The following guide is specifically designed to help students buy equipment for the Beijing-based MA in International Multimedia Journalism program, however, it offers useful advice to anyone new to Multimedia Journalism and wanting to invest in a basic equipment set up.
Please be warned, it’s not an in-depth review of all the latest gear, it’s not a checklist either – everyone’s set up will be personalized to suit their style, needs, and budget. Instead, you should use this guide as a starting point to guide your own detailed research on specific purchases.
We do update the guide yearly but before you buy expensive new equipment we strongly suggest researching products online to check there are no new releases since this was written, we also recommend going to a store and trying out equipment in your hands before purchasing to figure out which items suit you. If you are a student in Beijing, then the Wukesong Camera Market is the place to do this.
If you are looking for comprehensive gear reviews we recommend http://www.newsshooter.com
The guide is divided into two sections, ESSENTIAL EQUIPMENT, and EXTRAS. In the Essentials section, we list 10 items necessary and required for all IMMJ students prior to joining the program and ready to use in the first week of study. These 10 items are enough to equip a beginner multimedia journalist to shoot pictures, record video and audio as well as edit and publish basic multimedia assignments. We understand that everyone has different budgets and ways of working, therefore we’ve included a range of budget options in each category. Don’t think you need to buy the most expensive items, even the cheapest options will work well for a beginner.
In the Extras section, we list other equipment – mainly for video – that enhance creative options and in some cases make your job a little easier to perform. However, we don’t advise buying anything in the extras section before you start the program.
All IMMJMA students are required to purchase the ten-item basic set up listed below. You must purchase all ten items by the beginning of Term 1. If you are unsure about any equipment purchases, please seek advice from tutors and peers via Wechat or during the program introduction day. In addition to the ten items, a shotgun microphone is strongly advised for Semester 1, however, you do not need this immediately, and can purchase midway through the semester. The complete essential multimedia journalist kit costs around £1000 pounds / 9,000 RMB – excluding laptop.
IMMJ Required Multimedia Equipment List – IMMJ students must start the term with a complete set-up.
- A camera capable of shooting video and still pictures. (Alternately you may have two cameras, one for video and one for stills).
- A single or range of lens(s)with focal lengths between 28mm and 100mm – (35mm equivalent).
- A laptop computer capable of editing images, video, and audio*Note: Adobe Creative Cloud’s system requirements are an excellent benchmark. If a laptop meets Adobe’s specs, it will meet ours. Please note Adobe CC software must also be installed on your computer — you can use the free 30 day trial for the first month.
- A sound recorder – for first-time buyers on a budget please buy the Zoom H1
- Memory cards for your camera and audio recorder.
- A lavalier (or tie clip) microphone for recording interviews
- A tripod for shooting video
- Headphones (over the ear, not earbuds)
- 2 x external hard drives for backing up your assets
- An equipment bag – we prefer a backpack to protect your back
*Note; A shotgun microphone for recording ambient sound and ‘run and gun’ interviews is strongly advised (You can buy this item mid Term 1 or during Term 2)
*Note; We do not advise you to purchase a MacBook Air, If you already have a Mac Air, it will be fine for Term 1, and possibly Term 2, but you may struggle and need a stronger machine for Terms 3. MacBook Pro’s are expensive so consider a PC.
Please also note, equipment – particularly cameras, are increasingly difficult to recommend this is because there are so many choices and new models coming onto the market all the time. You’ll need to spend some time researching various models online to see which ones suit you and your budget. An important piece of advice is that you don’t need to buy the most expensive equipment, Multimedia journalism is about telling stories – not about your equipment. We’ve seen amazing work from the most basic equipment set up and we’ve also seen poor quality work from the most expensive equipment!
We recommend listening to this podcast to give you an overview of buying equipment: EP79 – Student gear guide & readable video. It’s a little dated in terms of specific gear but much of the general advice still rings true – for example don’t blow your whole budget on an expensive camera and have nothing left to invest in a decent lens or two – cameras lose value quickly, while lenses will last you a lifetime. A medium quality camera paired with a couple of really good lenses will typically give better results than a most expensive camera with a poor quality lens. Second-hand markets are a good option for lenses, but it’s not usually a good idea to buy a second-hand camera body unless it’s from a friend or you really know your stuff.
