Few things are as difficult to watch, or as nauseating to experience, as shaky camera work. Home videos of vacations and family events are notorious for this, which is why they are taped but never watched. The difference between steady and shaky footage has nothing to do with the camcorder and everything to do with the videographer. The following list of five essential skills will improve any video if applied during the shoot.
1. Hold the camera with both hands. Some people try and pull off operating the camera with just one hand. I believe the manufacturers are doing you a favor by freeing up a hand, not so you can use it to eat a candy bar, but so you can use it to steady the camera. Two hands are always better than one. It sounds obvious and simple, yet every time I go to record a public event I always see folks holding the camcorder with just one hand. If you want professional results, hold the camera with both hands! Your audience will thank you, maybe not verbally, but they will appreciate your effort.
2. Be sure you are in the correct Stance. People can get lazy, especially during long shoots. If you have the job as videographer, make sure you are not leaning your weight on just one leg. Stand with your feet approximately shoulder length apart, with your body weight balanced between both legs. This stance is proven to improve stability in all physical activity, and it definitely applies in this case as well.
3. Use your Electronic Stabilizer. Once again, the manufacturers are trying to help you out. If you are shooting without the use of a tripod, then turn the electronic stabilizer on, but be sure to turn it off when you put the camera back on the tripod. This technology has improved greatly in the last few years, and makes a huge difference in the final shot.
4. Avoid Zooming. Get closer, the wide angle is doubtlessly the most stable setting. Zooming makes the camera much more reactive to the slightest movement. While holding the camera in your hands, this includes up and down, as well as side to side. Many zooms are digital now and I frown upon its use. Only use the optical zoom! Digital zoom only enlarges existing shots which start to pixelate, and the quality plunges. If you can get closer without zooming, this will keep the angle wide, and will stabilize your shot.
5. Just use a tripod. The professional’s best friend is the tripod. There is no shame in using one. Tricky movements should be attempted with a counterbalance system like a Glidecam. Most shooting, however, can be accomplished with the use of a tripod. So use it. It may be a little bulky to carry around, but that is the difference between the amateur and the professional. Don’t be lazy. Take a tripod and use it as much as possible.
by Tyler Ellison