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Beginner video gear for educators

You’ve decided to take the plunge and use self-produced video to enhance your
instruction. Unfortunately, you don’t have a Hollywood-sized budget.
In this article, we’ll explore basic video gear for teachers who want to get started
shooting video, with a focus on cost savings. Spoiler alert: you probably own some of
the equipment already!

Camera choices

You likely own multiple cameras that could be pressed into instructional service,
whether it be a smartphone, webcam or laptop. The quality of these cameras, however,
varies greatly. The best advice is to give each one a try to evaluate the resulting video
quality. Maybe you have one that will work. But what if they all look like a bad quality
VHS tape from 1984?

Consider buying a dedicated video camera that’s specifically designed to produce high-
quality results. There are many affordable options that typically save video files on a
removable SD card, and often accept an external mic connection — more on that later.
Good quality cameras start at a few hundred dollars and climb into the thousands, but
you should be able to find a suitable one at the affordable end of the range.

Make sure that the camera has resolution specs of at least 720p, preferably 1080p
(often called “full HD”) or better yet, 2160p (usually called 4K). Higher resolution
numbers alone don’t guarantee a great image; other factors include lens quality, auto-
focusing system and internal processing circuitry

Pro tips

When shooting video, avoid mixing indoor and outdoor lighting because it confuses
cameras and can result in skewed color. It’s best to use lights specifically designed for
video production. LED ring lights are a popular, low-cost option that supply a soft glow
which flatters the appearance of people.
Shooting outdoors presents unique challenges. Be sure to orient your on-camera
presenters so that their faces are clearly illuminated. Try reflecting the sun toward your

subject with the reflective sunshade used to bounce light away from a car’s dashboard
— a low-cost, low-tech solution.

Use a tripod to avoid wobbly camera movement that might make your audience seasick.
If you plan to pan and tilt the camera while recording, make sure the tripod head is up to
the task; inexpensive tripods might not produce smooth camera movement. Mini tripods
that sit on any flat surface are a stellar low-cost option.

Microphone Considerations

You likely already own several mics — the one built into your laptop, webcam or
smartphone. Give them a try, but know that the quality of these mics varies greatly. So,
what do the pros use to capture quality audio? Read on.
Microphone design presents itself in three basic ways: handheld, attached to clothing
and camera mounted. Let’s look at each type.

What if you want to include a group of students in your video, but can only use one mic?
Since there’s a limit to the number of mics you can connect to one piece of recording
equipment, a single handheld mic is a great, affordable solution.

Sometimes though, handheld mics produce an unwanted rumbling sound when handed
from person to person, called “handling noise.” It’s best if one person can control the
mic, like a host who interviews several people by walking up to each of them.

Handheld mics can also mount in a floor stand or a desk stand. Stand mounted mics
reduce the need to be touched and therefore reduce the chances of handling noise.
A second type of mic called “lavalier” is small and unobtrusive and attaches to clothing.

For best results, attach them to the upper chest area and be sure that clothing or
jewelry won’t rub against the mic. These mics should never be touched when in use
because they are extremely sensitive to handling noise.

Finally, because mics built into video cameras also vary greatly in quality, a better
choice is an accessory mic that mounts to the camera. These mics tend to be good at
capturing sound in front of the camera, and ignoring noise from the back and sides. Not
all video cameras accept an external mic, so check carefully.

Final suggestions

Want a ready-to-go solution that includes everything you’ll need to produce a quality
video? You can buy kits that transform a tablet or smartphone into a production studio.

These packages typically include an assortment of mics, lens accessories, a tripod,
lighting gear, maybe even a green screen and a case to carry everything. The kits could
be a smart purchase for your school site.

Once you finish your video masterpiece, you’ll need to upload the file to a hosting
service so others can view it. Your first thought might be to use the YouTube website,
but there’s a better solution for your students. SchoolTube offers free hosting in a 100%
kid-friendly ecosystem that YouTube cannot supply. In fact, YouTube is blocked at
many schools. With SchoolTube, you can ensure a safe environment for kids to watch
(and benefit from) the content that you put together with your new video gear.