1. CAMERA OPTIONS
You’ll need a camera capable of shooting video and still pictures. For students who are already shooting stills and or video, you may prefer two separate cameras. For beginners, we recommend a video-enabled stills camera (DSLR or mirrorless). The three biggest brands are Nikon and Canon and Sony, but there other brands out there including, Fujifilm, Olympus, Panasonic, and Pentax, and they are also worth a look. This link provides some information about popular mirrorless cameras and shows footage filmed with each camera.
When buying a video camera the audio options and controls are REALLY important. Audio is 50% of video. When recording audio for video you may sometimes want to use a separate recording device for optimum quality, however, an audio input on your camera gives you much more options for a variety of situations.
Some cameras have great shooting functionality and poor audio functionality – this can be really frustrating and these kinds of cameras will require lot’s of workarounds to get professional quality. One thing you should look out for is an audio input If there is no audio input buy a different model. An audio input means you’ll be able to connect external microphones and record quality audio directly to the camera, Ideally, your camera will also have manual audio controls and also a headphone jack so that you can monitor audio.
Many models don’t have a headphone jack, which means you can’t monitor your audio while recording – this is a huge problem, If there is no headphone output, you can work around this but it’s a bit of a hassle.
The models in the Canon, Nikon and Sony sections directly below all shoot at high-quality HD (1080p) and have audio inputs, some also shoot in 4K, this is not necessary at and many laptops still struggle to edit 4K footage. However, it’s a nice function to have for occasional use. All of the cameras listed below would be perfect for the program. We go into more detail about some of the most common choices further below. You might look for a camera which has recently been upgraded often the upgrades are minor and the prices of the previous model drops.
Sony: *A7, *A7 II, *A7S, *A7S II, *A7M2, A7M3, A6300, A6500, *A7R, *A7R II, *A99 II
Canon: entry-level such as the; current Rebel line T6i or T7i, 70D, * 80D, *7D Mark II, Mid to High-end such as the; 6D *5D Mark III or iV, 5DS, *1D X Mark II
Nikon: D3300, D3400, D5300, D5500, D5600, *D7100, *D7200, *D500, *D610, *D750, *D810 , *D5
Panasonic: *GH5, *GH4
* Also has a headphone jack
Mode with red color is highly recommended as they are better for video production.
- ENTRY LEVEL MIRRORLESS TheSony Alpha a6300 or the newer upgraded model the a6500 are great choices. The a6300 has a high-resolution APS sensor and EVF, it’s a great choice for students and can be easily set to manual everything. At a top ISO of 25,000, it performs well in low light and there’s a growing line of E-mount lenses. Mirrorless cameras offer more compact, lighter weight, and more discreet models than DSLR ranges. Even if you upgrade in the future this will remain a wonderful b camera. $898.00 –$1,398.00
- ENTRY LEVEL GREAT ALL ROUNDER MIRRORLESS Sony Alpha a7 The A7 is an affordable full-frame digital camera the included 28–70mm kit lens is reasonable. The sensor delivers outstanding image quality, and its autofocus system is fast. It has an ultra-high-resolution electronic viewfinder. $1,098.00
- *Note: The Sony A7s and A7r, and newer A7sii and A7rii and A7iii in the same series are also excellent cameras, though require a bigger budget. If you are considering these cameras please speak with tutors. $1,998.00 – $2,498.00
- BUDGET ENTRY LEVEL DSLR Canon EOS Rebel T5i with the 18–55mm kit Lens, or newer brothers T6i or T7i DSLR Camera. These budget-priced Canon DSLRs offer great image quality, low noise in low light, and a tiltable touch-screen LCD. $599.00 (with kit lens) $649.00 / $749.00
- Also, check out the similar EOS Rebel SL1 + SL2
- *Note Nikon also offer alternatives in similar price and specs range, eg. Nikon D5500 or the Nikon D3300 ($500, 18-55mm kit lens) which also fall into the lower end of Nikon’s range, both have microphone inputs for video (beware, there’s no headphone jack in the successor model D3400).
