Personal History and the Camcorder

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Some things have to be seen to be believed.

Other Uses For a Camcorder In Personal History[edit | edit source]

There are other uses for camcorders in personal histories other than recording people talking. Here are some other suggestions:

  • Tape the town you live in or the town where you grew up. Show future generations the community and architecture of the town buildings. Be sure to included the cars. Your third great grand children will laugh at the old fashion cars you drove.
  • Tape the house you live in. Do each room and describe its contents as you are panning.
  • Tape your personal possessions such as pictures, collections, tools, cars, hobbies, and other valued mementos. Might be useful if you have burglary and something valuable is stolen. Here you have a picture so police can identify your property if it is recovered.
  • Record the voice of personal friends and good neighbors.
  • Video where you work. Record your fellow employees and the building you work in and maybe have someone tape you doing your job.
  • Video family members such as parents, grand parents, cousins, aunts and uncles, etc.
  • Video community events such as parades and festivals.
  • The chapel, church or synagogue where you attended religious services.
  • Visit places you used to live in and photograph buildings such as schools, churches, work places, past residences, etc.
  • Video yourself engaged in your hobby of favorite sporting activity.
  • If possible video yourself on a typical day.

The Camcorder and the Family[edit | edit source]

One of the enjoyable uses of a video camera is to record the events of your family as it is growing. What would any of us give to have a chronology of moving pictures of ourselves, our parents and grand parents and other people that held a choice place in our hearts.

The modern camcorder fills that purpose quite well. Again, if you don’t have a video camcorder, invest in one to record your family’s memories.

The children may complain when you want to put them on video, but they will thank you years from now for doing so.

Camcorders come in different formats and some models are as small as some 35 mm cameras. The price of camcorders have come down and are within reach of most people.

Check out the consumer guides and video magazines for the make and models which they recommend for your wants and needs. Again look only at the digital models.

It is most important that you become thoroughly familiar with your camcorder. Many of them have editing features. You can add narration, music and stills.

Camcorder and family filming techniques[edit | edit source]

There are many books on video technique, but here a few hints when recording family events:

  • Try to use the zoom as little possible when recording people. Have the lens in position you want for the scene before you begin shooting. Zooms are for landscapes.
  • If you find the zoom necessary, do so slowly holding the picture for a second or two at the beginning and at the end of the zoom.
  • Tape people doing things not just posing. Have the children playing a game or looking at a book. If you have seen news programs where a family is involved, you always see them doing something together not posing for the camera.
  • Get close in shots of faces. A picture of the whole person may be nice to show their physique, but it’s the face we want to see not their shoes.
  • During the close-up have them saying something. You can have them, for example, say something about the about the occasion that is bringing you all together.
  • Record each scene for a five or ten seconds at least. Tape is cheap and so are disks that store video. You can always edit out excess material.
  • Don’t jump around and make quick shots. It is madding when you do not have enough time to take in a picture of grandpa that was taken 20 years ago. Give the viewer a chance to take in what he or she is seeing.
  • Take up different positions when taping a long scene. Shoot people from different sides and angles. For example, shoot over the shoulder of a person listening to another person talk. When the other person replies, move the camcorder to look over the shoulder of the first person to hear what they have got to say.
  • Try some different angles when shooting. Try a low angle shot looking up at the person talking or high angle with two or more people doing something.
  • Hold the camcorder steady. Don’t let your audience get dizzy.
  • If your camcorder records on tape use only the best quality tape for longevity.
  • Be sure to have a spare batteries and disks or tapes. You might find the event so interesting you find yourself recording much more then you thought you would.

Camcorder, old movies and stills[edit | edit source]

If you have ever watched a special on PBS about a historical figure or event, you know how adsorbing they can be. Well, consider making your own PBS like special but making yourself or an ancestor as the subject.

It does take some extra equipment, but the investment can be minimal and it is a lot of fun to create your own family historical documentary.

First thing to consider is transferring your old movie films on to DVD’s. Many photo-finishing companies provide this service. You make it easier to view them since you don’t have to set up a projector and screen.

Just pop the DVD into the DVD player and watch on TV. Include on these videos, narration describing the scenes: who, what, where, when and maybe why.

If you have any still photographs, consider putting them also on DVD’s as well. You can either have it done by your local photo finisher or do it yourself with a scanner and your computer.

If you have slides, there is a gadget that will attach to your scanner that will allow you to do them as well.

When recording them, be sure to keep each picture of the screen long enough of people to comprehend what the picture is. At least five seconds.