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Movie Tools

Peek into the dark corners of closets across America, and chances are good you’ll find a dusty pile of old family videos in some outdated format. What’s the smart way to go about shooting videos today?

A good place to start is to give careful thought to what you want to record and why. Do you want just casual snippets of video—a few minutes of the adorable toddler blowing out candles on a birthday cake—or do you want the entire high school talent show from start to finish? Do you plan to shoot sports action? Will you need to zoom in on a particular player from way across the field? What about vacation fun? Do you want to edit video of that 10-country trip down to half an hour of highlights?

Thinking about what you want to shoot and in what situations will help you make the next decision: what device to use to shoot the video. 

If you want to shoot a lot of high-quality video, you might consider buying a specialty device. A full-size camcorder is more likely—depending on the price—to have specific features that could be useful, such as a zoom lens or image stabilization. 

Think too about the weight and portability of the device, especially if you intend to use it while traveling. Generally, pocket-sized camcorders are convenient, but have fewer bells and whistles than larger, full-feature devices.

If your needs are less intensive, you might opt to save money and simply learn to use the video features included in a device you already own, such as a smartphone or tablet. Some digital cameras (either higher-end point and shoot models or SLR cameras with removable lenses) will also shoot good quality video.

Make sure video components are compatible

Whatever video recorder you choose, it may have different file formats than devices you’ve used in the past. Newer models have moved away from recording onto tapes or disks, and instead use either flash memory cards or internal storage. Check to make sure that the recording format can be easily transferred to your computer or television for playback. And don’t forget to check that your editing software can easily handle the size of the video files.


Get a mic you like

Video isn’t just about capturing motion—sound is important, too. The internal microphones in multipurpose devices such as smartphones, digital cameras, and tablets may not pick up sounds as crisply as you’d like. For better quality sound when shooting video, you may need to attach an external mic to your device. Check your owner’s manual to locate the portal and what size jack it accepts before buying a microphone.


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