Join Anthony Q. Artis for an in-depth discussion in this video Learning camera anatomy, part of Video Foundations: Cameras and Shooting.
I know that the typical video camera can be pretty intimidating for some people, especially when there are so many buttons, switches, and dials. So I want to just start off by going over what some of these things are. While the style and exact combination of buttons would differ from camera to camera, for the most part all Prosumer video cameras have roughly the same group of buttons, often in the same general location on the camera. Now I am not going to go over every single button, but I will cover all the most commonly used buttons, and if you're not sure about some of the terms and concepts I use in this movie like, Phantom Power or Gain, no worries, I am going to explain what all of these things are and how to use them throughout the rest of this course.
Right now, I'm just going over where the buttons are and giving you a short explanation of what they do. Starting with the right side of the camera, you'll find the hand grip and in the thumb position of the hand grip would be the Record button, used to Start and Stop the camera when you're ready to shoot. This is also where the camera has a Power switch to turn it On and Off. If you don't find your Power switch here, you're likely to find it somewhere on the back of the camera. Right near the record button, you may also find a smaller button labeled Record Review or Record Check.
This button allows you to check the last shot you recorded on the camera without having to switch to Playback mode first. The zoom control is normally on the top of the hand grip, right above the Record button. This makes it easy for you to Start, Stop, and adjust your composition all with just one hand. Another common feature you may find on the top your camera handle is the little Secondary Zoom Control. This is convenient for pulling off zoom moves when you're cradling the camera or standing on the left side of the camera away from the main Zoom control.
On many cameras the Primary Zoom control is pressure sensitive, whereas the Secondary Zoom Control on the camera handle zooms at a smooth constant speed. Look for a switch that you can also use to set the speed of the zoom for the Secondary Zoom Control. On most models you'll find a Secondary Record button located on top of the camera, which may be more convenient depending on your camera position. Now the location of the external audio switches does vary a little more than most of the buttons.
So I am just going to cover the common audio buttons you will find and name the various spots you are most likely to find them on your camera. If your camera has them, the XLR Audio Ports for plugging in mics and other sound devices will likely be on the right side of the camera. Either on the camera body itself, or they may possibly be on the little black audio box on or near the top of the handle. And somewhere near the XLR Audio Ports will be controls for setting the level of the audio signal to either Line/Mic level.
On many Panasonic cameras like this one, the Mic/Line Switch is actually located on the front of the camera. Now let's take a look over here at the LCD panel. Right here underneath of the LCD screen, we have some more audio controls. Now these switches are used to select where the particular audio for an XLR Input is being recorded, Audio Channel 1 or Audio Channel 2. On this camera the switch has another position that let you choose between the built-in Internal Microphone or the External XLR Inputs.
On some other cameras this will be a separate switch. If your external microphones require power, you will need to turn on the Phantom Power switch. That switch may be located inside the LCD panel as it is here, but it also may be on the back of your camera or right below the XLR Ports. Often found on the left or backside of the camera are the Audio Level Dials for adjusting the volume of your audio as it's recorded. So now let's talk about some Exposure controls. The Iris or Aperture for controlling exposure will either be a ring on the lens marked with f-stops, or maybe a more simple wheel control on the left side of the camera like this one, depending on your particular model.
Also near the Lens is likely to be an Auto Iris button used to turn Auto Iris or Auto Exposure on and off. And about the same spot near the lens will be a ND Filter Switch which we'll use when it's very bright outside. Similarly, the Focus Control will either be a ring on the lens or maybe a wheel on the side of the camera. In both cases our Focus or Aperture ring is preferable to a wheel when choosing a camera. Not far from the Focus Control, you may find a button or switch to go between Auto focus and Manual focus mode.
Right near that you may also find a button that says Push Auto. This button is for temporarily using Auto focus when you are in Manual focus mode. The camera will stay on Auto Focus only for as long as you hold the button in, then go back to Manual Focus when you release it. You should also find a button labeled Focus Assist or Expanded Focus. This button is to magnify the image on the camera's LCD screen to help you focus. On this camera it's located on the left side, but on many cameras this button may be located near the Record button on the right side as well.
Somewhere on the left side of many cameras, you'll also find a White Balance Select switch. This is a switch you use to choose between Manual, Auto, and Preset White Balance modes in the camera. Some cameras have a full Auto switch like this one that will set Iris, Focus, and White Balance to Auto all at once. Remember, if you want to manually adjust any of those controls--and I think you will most of the time--this switch should stay set to Manual. Located right near the White Balance Selector is usually a Gain Selection Switch, which typically has three different settings to help you when shooting in low light situations.
The values for the Gain switch can be usually selected in the cameras Menu, but may also be labeled next to the switch. Also in the panel under the LCD screen, you may find a button to turn the Color Bars on and off as well. It may simply be labeled Bars as it is here. Another switch or button you should find somewhere on the left side of your camera will be labeled Zebra. This refers to Zebra Stripes, a camera function used to help judge exposure. This switch will allow you to turn the Zebra Stripes on or off and possibly select from different zebra stripe settings.
Also under the LCD panel is a button to select Shutter Speed. There's a lot to talk about Shutter Speed, so make sure you check out that movie for more about that. On the rear of the camera, you'll also find a few more important things. Like I said earlier, a lot of cameras will have the Power Switch on the back, but there's also a pretty good chance that you'll find Card Slots for media cards in the back of the camera as well. This camera works with P2 cards from Panasonic, but some models like Sony cameras may also have card slots on the left side of the camera.
You'll find ports for the cables you'll need to transfer footage and send video usually hidden under little flap like this. The location of these ports varies from model to model. So they could be on the back or right side of the camera or even on the left side of the camera in some cases. You may have to look carefully, because they are often hidden below a rubber or plastic flap and blend into the camera body seamlessly. But inside will be ports for any combination of RCA, Component, USB, or FireWire Cables.
Also on the back of the camera you may find a button or switch to select between Playback mode or Camera mode. Now Panasonic cameras like this one actually have a little joystick for playback control, but many other camera brands they actually have the controls on the top to Start, Stop, Fast Forward, and Rewind footage in playback mode. On many cameras that have a Manual Zoom ring there is also one importance switch to look for, and that's the Manual Servo Switch. It's in plain side on this camera, but on many other models it's actually hidden in the bottom of the camera, near the base of the lens.
Servo is just a fancy word for the Zoom mode. So when you're in manual mode, the zoom is only controlled with the Zoom Ring. When you switch it to Servo mode, the zoom is automatic and controlled with a Rocker control by the Focus button. So those all are the basic buttons that you are likely to find on any dedicated Prosumer level camera. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the locations and play with the different buttons and switches on your camera and read your manual. If you misplaced your manual or didn't get one with the rental camera, you can almost always find it online as a free PDF document download.
Now while it may seem like a lot, remember that once you set up your camera, you are only dealing with a small handful of buttons most of the time you shoot. So with the little experience and study, using these buttons and switches will become second nature. I am going to talk a lot more about what most of these buttons do in many of the other movies in this course, so definitely check those out as well.
- Exploring the different types of video cameras
- Understanding how to focus
- Shooting with shallow depth of field
- Understanding exposure
- Using ND filters to correct overexposure
- Using gain to brighten an underexposed shot
- Choosing the right shutter speed
- White-balancing a shot
- Working with a tripod
- Shooting handheld
- Using a boom microphone
- Setting up a 4-point lighting scene
- Using corrective gels