Welcome to the first of several articles showcasing the controls of your friendly video camera. I hope you aspiring filmmakers find this information useful. You can also use these articles as a guideline of features to shop for in a video camera. Now, I’d like to introduce today’s control. Ladies and gentlemen, say hello to Manual Focus.
To the untrained eye, focus is the simplest problem to pick out. Think of the last time you saw some video that was out of focus. Pretty easy to see, isn’t it? Your camera probably has two modes. Auto Focus and Manual Focus.
The first thing that I would do when buying a new camera is turn off Auto Focus. Any video camera means well, but if you have an odd background, your camera will be confused. It will just focus back and forth between your subject and the background. This makes for nasty video, especially when the scene is long. Using Manual Focus, you can set the focus once, and the camera will stay focused.
Learning to use your Manual Focus controls takes some practice. For example, you’ll notice that when something looks focused on your camera’s little screen or viewfinder, the truth might be a little different. There are two ways to remedy this situation. You can either read your camera’s manual and learn how to hook up a TV monitor, or you can do a some work with your camera and gradually learn what a focused picture looks like on that small screen.
The first option is a little bit complicated. I’ve tried this once or twice. My conclusions? TV monitors make a nasty buzzing sound on your audio track when you use an external microphone. Also, you’ll find that buying an extra monitor is expensive. Even closer to home, lugging a heavy monitor to every location is impossible, since it will need its own power source. Alternately, I have heard that LCD monitors do not buzz, and you might be able to power a small one off of your camera’s battery.
The second option takes practice, but if you are truly serious about filmmaking, you should have no problem coming up with excuses to use your camera. Just keep adjusting the focus until you think the picture is clear, shoot some video, load it up on your computer (or hook your camera to your TV), and check your focus. You’ll find that you get better as you shoot more video.
I should mention one other thing about Auto Focus. There is a new technology coming to consumer level video cameras that promises to do a better job auto focusing. We’ll just have to wait and see how this plays out, but it sounds quite promising.
Well, not only is Manual Focus the easiest control to use and set properly, it’s also the one you’ll use most often. I hope I’ve inspired you to go out and bring your video into focus. Just remember to have fun doing it.