The Frustrations of Finding the Audio & Video for Student Films

OK, so I have a little money — not a lot, but a little. (Around $2000 give or take.)

I need to get:

A Camera –

I have one with DV tape but it is terrible to get onto the computer and keeps dropping frames. I WANT one with a hard drive (they just go for longer) and am very interested in the Canon HG10 AVCHD 40GB High Definition Camcorder with 10x Optical Zoom which from what I understand films in the coveted 24p cinema mode, however, my book Filmmaking for Teens: Pulling Off Your Shorts (which I HIGHLY recommend for anyone doing film in their class, says I HAVE to get a 3 chip camera and it looks like the Canon HG10 doesn't have that. The book also says I need: manual focus, white balance, audio in, image stabilization, and progressive scan. I also need to figure out what to do about a CLear UV filter that my book says I need to protect the lens.

2) Microphone –
This is where I'm having a TERRIBLE time. I need a shotgun microphone ideally with a Wind Eliminator (fuzzy sock). I am also a little confused about the XLR Cables and XLR Adapter that I'm supposed to get and the Boom Pole that I need unless we just make one.

3) Lights – I am probably going to have to rig one up from the hardware store supplies mentioned in the book but might be interested in a professional lighting kit. I KNOW NOTHING about this.

OK, so

I have Headphones and a Tripod already so I think we're OK there.

So, as I've done before, perhaps there are some people struggling. I've created a wiki page for you to help me formulate the best way to do this under an extremely small budget. Edit there or leave me a note here.

And please, don't make me feel stupid! I've been struggling for a month with this and researched for so many hours. I feel so dumb and need to place this order this week. HELP!!!!! (Or tell me who to call!)

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Mathew January 24, 2008 - 9:21 pm

I don’t share your bias against miniDV cameras. I prefer them so I can’t help you there.

As for a microphone. You can always buy a wind screen so you don’t have to get one that comes with a wind screen necessarily. Painter poles work as boom poles. I recommend B&H Photo Video for mics and lights (a cheap professional kit is only $300).

You might also want to see the digital storytelling blog carnival:

Coach Burk January 24, 2008 - 10:09 pm

although I have no specific help for you, did you contact a local college that teaches film making and see what they suggest? Sorry, although I know how to use cameras and some editing software, I am clueless what is good and bad

Joel Zehring January 24, 2008 - 10:54 pm

Right now is a tricky time to buy as standards change from Standard Definition to High Definition, tape-based to drive-based (or flash-based). has good reviews and tutorials to get you started. I’ll try to hit the wiki when I have more time.

Ken Pruitt January 25, 2008 - 1:52 am

Would be happy to chat with you about this. Can recommend a few cheap items and a few good sites for equip.
Ken P.
Skype: kbpruitt or any other of the dozen methods :)

Adam Sutcliffe January 26, 2008 - 2:48 pm

I have to go with Matthew. Pros use mini DV and it isn’t that that is dropping the frames. It is much easier to upload than from HD camera. This is what I use:
I also use a Rode NTG 1 shotgun which is superb. Wind screens are easy to get and Rode produce them for their own mics.
In my experience it is difficult to find a non-professional dv camera with both mic input and headphone output.
Hope this hepls a bit.

Cathy Nelson January 30, 2008 - 3:49 am

Vicki I know why you think you are dropping frames. You need to capture to an external hard drive that has a spin rate of at least 7200. The the film will behave and be perfect. HD cameras supposedly need to be converted before any editing takes place, degrading the quality of the film. STICK with minidv tape. You will be wiser to invest money in microphones and lighting. Marco Torres recently gave some EXCELLENT tips for pro quality lighting by spending $25 at the hardware store. Skype me for a brief talk–I don’t know much, but i can share horror stories of bad film UNTIL i invested in that external drive.

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