Here are some examples of how the St Louis Tea Party Coalition has used different kinds of audio and video equipment. We're building a nation of cameramen and you are the new Minuteman. So gear up!
The red USB stick above is the simplest and least expensive way to get into the media gathering game. The Centon 2GB MP3 Player is also an MP3 recorder. It's powered by a AAA battery. While 2GB might not sound like a lot of memory, it's probably more than you need for recording. My experience with an older device like this, is that the battery dies before you fill the memory. I recorded five hours of the Quincy 9-12 Project in about 300M.
There's another reason for using an MP3 recorder: it turns you into a microphone for video cameras. It's pretty easy to use an MP3 recorder to conduct interviews. You'll need to coordinate with the videographer afterwards since they'll need a copy of your audio for post production. You may have already thought about wearing a concealed MP3 recorder, but, before you do that, check the laws in your state. Most states have one-party consent, but some require all parties to consent.
The Kodak Zi8 has gotten rave reviews. If you get one, you might want a spare battery. Heck, if you get any video camera, you should consider a spare battery. The Flip UltraHD also looks great, but.... One more before we get to the "but"... Sharp and Rob Brenner both use purple Sony Webbies. Why purple? I think Sharp's a trend setter. You'll want to know that he also uses a "Gorillapod" tripod.
Now the "but"... why spend that much for a small, fixed-focal length, video camera? Big Lots had a flip-like camera on sale last week for $28—pack a lunch for a week and you can by one of those with the money you save. You should consider a bargain store video camera. In fact, you might consider two.
If you've got two flip-like cameras, then you can interview someone with one camera pointed at them and one at yourself. You can conduct an interview at an event while your other camera is recording the event. You can pan the crowd with one camera and collect other B-roll footage while keeping the other on the speaker (toward the end of James O'Keefe's Tea Party speech... I recommend starting a little after 8:00.).
The last reason for getting two flip-like cameras is because they allow you to "live cut" for YouTube. If you're planning to post full coverage from an event, then you have to figure out how to shoe-horn it all into YouTube's ten minute time limit for videos. I've done that by shooting eight to ten minutes on camera #1 and the next eight to ten minutes on camera #2. You start recording on camera #2 before stopping camera #1. If you keep everything under ten minutes, then you can skip post production and just start uploading.
Michelle Moore of ATraditionalLifeLived.com is St Louis's live streaming goddess. Weather does not deter her (more). She's even got her own weekly Internet show. She usually uses a Logitech webcam with her EVDO equipped laptop; however, I saw her live stream a visit to the county counselor's office via her cellphone and qik.com.
I also covered the visit to County Counselor Patricia Redington's office. The difference is easy to see: Michelle gets the scoop and the story out the door first; I get higher resolution video (1080i) and stereo sound. As of today, you really have to choose one or the other.
I'm not sure what kind of phone Michelle used, but I do know that Dana Loesch loves her Palm Pre and that it works with qik.com. On the other hand, The Editor would encourage you to get an iPhone 3GS. My Treo 650 is not up to the task.
I shoot my best video in 1080i with a Sony HDR-HC1. It's past it's prime, but still a good camera. If I had to replace it, I'd get a Sony HDR-CX500V. I've got a spare battery and the gun mic for my camera. The second battery proved critical at the Quincy 9-12 Project, since the batteries in my two flip-like cameras died.
I have mixed feelings about the gun mic. It helps reduce ambient sounds, but does not completely eliminating them. To get a sense of the sound difference, put on a pair of headphones and listen to 2:35 to 2:50 (with gun mic) from the meeting with Patricia Redington and then anything from 6:45 on (without the gun mic). I also used it while filming both Senator Claire McCaskill and her questioners at a townhall at Jefferson College.
For video of any significant length, you need a tripod. You want the tallest one you can afford, so you can get your camera up high enough to avoid any obstacles in your shot. The tripod above is six feet fully extended. I have been known to mount two cameras on one tripod; however, I only do that with flip-like cameras.
The MP3 recorder that I use is an older model of the Cowon iAUDIO 7 pictured above. The advantage that it has over the inexpensive model at the top of this post is a 1/8" line-in port. Most tea party events have some sort of sound setup which is routed through a mixing board. You just ask the guys running the board: "can I record off your master?" They've always said yes to me; however, I've sometimes needed to supply my own cables and adapters (pictured to the right of the iAUDIO 7). You shouldn't need all of those and, if you've got a drawer that you shove spare cables into, you should look through it before buying any of those.
There is an important downside to using audio off the master. It doesn't include the crowd reaction. The applause lines fall flat and the punch lines go by without notice. Still, it's nice to have if a camera battery dies earlier than you expected.
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