- GOOD ENTRY LEVEL DSLR Canon EOS 70D DSLR Camera with kit lens The EOS 70D was until recently the DSLR of choice for Canon DSLR users looking to upgrade from more entry-level models like the Rebel T6i. However, it has been replaced with the newly released EOS 80D. You should discount the 70D though – especially now it’s a little dated it can be picked up for a cheaper price. $799.00. The 80D is definitely worth considering too, but it has a higher price tag.
- *Note Nikon also offer alternatives in a similar price and specs range.
- ENTRY LEVEL GREAT ALL ROUNDER MIRRORLESS Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 Mirrorless is a true hybrid camera designed for both professional photo and video use. It’s also 4K capable. Like its predecessor, the GH4 features a weather-sealed magnesium alloy body, while offering an increased resolution on both the OLED monitor and electronic viewfinder. It also features high-speed autofocus in both photo and video mode. $997.99
- PROFESSIONAL DSLR Canon 5d range Again this is only for those with a bigger budget. The Canon EOS 5D Mark III DSLR Camera is a full-frame camera with exceptional still image and movie recording capabilities. It performs superbly in low light. All IMMJ tutors use the 5DMiii for their professional stills assignments. $2,299.00 and up.
DEDICATED VIDEO CAMERAS
You may already have a stills camera and want to upgrade to a dedicated video camera. These are some good options.
- Canon EOS C100 Mark II
- Canon XC10
- Sony PWX70
- Sony PXW-FS5
- Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera – We do not recommend this camera as it’s not designed for the kind of run and gun shooting a multimedia journalist typically does
2. LENS OPTIONS
Please be warned – before buying any lens do your own research to make sure it’s compatible with the specific camera model you own! Lenses have different mounts and lenses for cameras with crop sensors will not fit full frame cameras. Don’t make the mistake of blowing all your budget on a camera and buying the cheapest lens.
Should I buy a kit lens with my camera?
If you are buying a new camera you’ll find that cameras come with lens bundles, with cheaper entry-level cameras these ‘kit lenses’ are often cheaper, poorer quality variable aperture. These lenses often work really well in good outdoor light but can mean that you struggle in low-light situations. With more expensive cameras the ‘kit lens’ might be a great lens, for example, the Canon 24-105 f4. You’ll need to check what options are available with your camera. Also, it’s not a bad thing at all to have a cheaper starter kit lens, as mentioned earlier in many situations they work really well. If you are on a tight budget you might consider. If your ideal lenses are over your budget, your best option is to buy the best kit lens you can afford. Canon APS-C DSLR camera kit lens options typically include the EF-S 18-55mm IS, EF-S 18-135mm IS and sometimes the EF-S 18-200mm IS lenses These lenses are usually an especially good value when purchased with a camera. Read more about variable aperture lenses here and here
Zooms or Primes?
Let’s be clear, in this section we are advising on lens choices for shooting video or having lenses that double up for stills and video work. Both zooms and primes have advantages – quality primes are often faster (by faster we mean they have larger apertures and work well in low light) lighter and cheaper than quality zooms, but zooms are generally easier to shoot video with because you can easily vary focal length and build video sequences without missing any action as you don’t need to waste any time switching lenses. In this case, we recommend that you buy zooms if you can buy one or two quality zoom lenses that cover a good range from wide to tight (with apertures that go down to at least f4) that will work well. For example, if you are a Canon user a single 24 – 105mm f4 will cover most needs. But that’s an expensive lens and you might only be able to afford a kit lens. In this case, you might opt to buy a cheap or even an old second-hand prime lens which won’t cost a lot of money ( decent lenses can be as cheap as the 200 – 700 RMB range) and will give you a lens that you can use in low light when needed.
Third Party Lenses
Such as Sigma and Tamron, personally I love these – they make some great quality lenses and are often just as good and cheaper than Canon, Nikon etc. I personally own the Sigma 18-35f/1.8 Art Lens and the Tamron 24-70 f/2.8
It’s really impossible for us to recommend all lenses for all budgets for all camera models. Once you’ve narrowed down the list to a few you’re interested in, we recommend checking if DPReview has any reviews on the lens. They do a great job.
Lenses we love (that won’t break the bank)
- Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 – this nifty 50 is cheap and for those on a low budget buying kit lenses gives you a lifesaver lense to use in low light. Great for interviews and portraits too.
