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First year - it all works - how do I photograph it!


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My show is working fine and now I want to capture it on video (still shots too). I've looked at several posted videos and not to throw rocks here, but I'd like to do a better job. Most videos are not exposed properly and are out of focus.

My first attempts at capturing my display on video have confronted the following challenges:

1) It's dark out there! and my inexpensive video camera makes terrible exposure decisions in the dark. And of all things my lights turn on and off and the camera is forever chasing a good exposure with old information.

Answer: Turn off "auto exposure" and select a fixed exposure.

2) My video goes in and out of focus as lights turn on and off. I don't have a great answer for this. Turning off auto focus is not possible on this particular camera. Grrrr.

3) Hey, what happened to my house? My lights are in the yard. In my video the building is dark (not there). So there is no "context" to my video. Just some lights coming on and off. This could be going on anywhere in the world. Have any of you dealt with this?

Possible answer: Illuminate my house with a wash?


What I'm hoping is to start a thread on how to take good video at night. If anyone can share some tips or success stories it would sure help.

What specific camera are you using? What did you have to over ride in camera setup? etc.


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Full manual control is very desirable for the reasons you already mentioned.

To get around the manual focus and black house issue, shot your video at dusk or dawn. The ambient lighting will help the focus from chasing the lights and you will be able to see your house. Washes will help but ambient lighting is better.

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Wow, what a simple solution. I made a quick test during twilight tonight and the results were much, much better. Heck, I can even see the camera controls! I've got a few more things to try (like recording black on the tape before I use it) and will post here again.

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I started this thread so I'll offer an update with a few things I've concluded about videotaping.

1) Taping at sunset works pretty well. (The big problem with sunrise is I'd prefer to be asleep.) Overcast skies help too, especially in my case where the sun sets behind my house.

2) Turn off automatic exposure control. Pick a single exposure setting. Unfortunately, large bright objects in your display may overexpose. Consider turning down their intensity for the video taping.

3) Your video camera will record sound and I recommend you supply sound to the camera. In my case I broadcast my sound over FM radio. I plug the headset jack of a portable radio into my camera.

4) Do NOT use the sound you capture in step 3! You've got a much better soundtrack already. Import the original sound (MP3, WAV) into your video editing software. You can use the sound you captured in step 3 to help you sync up the original MP3 to the video. Just look at the waveforms of the two sound tracks.

Don't try to sync the imported MP3 with the video, it's too hard and to my surprise, you can actually notice very small errors. Timing mismatches of 1/10th of a second are actually noticeable.

5) My Canon Elura 100 video camera is not up to the job. It's a nice camera, but I need a shorter lens for a wider field of view and I want more control. So I'm going to rent a better camera for a couple days. This may seem extreme but so is this hobby!

Hopefully my next post will be my last and I'll be declaring victory.

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