Mastering Camcorders – Advanced Techniques

The next step and using advanced techniques

To support this new found breadth of purpose, camcorder design has undergone a huge array of changes in recent years. While you still have the basic combination of lens, CCD, processor and storage medium, you now get all sorts of tools ranging from a diversity of video encoding options designed to maximize image quality or size, sockets to cover every option from playing footage on a TV to copying it onto a memory card, and handy tools designed to do everything from smoothing out your shots to capturing effulgent smiles.

High definition camcorders have imported the best features from your computer and DSLR.

Focus Peaking / focus assist

Combine professional skills with hi-tech functions and you’ll banish unwanted focus foul ups

Most professional camera operators will tend to zoom in, set their focus then zoom back out again, as this makes it easier to get the image nice and sharp and it won’t soften as you return to your intended shot length. Today camcorders give the user the functions that gives the finished image that professional look, like Zebra patterning modes that help you get your vulnerability correct, In recent years we’ve seen more and more camcorders offer a similar function to help you get your focus right Focus Peaking modes increase the contrast of the image displayed on your camcorder’s LCD screen without increasing the contrast of the footage being recorded to your tape or card, The increased contrast on your screen will allow you to see the edges of the objects you’re shooting far more intelligibly, making it easier to detect if they’re a little fuzzy and out of focus.

Some camcorders will even mark suspiciously soft edges within the shot with a glowing fringe to make sure you can’t miss them The ultimate step in focus peaking is the focus assist mode, which zooms the image as well as turning on focus peaking, so you can’t miss a thing. Focus Peaking can be used as you shoot to help keep the action sharp, while Focus Assist will help you set up your shots before hitting the red button.

Optical Zoom

Another example of a mechanical solution that is better than its digital counterpart optical zooms should be at the top of your shopping list

As long as Optical Image Stabilisation is an example of an old method being subtly better than its modern counterpart, An optical zoom screams its superiority from the rooftops through a loudhailer. That’s not to say that there aren’t times when a digital zoom comes in very handy, but the difference between the workings of an optical and a digital zoom is often the difference between good and bad quality footage as well.

An optical zoom works in a similar fashion to a telescope, by altering the distance between lens elements or, in most cases, the lens and the COD in order to alter the focal length and angle of view in the shot, compressing the foreground to bring distant objects closer, A Digital Zoom, on the other hand simply magnifies the picture detail that has already been recorded, spreading the information contained on one pixel over several. This has the advantage of magnifying an image without the need for a huge lens barrel for the lens elements to move around in, but also has the disadvantage of spreading the same amount of picture information over a larger area, resulting in a loss of resolution that starts off almost unnoticeable, but will eventually torn your shots into something that re5embles soft focus footage of a Lego village. Digital zooms can be useful in moderation, and the big numbers (500x digital zoom etc.) sound impressive, but an optical zoom produces a far superior image.

Mic Attenuation

Improving the quality of camcorder microphones has created new challenges

In the past microphone seemed come across to be an afterthought. Even on the expensive flagship camcorders, the microphones themselves would often be amazingly poor, constructed from inexpensive, unshielded components and prone to hissing and spitting as if every bit of footage you recorded came across as bad.

The voices of ambitious videomakers were heard over time, and manufacturers slowly began improving the quality ot camcorder mics until we reached the point today where camcorders can record in pseudo-surround sound, or zoom the pick-up pattern of their shotgun mic to record better long distance audio, You can even forego the onboard mic entirely and plug in a high quality external Unfortunately, the upshot of all this is that while we can now record significantly better sound, it has also become much harder to do so. Tech New Master

Camcorder microphones were always seen as the weak link in many camcorders and volume of noise far greater than the camcorder’s circuitry can process without overloading; fortunately, there are all sorts of features that will help out, most notably in the form of Mic Attenuation. In the simplest terms, Mic Attenuation just seems to turn down the volume of your camcorder, but in actual fact switching your Nic Attenuation on is dropping the microphone’s sensitivity by as much as 30Db. Where a volume pickup diminution would get rid of the quietest of noises, Mic Attenuation works by making sure that the loudest of noises recorded stay within the tolerance of the camcorder’s circuitry, meaning that you avoid distortion or complete audio blackouts from massive audio peaks, Mic Attenuation is handy in situations where you want the effect of Audio Gain Control without the annoying of monitoring the audio, but it really comes into its own at concerts and stage shows where you’ll be recording your audio from a especially powerful source such as an external microphone or by cable from a mixing desk.

Advanced Features Mini Buyers’ Guide

When it comes to optical zoom ratios, there are some camcorders that by going that extra millimeters.

lOx is the usual magnification on a camcorder, and the most common extent of an optical zoom by a landslide,.Until recently, it wasn’t uncommon to find the occasional camcorder with a 22x or 25x zoom as its strongest marketing point, and even in these days of ultra-compact camcorder chassis you can still find the odd model that goes a little bit further than lOx. Camera operators use their zoom as a composition device, an aid to focusing, for prominent effect or simply just to close the distance between them and their subject Whether you’re filming play from the back row, doing a bit of long distance wildlife photography or simply trying to crash zoom for effect, here is our pick of the five camcorders that go that little bit further.

Sanyo Xacti VPC-TH1

While the VPC-TH1 has the lowest genera score of all the models in this round up, it offers far and away the most power for your pound when it comes to choosing a camcorder or it’s zoom ratio. The TH1 will set you back £18O/ $260 quid, for which you’ll get a market leading 30x optical zoom,


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