Light Equipment for Video Photo Journalism

Yesterday I was helping a neighbor make an under-two-minute video for a TV announcement at a community cable station.  See it below.


Beforehand I had had my friend write a narration,  and then asked him to meet me at a local greenhouse, where I knew the light was bright and diffused.

digi_pro_100_tripod I traveled light.  All I brought to this shoot was a pocket sized point-and-shoot digital camera that takes excellent HD video , a lightweight tripod (the Quantaray Digi Pro 100), and an AA battery powered digital field recorder that’s smaller than many TV remotes (the Olympus LS-10).

I had my friend record the narration about arms length away into the LS-10.  I told him not to mind flubs, just to keep speaking, because I can take out the mistakes with a sound editor.  (I use the free program, Audacity).

Since talking heads aren’t very interesting, I decided to tell his story mostly with still shots which we had already accumulated over  several months, and to use short video clips to introduce him as the narrator and finally to conclude the video.  Using Sony Vegas Pro as my video editor I assembled the stills and video clips and the sound file, and had the finished video on YouTube within three hours.

Advances in digital recording of visuals and sound have made it possible for amateurs like me to produce excellent and timely video; and social networks have made the dissemination of such content speedy and cheap. If you would like to be a travel-light video photo journalist, here are some tips:

1. Research your choice of camera.  You’ll probably want one that you can stick in a shirt pocket, that takes sharp pictures and HD video.  There are oodles of choices, but here are some that meet those criteria:  the Samsung Dual View TL 225, the Canon Power Shot SD940 IS, the Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-TX1, and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FP8.

2. Pick a light tripod with legs short enough to slip into a daypack or a small suitcase.  You won’t need a very fancy or expensive one to support a light weight camera.  You probably won’t even need a special video head for following action, because with a point-and-shoot camera you’ll need to be VERY close to your subject to get adequate sound recording.  Try to do much of your video shooting on the tripod, as this will give you the most professional results.

olympus-ls-10-front 3. Pay attention to sound quality.  While a digital field recorder will give you the best sound, it is possible to record surprisingly crisp sound by holding your digital camera’s microphone area close to the source of sound and just film, without concerning yourself with what you’re getting visually.  Later, in a video editing program you can strip away the sound portion of the video vile and you will then have a good digital sound file to work with.  However, if you’re budget permits, do spring for a good, portable, battery operated digital field recorder such as the Olympus LS-10, pictured to the left.  Yes, one can still use cassette tapes to record narrations, but it’s difficult to convert their analogue output to digital, which is what you’ll need to do video production.  And besides, small tape recorders have moving parts that almost always leave a hissing sound in your recording.

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