If you want to take the plunge and have a go at video in your newsroom or to add another content string to your bow, you don't have break the bank. Start small (and cheap) and you can try out the process before you commit to more expensive kit.

Computer

Before looking at camera equipment you should take a look at your computer. If you are going to try video you'll need a reasonably up to date machine.

  • Memory: It would be great if your machine had more than 1GB of memory

  • Connectivity: At the very least you'll need a USB connector but you should be looking at a machine that has got a firewire/IEE1394 connector (Sony calls it iLink). This comes as standard on a Mac but you may need to get an extra card installed on a PC

  • Disk space: You should have at least 60GB free on your drive. You may want to consider some form of external storage. Look for firewire storage if you can but USB 2 storage is okay. Expect to pay around £80 for around 100GB

If your computer is up to the job, just how much do you need to spend to get a working video set up?

Here is the first of three options to consider...(here are options two and three)

(Nearly) Free (£0 - £150)

Camera

Before you spend a lot of money on a camera, it may be worth looking in your bag. You may already have a perfectly usable video camera on your mobile phone.

Don't think a mobile is up to the job? Take a look at the Reuters Multimedia toolkit - it's all based around a Nokia N95.

So if you are due an upgrade on your phone then it may be worth looking at the video spec. The only one to 'avoid' is the iPhone. No video capture on Apple's object of desire as yet.

The N95 would be top of my wish list for the quality of video and all the other gadgets its offers (including wi-fi). But the N73 is a good alternative and cropping up at a nice price on pay-as-you-go deals.

If you don't want your phone to get any more complicated, then take a look at your digital stills camera. Most digital compacts will come with some form of video capture. My little Sony Cybershot records over 12 minutes of good quality video on a 1GB memory card. The camera cost me £160 pounds. If you think that seems steep, don't forget you also have the capability to take a pretty good still picture.

Even with the huge leaps in the quality, the video you get from your phone or camera won't stand up to that of a dedicated video camera. However, the video format is generally web compatible and you can even upload a video directly from your phone up to your website with no extra work.

gorrpodEditing

Whatever level you get started with video, editing is the thing that will set your work apart from a lot of the 'Youtube' stuff that's already on the web. Even if you only top and tail (removing the waste footage at the start and end of a clip) it makes a big difference.

Editing is never a simple process, despite what some will tell you, but it doesn't have to be expensive. If you are a PC owner then Windows Movie Maker is already installed on your machine and it's more than adequate for simple cuts and some pretty nifty graphics.

On the Mac you have the wonderful iMovie. Okay, the latest version (part of Ilife 08) has few fans but its still a great application.

Accessories

Regardless of what you spend on your electrical equipment you should always have a tripod in your video kit. There are even plenty of mini-tripods available for stills cameras.

My favorite has to be the Gorillapod (above left). It's a flexible tripod that means you can wrap the legs around an object and leave it hanging around. At around £12 for the smallest one it's a great investment.

gripIf you go the mobile phone route you can still use a tripod. Maplin supplies a nifty desktop tripod with a hefty spring clip to clamp your phone on (right).

If you are Sony Ericsson user then the Sony Ericsson IPK-100 Camera Phone Kit is specially designed for use with their cybershot range.

Issues

The biggest problem with grabbing video using your mobile phone or camera is the sound.  The microphones tend to be small and poor quality and there is no way to connect a good quality external microphone.

Reuters got round it by working with Nokia to design a special adaptor for their multimedia kit. I've had some success using the hands free kit that comes with the phone as a microphone. But the general advice is to is get as close as you can to the person speaking.

Andy’s pick

•    Nokia N95

•    Gorrillapod

•    Windows Movie maker

(This is the first article in a series of three - parts two and three here)

Andy Dickinson teaches digital and online journalism and is course leader for the BA Digital Journalism Production at the University of Central Lancashire.

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