I have met so many people in Brooklyn that want to capture traditional expressions happening in their communities. I also see many artists and non-profits not using proper equipment to document their events and performances. If you are an artist, or run an arts non-profit, it’s very important to digitally capture the presentations you are involved with. This is especially true if you are applying for grants and trying to impress funders. I hope this list of recommended equipment will send you in the right direction. Feel free to email me with any questions you might have at email@example.com or talk to the folks at B&H Photo and Video.
Camcorders For Stability and Stamina
If you are capturing events that are over 30 minutes in length, a camcorder is your best bet. The cameras listed below are portable, easy to use, and have great battery life. In addition, these cameras are discreet on the streets of New York City. For BAC Folk Arts events, I use a Canon HF620, on a tripod, with an external microphone. The portablility and battery life allows me to set it up, press record, and walk away for an hour or two while I am presenting the artists.
Good: Panasonic 770k ($550)
Better: Canon Vixia HFG20 ($750)
Best: Canon XA10 ($1499)
DSLR For Portability and Flexibility in the Field
What if you are looking to capture a quick video interview with a hat maker in Brooklyn? Or, what if you are going to snap photos while chasing down the Lunar New Year parade in Sunset Park, on foot? Fortunately, in 2016, your standard digital camera has the ability to capture excellent video and photographs. You need something that can do it all and the Canon EOS Rebel T5i is your answer. Keep in mind that the model that I am referencing here has a special 18-135mm lens. This lens provides wide range of focal length shooting options as opposed to 18-55mm lens. Keep in mind, all the portability of a DSLR forces you to give up stability. I recommend a simple monopod.
A Moment for Microphones
Unfortunately, the sound being captured on all of the equipment I mentioned is not very good. Audio is one aspect of documentation that is often overlooked. I highly recommend connecting an external microphone to any camera that you use. Fortunately, you can do this on all the cameras above. Here are some microphone recommendations based on the type of audio you are capturing.
When capturing a one on one interview, I use the Sennheiser ew 112-p G3 Camera-Mount Wireless Microphone System lavalier microphone. It clips onto your shirt is about the size of a paper clip. This is especially useful for capturing oral histories. Even better, the person being interviewed will feel comfortable not having a microphone shoved in their face.
For events where there is a band or a lecture/performance, use a shotgun microphone. A “shotgun” is a directional microphone that rejects sound to the sides and rear, and prioritizes the sound in front of the mic. It can also be good for capturing a single voice in an interview but you would need the surroundings to be very quiet. The Rode Videomic Pro is an excellent shotgun microphone to attach to the top of your video or DSLR camera.