Digital Storytelling – low cost video equipment

Thanks to all those who attended my workshop on digital storytelling as a participatory process at Media Trust’s Digital Storytelling conference last week (7 Nov 2013) at Channel 4. Digital storytelling banner_v2

Towards the end of the session we looked at the practicalities of the process and I promised I would put up some information about the equipment we have been using at Media Trust.

The kit I am going to outline should currently cost approximately £160-£170, though prices will vary.  The camera generally sees the biggest price variation depending on demand, and if the previous years are anything to go by as we approach Xmas the price will increase!  Everything else though has been stable from a price point of view over the last few years.

The camera we have been using with our digital video work in communities around the UK is the Kodak Playtouch; it’s small, easy to use, robust and delivers high quality video that is ideal for websites.  The other huge benefit of this camera, unlike many others in this price bracket, is that it takes an external microphone, and getting good sound is vital if your video is to be successful.

UPDATE (13 May 2014): In 2012 Kodak announced that it was getting out of the camera business. However in the interim period the Kodak Playtouch camera has continued to be available thanks to existing supplies and, presumably, some production as they wind down their camera division.  Finally, it seems that may no longer be the case.  So whilst the information in this post is correct you may have trouble getting hold of this camera, with ebay the most likely alternative option.  I am looking at other cameras and will post something soon about different low cost camera options.

We have used two types of microphones.  The first is the Audio Technica ATR 3350, it’s a tie-pin/lapel microphone that has its own battery unit and runs off the small cell style batteries which normally have a pretty good lifespan.  This is perhaps best used for what I would term “documentary style” interviews where hearing the interviewer’s questions is perhaps not the overriding concern.

The second microphone is the Yoga EM-278, this is a reporter-style handheld microphone, good if you want to film someone in front of the camera interviewing people or more than one person is being interviewed.

The tripod we have used is a Hama Star 63, it’s pretty robust but to be honest you can find a wide range of tripods that are all very reasonably priced, so take your pick.

If you’d like to see some examples of this kit in action take a look this video from Fair Share Trust’s Media Impact Evaluation programme that I spoke about at the workshop.

Or this one from e:merge in Bradford.

As usual, all the normal caveats apply.   As much as I like and use this myself and at Media Trust, this is not an endorsement of all or any of this equipment so you buy at your own risk.  Nonetheless I hope this is useful and happy shooting!

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