The Whole Video Shebang

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Question: What peripherals should I buy for helping shoot video in my classroom?

The IT Guy says:
Once you have selected the video camera you want to use, there are a few things you need to add to your kit to make sure you can take full advantage of the possibilities that video has to offer.

  • Microphones. The number one problem with most classroom videos is muddy audio. Buy at least one lapel mic, the kind that clips to your shirt, and one handheld mic. The lapel mic works best when you are videotaping a single person talking or presenting; the handheld mic can be passed around if you have multiple presenters, or set up on a stand. For more on the handheld mics, note my comments in the my July 31, 2007 tip entitled "Background Noise" (tip on mic types). If you can afford it, wireless microphones give you a lot of flexibility, but they also add a touch of complexity to the process, including making sure the batteries are charged, dealing with radio interference, and so on.
  • Headphones. When you are using a microphone to get the best sound from your presenter, you should be listening to the audio through headphones plugged into the headphone jack on the camera. You don't really know what the recorded audio is going to sound like unless you do this. And even though they look kind of geeky, the best kind to get is the "earmuff" style that covers your ears completely and blocks the background noise. It may seem like a hassle during filming, but it will really pay off when you're editing your videos later!
  • Tripod. The next biggest issue in capturing good video is a tripod. While there are often times when you want the flexibility to move around, many times you really want to have steady images whetn when you record. A tripod will do that for you. When you are comparing models, avoid the really inexpensive tripods. They will work fine when the camera is pointed at a single spot, but cheap tripods won't "pan" (move from side to side or up and down) very well. The motion will be very sticky and jerky, and make for very seasick videos! Better tripods will have fluid heads, which make for much smoother movement and don't cost much more. Another nice option to look for is a quick release plate. Instead of attaching your camera directly to the tripod, you connect the camera to the plate. The plate then quickly snaps on and off the tripod, making it much easier and faster to add or remove the camera from the tripod. Be very careful when using tripods. If someone trips on the power cord or microphone cord, it will yank the camera and tripod over, and your camera will likely not survive the fall!
  • Extra battery. It's always a good idea to have an extra battery charged and ready, just in case.
  • Light. This isn't absolutely necessary, but it can help when you're taping kids indoors. We have been using a simple "clamp lamp" from the hardware store (about $8) and a new variety of compact fluorescent bulb that is the equivalent of a 300 watt incandescent bulb (about $20). All of the brightness with none of the heat!

Lastly, of course, a case of some kind to keep it all in. Hard-sided cases cost more, but they keep your equipment safe when one of your kids drops it down the stairs. While there are more things you could add to this list, these few things will cover the vast majority of issues that get between you and great videos with your kids!

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