Finding a camera to use isn't as hard as you might think. Any home video camera can work - VHS, mini-DV, DVCPro - for the most part, it doesn't matter. Each type of camera has its own pros and cons.
We recommend that you use a digital video camera. Digital camcorders typically have the right output to send your video over the Internet. (This is an online film festival, after all!) Even though this is a FILM festival, we don't recommend using a film camera. If you don't shoot with a digital video camera, you'll need to digitize your film or video to send it us on the Internet. It's a whole lot easy to start with digital video than with anything else.
If you can't bum a camera from your folks or your friends' parents, ask at your school or church. You may have to ask an teacher or counselor to get involved. Just explain to them that you're entering a film festival for young people and they'll probably be more than happy to help out.
Once you find a camera, take lots of time to learn how to use it! Read the instruction manual, not just once, but a couple of times. Before you start making your film, experiment with your camera. Try it with different lighting (inside and outside, early morning and late in the afternoon.) Try all the knobs and buttons, especially the ones that control the exposure. Look at all the video you shoot to see how the various adjustments change the look of the video.
C|Net has an overview of the different video camera formats. This will give you an idea of the pros and cons of each.
StudentFilmakers.com has a forum where you can ask questions about various video cameras.
No matter what sort of film/video you're making, there are some basic techniques that will make your movie stronger and more appealing.
Keep it steady
Avoid zooming in and out - this calls attention to the camera, and away from the action. Get and use a tripod whenever possible. When panning the camera, go slow and smooth. As much as possible, plan all your camera moves beforehand. Know where you're going to start and stop.
Keep it short and simple
Unless you're recording an interview for a documentary, plan each one of your shots beforehand - and try to keep each shot as short as possible. It's really hard to keep the camera steady for a long time without taking a break.
Let there be light!
While most digital cameras can make a decent picture in low light, that's not the same as making a good picture. Most inside shooting could be helped by simply taking a clamp-on reflector lamp with a 150w bulb (something you can buy at the hardware store for $10) and point it to the ceiling. This will give you nice soft lighting.
When you're shooting outside, always, always, always shoot with the light coming from behind the camera! If the sun is pointing into the camera, all your actors will be in shadow and you won't be able to see their faces.
Can you hear me now?
All video camera come with built in microphones. Don't use them if you can avoid it! Go to RadioShack and buy an external microphone. Good ones can be found for under $25.00. Get the microphone as close to the action as possible! While your at it, get an inexpensive pair of headphones to listen to the sound while your recording.
Borrow a computer
Microsoft and Apple both have free video editing software available.. On Apple machines, it's iMovie . For Windows XP, it's Windows Movie Maker . While these come preloaded on recent versions of Windows XP and OSX, you may have to purchase the software if you're using an older computer.
Avid Technologies, the leader in professional video editing for film and TV, has a free, stripped-down version of their editing software, that can run on either Macs or PC. Avid Free DV is more complex than either iMovie or Windows Movie Maker, but comes with many more features.
Here are some good resources for learning how to edit:
Editing From Start To Finish A four-part article that covers all the basics of editing - from VideoMaker Magazine:
Super-human editing tips from VideoMaker Magazine.
StudentFilmakers.com has a forum to ask all sorts of questions about editing.