Camcorder Controls: How To Use the Level and Center Marks

The best camcorders tend to offer the most features in their camcorder controls. One special feature found in the better camcorders is 'Level and Center Marks'. These special features are designed to assist videographers with their framing. The level mark superimposes a horizontal line across the frame so that you can quickly check to make sure the camera is not slightly tilted. The center mark superimposes an 'x' in the middle of the frame. You can leave these marks on when you're recording because, like zebra lines, these assisting marks do not get recorded to the tape and only appear on your viewer.

Step 1: Accessing the Marks

Every camcorder is different in their menu set ups. Navigate through your camcorder's menu to find the level and center marks option. If you're having trouble finding it, then you should refer to the operator's manual. Not all camcorders have this feature. If you can't find it in the menu, then your camcorder may not have it.

Step 2: Using the Level Marks

For years, there were only two ways to level your camera. One was to mount it to a tripod or other device that has a leveling bubble. If there wasn't a leveling bubble on that device, then you needed to place a torpedo level on top of the camera. We would then make adjustments until the bubble was centered. The other way was to look through the view finder and level by eye, but sometimes that didn't always turn out perfect.

With leveling marks, a perfectly horizontal line appears in the frame, and we can use that as a quick judge. It's a fast and easy way to make sure every frame is perfectly level. It is especially useful when composing shots that have movement, like the tracking shots that come from a steady cam. The operator can use the level mark to make sure the shot stays straight while he is performing the move.

Step 3: Using the Center Marks

Composing a frame that looks great is not an easy thing. You need to arrange people and objects in a manner that directs viewers' attention to places where you want them to look in the frame. The center mark is a helpful tool that lets you know the exact center of your frame so that you can compose everything around it. When framing your shot, you want to avoid placing the subject in the center of the frame. This mark helps you avoid doing that.

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