Guide to Using DV Video Cameras for Indie Films

DV video cameras are what makes it possible for filmmakers to create their own indie films at a much lower cost than it would be to shoot with actual film. Plus, these cameras arguably make the filmmaking process a lot easier. For example, when you're shooting on film, you need to use a light meter in order to determine what the exposure levels of the image would be. With DV video cameras, you can light by using the monitor to see how it's looking. Here is a breif guide for properly using DV cameras on indie films.

Placing the Camera

Once the camera is built and ready to work, the first thing to do with it on any shoot is to determine it's placement. Once the camera position is determined, you will set the size of your frame by choosing a lens. Some DV cameras have fixed zoom lenses where you can control how wide and tight the shot will be. 

Setting the Exposure

On cameras that use high quality lenses, the exposure level (aperture) affects the depth of field within the frame. With cameras that have fixed lens, depth of field is rarely an issue. Factors beyond your control might be determining what setting your exposure will be. If you're shooting outdoors, then everything is dependent on the sun. If you're shooting indoors, then stuff like existing lights in the location or windows may determine what setting you will be shooting at. 

Setting up a Monitor

When shooting with a DV camera, it is best to hook up a monitor feed to it so you can see what you are doing. There usually is a view finder on the camera, but it is very small. A larger monitor will help you see the details.

Lighting the Scene

Using your monitor as a guide, you will light the scene. Some DV cameras have a feature called zebra lines. This feature creates animated zebra lines on top of overexposed areas in the frame so that you can easily spot and eliminate them. Your goal for lighting the scene is to keep the exposures balanced so that over- and under-exposed areas are minimized, unless you want that effect for artistic reasons.

White Balance

At this point, you are almost ready to shoot. Now you have to white balance your camera. Light comes in many different color temperatures and while your eyes automatically adjust for this, your camera will not. To compensate, you will have to hold a white card in front of the lens so that it fills the entire frame. Then, hit white balance so that it knows what color true white should be.

Working with Tapes

If you're using a camera that shoots on tape, then you should get into the habit of labeling the tape before you shoot so that you know what's on it later.

Recording

When the camera starts recording, you want to wait a moment for it to get up to speed before you call action. This way you won't miss anything. Once your shoot is over, you can easily transfer the video onto your computer so that you can start editing.