Knowing what you are recording while you shoot can save you hours, and even days, of frustration and money during the editing process .
Practically every video camera has audio and video outputs, but most people use them only when transferring video after it's been shot. By using these outputs while you shoot, you can monitor what is being recorded. Not only does this allow you to take care of troubles immediately, such as fixing a bad audio connection, but it also enables you to take field notes that you can refer to when editing.
Determining Your Cable Needs
There are a variety of connections for carrying an audio and/or video signal. If you plan on monitoring your camera while you're recording, you should run out to your local Radio Shack and grab the necessary cables and adaptors for your camera ASAP. While you're there, pick up a couple of spares, since you'll lose or break one at the most inopportune time.
Monitoring your video requires you to send your camera's signal to a television or professional monitor. Some cameras have simple RCA jacks for audio and video, while others have either a combined A/V/Phones jack or something proprietary. Whatever your situation is, you will need to transmit the signal from your camera to your monitor.
Although the image of what's being recorded is important, you should also turn on the camera's display so that the current timecode appears superimposed over the image. By displaying the timecode, you will be able to reference it in your notes. Without it, your notes will be less useful. Figure 1-15 shows a Canon XL-1 and a JVC 3-inch LCD monitor connected together via an RCA cable, which allows for great mobility.
Unless you're setting up in a location for a long period of time, portability is key. A small, 13- to 15-inch television works well in most situations. However, if you plan on following a cameraman around—to shoot a documentary, for example—you should use a smaller, portable LCD monitor in the 3- to 7-inch range.
Roll Your Own Dolly
A pair of wheels, and a way to roll around on them, can make a great dolly .
When attempting to capture a scene where your subjects are separated from the background, the camera needs to be moving. If you have ever tried to record footage while walking, you have probably noticed you get a very shaky shot. Your footage is probably the equivalent of step-shake-step-shake…
Most digital video cameras come with a feature to help stabilize your footage, which is especially useful for when you are standing in one place and holding the camera. When walking, however, you usually do not wind up with the shot you envisioned—even with the stabilization feature turned on.
Many professional camerapeople use a dolly to capture footage when they need to be moving. A dolly is basically a small, wheeled cart on which a cameraperson can sit while rolling along a given path. A variety of sporting goods, or even a wheelchair, can easily be substituted for the real thing.
Dusting Off Your Rollerblades
Many of us do not have the luxury of having a dolly, but we can make do with a pair of rollerblades and a trustworthy friend. Strapping on a pair of rollerblades and hitting the Record button on your video camera might seem like a simple feat, but there are a few caveats of which you should be aware.
Trusting your friends.
If you plan on skating and shooting, think long and hard about where you will be concentrating. Looking through the eyepiece of your camera will greatly restrict your vision. Even looking at an LCD monitor will probably distract you from noticing any obstacles in your path. Figure 1-29 shows a cameraperson on rollerblades being pulled backward by an assistant