You may have heard me mention that audio is a vital ingredient in video production. I've lost count of the number of video conversations with sound that you can barely hear. Here's a solution.
The ability to use an external microphone to record sound is essential – a clip on microphone for interviews or a directional microphone on a lead. But it's astonishing that an external microphone connection is a rare feature. There are hardly any video camera with this facility.
In the schools work I have been doing, video interviewing practice is proving very popular. Interviewing hones the children's listening and questioning skills and also provides good content for the school web sites and blogs. Clear recorded audio makes it a lot more rewarding. Flip cameras are very limited.
Thanks to Phil Marshall of KPMS I now know that the Canon M31 Camcorder does have an external mic socket and is available for around £600. It's costly, I know.
The other two issue to go with camerawork are, wobbly shots and flat batteries. The batteries supplied usually last no time at all. A big long life battery will enable you able to shoot for hours and maybe work after a few days in the bag.
Along the camera and battery I'd recommend spending £30 or £40 on a simple video tripod and a cheap lapel microphone on a lead. I'd resist spending lots on the microphone without trying ones that cost only a few pounds. Amazon have a few.
It may seem like a lot of money to spend but with the increasing popularity of school blogs with embedded video, the clarity of the spoken words will be important. Good speaking, good listening, good impression.
There's a lot of frustration over the compatibility of small popular video cameras and some basic editing software packages, as far as I can see. For example the popular Flip cameras produce excellent results but MP4 is not a great editing format and may not even be viewable on some laptops running Microsoft Movie Maker.
I've been having a look at VideoPad which includes a free video editing software version for Windows. I have not tried it in earnest yet but it looks quite neat and can handle a number of file types – probably more flexible than Moviemaker in this respect. It might be a good companion for the Flip cameras, but let's see.
A big weakness with many free video editing packages is the limited number of audio tracks. Generally you can cut the audio with the pictures and add a commentary layer but that's about it. The number of audio tracks is a difference between amateur and professional editing packages. Great audio can have a huge impact for your video.
A lot of fun can be had preparing an exciting audio track so think about using another free programme Audacity to create muti-track audio for your video. You can usually open the video file directly in Audacity, edit the audio and then re-import the finished audio back into the video editing software.
VLC Media Player
Finally, if you have difficulty viewing some video files you might have a look at the free VLC Media Player. It plays many file types and can do some media conversion as well.