A recent discussion online focused on what the best Digital Video Editing software was to use in making media productions. The conversation did not really make sense. The best available editing software is you. The most expensive, high tech, feature filled software is useless if you do not understand the basics of production. And with a little creativity you can create almost any of the effects that the super software can provide.
There are items that you will need that are necessary to create a digital video. As most things, the higher the price, usually the better the quality. But, this is not necessarily so where equipment is concerned. As most digital video cameras are now tapeless, SD cards are available for different speeds and capacities (i.e. 300 minutes of high quality video capture requires a 32 gig card). Capturing video for a five minute presentation should only take 30 minutes of video (including outtakes), so an 8 gig card would be more than sufficient for practical purposes. Always refer to the owner’s manual of the camera to make sure you are using the correct card.
If you have video, but no sound, you have no communication. If you have sound but no video you have established communication. Most people think that the video is all about flashy effects, wipes and dissolves. Microphones too often get pushed to the afterthought folder. The microphone is the most important piece of equipment you need. Good video with crappy sound equals equally crappy presentation.
There are three types of microphones that will cover just about any situation with good quality sound. First, make sure your camera has a mic input. If not, you are going to be stuck with the mic on your camera. The first type of mic you may need is a handheld. We’ll skip all of the technical jargon and get to the nuts and bolts. A good hand held mic should have an XLR connection at the bottom. Here you connect an XLR cable, usually 25 feet is a good working length. The problem is that most mid-level cameras only have a one eighth inch external mic connection. Convertors are easy to find and not very costly. A hand held can have many pick up patterns. Meaning, the direction and distance the mic will pick up sound. If you are doing “on the spot” reporting, use a vocal mic. This type of mic is designed to pick up sound directly in front of the mic screen. Essentially all other ambient sounds are not picked up. An omnidirectional (many directions) will pick up sound from a broad area and are best suited for live performances.
A lapel mic is an excellent choice if you do not want to block the audience view of the person on screen. You would be surprised at the number of people who look at a reporter’s hand held and miss the message entirely! A lapel mic is generally run up the individual’s shirt and fastens to the shirt just below the chin. These types of mics are also omnidirectional, but the pickup range is smaller. Still, it is a good idea to use them in a studio or quiet room. Lastly is the shotgun mic. This type of mic can be mounted to the top of the camera, or connected to the end of a long pole. Shotgun mics pick up sound from the object they are pointed at from a distance. A shotgun mic is always a good piece of equipment to have available.
The next piece of equipment you will need is a computer with a fast processor and a minimum of 4 gigs of memory. Again, no technical jargon here, the links will tell you what you need to know. No expensive editing software can take the place of someone with a well thought out idea. Fancy transitions are nice, but you do not want the medium to become more interesting than the message. A good video starts with the question “What is the message I am trying to send?” Keep that as your focal point and plan each step accordingly. You do not need to by a thousand dollar software package! Use Windows Movie Maker to create your video. You can insert clips of music, videos, pictures, and even PowerPoint slides. Yes, you can save a PowerPoint slide as a .jpeg. In fact, you can make a PowerPoint presentation into a movie also.
The point is this: video creation is an art. Some great art has been drawn in chalk on the sidewalk, some on ancient canvas. It is not the materials you work with that makes it great, it is your vision. Know your audience, know your purpose, and without spending a ton of money, you can create a great work right from your desktop computer. Remember, the message is what the most important consideration is. If you have accomplished the transmission of information, you have created something to be proud of.