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(ARA) – A child’s graduation is a time for celebration for the whole family. And just about every family wants those moments captured for life. But we’ve all watched grainy, out-of-focus videos that sometimes even miss the graduate’s big moment on stage. Even if you’ve never picked up a camera, with a few simple tips, you can make sure the family memories you capture are worth saving.

No matter how state-of-the-art a camera is, if you don’t know how to use it, you shouldn’t start learning at the big event. “Get familiar with your equipment,” says Ben Gottfried, digital filmmaking and video production instructor at The Art Institutes International Minnesota. “Read the manual, test different lighting conditions. It will increase your comfort level with the camera and make for better shots.”

Now that you know how to use your camera, make sure you’re in a good spot to get the right shots, says Ted Long, academic director for digital filmmaking and video production, visual effects and motion graphics and Web design and interactive media at The Illinois Institute of Art – Schaumburg. “Get to the venue early to set up so you don’t have to use the full zoom on your camera from the back of the auditorium.”

And keep it steady. There’s nothing worse than getting a case of motion sickness while watching your family’s special moments. “If you want your video to look good, use a tripod,” says Patrick Roddy, academic director for digital filmmaking and video production and digital photography at The Art Institute of Tucson.

If your grad is speaking at the commencement ceremony or if you want to get interviews with family members about the big day, Long advises you make sure to use an external microphone you plug into the camera instead of the one attached to the camera to ensure that your subjects are audible.

Now that you’re ready to shoot, it’s time to talk about what you should shoot. First, get an establishing shot, says Roddy. A wide shot of the event that shows the grads walking in, the stage and the audience will give your video context.

Gottfried suggests you try to rest on a shot. Don’t excessively zoom or pan and when you do decide to zoom, make sure it’s a slow one. Jarring shots are hard to look at and even harder to edit later. “Shooting a live event can make you anxious to get shots of everything,” he says. “Keep one eye on the viewfinder and the other on the action going on around you and strategically move the camera when necessary.”

“Use the rule of thirds,” says Long. “Think of the picture in the frame consisting of a top third, a center third and a bottom third – the important stuff needs to happen in the middle third.”

Get shots of the event from different angles, recommends Roddy. He suggests families use multiple cameras if possible. Because simple video editing software is available for most computers, it can be fairly easy to edit the two videos together.

And while you’re capturing the day’s events for posterity, don’t forget to take the time to enjoy the celebration.

To learn about The Art Institutes visit, www.artinstitutes.edu/nz.

Author: Andy Quayle

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