• Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint
Share this Page URL

Chapter Four. Using Your Camcorder Like ... > How to Get a Crash Course Without Tr...

How to Get a Crash Course Without Trashing a Camera

It's a bad idea to take your new camcorder out of the box for the first time on the morning you start shooting your video. For one thing, it might not work properly. But even if it does, any piece of complex technical gear has foibles, bugs, and “design trade-offs.” It's best to learn about them early—when you're shooting test scenes, for example—so you won't waste valuable time while actors and technicians stand around with the clock ticking.


If you intend to transfer your production to film or master it for broadcast in the future, now is the time to talk to your lab, transfer house, or broadcast engineering department. Then shoot some tests and review the results with them. If you haven't already purchased a camera or if you plan to rent one for the shoot, rent the same make and model for the tests.

Read the Manual

Tedious as it might seem, you really should read the camcorder manual—from cover to cover. Many people use just 10 percent of their camcorder's features simply because they don't know what the thing can do. If you're using a rental unit (or a reconditioned one) and didn't receive a manual, documentation for most prosumer and professional models is available on the technical support sections of the manufacturers' Web sites.

Scan the Magazines

If you're getting acquainted with your camcorder—especially if it's a model that just hit the market—check to see what reviewers in trade magazines like Digital Video Magazine and Camcorder & Computer Video have to say about the camera. Find out if they picked up on any design flaws or idiosyncrasies. If so, the review might include work-arounds for them.

Check the Web

Magazine Web sites often have searchable archives of articles. You can also log into camcorder outlets and DV user groups on the Internet.

Visit a Rental House or Trade Show

One great way to get a guided tour of your new camera is to go to a video equipment rental house and ask for a demonstration. Technical support reps at rental houses are usually much more knowledgeable than sales clerks at stores. And they often have precious, undocumented tips because the service desk is a clearinghouse for professional gossip. Another possibility is to attend a DV trade show and talk to videographers who've used the camera.


To familiarize professionals with new camcorder products, manufacturers often hold free hands-on clinics. You'll find notices about these briefings at the manufacturers' Web sites and in DV trade magazines.

  • Creative Edge
  • Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint