Basic Filming Tips

Video Editing: Basic Filming Tips and MiniDV advice for New Video Editors

MiniDV Tapes

The Dangers of Long Play.

If you switch your camera to long play mode, you can squeeze and extra half and hour of footage onto a MiniDV tape. Big deal! The price you pay for this Mono sound and dropped frames. It’s much better to use another tape and maintain the quality of your filming.

Keep Your Head Clean.

During normal camera use (both playing and recording) a conventional MiniDV tape will deposit a layer of ferric oxide, which clings to the tape heads and forms a barrier between the tape and the head. Over time this layer can build up, reducing recording quality until you can no longer record footage at all. Fortunately MiniDV Cleaning Cassettes are available. Ideally, these should be used once a month.

Write Protect.

Once you’ve inadvertently recorded over a precious moment you were planning to keep for ever, you’ll truly understand what this feature is for. MiniDV tapes have a sliding write protect switch. Once you’ve finished filming slide the switch to protect your recording.

Shoot, Rewind, Record.

After watching the footage you’ve just filmed, rewind a few seconds into the previous footage. If you leave blank areas on the tape, this can result in the capture process failing on some capture system. The blank areas also cause the on tape counter to reset itself making it impossible to locate footage using time code. Therefore every time you film as scene, record some slack footage at the end that you can rewind into and record over.

Make it Black.

When you plan to re-use an old tape, it’s a very good idea to leave the lens cap on and record over the whole tape from start to finish. This will prevent the time code from messing up and will avoid brief flashes of old, unwanted video appearing during the capture process.

Basic Filming Tips


Beware the Hose Pipe!

Avoid the "hose pipe" method of filming. This "technique" refers to pointing the camera and filming continuously, swaying around and not settling on anything and is one of the traps that many video editors fall into when they first start filming. It looks very unprofessional and makes editing a nightmare. You should always try and shoot scenes separately, in a logical manner.

Try to stay on a scene for around 8 seconds. This allows you to edit a scene down if necessary. Remember, you can't add it back if it's not there to begin with! Most editing software has an automatic scene detection system that breaks your footage into separate files when a new scene starts. This makes it a lot easier to reassemble the footage for editing and gives you full control over the editing process. Even if your software doesn't support this process, if the camera footage is broken into discreet scenes, it'll be a lot easier to import for video editing.

Zoom! Burghhh!

Don't over use zoom. If you need a lot of close up shots, zoom the camera in first, then start shooting. Otherwise you'll end up giving your audience motion sickness. If you can, move closer to your subject and avoid zoom entirely. It’ll improve picture quality.

We Thank the Tripods.

Get a Tripod. You won't regret it. Sometimes reportage style camera shake and wobble isn't ideal, especially for more formal occasions. Investing in a tripod will immediately make your footage smoother and more professional for a minimal outlay.

Label the Tapes

This may sound patronising to experienced video editors, but put the stickers on the Mini DV tape before you put it in the camera. Write a description on the label when you take it out. It sounds obvious, but it'll save you hours when searching for specific scenes if you have a lot of tapes. Always set the write protect tabs on tapes you want to keep.

Find the Action First

Try to take the time to frame your subject before you start filming. Let the subject fill the scene in order to eliminate distractions. Not only will you save tape, you'll have a better video to show for it in the end.

Let there be Light

Make sure there's enough light before shooting. Outdoors in daylight is normally fine, but don't shoot into direct sunlight. If shooting indoors, make sure that the lights are turned on if there's not enough illumination from the windows. Some Digital Video camera's have lights built into them. These will drain the batteries in minutes. So it's best to use them only when the camera is plugged into mains power.

Digital Video Camera Care

Battery Care.

Batteries can and do fail if they’re seriously over charged or left in adverse conditions for prolonged periods. Always detach the battery from your camera if you are intending to store it unused for long periods.

Cold, Wet Damp.

Water and MiniDV camera do not mix. Moisture can easily destroy a camera from the inside out. When moving from a cold environment to a warm one (or the other way around), try to wait for the camera to adjust to the change in temperature before you turn it on again. Many MiniDV cameras will display a warning if they are affected by moisture. If this happens to your camera, open the tape chamber, remove the tape and leave the camera in a warm room for 24 hours. You might be able to save it.

Clean Lens.

If the lens of your camera gets dirty, it will have a negative impact on the quality of your recordings. While this might sound obvious, it’s amazing how easy it is to overlook. You can clean the lens with and anti static cloth. Lens cleaning fluid is also available from most good camera stores.

Can I Fix it?

No you can’t! When your DV camera goes wrong (and one day it will) contact the manufacturer who will advise you where to find your nearest licensed repairer. Don’t be tempted to take the camera apart and fix it yourself.

Gently Does It!

The main cause of most camera problems is the tape mechanism. This is also the most delicate part of the camera. The tape mechanism is automated on virtually all DV cameras so make sure you never force the tape compartment closed. No good can come from it.

Suggestions Please!

Any suggestions from experinced video editors, to improve the filming tips section are always welcome. So if you have any nuggets of wisdom that you are willing to share with the world, please email us. We are also interested in purchasing articles related to Video Editing for publishing on the website. If you're a talented writer with a keen interest in Digital Video Editing, please contact us.

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