What’s the best video equipment for a student paper’s first purchase?

(Preface: It’s not about the technology. It’s about the story and how you tell it. Technology is just a tool.)

Kevin Koehler, contributing editor at the Wake Forest Old Gold & Black, asked a question via Twitter Tuesday evening:

kev097 Need to recommend HD camcorder for newspaper today. Probably going with hard drive. Suggestions on models, accessories, research?

Kyle Hansen (TheSpartanDaily.com editor at San Jose State), Kevin and I discussed ideas via Twitter and I volunteered to post the equipment The Miami Hurricane plans to purchase before next fall:

  • Canon HV20 a mini-DV, HD video camera (2) [should we get the HV30 instead?]
  • Canon BP2L14 battery (2)
  • Rode shotgun microphone (2)
  • Sennheiser Evolution G2 EW100 wireless mic combo kit (1) [looks like this this has been discontinued from B&H]

    • Includes EW100 G2 Combo System, EW100 G2 Lavalier System, ENG Handheld Microphone, Storage Case and Cables
  • Hosa MIT-156 XLR to mini connector (1)
  • EH 150 supra-aural closed back stereo headphones (2)
  • Sunpak 7001DX tripod (2)
    • Three-way pan/tilt head with quick release
  • Tiffen 43mm UV filter (2)

This year we have primarily used Flip video cameras after starting off with point-and-shoots (Matt Bunch and I). These have worked OK, but the big problem was audio. The best quality videos came when we checked out equipment from the School of Communication.

And I’ve used my HV20, which I bought during spring break, for the paper. For example, a video of the PD press conference after a student died on campus:

(This is the pretty one the assistant multimedia editor, Matt Wallach, edited. Here is the quick-and-dirty version I posted right after the press conference, sans b-roll. I miked the chief with a lav.)

I love my HV20. It’s not perfect, but it does everything I need.

More about video: Newspaper Video – Yahoo! Groups

Weigh in: What video equipment does your organization use? What do you think about The Hurricane’s planned list?

8 thoughts on “What’s the best video equipment for a student paper’s first purchase?”

  1. I don’t think you need high-def for a student news site. You’re going to be downsampling to a very small size for web viewing anyway. Unless you’re planning to use framegrabs for photos in the print edition, it’s a waste of money

  2. I’m the one mentioned in this post. Here is the recommendation I made for the Old Gold & Black’s purchase. Greg’s list as well as this one were very helpful starting points. After asking a couple more people and reading some online reviews, I came up with this list:

    – Sony Handycam HDR-SR11 w/ extra battery
    – Sunpak 9002DX Photo/Video Tripod
    – Sunpak CF-7075 TW 37mm Filter Twin Pack
    – Final Cut Express 4
    – Sony Pro MDR-7506 Headphones
    – Shure SM57 Cardioid Dynamic Microphone
    – Audio Technica ATR-35S Lavalier Microphone
    – Audio Technica AT-875 Short Condenser Shotgun Microphone for Video Applications
    – Photoflex Litedome, Small Softbox Kit
    – Extra discretionary budget for bags, cables, connectors, etc: $100

    Unlike Greg, I did not include a wireless mic system. I also chose a small lighting kit. Other than that, we are quite similar in the items we chose, if not the specific brands and models.

    I went for a hard drive camcorder over the tape variety; costs a little more for comparable quality, but speed of turnaround & ease of editing were a top priority for me.

    These haven’t been bought just yet, so I’m still open to advice…

  3. @murley: I think high-def is worth the price if you can afford it for several reasons. Firstly, in this price range cameras have better sensors, lenses, color, and ultimately a better picture even when used for less than HD. Secondly, hopefully these kits will last a number of years. Some sites already offer HD video, many more may be on the way.

    I prefer to err on the side of quality and leaving options open for future growth.

  4. Kevin,

    I think you hit the nail on the head when you said “if you can afford it.”

    For your exercise, you’re looking at around $1,000 (eyeballing, not including software).

    And just who will be using this camera? One, possibly two people?

    OTOH, I could purchase at least three kits with a mic, bag, tripod and camera for the same amount that could be used with minimal training by anyone in the newsroom.

    FWIW, I actually prefer both high-end and consumer-level cameras – with the high-end for use by photoj/videographers and the low-end models for reporters.

  5. final thoughts …

    I prefer to err on the side of quality and leaving options open for future growth.

    I think that’s not entirely applicable here. We have low-end cameras that have lasted several years with proper care here at EIU.

    Quality is not one-dimensional. You can have great “quality” equipment and lousy stories. Or you can have “cheap” equipment and well-constructed stories. One doesn’t necessarily follow from the other, despite what some photojs will tell you.

    If you’re considering “future growth,” then it would seem you would go with a lower-end camera anyway, since you can upgrade once your team outgrows the equipment. If you buy high-end and it sits in the cabinet gathering dust, it does nobody any good.

  6. This entire rig will actually end up costing closer to $2000. We are fortunate to have a fund for just these kind of purchases. I realize not everyone will have that in the budget. In which case there are plenty of cheaper tools for visual storytelling worth getting.

    Why not multiple cheaper rigs instead of one really nice one? Well, we’re not looking to equip all the reporters with cameras, train them, and force them do video. (It’s hard enough getting them to do thorough reporting and write ledes.) That’s too much of a burden on them and us.

    Instead, we’re looking to attract new people into journalism — something we’re less likely to do with a few Flips and Windows Movie Maker — and/or get a few current reporters/staffers really invested in video. The goal is to produce something like one great video story per issue to start.

    We’re a weekly, always lacking for people and time. Having just one camera won’t inhibit output, staff will.

    So we’re aiming more for quality over quantity – for both practical and philosophical reasons. That’s a debatable position. The right choices are going to vary newsroom to newsroom and staff to staff, audience to audience, I think.

    As Greg prefaced this post. “It’s not about the technology. It’s about the story and how you tell it. Technology is just a tool.”

    I think Murley and I essentially agree on that. We want the tools to make the storytelling as easy and productive as possible. In the end though, it’s the storytelling that matters most. And that can be done with a whole range of equipment. You’ve just got to get out there and do it.

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