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If your guests head for the door every time you turn on a video tape DVD, maybe your technique could use some polishing. This guide reveals common shooting mistakes.

First, learn how to use your camcorder. Reading your manual carefully will teach you how to use your camcorder to the best of its capabilities.

Digital video to DVD - before taping

Turn off the red record light on the front of the camera. That red light makes people self conscious of being videotaped!

Next, turn off the date/time stamp, which is distracting when viewing a transfer of camcorder tapes to DVD. If you want to use it for keeping track of your videos, leave it on for the first few seconds, and then turn it off.

Shoot in SP mode. Never use LP, which fits more video on a tape at the expense of video quality. Buy a few extra tapes and avoid LP. See our Mini DVD to DVD page for information about how important this is for this specific format.

Camcorder video transfer - filming tips

Digital video to DVD

– Don't record shots that are too short for viewers to absorb. Start recording five seconds before the action starts and stop five seconds after it ends. Even if you're shooting a video of a still subject (like a sunset), count to ten after you push record.

– Go easy with the zoom! Zoomed shots feel unnatural because our eyeballs don't zoom. Only use the zoom if you can't get physically closer (such as for a child onstage or a wild animal). Zoom gently, and hold the zoomed shot for a few seconds.

– Never use digital zoom. All camcorders have an optical zoom, which is a lens operation. Many also have a "digital zoom," which is purely marketing hype. Digital zoom is software in the camera that enlarges the image by faking pixels. Turn it off.

– Pan slowly. Hold the starting shot for a few seconds. Then slowly pan to your ending shot, and hold for another few seconds. Avoid "firehosing," or pointing the camcorder at one random thing after another.

– Your camcorder video transfer can be ruined by a low-light situation. Turn on more lights to avoid video that is snowy or noisy. If more lights aren't available, keep the camcorder very steady and switch off the autofocus.

– Beware of backlighting. A backlit scene has a bright light behind the main action, forcing the camcorder to adjust the aperture and make the subject a dark shadow. Avoid backlighting by keeping lights behind you. When you cannot reposition, use your camcorder's backlight button – don't forget to turn it off afterwards!

– Don't use the built-in special effects. Your camcorder likely has the ability to shoot in black and white, sepia, and psychedelic colors, or add fade ins and outs. But there is no way to undo these effects if you'd rather have a normal video later. Only add effects with an editing program when you transfer video to computer.

– Keep your camera stable. Hold your camcorder with both hands, lean against a wall, or use a tripod. If you must walk while shooting, use your elbows and slightly bent knees as shock absorbers.

– Shut up. You are the closest person to your camcorder's microphone, so anything you say will drown out the other audio. Resist the temptation to react with laughter or sighs.

Video tape DVD - final tips

Don't forget to hire Timeless DVD for your video DVD transfer, if you want to convert your VCR video to DVD!

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