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Making Library Videos: Digital Cameras

To make live-action videos for your library, you naturally need a good digital camera with video-recording capability.  There are hundreds of excellent models available on the new and used market, but I'll limit my discussion to the ones we have used at my library.

Our first live-action videos were made starting in 2010 using a Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-W230 digital camera.  It had standard definition in video mode, but this was satisfactory in strong artificial lighting (and excellent in bright outside lighting).  Our first live action video using this camera was also something of a pioneering project for an Indiana public library.  It was a music parody video by Suzanne Walker, M.L.S. (our director of youth services, 2007-2012).  Want to watch?  Sure you do.

Librarians Do Taio Cruz, by Suzanne Walker

Suzanne used an early version of Windows Movie Maker software to craft the video.  Our Sony Cyber-Shot was easy-to-use and took steady shots while being hand-held.  (It was equipped with a steady-shot feature.)  The standard definition looks a bit grainy or dark in low or marginal light, but it was satisfactory for our needs when we first began filming.  We were indeed fortunate that Suzanne had professional theatrical experience and knew how to edit and assemble video clips to best advantage.  The sound recording was done at City Dump Records, a professional audio recording studio in Indianapolis, which was vastly superior to the sound recorded by the Sony Cyber-Shot's condenser microphone.  This was our most popular video of 2010 and remains among our top 15 most watched videos.

In December, 2011, the Friends of Mooresville Public Library, along with our executive director, Diane Huerkamp, M.L.S., purchased (for half-price, in an amazing pre-Christmas sale) a Canon EOS 1100D Rebel T3 digital camera.  We have used this camera from 2012 onward to record nearly all of our live-action videos, and to take nearly all of our still photographs in and around the library.  Its high-definition video recording capability proved a considerable improvement over the SD-capable Sony Cyber-Shot.  (The Rebel T3 was over twice as expensive as the Cyber-Shot, so we shouldn't be too critical of a less costly model's features.)  Compare the videos below to see the difference in resolution.

Introduction to Early Literacy, by Miss Jaymi & Sammy the Toucan
(September 16, 2011)
(Recorded using the Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-W230)

Early Literacy Vlog for September 26, 2012
by Miss Michelle & Sammy the Toucan
(Recorded using the Canon EOS 1100D Rebel T3)

The Canon's built-in condenser microphone has been mostly sufficient to capture audio during our live-action video recording sessions.  Occasionally, we have used an external Logitech USB desktop microphone and an audio editing software called Audacity to record separate audio tracks.  This has worked well for our voice-overs, as the video below illustrates.

"Narration" of Samuel Moore at the Old Settlers Picnic (1885),
by Mooresville Public Library

Logitech USB Desktop Microphone

Since we do not have spotlights or fill-lights available, we rely upon the library's interior artificial lighting and natural lighting (through windows), as well as daylight for exterior shooting.  This makes our videos less crisp and slightly grainy as compared with professional productions.  Likewise, the audio track is not as resonant as that obtained with professional-caliber audio equipment that can record separate multiple audio tracks that may later be mixed with, and synched to, the video clips.  But we're a public library, and if we had a bunch more funding, we could buy the bells-and-whistles to create videos to rival professional outfits.  Sadly, we don't, so we make do with what we can afford.  Frankly, we're fortunate to have the fine camera and accessories that we're using.

Targus TG-6660TR Tripod

One last item:  we have a nice, inexpensive, basic digital camera tripod in the Targus TG-6660TR.  It stands 66 inches tall when fully extended, but is only 17 inches when slipped into its handy carrying bag.  Unfortunately, our bag ripped a few months ago, but we still can carry the tripod easily by its handle.  It has done a fine job keeping our Canon Rebel T3 steady and secure in a variety of locations.

Once you have obtained a digital camera and tripod (and figured out how they work), you're ready to start shooting.  But what do you want to film?  In upcoming blog posts, we'll offer some ideas.


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