Zoom and Focus
Usually the “zoom-in” is used to emphasize an intimate or emotional moment, or to highlight an important element or detail in a wider shot. As a program-maker, with the zoom-in you can dictate where your audience’s attention should be focused. You can pick out and draw them towards what you consider to be important in the scene that you are filming.
Likewise, with the “zoom- out” you can initially pick out a detail in a scene–perhaps the face of a person shouting– and then widen the shot to show that the person is part of a huge crowd. You can use zoom-out shots to disclose information that is not evident at the start of the shot so that the audience can gradually begin to understand what is happening in the scene and why.
As with panning and tilting it is always good to hold your shot for at least 3 seconds before and after either your zoom-in or zoom-out, again to give your audience time to register the scene you are filming before the camcorder moves.
But too many zoom shots in succession are very difficult to watch. Again you will be in danger of making your audience sea-sick from watching your program. It’s better to use the zoom before you start filming to make sure you have your framing as you need it rather than during shots.
Another thing to be aware of, whether you are zooming in or out, is that very close-up shots taken from a camera position that is quite far away from the subject will amplify any slight camera shake that may be occurring and make the image very difficult to watch. If you want to film a subject close-up, it is better to move nearer to it if you can, to limit camera shake, rather than to stand quite a distance away and zoom in to create a closer shot. You can do these detailed cutaway shots afterwards, far more easily.
- Zoom in for detail
- Zoom out for context
- Move nearer to subject for close-ups
- Use zooms rarely
Almost every camcorder is fitted with an autofocus facility. This means that you do not have to worry about making sure the image in your viewfinder is not out of focus or blurred. The camcorder will automatically ensure that what you are filming is sharply in focus. This is an excellent facility if there is no or very little movement in your shot. However, if you are filming a large group of people on a march or a parade, the camcorder may be confused as to what it is meant to be focusing on and repeatedly give you blurred images while it tries to rest on a subject. Here it may be preferable to use the manual focus facility.
Manual focus allows you to manually adjust the focus ring on the lens and keep the subject(s) in focus.
- Autofocus is best in situations of less activity
- Manual focus is best with moving subjects, but should be used only after practice
What Next? Viewpoint and Direction