Starting Video from Scratch: Equipment

It’s always fun to get the best and coolest gear. Any time I can lay my hands on the latest and greatest, I try to snatch it up. That said, you don’t necessarily need top of the line gear to produce quality video. What you need is good, solid gear that can withstand the beating that 15-18 year olds will eventually put on your equipment. Note – the following is what works for our program. I have not been asked to endorse anything, but if Apple or Canon is listening…..

That said, here are some video production essentials:
  1. Camera – Fairly self-explanatory, right? You need a camera to do video. But what kind should you buy? High def vs. standard def…it really doesn’t matter. What really matters is finding a video camera that is compatible with your editing software. For example, we shoot on Canon Vixia HD cameras because they shoot in a format that Final Cut Pro can recognize. When choosing a camera, look under “specifications” and find out what video format it shoots on. Then, cross reference that with your editing software to see if it’s compatible. Personally, I would also suggest looking at cameras that shoot on SD/SDHC card versus miniDV tape or hard drive. MiniDV tapes get eaten and hard drives crash. And they never do it over a holiday break, either.  Also, buy a camera that has a jack for external microphones. What We Use: Canon Vixia line of HD cameras.
  2. Tripods/Tripod heads – Buy a tripod. Don’t even think twice about it. It’s the one piece of equipment that the pros from the amateurs. The rule of thumb with tripods is “you get what you pay for”. If they offer a free tripod, expect that type of quality. Buy one with a fluid head and a leveling bubble mechanism. Essential for beginners. What We Use: Manfrotto tripod kits. They’re durable and lightweight.
  3. Microphones – It’s always good to have at least one set of microphones. We use wireless mics because they are a lot more versatile. More expensive isn’t necessarily better in this case. Also, make your students wear headphones when using the mics. I bought some big, obnoxious headphones for the room just in case my students forgot theirs. Why big and obnoxious? So they don’t disappear. Haven’t lost a set yet. What We Use:  Senheiser wireless mics and Azden wireless mics. Senheisers have been good to us, but the Azden’s – while not as many bells and whistles – are a lot more durable.
  4. Cases – If you’re going to plunk down this much money on equipment, you need to protect it. Buy cases for everything. Prices range from $10 to $200, but you’ll need to budget for cases. Trust me. What We Use: We have a hodepodge of cases. Case Logic, Porta Brace and Kata are all in my equipment room.
  5. Editing Software – This is usually the part that generates the most discussion. There are a lot of options out there. iMovie, Final Cut, Adobe Premiere, Avid, Windows Movie Maker are just some of the more common ones out there. For something as important as this, we’ll devote another post to it.
TIP: When you buy all of this equipment, make sure you have a decent method to keep track of it. With all this technology at my disposal, I still go old school have the kids sign it out on a spreadsheet. They have to get my signature before it leaves. We also name every piece of equipment. It’s corny, but the kids love to name new equipment (e.g. – Fire, Snooki, Swine, JT, Carmen San Diego, Owen, etc.). I’ve found it’s a lot easier to ask where “Fire” is versus “Camera #3”.

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