Student Filming: How the Right Camera Can Launch a Thousand Videos
Video projects! Those words simultaneously inspire feelings of dread and delight in me. Dread because as a media specialist, I am so often the troubleshooter at our school for anything video related and am bombarded with questions like: How do you edit this? How do you put a song right there? Where is my video, and why does Windows MovieMaker hate me?! Conversely, I feel delight because some of the more successful video projects I have seen are so wonderfully inspiring. I am constantly amazed at the high quality work that some of our students are able to produce using a video camera and a simple editing program like Windows MovieMaker. However, I never would have imagined having to deal with the sheer volume of these projects just a couple of years ago.
When I first arrived at Richmond Hill High School in 2008, we had four video cameras available for student and teacher use. Those consisted of two MiniDV and two Digital8 camcorders. The student news crew borrowed the cameras pretty regularly, but besides that, they weren’t routinely used for anything besides coaches filming sports. All that began to change, however, when we purchased four Flip Ultra video cameras that fall.
There are several incarnations of the Flip now, but we started with the 60 minute, standard definition models that use AA batteries. The response was almost immediate. It’s not that the actual video quality was better than our older camcorders. If anything, the sound didn’t pick up quite as well. Plus, you either had to load the Flip software on each computer in order to play and edit the clips, or you had to convert each video using a program like Prism Video Converter to enable playback on all computers. Simply put, it sometimes took fewer steps using the old camcorder to get the video off the camera.
None of that mattered, though, because suddenly, filming became very easy and very cool in the eyes of teachers and students alike. The Flip cameras are small, stylish, and super user-friendly. Suddenly, tech-phobic teachers were signing up to use them and commenting on how easy and intuitive they were. Students agreed and loved how they could quickly click through, view, and/or delete clips immediately.
With the older cameras, either the student or I had to capture the video, and the video captured in real time. Therefore, if the video was an hour long, it took an hour to get it off the camera. Also, kids routinely lost their place on the tape and either filmed over important footage by accident or had a hard time finding the film they shot. Enter the Flip Video camera, and suddenly those problems were eliminated. With these types of pocket video cameras, there are no tapes or discs required for filming, and you can transfer your video files to a computer almost instantaneously. With one touch of a button, you can even upload your video directly to Facebook or YouTube!
Looking ahead, I don’t think we will ever again purchase the conventional, tape-based cameras. However, I’m not loyal to the Flip alone. Personally, I have a Kodak Playsport HD camera. It is quite similar to the Flip Video camera but is waterproof and takes a SD or SDHC memory card. Honestly, I like the idea of expandable memory and am toying with the idea of getting Kodak pocket video cameras in our next round of camera purchases. If you are looking to launch or revitalize your AV equipment, I would suggest putting these types of cameras at the top of your shopping list. They’re cheap too; you can get a PlaySport or a Flip Video camera for just a little over $100. In any case, one thing is for sure: Digital is the way to go!
High School Librarian
Richmond Hill High School
Richmond Hill, GA