use a video camera


Students love to see pictures and videos as part of the stories they share.  So capturing good video is a great advantage.  And you have many options.

Highest Quality Options

Have an experienced adult film with a high quality video camera – high quality cameras capture great images and have more options, such as smooth zooms to close up shots.  But these cameras are often too delicate for students to operate.  It’s okay to have a rule that only the grownup touches an expensive and delicate video camera.

Use a tripod with the camera – A tripod is a stand that helps the image on the video camera be stable and steady.  The best kind of tripod has a ball-and-socket swivel head for the connection with the camera.  If you can, avoid a tripod that only swivels up and down or left and right.  Look for one that swivels as many directions as your arm does in your shoulder socket.

Use an attached mic that gets CLOSE to the person you’re recording.  While many video cameras have lenses that let you zoom in, usually you can’t zoom in for a close-up of the sound.  That’s why an attached mic is a big help.  You can give the mic to the person you’re interviewing, and ask that person to hold it QUIETLY.  Have them listen to how the microphone sounds by wearing the headphones, so they understand that touching the mic to clothes or fiddling with the mic will make a lot of sound.  Also suggest that they hold the mic out of site, just below where the video is filming their face, head and shoulders.  Other options are a lapel mic, which is tiny and can be tucked under a person’s collar so it doesn’t show very much.  Or, if you’re fairly close (a foot or so away), you can use a “shotgun” mic that focuses on sound a slight distance away.

Anything Works! Options

Any camera or smart phone with video can serve as a video camera in a pinch.  Avoid using the “telephoto” setting on an inexpensive camera, because it makes the video look very crummy.  Instead, get as close as possible to your subject.  That will make sound recording better, too.  If you don’t have a tripod, have students make their elbows into a tripod.  Either hold the smart phone or video camera with your elbows helping to brace it on a table, or hold your elbows against your chest for a little more stability.  These options actually can work, and with practice, they can get pretty good video.  One very cool option is to assign three difference students to use three different video devices.  Have one student focus on the person being interviewed, with good, pretty close up face shots.  Have another student focus on the student doing the interview, again pretty close up.  Have the third student focus on “color” shots, meaning shots of hands doing something, or a background shot showing everyone doing things, and other interesting video shots that might be good for the story.  All three of the rough videos can be combined, to make a single video, using the best shots from each.