Keep the Camera Steady

Here’s another difference between amateur and pro footage: Most camcorder movies are shot with a camera held in somebody’s hand, which is extremely obvious to people who have to watch it later. Real TV shows, movies, and corporate videos are shot with a camera that’s mounted on a massive rolling base, a hydraulic crane, or a tripod. (There are a few exceptions, such as a few annoying-to-watch Woody Allen movies. However, they were shot with handheld cameras for an artistic reason, not just because it was too much trouble to line up a tripod.)

It’s impossible to overstate the positive effect a tripod can have on your footage. Nor is it a hassle to use such a tripod; if you get one that’s equipped with a quick-release plate, the camcorder snaps instantly onto the corresponding tripod socket. Tripods are cheap, too. You can buy one for as little as $20, although more expensive tripods have more features, last longer, and are less likely to nip your skin when you’re collapsing them for transport.

Tip

If the camcorder on the tripod isn’t perfectly level, the picture will start to tilt diagonally as you pan (the car will appear to be driving up or down a hill instead of across a flat plain). To prevent this phenomenon, make sure that the camera legs are carefully adjusted—slow and tedious work on most tripods. But on tripods with ball-leveling heads(an expensive feature, alas), achieving levelness takes just a few seconds: Just loosen a screw, adjust the head until ...

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