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.
I’m getting used to shooting video on a digital SLR.
The big part of video camera design is about the way the operators move them around. The design should enable you to hold the camera at a variety angles while walking/running around – and simultaneously being able to see through the viewfinder. Usually they have a handle and you can press the record button or operate the zoom control effortlessly. The audio should be designed for high quality microphones with robust connectors that are not disturbed by the movement.
And so I’m now getting used to a camera designed to take a single shot from a single place. It does not have the design attributes I’ve mentioned above, or at least they are very limited. This is the essential conflict with this kind of camera. Film techniques are as much about how the camera moves as about how the subject moves; being quickly able to reposition, re-frame or follow while continuing to shoot.
In the early days of cinema the camera was often fixed and all the action was choreographed to happen in front of this fixed point, with the camera often locked to a heavy tripod. We may see a re-visiting of that style.
The quality of photography possible using high quality lenses on a movie digital SLR is their strongest selling point, but I’ll be interested to see what kinds of filming is done on these cameras and whether any fresh innovations will emerge because of the limitations.
I’ve been very interested in the anxiety caused to some flickr photographers with the introduction of video to the site. They diplomatically refer to the videos as moving stills and limit the duration to 90 seconds. But the whole blurring of the boundary between stills photographers and videographers is interesting.
I think the movie DSLRs will be great for making short crafted video loops or possibly shooting interviews. Shooting an interview with a film crew often involves lighting and some very intimidating equipment. I think it may be possible to frame up some very impressive moving portraits of interviewees and achieve an intimacy not possible with heavy film gear. That’s next on my list of things to try.