Basic camera tools for journalists shooting video

Basic camera tools for journalists shooting video

October 04, 2011

What easy-to-use tools should any backpack video journalist have? Emmy award-winning journalist and ICFJ trainer Patricio Espinoza offers some basic tips.

It's the latest a video in a series by Espinoza which includes getting started with Wordpress, six essential digital publishing tools and how to create a hyperlocal news website.

This video is also available in Spanish.


shooting video

The basic rule for shooting video is NOT to move the camera. This video is useless as it promotes bad quality amateur product.


The batteries shown, AAA, are not the correct batteries for the Kodak Zi8 camera. It takes special rechargeable batteries. Buy a few knock offs in advance, charged them up and try them out first before doing something important.

You probably should use a self powered condenser mic with the appropriate mini jack adapter. One of the mics shown appeared to be an Electro-Voice RE
50 which isn't hot enough for the cheap camera audio circuits.

I have a couple like new zi8's for sale with spare rechargeable batteries, by the way.


Golden Rule: Rules are there to be broken

There are no sacred rules. Here are some general guidelines to assist with mirroring situations or in relaying stories honestly and without deception.

Rules are to be broken, however, before we give ourselves license to break them, we must know them. If we were to abide by the suggestion of the contributor above and did NOT move the camera, we would not be alive now if say, we were in Mosul, Iraq, shooting the fleeing crowds using a tripod or standing firmly in the midst of a firefight. We would never live to tell the story. In the old days when cameras were cumbersome and film was extremely expensive, tripods and light meters were mandatory. An Auricon Film Camera weighed in excess of 5 Kilograms, the tripod weighed ten kilograms approximately and we had to use a car battery that weighed 15 kilograms or more. Of course, one could only shoot from a static position. Film cameras did not have the versatile shutter mechanisms or anti vibration either and any movement produced poor shots.

A simple guideline to remember is: if another person cannot see clearly or hear what we're trying to say with our video, then we're doing something wrong which we should attempt to change next time we shoot a similar scene or story. We should make it easy for our grandmother and 6 year old sister to understand what we're trying to say. If neither gets the point then we should try to think of them next time we shoot another story. We must constantly work on improving our understanding of video and audio and believe me it is very easy if we review our work regularly with a critical eye . One thing we should never forget: the story we're trying to tell HONESTLY.

Remember that we blink as human beings because our brains do not absorb too many changing scenes. Parts of the human brain are like computers or a cameras and take a couple of seconds to register: When we change shots, angles and scenes, it is like blinking. It also helps us to get across the narrative we're striving to achieve in a more interesting way:

If you're shooting someone saying something, listen carefully to decide when to stop running the camera. Make sure you have a couple of seconds or a bit more at the end (to prevent losing a meaningful statement or sound effect).

Video is great, use it for a good cause. Help others to tell stories and share your experience with them.


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