a storm swept in. I happened to have a bunch of clear trash bags in my camera bag and was able to share them with my videotaping cohorts. I was the best friend for the rest of that trip.
Another option is to get some masking tape and close off the door that opens for changing the tape, especially if your camcorder’s tape door opens on the bottom. People have an annoying bad habit of putting down the camcorder on a patch of inviting snow or a muddy riverbank.
Yes, the tape may mess up the paint, but better that than a dead camcorder. For truly camera-unfriendly environments, it makes sense to purchase a diving bag to shoot from. There are some inexpensive bags that are only good for down to ten or twenty feet. These should be more than sufficient to keep out driving rain and snow.
Camcorder Guide - how to get the right camcorder for you and your family- updated!!!
Camcorder Buying Tip Number One - Comparative camcorder displays in stores are very misleading. What most video displays show is the quality of the video being looped through the camcorder - not the quality of the actual recording and playback. If possible, stick some tape in the machine and experiment. Shoot some tape of the pretty exhibit; shoot people wondering around the store in and out of shadows - then watch it back to see how it looks.
Camcorder Buying Tip Number Two - if you are buying a camcorder, remember that no two camcorders record exactly alike. Two exactly same models may have different quality CCDs - which means one might look better than the other. Sometimes you may end up with a pro quality CCD - sometimes you get a CCD that should have been rejected.
Make sure you can return the unit for another if the quality of recording and playback is not good enough.
Looking for Gear and/or Information?
We all know about batteries. Without power you can’t use your camcorder. Amazingly enough, many people go on the vacation with only a single battery. They take out the camcorder, shoot for a while, and just as the best scene occurs – the most incredible thing happens, they find that they are out of juice. Don’t let this happen to you. Buy an extra battery or two. Keep them powered up and fresh.
Even the best camcorder batteries lose juice just sitting around. A camcorder battery can easily lose 5% to 15% of its charge per day just sitting in the closet. Oops, - don’t leave your camcorder battery charger at home! If you are planning on visiting international destinations, make sure you have the correct power adapters and plugs.
If you have a camcorder system that requires you to charge the batteries while they are in the camcorder, seriously consider shelling out some extra money to get a separate, standalone battery charger. Having a separate battery charger will enable you to charge up your back-up batteries while you are out videotaping. Even better, especially when traveling to international locations with iffy power and connectors, chargers are more accepting of power variances than are camcorders. You don’t want to plug your camcorder into a mystery power source and then watch it go poof in a puff of smoke. Better to loose and replace a battery charger than your camcorder.
By the way, even though they may look like bricks, camcorder batteries can be quite fragile. Don’t drop or toss them around in your luggage or camcorder bag. Don’t let your kids use them as building blocks or flying toys. In addition, batteries work best when stored and utilized in a mild temperature. Just like you and me, they don’t like extreme hot or cold. Store them on a dark shelf, in a drawer, not in your icebox or in your rental car’s glove compartment or trunk.
Do you take enough tape with you when you travel? It is a sin to run out of tape while on vacation, especially when tape is so inexpensive and digital videocassettes are now so small. Some kinds of tape can be very hard to find when traveling, especially DV or MICROMV tape cassettes. And even if you can find them, the price can be ridiculous. You can buy a box of ten tapes online for a lot less than you will be able to buy it at your local video or department store.
Also, like camcorders and batteries, videotape does not like temperature extremes or moisture. Rough handling can also hurt tapes as well. Theoretically, airport X-Ray machines will not damage or effect blank or recorded videotapes. However, with the increased emphasis on domestic and international security, some airports and travel terminals may be experimenting with new and yet unknown technologies that may in fact affect the magnetic images stored on videotapes. When in doubt, ask.
As soon as you remove a finished videotape from your camcorder, remember to do two things. First slide the erase tab over it so that you won't "accidentally" erase over it. Also, label the tape with the date and the subject of your movie. It's easy to get confused and lose tapes if they are not properly marked. Later, when you are home trying to edit them, this step will be a lifesaver. By the way, the paper inserts on most video tapes cassettes are reversible and are blank on the back. You can use them to write extensive notes.
The best videographers use tripods to make their shots look steady and smooth. Your local department store, electronics emporium or camera shop probably has a selection of cheap and easy to carry tripods. You don’t need something rock solid with an expensive fluid head – just a tripod that will hold your camcorder relatively steady. I have used tiny tripods made for small 35 mm cameras. They are good enough. These smaller tripods, albeit a bit too flimsy for a full size VHS, Hi8mm or CompactVHS camcorder, may work fine for a smaller DV camcorder. Consider using a monopod.
Yes you can use your camcorder’s built-in image stabilization – especially if it is using superior optical stabilization – but using a tripod is the best way to make your travel and vacation videos truly look professional.
