Tim Smith (Camcorder Training Specialist) gives expert video advice on: How do I choose a tripod for my camcorder?; How do I choose a monopod for my camcorder? and more...
What is a "tripod", and why would I want one for my camcorder?
One of the most common accessories you would ever buy whether it's for a camcorder or a still is a called a tripod. It's something that holds the camera stable on three legs. That's where the term tripod comes from. In the camcorder world, they're not as popular as they should be. Most people think that it's small, it's light, it's easy to carry. But small, light, is easy to carry, but it's not easy to hold. So, if you really want a nice steady shot, if you really want something that looks very professional, you might want to consider carrying a tripod with you. Look for something small and light that you'll take with you.
What is a "monopod", and why would I use one with my camcorder?
One of your accessory choices is going to be a monopod. Monopods are really small, lightweight, and they're really just kind of like a pogo stick with a camera mounted on the top of it. They really come in handy, in terms of keeping a camera steady, when it's something you have to hold for a long time. Maybe not as practical, in terms of shooting, as a tripod would be, but a monopod is better than nothing in many circumstances. Remember that even a lightweight camera tends to feel heavier and heavier if you have to keep holding it for longer and longer periods of time. A monopod really can save the day when it comes to getting a nice, steady shot.
What is a "camcorder light", and why would I need one?
A lot of camcorders these days have built in video lights. You can also buy accessory lights, but none of them tend to be very bright. They're really just out there to fill things in. One of the things that makes a big difference when shooting any video is at least getting a little light on the subjects eyes. Kind of filling out their faces, it's more flattering that way. If you've got a camcorder with a built in video light, you might consider using it even outdoors in the shade. If you don't have a light, it's a good thing to have in your bag. We all tend to think of lights as something you need in the dark. But you know what, you also need to think about lights when it's bright out. The shading and the way shadows fall across peoples faces can really take away from the experience of the viewer. So think about a light, have it in your bag. If it's built in, think about considering using it. The only down side to a built in light, the more light you use, the more battery that go's down. Sometimes an accessory light is a little more handy because they tend to run on their own battery source.
Is the built-in light on a camcorder strong enough?
Camcorders with a built-in light work pretty well in low light situations. Built in lights give it that extra boost. But don't expect the built in light to light up an entire room. They're really just low wattage lights, that you point directly at the subject. And they can also tend to give you more of a "flashlight effect", where the built in light is just something that's just pointed directly at something. If you're going to be using a built-in light, let your subject know that you're going to be doing it, so that they're not looking like a deer in the headlights. And then also think about maybe trying to shade it a little bit, so that it's not startling, and drawing as built in lights can be.