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Zoom with Your Feet

It’s an education to watch professional news videographers in action. They put their camera on their shoulders, march through the crowd right up to whomever they want to shoot (and by “right up” I mean 2 feet away) and go.

They don’t care whose view they block. They don’t care how the subject feels having a camera up their nose. They know that if they don’t get the shot, they don’t eat. Period.

Behavior like this at, say, the “I do” moment of your friend’s wedding would probably result in a flying tackle by the mother of the bride. But stopping just short of a taffeta-ripping catfight, there are lessons to be learned from the pros:

10x Zoom = 10x shakier The more you zoom, the shakier your shot gets.  This is a geometry problem, and as I’m well past 10th grade, I’m not going to explain it here.  But trust me.  If they didn’t mount those Superbowl cameras with huge zoom lenses on concrete platforms, the coin toss would rock like a Klingon attack on the 1960s Starship Enterprise.

There’s no such thing as a “zoom mic.” You may be able to see people from across the room, but you won’t be able to hear them.

Your camera can see better up close.  Video cameras need light to work. If you’re farther away from the people you’re shooting, you’re also farther from the light that’s bouncing off of them.  There is a complicated physics explanation for this that I’m also not going to explain.

There’s no such thing as a “digital zoom.” So-called “digital zooms” can’t see more than the camera’s lens does. Instead, a computer chip in your camera blows up the picture, reducing its quality. The more you blow it up, the worse it looks. Great for marketing to the uninformed (“200x Digital Zoom!”)  but not great for your picture.  If you want to blow stuff up, do it later on your computer.  In case I’ve been unclear:  Don’t. Ever. Use. It.

Next time you realize you’re too far away, overcome (some of) your innate politeness and walk yourself over to your subject.  Instead of using the button on the camera, zoom with your feet.

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About The Author

Steve Stockman

Steve Stockman, president of LA-based Custom Productions, Inc., is a prolific producer, writer, and director, known for over 200 diverse media projects. He is also the author of the best-selling book "How to Shoot Video that Doesn’t Suck," taught globally from middle school to graduate level, and available in 9 languages.

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