Section 4-5: Equipment

In this section we will provide an introduction to basic recording and photography equipment, and instruction for how to use these tools for the best results. Please note, we are not asking you to buy new equipment for this module. Use what you have at home, borrow equipment from friends, or rent a camera from a local store. If you are interested in buying a camera, we suggest you review the product on a website like, and try it out yourself at a local store before purchasing.


  1. To record a video, you will need a video recording device. You can use low-cost camcorders, video-equipped cell phones, cameras or webcams.
  • Low-cost camcorders generally deliver better quality than cell phones and webcams. Recommended models of low-cost camcorders include: Kodak ZI-8, Canon Legria FS-200,and the Flip-cam.
  • Video-equipped Cameras: Almost all digital cameras manufactured recently have a video option. If purchasing or renting a digital camera it is good to double check to see if it has a video feature as well if you plan on shooting video. Recommended models of low cost digital cameras with video features include: Panasonic Lumix, Canon Powershot, and Fujifilm FinePix.
  • Mobile phones: Mobile phones manufactured recently often have photo or video capability. Try locating the video application in your cell phone and recording a video clip or photo. One phone in particular allows you to shoot and edit photos and videos right on your phone: the Nokia e52
  • Webcams: These are cameras that are either built into your computer, or plugged separately into your computer’s USB port (plugs on the side of your computer). Webcams are not very mobile, and are best for recording video blogs of yourself or your immediate surrounding (living room, office, etc).
Supporting Equipment
  1. External Microphone: There are two main types of microphones: the boom mic which records audio in the direction it is pointed in (think of the microphone your local news reporter uses when they interview someone live); or the lapel mic ( which attaches to a shirt collar), which is good for interviewing people if they also have a lapel mic or if you are speaking to the camera yourself. However, if you are not doing interviews or narrating your digital story, you probably don’t need an external microphone. Also remember that many computers come with internal (built-in) microphones.
  2. Headphones: Most camcorders and cameras will have a socket to plug in a set of headphones. Headphones are very useful for the filmmaker because you can hear the sound that you are capturing to make sure it’s clear, etc.
  3. A Tripod: Any low-cost, light-weight tripod with a mounting platform that allows you to move the camera is all you need as a beginner video-maker. Tripods are critically helpful to ensure a steady shot. (When interviewing someone without a tripod, you can balance your camera on a stable surface including a pile of books, a table, etc. to ensure you get a steady interview.)
  4. Torchlight/Flashlight: While most cameras you would use have flash settings that you will need to switch on when shooting in the dark, often times extra lighting can be helpful in capturing an image or an interview better. A trick video journalists often use is to carry a small pocket sized torchlight/flashlight when going on a shoot at night. You can shine the light on your subject to capture the image.
  5. Cables/Memory Cards/ SD Cards: Once you are done recording, you will need to transfer your video files to your computer for editing. Cables are the wires that connect your video recording device to a port on your computer. The most common video file transfer cable is USB. However, you will need to check your cell phone/ camcorder and look at the manual if need be, to be sure you have the right cable to transfer your video. With cell phones, you may also be able to transfer with Bluetooth or memory card, depending on the kind of cell phone you have. Most recording devices record on a SD card. If your computer has a SD card reader, you can transfer your files this way as well.


  1. To make a photo-slideshow you will need a camera. Some video cameras are equipped to capture still photos, but the quickest and easiest way to take pictures you can upload to the internet is by using a digital camera. Cell phones and webcams also can take photos, but tend to be of lower quality.
  • If you’re interested in purchasing a camera, look for one that is in your budget and easy to use, while still providing high-quality photos. You can check out this list of the Best Budget Cameras. Depending on your budget, and the desired features, you can spend anywhere from under $100 to over $1000 on a digital camera. Canon, Kodak, Fuji and Sony are all reputable brands with quality, entry-level cameras.
Supporting Equipment
  1. A Tripod is optional, but can be extremely helpful for getting clear images or taking photos from difficult angles or at night.
  2. A memory card and a cable to transfer the photos to a computer are critical. Different cameras take different memory cards and cables, so make sure you get the right one.
  3. Audio recorder (optional): Many photo slideshows also have audio (narration, interviews, music, etc.) to supplement the photos. You can capture audio from your phone if you have a voice recording feature or through any low cost audio recorder. Olympus has a wide range of easy to use, low cost voice recorders. Many computers also have a built-in microphone which will allow you to record your narration when using a recording software on your computer such as Audacity. (Free download at

We don’t expect you to have a professional quality High-Definition camera for this project, and you don’t need one to make a great video or photo slideshow! If you don’t already have a camera to use, here are some suggested solutions to get you started:

  • Ask friends or colleagues that have experience with camera equipment for help
  • Borrow or rent equipment (cameras, microphones, cords, tri-pods, etc.).
  • Use Creative Commons for royalty free images, music and videos that can be found on Wikimedia Commons, or other free online sources of video or photos to put together your story. Remember, if required, to always give credit for your sources!
  • If you can’t access a video camera, make a photo slide show or webcam video.
  • Produce an audio piece narrated by yourself or an audio diary using the built-in microphone on your computer and a free recording/editing audio software such as Audacity.