Videotaping the many motorhome models and styles available will provide you with an audiovisual record to assist in your purchase decision.
By Roger Lee Miller, F238233
Motorhomers love to talk about their coaches, no matter whether the conversations take place at FMCA conventions and rallies or while visiting neighboring campers. And there’s so much to talk about “” horsepower, length, high-tech accessories, comfort, color, and on and on. Can you think of any other purchase — aside from your brick-and-mortar home “” that requires making as many choices as when buying a motorhome?
Shopping for a home on wheels can be a flustering experience for anyone. It’s not uncommon for weary shoppers to drive away from a motorhome dealer’s lot more confused than when they arrived. And how many times have you returned from an RV show carrying plastic bags stuffed with brochures and business cards, and then tried to remember who said what about which models? Here’s an idea that can make your selection easier the next time you go motorhome shopping: take your camcorder along.
Before we purchased our first motorhome, my wife, Adele, and I visited numerous dealers and RV shows with our camcorder in hand. The salespeople were always eager to demonstrate their coaches for us to videotape. We also toured just about every motorhome manufacturer in Indiana and Iowa. When visiting the factories, you should be able to record some portions of the tours, but don’t be surprised to find some videotaping restrictions, as most companies do not want to reveal all of their secrets.
Without question, RV shows can be overwhelming. Before you is a sea of coaches, each with different desirable features. When you begin videotaping your shopping experience, start with a wide shot of as many units as you can see in the camera, then pan across to get the rest of them in. During this shot, identify the date and location by saying something such as: “This is the Lake County RV Show, September 30, 2003.”
What are you looking for in a motorhome? For first-time buyers, this can be a difficult question to answer. Before we bought our first coach, we really didn’t know. So, we started out by comparing the advantages of the various motorhome models. Choose the units you like and prepare to make the movie.
- The purpose of shooting an RV shopping video is to gather and preserve information. It need not be a work of art. Nevertheless, here are a few tips for making your shopping tape both informative and enjoyable to watch.
- he shortest length of a scene should be approximately six seconds. (Count from one to six under your breath.)
- Don’t overshoot. The narration or the action will usually determine the end of a scene.
- Don’t use the zoom function too much. Moving in and out unnecessarily is annoying.
- A moving picture doesn’t mean that you have to continuously move the camera. Stop and restart shooting by using the “Pause” button as you move from one area of the coach to the next.
Start shooting each vehicle with a wide shot of the exterior. Get as much of the motorhome in the picture as you can. This is not always easy. It’s often impossible to get far enough away from the vehicle to fit the entire coach in the frame. Or, other units may be in the way. Overcome this with a pan shot. Start with the front of the coach and pan the camera along the sides of the motorhome to the back. At the same time, identify the coach by saying, “This is a new 2003 40-foot Super Motorhome with three slideouts.” Then, get separate shots of the front, back, and sides. Shoot close-ups of special features, such as a satellite dish or a freezer that slides out from the coach. Once you’ve finished with the exterior, you’re ready to go inside.
When Adele and I were shopping for our current motorhome, we split the demonstration and camera operation responsibilities. For the interiors, I photographed Adele as she took me on a video tour of the living quarters. We started in the dining area and kitchen, where she described and demonstrated the appliances. We pulled out the drawers and noted the workmanship. Then we moved to the bedroom and worked our way past the closets and bathroom. At the front, Adele sat on the sofa and chairs and described the sound and television equipment.
It can be very difficult to photograph the interiors of motorhomes. Available light may be low, quarters are restrictive, and it’s often hard to get everything in one frame. Using the widest setting on your zoom lens, start with a shot of your shopping partner, then follow the action with the camera. This will mean tilting up and down, and panning from one side to the other. The best way to shoot motorhome bathrooms, I’ve found, is to start with the ceiling and tilt down to include the sink and lavatory.
Usually you’ll have enough interior ambient light when vehicles are parked outside in daylight. Motorhomes parked indoors may trigger the “low light” lamp in your camera. These pictures can be dark and grainy. If this is the case, keep shooting, but be more thorough in describing the rooms and features.
If a sales representative is present, ask permission to videotape the motorhome and his or her presentation. You’ll find out that you’re not the first person to shop with a camcorder. Most salespeople are extroverts who enjoy being videotaped while giving you a tour of the motorhome and answering your questions. Ask the representative to demonstrate the motorhome’s features for you while you tape. And keep the camcorder running! If you miss something, ask the salesperson to repeat it. The important thing is to record everything that is said. Be sure to ask about technical specifications, prices, and financing plans.
Once you’ve toured the motorhome’s interior, go back outside and ask the salesperson to demonstrate the awnings, hookups, and other mechanical features. This information also can be helpful after you purchase the motorhome.
Your video shopping trip will require several videocassettes and a battery energy source. Be sure to bring spares of these items when you’re out shopping. The videotape can be reused and, of course, the batteries are rechargeable. If you already own a camcorder and several tapes, videotaping your RV shopping trips shouldn’t cost you a penny.
From the RV show, the dealer’s lot is the next stop. (Or, you may wish to start shopping there.) Begin this tour with a shot of the dealer’s sign and location. Also, record a voice ID. Follow the same format described for shopping at an RV show.
Adele and I changed videotaping hats during a test drive. She took the camera and I took the wheel. As the miles eased by, the camera captured the smile on my face. I talked about the handling and acceleration. The salesperson also made comments that we were able to capture. In addition to providing a visual record, the camera is able to pick up the sound of the engine and other noises or rattles in the coach. Shooting through the windshield will portray movement, so zoom back to the widest lens setting to minimize camera shake. A word of caution: use manual focus when shooting through windows or the windshield; otherwise, the auto focus will adjust to the glass and the scenery may be fuzzy.
When you find the perfect motorhome, ask the salesperson to explain to you “” and your video camera “” the sales contract, including the down payment; the monthly payments; the terms and coverage of the warranty; the insurance cost and coverage; the license costs; and the sales tax.
With your collection of tapes queued, you can review all you have seen and been told during your motorhome shopping excursions. From the comfort of your home “” or motorhome “” you can reevaluate the units you toured, compare the differences, and make a clear, informed decision.
Once you’ve picked up your new motorhome, hit the open road with the camcorder and make video memories of each new adventure. Several of the videotaping tips described here will help you make better family videos, too. And the next time you go shopping for a new car or home, don’t forget to take along the camcorder.
Three basic terms are used to describe motion picture composition: wide shot, medium shot, and close-up. These terms indicate the relationship between the subject’s size and the picture in the viewfinder.
Here are several composition examples:
- A wide shot would include the entire motorhome.
- In a medium shot, you would include the front half of the motorhome or a portion of the interior, such as the kitchen or living room.
- In a close-up, you would fill the viewfinder completely with a shot of the engine, stove, TV set, etc.
- The following terminology also is helpful to know:
- A scene is an uninterrupted video picture that begins when the camera starts recording, and ends when the camera stops recording.
- When the scene starts with a wide shot, zoom in and the subject gets closer and bigger.
- When the scene begins with a close-up, zoom out and the subject gets farther away and smaller.
- To pan, move the camera on a horizontal plane either left to right or right to left.
- To tilt, move the camera on a vertical plane either up to down or down to up.