Limit Zooming and Panning

In a way, camcorder manufacturers are asking for it. They put the zoom-in/zoom-out buttons right on top of the camcorder, where your fingers naturally rest. That tempting placement has led millions of camcorder owners to zoom in or out in almost every shot—and sometimes even several times withina shot. For the camcorder operator, zooming imparts a sense of control, power, and visual excitement. But for the viewer, zooming imparts a sense of nausea.

In other words, most home-movie makers zoom too much. In professional film and video, you almost never see zooming, unless it’s to achieve a particular special effect. (Someday, rent a movie and note how many times the director zooms in or zooms out. Answer: almost never.)

Tips for Keeping Zooming Under Control

To separate yourself from the amateur-video pack, adopt these guidelines for using the zoom controls:

  • The zoom button is ideal for adjusting the magnification level betweenshots, when the camcorder is paused—to set upa new shot. Be conscious of how many times you’re using the zoom while the tape is rolling.

  • Sometimes you may be tempted to zoom in order to create an establishing shot—to show the entire landscape, the big picture—before closing in on your main subject.

    That’s a worthy instinct, but zooming isn’t the best way to go from an establishing shot to a closeup. Instead, consider an effect like the extremely effective, more interesting one that opens such movies as Citizen Kane: a series of ...

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