Don’t get me wrong, I love drooling over the latest DSLR features or bloviating about the superiority of Final Cut Pro. But the equipment doesn’t make the journalist, and the people with the best story to tell usually aren’t the ones with the most money to invest in equipment.
For example, when we started the Common Language Project back in 2006, we reported our way across Asia, building a multimedia website from scratch as we went, and the only gear we had was an ancient Canon DSLR, a minidisc recorder and cheap laptop with free software.
In that spirit, here’s hope for storytellers and journalists on a budget: you can get everything you need for mobile multimedia production for under $1000. With this basic toolkit you’ll be ready to record, edit and distribute both video and photo slideshows with audio.
No need for separate video and still cameras anymore, get used to having it all in the same place. These cameras go wide, react quickly, and shoot HD video – which is a must these days. If you really want a separate rig to shoot video, pick up a flip video camera (they’re the namesake of Flip the Media, so they must be pretty great)
It’s not a $2000 video camera that separates professional video from home movies. It’s that the professionals use a tripod. At this price, you’re not getting a tripod that will deliver smooth camera moves — your best bet is to keep the camera still and let the action happen in front of it. I know, your tiny camera looks funny on that big tripod. You weren’t doing this to look cool, were you?
Zoom H4n Kit with headphones SD card and tripod $350
Wait, this isn’t right. My audio recorder costs as much as my camera??? Yep. You’ll use this guy to record ambient sounds and interviews and then put still photos over the top. You’ll use it to record sync sound for videos, to cover up the bad quality audio you get from your camera. And you’ll use it to record interviews so you can quote the person later without having to take perfect notes.
The quality of audio will make or break your work, so it’s worth the money to go pro now.
Plus the little tripod and SD card that comes in this kit works with your camera too, and it comes with headphones – wear em!
These are great for mic-ing video interviews—you’ll get good sound running into your audio recorder, but you won’t have the recorder in your shot. Make sure the cord is long enough.
Software: Now its time to edit your material. Luckily software companies like to sell starter versions of their fancy programs for cheap (or older versions that are still perfectly good), and kind-hearted programmers like to give away great freeware programs for, well…free.
These are starter versions of what the pros use for photo and video editing. They’re cross-platform, provide almost all the functionality you’ll ever need, and if you do decide to upgrade to the pro versions, (or to other video editors like Final Cut Pro) the transition will be easy.
You can always edit your audio in video editing software, but this program is made just for audio editing (though it can be a little glitchy – save your work often!)
Soundslides (Plus) $70 (or $40 for regular)
Easy Flash-based slideshows – the Plus version lets you and add motion to your pictures (like Ken Burns!) and do slideshows without sound, too. Warning: the finished product isn’t a single file, it’s an entire folder, so you’ll need access to a server to host it.
Vimeo Free (or $50/year for pro version)
Like a classy, high-powered version of Youtube. Hosting your videos on Vimeo will make you look like a pro, and you’ll be hooked into a community of people who are passionate about video. Flickr now hosts both photos and video, too, so its a great alternative.
Look at that, a few bucks to spare! Put it in your piggy bank and start saving for a Canon Rebel T2i ($850 with lens). It will make a great addition to this kit once you have the money, and your point and shoot camera will still come in handy as a backup.
In the meantime, happy shooting!
(Post any technical questions to the comments section and I’ll reply. And if you want a second opinion, check out a couple of other multimedia toolkit suggestions from Adam Westbrook and Rory Moulton)
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