What camera for teaching??

Friday, November 20, 2009
First of all remember, no matter how much we try, a school environment and students are not like the REAL world. Once you admit and accept this your life will be better. Plan your equipment and such with this in mind each step of the way.

Students do not work like professionals, because they are STUDENTS.

That being said here is what i recommend.

Any manual camera will suffice. Right now I've been recommending the HMC-150. it has enough quality to let students push to their limits. It is a good price point and uses inexpensive SD cards that any student can obtain. Go tape-less if at all possible. My school and the schools i consult for have eliminated all of the down time associated with the tape based system. I had one semester where on student brought in an old tape and contaminated ever deck in the building before i could stop him. long story but it also ruined several other students final projects. I had policies in place but students don't listen or understand sometimes.

Buy several cameras if at all possible. Students work at a much slower pace than you and I do... and I mean Much Much Much slower. With only one camera there will be bottlenecks in scheduling. More time with the cameras the more students learn. Only getting to touch the camera 4 times for an hour at a time in your college career is useless. I have seen schools where the camera was "too expensive" for the students to carry out into the field so all of their work was done in class in the studio ... no much actually learned there. Multiple cameras also reduces the amount of "group" projects. If a student doesn't HAVE to do projects where they run the camera alone, they will rely one the best students in a group to do their camera work. I have transfer students that have passed production classes at other campuses and colleges and they do very poorly in my class because they don't actually know how to run the camera, they relied on other students to do it for them in group projects and never learned on their own.

Don't hang up on fad of the day/buzz features like 24p or DOF. The students are still learning how to frame, expose direct, light, mic and tell stories. Their projects will not make or break on 24fps or cool DOF.

Think about two levels of cameras. Have super simple cameras for entry level students to learn soft skills like production planning, composition, blocking, directing and editing. I have seen student work grind to a halt because they have trouble with manual audio on story telling exercises. Have one or two better cameras for mastering camera technical skills of exposure, white balance. etc. Don't worry about if an advanced student has to use a simple one every now and then, if they truly know how to run a camera they can make footage from a simple camera look good

Do not forget to budget all of the peripheral items needed for a production. Lights, Mics, sand bags, stands etc. You can buy the best camera but if you don't have ALL of the things to help make a good production their work may suffer.
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