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Getting Started Part 1

Some of you will have various levels of experience and may already know what is equipment is needed and how to use it. We want to make sure everyone has the basic information to capture these amazing stories, so we've included bonus chapters for those who need to get started from the ground up. Unless you are a professional or a very advanced and experienced videographer, we strongly suggest you read through this information at least once. There are many challenges that are unique to these projects. Let us save you some time and trouble.

A complete technical discussion about equipment is beyond the scope of this book, however we can share some basic information that will get you started.

The most important component of our Life History Videos is the content, yet we want to give you enough information to make them look and sound the best you can with what you have to work with. First we'll cover the basics you need to get started, and then we'll get into the optional things that can make your videos better. First you need a video camera. A camcorder, the most common device for recording visual and audio images, transfers information to a tape or disk device within the camera itself. Technically, a video camera must be connected to a separate machine to create a record of the images however in most cases, people use this term interchangeably with camcorder. So will we.

It's a good idea to use the camcorder you now own for your first Life History Video. If you don't currently own a camera, you can either buy or rent one. Start by looking in your local yellow pages under "Video Equipment Sales and Rentals". And just to let you know, I've been there. In fact several of my first Life History Videos were shot with rental cameras. Of course I was bare bones, so I put the camera on a table, a piece of kids furniture the children weren't using and got to it. My subjects were very low in the frame and as you can imagine, the movements were jerky, but that video is still some of the only footage we have of those relatives and the video has been copied and passed around the family for the last 20 or so years.

If you do rent, see if they can give you a short lesson in shooting basics with this camera and ask to have a manual included. Try to talk with a couple of vendors to get the best price on equipment rentals. Don't rent equipment that is beyond the scope of your technical ability. Talk with the person who does the renting long enough to make sure they understand your experience level and what you intend to do with this equipment. You can also talk with other family members who would like to have this done that may own a camera you could use. Always read the owner's manual, and be sure to practice with the camera you'll be using before you begin shooting. Once you've created a couple of videos, then you can decide if it's worth the time and expense to purchase a newer camcorder to improve the quality of your work.

We will continue this discussion regarding additional equipment needs in a Part 2 on this very important subject.

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