Any equipment you can get is fine as long as it gets you into action. If you get a shop-light from Dad’s garage and borrow a camcorder from Aunt Ethel that’s perfect! In fact, the complete title of the book is Make a Movie about Lewis and Clark, Using a Home Camcorder and Other Stuff You Already Own.
The book shows you exactly what equipment you will need, but – for a quick review – consider the following:
Camcorder: It’s best if you have a camcorder that shoots Mini DV tape. It’s also best if this camcorder has a "firewire" connector. (Check your manual.) These camcorders are available at affordable prices.
Tripod: You’ll need a tripod, but the book shows you how to be a creative problem solver and make your own tripod. Hint: the goal is not to buy a tripod. The goal is to hold the camera steady – and you can do that with a bean bag.
Lights: If you want to buy professional movie lights, that’s wonderful. But if you want to get an inexpensive shop-light from a hardware store, with a flood lamp bulb, that can work fine too.
Microphone: The microphone that comes on the camcorder will not be enough -- because the key to recording good audio is microphone placement. I want you to get a lavaliere microphone that plugs into your camcorder and clips to the lapel of the person in your movie, creating excellent "microphone placement." A lavaliere microphone (that plugs into your camcorder) is inexpensive. You can get one from your local electronics store.
Editing System: You will edit on a digital editing system, using a PC or a Mac (whichever you have). There is another option called a standalone editing system -- a computer designed – to edit video. It’s stable and user friendly with K-12 students. In fact, the most popular of these standalone systems, the Casablanca editing system, is in thousands of schools. You may already have one.
Other than these basic pieces of equipment, you’ll need batteries, video tape, a piece of white poster paper and aluminum foil (for bouncing light) and an old window screen or a piece of white nylon cloth for diffusing light.
Another way to handle "equipment" would be to include a member of your community. This project is great for community building. Your students can write their movie, prepare their movie for production then call on an adult member of the community who has video equipment. This person might be a wedding videographer, or a corporate video maker. There is a good chance that this community member would love to participate with your students. If you plan it right, the entire movie can be shot in a day – depending upon your script.
There is one stipulation when it comes to producing your movie with an adult member of your community – the students must do the work. The community member can bring the equipment and guide the students through the process of using it. But the students must do the hands-on. The only way they will learn is by doing.
If all else fails, when it comes to getting equipment, remember this: Because of our nationwide approach to production, you can participate in this project with three pieces of “equipment” – a pencil, a piece of paper and desire -- for writing, art and music.