Robin Shoaps, March 2007
Video Equipment Selection
There are many great, small digital cameras on the market,
for much more reasonable prices than in the past. You may even want to consider having
more than one, if you follow the methodological model above of having consultants have
their own equipment. In addition to the considerations above, for video you want to be
especially sensitive to visual quality, obviously.
If you will be using video, you may consider purchasing a deck (MiniDV to VHS or non-
data DVD) so that you can make back-ups of your recordings (I recommend making your
own backups on DVD, by hooking your camera to your computer and using basic video
editing software) and make copies for consultants. If you work outside of the Americas,
ask an expert if the DVDs you will make will be readable by local DVD players.
The best cameras now have 3 CCD (three color chips), which makes for much better
images. Two models used by discourse analysts on the West Coast are “prosumer”
quality: Canon GL-2 (approx $2000) and the Sony HDR HC1 (approx $1700). Go to a Best
Buy and actually hold and look at one. Make sure that it has some sort of “Night vision”
setting that allows for recording in dark spaces without having to use extra lighting
(which can be really obtrusive! Although Night Vision affects color). Check to see if it has
a convenient place for mounting an external mic, as well and look into recording media
type and price per hour.
You will need a tripod and may consider getting a table top as well as floor model. It gets
really tiring holding even a light camera for hours (and some of the new ones are so small
you can’t hold them on your shoulder like the old ones), so if you have to make most of
your recordings using a handheld method, practice and use tricks like leaning against
walls, posts, chairs, etc. Most high quality cameras now have “jiggle correction” also.
Wireless mics require transmitters that have to be placed or carried, but wireless lapel
mics are preferable for situations where your consultants are moving a lot or will be far
from the camera (or for recording children). For a static, but multi-speaker scene, you can
pre-wire the scene with high quality binaural mics and use extension cords to reach the
camera (on a tripod). I think this sort of set up is optimal for recording dinner table talk,
small gatherings in homes, etc. There are a variety of shotgun and omni directional stereo
camera-mounted mics as well—though these make your camera much more obtrusive,
particularly the shotgun mics. The former are good for large public events or places
where there is background noise and the speakers are close together. Stereo
omnidirectionals work better for dispersed, multiparty interactions or performances
without a large audience (don’t use for large events because they will capture audience
noise). Ideally you want one of each kind.