Accessories to Help You Finish the Job
Now that you have your camera, you could just grab it and go record your video podcast. But you'll get indifferent results from that approach, and indifferent responses from your video viewers. To add some "wow factor" that makes your vcasts interesting enough for repeat viewings, and brings viewers back for more, try adding some accessories to the paraphernalia you carry on your shoots.
Expensive professional tripods are made for heavy professional cameras. But if your shots include motion, you'll need a tripod with smooth movement when you pan and tilt your camera. Most professional tripods come in two parts: head and legs. Start with lightweight aluminum legs. Check the folded length of your tripod to make sure that it's easy to ship or carry.
Full fluid-head tripods are expensive. Look for smooth movement at a price you can afford. Many lower-price manufacturers claim that their fluid-like heads are full-fluid heads. Test any tripod you plan to buy, and ask questions to make sure that it works for the size and weight of your camera. Your tripod head should also have an adjustment setting to compensate for additional weight as you add accessories such as wide-angle and telephoto lenses or shotgun microphones.
Some consumer tripods come with a built-in zoom controller. Be sure that the one you choose is tall enough, or you'll have to put it on a table.
I find a zoom controller very helpful. Many prosumer models have tiny zoom and focus controls that are difficult to use, especially if you have large hands. A zoom controller gives you automatic or manual control over your camera's zoom, focus, and record functions. Look for a LANC input on the camera to plug in the zoom controller. Some prosumer and consumer cameras come with wireless remote controls.
Built-in camera microphones usually aren't close enough to the sound source to avoid a lot of extraneous camera noise. Even an inexpensive lavaliere (clip-on microphone) plugged directly into your camera will give you better sound than your camera's built-in microphone. For a little more money, you can buy professional microphones and get much better sound.
Even if your camera doesn't have XLR inputs, you can still use professional microphones. Buy an adaptor that fits between your camera and tripod head, letting you plug in two professional microphones (see Figure 2). It will also give you volume controls.
Professional microphone connectors include a ground wire that improves the quality of sound. You'll also need high-quality shielded microphone cables to avoid picking up interference: Get a short cable to connect your shotgun, a 1520-foot cable for your lavaliere, and a 30-foot cable for use when you need to plug into sound boards.
Monitor your sound with headphones (see Figure 3). It's the only way to make sure that the sound is free from static, pops, and interference. Viewers will appreciate the improved quality of your sound and stay tuned. Get a pair of good-quality professional headphones that cover your ears and let you hear everything. They'll help you to place your microphones more accurately and ward off sound problems.
Depending on your shooting style, you'll need a camera-mounted shotgun microphone, a handheld, or lavalieres. Rode and Audio Technica make good-quality shotguns that aren't too expensive. If you're shooting solo, you can use a shotgun for your guest and a lapel lavaliere for yourself, or two lavalieres. Mics come in two flavors: Powered mics need a battery. Other mics depend on phantom power. Since most consumer cameras don't provide phantom power, you'll probably want powered microphones. Alternatively, you can use a powered mic adaptor from Beachtek, but it's a little more expensive.
Cables and Connectors
Getting the best sound requires you to be close to the original source of the sound. If you're going to plug into a sound board, you may need a longer microphone cable, or a boom pole to extend your microphone. Wireless microphones can let you work untethered under the right conditions. Put together a kit of connectors. Mine includes phono-to-mini adapters, XLR-to-RCA, and splitters.
I strongly recommend purchasing a camera with a microphone input. If your camera doesn't have any microphone input at all, it may have a hot shoe that lets you plug in lights or microphones from the same manufacturer. Sometimes you can find aftermarket adapters that let you use a mini-plug with the hot shoe, but you're better off getting a camera with a microphone input that cuts off the camera's built-in microphone.