I am always faced with the situation of trying to explain how my camera works; either because someone wants to borrow it for a church video shoot or I am training someone on the video team.
Most times it’s something like this:
We need to do this video for next week and we know how busy you are, so can we just borrow the camera?
Therefore most times I am giving the 5 minute edition of camera fundamentals, how bad can it be? Anyone can do it, right? Ok, maybe I am a bit too easy in loaning my camera out, but hey its for a good cause!
But if you’ve been in this situation (or it’s starting to happen to you) then here are a few pointers that I always seem to mention…
A few things that I always tell people about light:
- Sunglasses: The ND Filter works like sunglasses, if you go outside and it is bright then you will need sunglasses otherwise you will squint. Prosumer cameras will have this with 3 possible settings: off, ‘a little shade’, ‘lots of shade’.
- Squinting: Without going into too much detail, the iris/aperture basically controls how much light you let in – it is like squinting or perhaps the same as your retina. When setting the iris it is best to zoom – as best as possible – to the area you want to have exposed the best, so that it is not too dark or too bright. Setting it on auto will have the camera changing the setting when a cloud move over or someone casts a shadow.
- Blinking: The Shutter, which controls the amount of time the sensor ‘picks up’ light during the frame. Typically you can’t allow the time to be longer than the frames per second allows, but you can make it faster – which works well in bright conditions.It is really a balance of these three things. Of course if you are wanting to control the depth of field with the settings then you probably know a lot already, but you typically want to start with the iris open halfway (if possible).
- White Balance: Digital cameras don’t know what white is unless you tell them. Cameras will come with a few typical options like daylight and indoors, as well as an option to discover the white balance by aiming the camera at an object and pressing some obscure button. In this case don’t opt for the brightest and purest white you can find, something off-white with a little grayness to it will be perfect.
Focus is something that is not always easy to achieve, particularly when either the camera or the talent is moving. Setting Auto focus on is probably the best answer to a novice but it can cause the focus to pump or search for the best setting – not good.
It is easy to see why there are such jobs as Focus Pullers. The best strategy is to zoom in to the best spot and focus there. If there is movement then do a lot of practicing as you move the focus from one value to another.
Cameras come with on board mics and connections for external mics, well the good ones do. I will always choose external and have the mic as close to the talent as possible. However, whatever you choose, always check the levels, nothing more heart breaking than getting great footage but there is either no audio or the audio is clipping. Good headphones is a great thing to have.
There we go, a short rendition to my camera training. Not too complicated, technical or camera specific. Most times it is easy for me when I explain things for a static shot as church, but when it comes to shooting a moving scene in the wind then I have to give the extending version – it totally stresses people out.