How to Shoot Like a Pro – Wide Angle Shots and Establishing Shots
Professional video producers don't do a lot of zoom ins and zoom outs. Most use cuts between wide shots, medium shot and close-ups to create their videos. Try to do the same. When you first get to great spot or destination, shot a couple of still establishing shots from as far away as possible. Try to get the whole building or city in the shot, showing its relationship to its surrounding area. Next get a medium shot - filling the frame with the subject - be it a mountain, monument or museum. The get a few close-ups - signs are always great - especially those signs that explain and provide some details or history about the location. Weeks, months or years later, that info can be invaluable as you try to create a unified movie of the trip.
Remember, video and TV is a medium dedicated to close-ups and faces. Get shots of your family playing, having fun, and interacting with the destination. You may think those shots are sort of boring when shooting them, but, years from now, those shots will be cherished.
If you do have to zoom, remember that zooming out is usually more interesting than zooming in. When you are zooming out, you are surprising the eye with more and more information to process. When zooming out, try to pan the camera left or right as you zoom, rather than zooming straight out.
Instead of zooming in for close-ups, try this. First get your wide or medium shot and then hit pause. Without the tape recording, then zoom in, create your shot and get stabilized. Now hit record. This edit within the camera will be a lot more dynamic and exciting when watched back later.
See My Zoom Is Bigger Than Yours
How are you planning to capture the sounds of the holidays? Most onboard camcorder mikes do a fair job of capturing audio. Some camcorders include a shotgun mike that enables you to focus the sound gathering ability a bit better. However, to really gather good sound, you need an external mike system. Unfortunately, carrying a mike is not the most comfortable thing to do. However, if your camcorder does boast an external mike in, seriously considering paying somewhere between $40 and $100 to get a good shot gun type of mike that will attach to the top of your camcorder. If you are doing a lot of traveling, especially in tour buses and various locations, you might want to invest in a wireless mike kit that includes a wireless lavaliere mike. For tours, in a bus, in a building or even outside, nothing captures the words of your tour guide better than having a wireless mike pinned to their lapel. You can swivel the camcorder around, capturing the various sites without losing one word of your tour guides explanation.
Audio for Video
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Camera Bags and Cases
You need a way to safely carry your camcorder, tapes and accessories. You could use an expensive camcorder bag or hard case that has the words Sony, Canon or Sharp printed on it. However, those logos also boldly shout, “steal me please. It is much better to get a plain or generic bag or case – without any logos. Another option is to create one yourself from an old computer bag or small piece of luggage. Add some padding and you are all set. The more innocuous the bag or case, the better. Personally I believe in the ugly bag theory. Have your kids decorate the bag with stickers, felt markers, paint, etc. No self-respecting thief will go near it! Plus, a loud, ugly bag is much harder to accidentally leave behind. One of the best do it yourself camcorder bags is a diaper bag. Appropriately beat up and padded, it will work great. Nobody in his or her right mind steals a diaper bag. They know what might be inside.
Finally, you might not want to wait until you get home to view and edit your videos. If you have two camcorders, you could do a rough assembly edit between them. If you are traveling with a laptop computer, you could edit your videos right in your room. You could use one of an automatic video-editing program like muvee to create a quick video that you could share almost immediately. See our editing on the move article.
If your laptop computer includes a built-in CD or DVD burner, you could transfer your footage to a disk and then re-use your videotape. You could carry the burned CDs or DVDs back home or even mail them back to yourself.
So there you are – you’ve practiced with your camcorder and know how to use your manual controls and AE settings. Your camcorder is safely protected from the elements by using a bag, UV filter and or lots of masking tape. You’ve got lots of extra tape and batteries so you’ll never run short during an important shot. You even got a tripod so your shots will look professional and you got an ugly camera bag that no one will mess with. You are set.
Oops. Where are the airplane tickets? Whose got the passports? That might make a good video as your family scurries around frantically searching….
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Editing Your movie and Posting it to the Internet
Once you have finished shooting the video and it looks pretty good, it become important to edit it together and actually create a movie of it. How do you do that? Check out these online articles for some tips and tricks.
Three Step Video Editing
Adobe Premiere Elements Review
By the way, you don't have to spend lots of money to get a good video editing program. There are two free programs out there - iMovie for Macintosh and MovieMaker for PC's running Windows XP - that are very helpful and full functioned. Either of these Free programs will enable you to create and share wonderful looking and sounding video movies.
More about iMovie
If you are really lazy or in a real big hurry, check out an automated movie maker program like muvee AutoProducer. This is great. I use it all the time for quickie home video productions
How to share your videos with friends and relatives all over the world?
You do have some options. You can simply make copies onto DV tape or other video tape and send them. You can create and burn video DVDs and CDs. Or you can use the Internet. If your finished video is small enough, you can attach it to an email and send it that way. Otherwise, you might want to post it to your personal web site and let your friends and relatives access from there. If that is not appropriate, you can check out the various free and inexpensive web sites that specialize in hosting videos and short films. Many of these are geared to family and enthusiast videos.
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