Camcorder Features:
What Are They and How Do You Use Them…!


Camera Features are a important factor when choosing a camera

Camcorder features are an important consideration when you're choosing the perfect camera for you! They give you control of the video making process...!

Here's a rundown of some of the ones that you will find on video cameras…!


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Depending on the type of camcorder or digital video camera that you have there may be a lot of buttons and knobs that look very interesting and very complicated...

Video Camera LCD Viewfinder

And of course... Depending on the digital camera or camcorder... It may not have a whole lot of buttons and knobs at all but…

Look at the View Finder screen and you'll see the word "Menu"… and when you open that up… Oh boy…

There they are! What a plethora of choices!  So… What are all these things anyway…? The features found on digital video cameras are continually evolving so that you can shoot better video with less attention on your camera.

But... If you want to shoot clear crisp video with vibrant color and good sound reproduction you must have a good working knowledge of how you can adjust your camcorder to compensate for less-than-ideal conditions. Knowing what features are found on your video camera and how to use them will give you a tremendous amount of control over how successfully you shoot your scenes.

Digital video camera controls

When you're shooting video you don't always have ideal conditions. As a matter of fact... You almost never  do...! What are some of the things that you can run into…

  • Too much or not enough light…
  • A lot of extraneous noise or you're trying to pick up a whisper…
  • Your subject seems too far away to get a good shot…
  • Fast action – point and shoot – no time to set exposure or focus…

And that's just to name a few!  These are all things that can be compensated for if you know how the features on your video camera work and can use them.

Knowing what your camcorder features are and how to use them may make all the difference in the world between shooting excellent video or maybe not getting any video at all!

Some of the Common Camcorder Features…

Let's take a look at a few the common features that you will find on digital video cameras ranging from point-and-shoot to high-end professional setups.

Camera video gain control

  * Video Gain Control

This camera feature is circuitry that manually (or automatically) adjusts video amplification to keep it within preset limits. It alters overall picture brightness and contrast by increasing or decreasing the amount of signal to the camcorder's image sensor.

You can reduce the image signal during bright (too much light) shots and increase it under dimmer conditions. You have to be careful with it however, as it can make your image grainy if turned up too high…but… It is very handy to have if you shooting in low light conditions especially.


Camera Auto-Focus Setting

* Auto-Focus Setting

This mechanism automatically adjusts the lens focus for maximum sharpness on the nearest subject in a selected zone of the frame.

Whether this is the subject that you want sharpest might be another matter of course (smile)… But... it is a great feature to use when…

  • You're shooting through foreground objects…
  • You are focusing selectively on a particular subject…
  • When something is likely to move between the camcorder and your subject...

If you're working creatively with the depth of field of the shot... the camcorder should be switched to manual focusing. This option is not always available on consumer cameras, but is usually part of a high-end professional camcorder.


Camera Auto-Iris Switch

  * Auto-Iris Switch

This camcorder feature is a handy control that automatically adjusts the lens aperture (f-stop) to suit the prevailing light levels. By doing so, it prevents the image from being overexposed (washed-out) or underexposed (murky-looking).

However...This adjustment should be used very carefully as… There are times when the auto-iris "misunderstands" and changes the lens aperture when it should remain constant... such as, during panning, zooming or when a lighter area comes into the shot.

On the higher-end video cameras... When shooting these types of shots it maybe necessary to switch the lens aperture control to manual aperture and operate it by hand so that you have better control of the exposure.

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Camera White Balance or Auto–White Control

* White Balance or Auto–White Control

This is one of the most important camcorder features of all… Setting the camcorder white balance is vital if you want the colors in the video you are shooting to be rendered correctly.

This camcorder feature adjusts the camera's color-balance circuitry to suit the color quality of the prevailing light and ensure that white surfaces are accurately reproduced as neutral. Otherwise... The camera doesn't know how to interpret the colors accurately and all colors would be slightly warmer (red-orange) or colder (bluish) than normal, depending on the light source.

To set the camcorder white balance the operator normally pushes the white balance button while aiming the camcorder at a white surface until the camera indicates that recalibration has occurred.  The camcorder now knows what "white" is (in that environment) and can balance the other colors accordingly.


Camera Back-light Control Setting

* Backlight Control Setting

This control opens the lens aperture an arbitrary f-stop or so above that selected by the auto-iris system to avoid underexposure resulting from ambiguous readings by the camera image sensor.

Just one more little camcorder feature that will help you get the proper exposure on your shot.


Camera Preset Exposure Mode Setting

 * Preset Exposure Mode Setting

This is part of the package of camera features found on most digital video cameras from point-and-shoot to professional.

This camera feature is a series of preset savable exposure settings such as Indoor/Outdoor, that will automatically set the camcorder image sensor for the average proper exposure in a particular shooting environment or situation. It comes in very handy if you're shooting video in a fast-paced environment where you just need to catch the action and not worry so much about exposure.


Camera Macro Setting

   * Macro Setting

Most video cameras have a macro  position. Macro  in this case meaning being able to move in very close and still be in focus.

This camcorder feature allows the lens to focus on very close objects... Much closer than the lens' normal minimum in-focus distance.


Camera Image Stabilizer

   * Image Stabilizer

This is one of the more important camcorder features to look for when you're buying a camera… This system compensates for accidental irregular camera movements such as camera shake.

There are normally two types of camera image stabilization:

Digital

(Which stabilizes by electronic  means by providing a pixel buffer within the video frame)

Or...

Optical

(Which stabilizes by mechanical  means inside of the camera)

And of the two...

Optical stabilization (mechanical)...

Is always your best bet!


Camera Preset Situations Switch

 * Preset Situations Switch

A lot of consumer camcorders offer prearranged adjustments selected for typical occasions such as sports action or snowy conditions, etc.

They are mainly concerned with light sensitivity settings and automatic white balancing of the camera. These camera features are general exposure selections and are not recommended for the camera person who wants total control over exposure.

They do come in handy however if you're in a situation where you need to just "point and shoot".


Camera Time-code Setting

 * Time-code Setting

This is one of the camcorder features that is very important for post-production work… This series of frame-accurate numbers is assigned to a specific video frame.  The number includes hours, minutes, seconds, and elapsed frames.

This is very useful information when you're in the video editing stage of your post-production work.

These Features Can Help You To Shoot Better Video…

Explore the features on your camcorder so that you get a good understanding of what they are and how to use them.

Becoming an expert in the use of the features built-in to your camcorder will mean that you will have control  over your shooting environment…

And not the other way around!


And... that's what your camcorder's features were built to do...!

Give you control of the video making process...!

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Have fun...!  Dan


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