- Sigma 24-105mm f/4.0 DG OS HSM Art Lens – The 24-105mm covers a lot of ground and the fixed f/4 max aperture is adequate for most needs. Image quality is excellent.
- Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens Excellent Image Quality, Wide f/2.8 Aperture, Great Autofocus Speed & Accuracy, Image Stabilization
- Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens – Wide Focal Length Range, Great Value, Small, Light, Image Stabilization, performs well when recording video using Movie Servo AF. When purchased in a kit with a DSRL camera, this lens has a great value price tag.
- Canon EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM Lens Excellent Image Quality, Wide Focal Length Range, No wide apertures but still Good Value, Image Stabilization
- Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens – Excellent Image Quality, Excellent Build Quality, Great Focal Length Range, Image Stabilization, Weather Sealing
- Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art Lens – The World’s First f/1.8 Zoom Lens, Great Build Quality, Excellent Image Quality
- Canon macro 90mm f/2.8 -also see the Tamron AF 90mm f/2.8 Di SP – a bit of a specialist lens and something extra than the basic starter kit but really allows for some creative macro video work
2. LAPTOP COMPUTER OPTIONS
You will need a computer capable of editing images, video, and audio. Note: Adobe Creative Cloud’s system requirements are an excellent benchmark for the laptop you plan to use to do multimedia work for the program. If a laptop meets Adobe’s specs, it will meet ours. Please note Adobe CC software must also be installed on your computer — you can use the free 30 day trial for the first month. You have two options, Mac OS or Windows.
The most demanding multimedia task is video editing and your computer needs to be able to handle this. You will need a laptop too if you really want to buy a desktop rather than a laptop – that’s possible but you won’t, in that case, receive any hands-on support from tutors over the course of the year so we suggest you buy a laptop. You’ll need to make sure the processor, RAM, storage, and display are all suitable. But more than anything, you need to pick a laptop that fits your budget. It’s impossible to recommend a single laptop to fit every student, instead here is a selection of laptops that offer suitable features at different price points. From our Windows-using alumni, Asus models get a big thumbs up. This is where I got many of the recommendations I list below: 10 Best Laptop for Video Editing 2017 August Edition (wiknix.xom) – so you might like to take a more detailed look there.
- PROFESSIONAL, GREAT ALL-ROUNDER, VERY EXPENSIVE: Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar – Models range from 13-15-inch with various specs. 15 inch is going to be easier on the eyes. Price ranges accordingly from RMB10,288 – RMB 22,288 We suggest upgrading ram from 8 to 16GB adding 1,500 RMB to the price. Possibly if you are going for the cheaper models upgrading the processor too. (Student discounts available at the Mac store) (Cheaper in HK or US).
- PROFESSIONAL, GREAT ALL-ROUNDER, MEDIUM EXPENSIVE: DELL XPS 15. Again there are a variety of modifications you can make we suggest the i7 3.3GHz processor, 16GB RAM, and 512GB memory). Starting at $999.99
PROFESSIONAL, GREAT ALL-ROUNDER, EXPENSIVE: Dell Precision 5510 Similar to the Dell XPS 15, but a little smaller and lighter and while a little more expensive there’s no need to upgrade the RAM as it starts out at 16GB. Starting at $1,399.00
- PROFESSIONAL, GREAT ALL-ROUNDER, EXPENSIVEASUS ZenBook Pro UHD Laptop (Intel Core i7 quad-core processor, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD) From $1,299.00
- PROFESSIONAL, GREAT ALL-ROUNDER, MEDIUM EXPENSIVE: ASUS Vivo Book M580VD-EB76 This high-performance machine has been called the “best budget video editing laptop” i7 2.8GHz processor, 16GB RAM, 1TB hard drive, + 256GB solid-state drive. $1,049.00
- PROFESSIONAL, GREAT ALL-ROUNDER, MEDIUM EXPENSIVE: Dell i5577-7700BLK-PUS. i7 (up to 3.8 GHz), 12GB, 128GB SSD+ 1TB HDD) $929.00
- Lenovo Y50 (i7, 2.4GHz processor, up to 16GB RAM and 256GB built-in memory)
- *NOTE, we wouldn’t suggest many modifications especially enormous SSD drives unless you are really flush with cash. You will likely just use your computers inbuilt hard drive for storing documents, music, and films and will not use it for storing your multimedia assets such as pictures, audio and video files. These assets will all be stored and worked on via external hard drives.
