This was originally posted in the old forums by Jim Harring (Not sure what happened to him, but as you can see, he had invaluable experience!)
Some tips from a former news shooter:
For home videos of say, the kids, or a vacation trip - try to tell a story. The story can be very simple: we got out of the car, hiked up a mountainside, saw a great view, had lunch, hiked back, and maybe it rained some. The audience wants a logical story from your video, be sure to give it to them. Random acts of video is boring!
Edit mercilessly - I shot 5 hours of raw video; I will end up using less than one hour's worth in the final output. Remember, video is not all-you-can-eat, but a gourmet restaurant.
Consider a fluidhead tripod. The fluidhead makes tilts and pans smoother.
Consider a steadicam-junior, or one of the competitors to it. Frankly I jury rigged one and it works "good enuf."
If you handhold your camcorder - always think "tripod." Anchor your elbows on your chest (or gut) and have the finder against your eye. Three points of contact, just like a tripod. This can vary, e.g. eyepiece snug and arms resting on a table. Or putthe camera on a rock.
Watch the news and other shows, usually, it's a series of "locked down" camera shots; while the camera will follow the movement, it is unobtrusive. Editing is the key that puts the story together, not camera movements.*
Pan and zoom for a REASON, don't try to "sweep" the landscape like an army radar. If you do a "zoom for effect", consider doing a reverse of the zoom. Sometimes in post, you will find what you thought would work out in the field, doesn't and you will wish you had shot the reverse (e.g. zooming in, vs out)
Again do movement for a reason: a zoom in to highlight a feature not apparent in the wide shot. or zoom out to show that feature "tight" and later on where it "fits" in the picture. Useful also to lend scale, e.g. climber on mountain peak. I harp on camera movement, because it is the biggest thing that separates the home video crowd from the serious people.
A great substitute to a broad pan or zoom is to establish a wide shot, or medium shot. Then shoot individual tight shots. In post, you can do nice dissolves.
Shooting people: Shoot at subjects eye level, maybe a little above or below.* Get on your knees for kids.
Remember the "perp walk" the guy in handcuffs w/ a news camera in his face. We shooters shot him that way 'cause when u get in close and stay wide, the cameraman's shakiness is minimized, even when the shooter is moving with the action.
The tighter the zoom, the more you need good "legs" (Tripod) to stand on.
Be aware of the light. Lighting can make a subject look flat or dynamic. Observe people carefully, you will find cool angles with experience. Mostly, I try to not shoot towards the sun.
Watch out for strong backlight- don't be afraid to close curtains etc. to knock it down. Who wants to see shilouhettes?
Shoot anough video so the person who edits it can acutally edit it. At least 10 seconds of each shot, if possible. Also try to get two takes when possible. Someone's scratching their nose somewhere in your raw tape. Also, Plan on a tape creases, etc. ruining your tape.
Have tape head cleaner, lens cleaner, battery, spare tape handy.
A small piece of sticky back velcro on the lens cap and the opposite piece on the camcorder in an unobtrusive place will keep the lens cap from getting in your shot or flapping in the breeze.
*All rules are made to be broken. Sometimes for dramatic effect a fast zoom or perhaps looking up at a person (like they are a giant) is effective. But break the rules for a specific reason, not out of ignorance.
...and remember, you are telling a story. If you can plan the story in advance, you will better situate yourself to get the shots that embellish the story. If you randomly "spray and pray" well, it'll look like a home movie.