Effective Video on Low Cost Devices

How can a video journalist maximise their existing low-end devices to create good videos? This guide will answer that question with tips and strategies.

This guide is available in Arabic and Burmese. You can download the Burmese translation here: Effective Video on Low Cost Devices (Burmese)

Introduction

What are low cost devices?

Low cost devices includes devices you may already have. This includes old point and shoot cameras or flip cameras, as well as your phone, if it shoots video. This guide focuses on teaching you to maximize the impact with the devices you already have. The guide also assumes your existing devices are on the lower end, being consumer, at best only the top-end of the consumer market. This is not a guide for those who have devices above the consumer end of the market, such as professional dslrs or high-end video cameras.

What are the advantages of low cost devices?

It’s often repeated that the best camera is the one you have. The explosion of ownership of smartphones and small point and shoot cameras has lead to a similar explosion in multimedia. There are a lot of good reasons that professionals use very expensive cameras for creating television shows and movies. However, more and more the same tools are becoming available on your mobile phone and cameras priced for consumers.

This guide focuses on best practices, particularly on the technical side of video production. This method will ensure relevance to the greatest variety of devices. Increasingly the most affordable and available video recording device is your mobile phone. Because of this, where a bias is taken, its taken toward the assumption that you are likely to be using your mobile phone to record video.

Here are a few reasons to consider using the device you already have:

  1. Purchasing additional accessories may be a more affordable means to improve the quality of your content more than purchasing a new device
  2. Older video cameras will more likely have mic inputs than newer consumer devices
  3. If you have access to tape media this may make storage easier in the short term
  4. Low cost, older devices tend to produce lower resolution videos, often resulting in smaller files, that are easier to publish no matter your connectivity.
  5. Learning a new device may take significant time when you could be making stories
  6. Less connectivity in your device means your content is more protected from snooping or copying/reviewing by others
  7. Keep your device, save your money and buy an external microphone


Why should I not use an existing low cost device?

Reusing and giving new life to old devices is a noble goal, but sometimes you are really better off just getting something new. Here are a few items to consider. If any of these are true about your existing device, you may want to consider purchasing something new:

  1. Does your device use a proprietary compression format, making it difficult to share content with other devices, or edit on affordable software?
  2. Is your camera less than 5mp?
  3. Does your device take excessively long to open the camera, start recording, or stop recording?
  4. Do your device’s batteries have a very short lifespan?
  5. Does your device lack expandable storage, and have less than 4GB internal storage?
  6. Is an important feature malfunctioning, such as a cracked/broken viewfinder or screen?
  7. Is your device’s lens cloudy?
  8. Does your device perform very poorly in low light?
  9. Are your devices auto adjust features, such as exposure or white-balance, functioning poorly?
  10. Will you depend on a long optical zoom in order to film dangerous situations safely?
  11. Do you want to record and edit videos on a single device?

If any of the above are true, you may want to consider a new device. High quality mobile devices are increasingly affordable, ranging from $150-250 for a great device. These smart devices enable you to shoot, edit, and upload from a single device.

What problems are caused by Low Cost Devices?

Your low cost device may not provide all the features you want or expect. There are some techniques you can use to minimize the impact on your videos. Here are a list of issues to consider, with suggestions.

Poor resolution

Older devices and low-cost devices generally have lower recording resolution than newer or older, higher-cost devices. Zooming may not be possible, if your device lacks optical zoom, as digital zoom results in pixelated, out-of-focus images.

  • If your device has low resolution, a good solution is to focus on closer shots, where the subject of your recording is larger in the frame.
  • Focus on recording activities and events that do not include a great deal of rapid motion.
  • Review the lesson “what to shoot with low-resolution” to improve the quality of your recording.


Shaky

Optical and digital shake-reduction have seen great improvements in recent years. Your device may not benefit from these advancements.

  • Review the lesson “Getting Good Shots” to improve the quality of your recording.


Poor microphone

Lower cost devices generally do not have a mic input, though in the case of mobile phones this is not true. Lower cost devices tend to focus more on the optics and less on the audio recording feature, and the internal mic suffers.

  • Be careful to be close to the source of the audio you want to record
  • Avoid recording in areas with a lot of background noise.
  • Review the lesson “Sound & Light” to improve your understanding of how to record effectively.
  • Consider purchasing a mic suggested in the lesson “Affordable accessories for your device” to maximize the quality of your recording.


Poor low light, auto exposure

Lower cost devices generally do not deal well with low light, or recording in locations with a variety of light sources. Poor exposure correction makes it difficult to record subjects that are in shadow when the surrounding area may be bright.

  • If you are using a lower cost device, you’ll need to account for varying light sources more than users of new devices.
  • Review the lesson “Sound & Light” to improve your understanding of how to record effectively.


Little available storage

Low-cost device that rely on internal storage often provide less storage than desired.

  • If at all possible, keep an external card that fits your device, or two, ideally 8GB or larger.
  • If you cannot expand your device’s storage, you must always remember to clear your memory and be careful to backup your clips regularly.

This guide is available in Arabic and Burmese. You can download the Burmese translation here: Effective Video on Low Cost Devices (Burmese)

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