3. MEMORY CARD OPTIONS
Be careful when buying memory cards, some of the cheaper cards may not be fast enough to cope with the speed at which the camera needs to write video data. In just about every workshop I run someone asks me why their camera only records 30 seconds of video then stops, and 99% of the time is is because the card they have in the camera is not fast enough. For safety opt for read and write speeds of 95 MB/sec + 90 MB/sec. New cameras which have capabilities like 4K video or very fast frame rates — will need the fasted possible cards to keep up. It’s also important to note that in some countries, where fakes abound, you need to be careful where you buy the card or you may end up with a card that is slower and has less capacity than is stated on the label. You don’t want your card to fail on you just as you complete a day of shooting so don’t go cheap on this one.
- SanDisk 32 / 64GB SDHC Memory Card Extreme Pro
- SanDisk 32 / 64GB SDHC Memory Card Extreme
- There are plenty more on the market Lexar, Transcend, Sony are all good options.
4. AUDIO RECORDER OPTIONS
- BUDGET Zoom H1 audio recorder – Cheap and fantastic. I can’t say enough good things about this little recorder. I have been using it the last year almost on every assignment. It’s small, great for ambient recordings and can act as a second mic input with a tie clip mic attached if you are doing two people interviews. No XLR though(500 RMB on Tabao.com)
- PROFESSIONAL Zoom H5 audio recorder – more expensive, if it’s your first audio recorder you might be better with the cheaper H1. This recorder has XLR inputs and additional modules that can turn it into a whole array of recording devices. It’s great for important interviews and could double as a mini mixer if you did not want to carry the extra equipment
- Tascam also makes a good range of audio recorders
5. TIE CLIP MIC OPTIONS
- Tie clip mic (no brand) (30 RMB from Taobao or Zhongguancun). These mics are cheap as chips and will serve you well for the first term. After that, you’ll probably want to upgrade to a 2–300 RMB mic.
- BOYA BY-M1 Omnidirectional lavalier microphone is versatile in use, so can be operated not only with DSLR and video cameras but also with external recorders and even with smartphones and tablets. (Boya also does a very affordable wireless mic, it’s not the worlds best quality but it’s
- Audio-Technica ATR3350 Omnidirectional Condenser Lavalier If you want a budget upgrade this is a very cheap but remarkably solid option. It comes with a good length cable and extra power too.
- Rode SmartLav is also a good extra mic, it will plug into your phone and give you a surprisingly good extra option with the APP that comes with it.
- Boya also does cheap and reasonable quality wireless lav mics – I’ll buy for the class for testing.
Also, take a look here: 5 budget wired lavalier microphones for less than $100
6. SHOTGUN MIC OPTIONS (SMALL ON CAMERA)
- Either the Sennheiser MKE 400 or the Rode VideoMic Pro Compact are reasonably priced and work well. Getting the on-camera mic right is very important. Too long at the back and it will get in your eye when trying to shoot stills, too long at the front and it will show up in your wide-angle shots.
- Shure VP83F LensHopper Shotgun Microphone with Integrated Flash Recorder, seems like a good option but we haven’t tried or tested this one. This microphone combines both a sound recorder and a small form shotgun microphone, excellent for saving space and can also give you back up when using the shotgun for ambient and street interviews.
- See the B&H video which looks at ways to improve the in-camera audio on “run & gun” style, single-operator shoots using camera mountable mics that plug directly into the camera’s 3.5mm external mic input.
7. TRIPOD OPTIONS
Tripods are a crucial bit of kit and choosing the right one is a personal choice that must take into account your size and willingness/ability to carry a heavyweight around with you. If it’s your first time buying we’d recommend a cheaper option until you know more about your style of shooting, you can always upgrade later.
- Manfrotto befree – https://www.manfrotto.us/collections/supports/befree-series – not cheap but great and will last.
- Benro tripod plus ball head — (400–600+ RMB on Taobao). Cheap and cheerful. You won’t get any movements out of this, but it works and you can easily carry it around. I use one of these when traveling light.
