Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tricking Out Your Camera!

Cameras are getting smaller and smaller! Today you can get amazing HD video out of something not much bigger than a coffee cup. I remember the days of slinging a large camcorder over the shoulder and going out to shoot. Back then people were amazed to see a huge camera and camera man around. Today, cameras are small and light weight, but I miss the older and larger cameras.

There is something to be said about a large camera and the impression it makes on clients. Larger seems to convey a more professional look. It says, "Expensive". Some clients may not take you seriously if you shoot their production with a small hand-held camcorder.

The best way to explain this to clients is to mention that the smaller cameras are best for you because they are light weight, produce extremely good quality and you can get them into places you can't get a large camera. If you are asked, explain that smaller cameras are good for business. You have less to lug around and you, as a professional, know how to get the most out of the camera you carry.

After all, the talent, skill, quality and professionalism is not hiding inside your equipment. It's all in YOU. Clents are paying you for your expertise, your skill and creativity. Not your equipment. Anyone can buy a camcorder and shoot footage, but you have the knowledge to make it a movie!

Recently I came across a "Video Quick Tip" from Bill Mecca that addresses this issue. In this video Bill explains techniques to "bulk up" your small camcorder in ways that will enhance your videos and amaze onlookers when they see you shoot. I've included his video at the bottom of this article.

There are several ways you can build up your camera and take advantage of all its features.

(1) Lens hoods will extend the body of the camera somewhat and give the subject something larger to look at. This is not just an addition to make the camera look fancy, a good lens hood will shade the lens and prevent light reflections on the lens itself. It's good to have one anyway. Plus it affords you a lens cap you may not have already.

Hand held grips will add shoe mounts to the camera for attaching extra equipment like Shotgun Microphones, Wireless Microphones, Lights and more. Plus they will help you stabilize the camera when shooting off the tripod. These grips are a great way to mount external monitors to the camera as well.

(3) Audio Mixers and XLR Adapters will bulk up the camera plus give you access to professional XLR connectors so you can use pro microphones as well as make your audio cleaner. Many come with grounding circuits that reduce hum and balance your audio. They are great for tapping into audio boards at concerts too.

Rail systems will help hold external lenses such as wide angle and telephoto systems. Plus they give you more area to mount additional appliances and lenses.

You can do many things to enhance and build up the camera plus make your videos better in the process. Things that you are probably doing already. You may want to explore different configurations for all the various kinds of shooting you do. Consider a larger monitor for studio configurations and additional microphone systems. Shoulder mounts and grips for hand held.

Remember, your camera is just one component in a series of systems you may use depending on your shooting style and the demands of the production. Try different configurations and find the ones that work best for you.

There is no wrong way to configure your camera.

By the time you get all that stuff on it, it will not be small at all. You will get better video and better sound, and probably impress the heck out of anyone who eyes your contraption!

One thing to consider when putting all this together is the wiring. Wires can be a pain in the you-know-what! It's a good idea to try various different configurations and see how you are going to arrange the wires around your system. Then use Velcro, twist ties or zip ties to gather the wires together and get them out of the way.

You may also want to make wire assemblies or groups ready to use whenever you shoot for all the ways you can arrange components. This makes it easier to assemble and have all the wiring ready in a harness. Just assemble and jack it all in.

Just like souping up a car, you can trick out your camera with tons of accessories. It's fun, attractive, and practical. And in the end, you'll shoot better video and capture awesome audio with something that will make heads spin!

See all of Bill Mecca's high quality and informative Video Quick Tips on his Blog,!


Bill said...

Thanks Jay. We've spoken about this before. I actually need to update, the day after I posted this, the mailman brought me a present, a different lense hood and a step up ring.

Still ruminating about a shoulder mount or rail system, but it needs a good counterweight to be useful.

Kurt said...

First, I LOVE ITV! This is a great read. Have you seen the Cam caddie? It will build up your camera too.
Keep the good articles coming!

Samual said...

I really appreciate you for this great post. There are certain ways to handle a camera that will take a little while to get used to, but if you master them you can go from shooting shaky, amateurish home videos to smooth and polished, professional-looking products.

Camera crane