- Manfrotto MT055XPRO3 Aluminum Tripod with 502HD Fluid Head Hybrid Video Kit
- Sachtler Ace Fluid Head with 2-Stage Aluminum Tripod & Mid-Level Spreader. The Sachtler Ace is a good option for a DSLR as it is just about sturdy enough to be able to do professional movements and also has a leveling base that will make getting set up much quicker.
- Gitzo Series 2 6X Leveling 4-Section Fluid Tripod Kit with Manfrotto 054 Magnesium Ball Head with Q2 Quick Release. I am a little isolated in the professional community for this choice but for much of my work I go with a lightweight tripod. I am normally working on my own and on my feet all day. The Gitzo is super lightweight with carbon fiber legs, very quick to set up and packs down small to fit on the side of my backpack. It reaches up to eye level of most tall men and also has a hook underneath that allows me to drape by backpack on windy days for extra stability. The hook alone can make the tripod 3 times heavier than without it, depending on what I have in the bag. Again controversially I like using a lightweight fluid video head as its quick to set up shots but it does limit my camera movement options. This one from Manfrotto is cheap but its a real tradeoff from using the Sachtler. If you are just shooting video I would not recommend it but for multimedia journalists who are multitasking or for people having to carry their equipment on foot long distances it can be worth the trade-off.
- Sennheiser HD 201 — Over-Ear Headphones. There are so many choices, but to narrow things down for a first-time buyer on a budget, these work well.
9. HARD DRIVES
you’ll need 2 x 1 or 2TB backup (800 RMB) (It’s a good idea to buy drives in your home country as there are many fakes in China). Again so many on the market.
- WD My Passport 1 or 2TB Portable External USB 3.0 Hard Drive. Reasonably priced and very reliable.
- Safrotto F3 version or the Lowepro Fastpack 250–300 RMB. Bags are very personal go to a store and try your equipment in them and try them on.
Spare camera batteries
Batteries lose power quickly always worth having and carrying backups
- LED light — Z96 on Ta0bao (300 RMB)
Point of View Cameras
- Go Pro Simple but great point of view cameras with lots of accessories and attachments to get them into places you would never think of putting a camera. They have four basic functions, video, stills, time-lapse and timer. Don’t think you can replace a DSLR with them though as HD they are but good quality they are not, particularly in low light situations
Wireless lav mic System
- RodeLink Wireless Filmmaker Kit A new model combining affordability and quality.
- Sennheiser EW112-p G3 Camera Mount Wireless Microphone SystemThese are compact and very robust making them a favorite for many professional video shooters. The one downside for DSLR users without a headphone jack is they don’t have to provide one for you which would give you another place to monitor the sound from if you were plugging them straight into the camera.
- Sony UWP-V1 Wireless Lavalier Microphone These are a little larger than the Sennheiser but do come with a headphone socket. As with the mini mixer, the headphone out will only let you monitor the signal into the wireless unit and not what the camera is recording but it is better than nothing if you are using a DSLR without a headphone jack
Shot Gun Microphones
There’s a huge range of shotgun mics, ranging from a 100 to thousands of dollars. While for first-time buyers we don’t recommend anything too expensive, we also don’t advise on the very cheapest models — if you are ready to invest in a shotgun mic, then you are stepping up your game and you may as well buy something that will last some time and deliver professional quality.
- Rode NTG4 Shotgun Microphone. Sharron is currently using this model, for one of the cheaper models on the market, this performs really well. More expensive models will deliver better results, but this mic gives professional, broadcast-quality sound on a budget.
- Sennheiser MKE 600 Similar to the Rode option above this offers a compromise between affordability and quality.
DSLR’s are notoriously bad at dealing with the sound requirements of video. A mini mixer gives you four of the missing links. XLR connectors will make your audio signal more stable as the extra earth wire will help eliminate static and annoying interference from mobile phones etc and at the same time give you access to a whole array of professional microphones and other audio products. Secondly, the mixer will give you a stronger signal into the camera which means you don’t have to max out the in-camera levels to get audio at decent levels and degrading the quality of the sound. Thirdly it will give you a headphone socket so you can monitor the sound. This is not perfect as this is the audio going through the mixer and not what the camera is recording but better than nothing. Fourthly it gives you multiple inputs so you can mic up the interviewer as well as the interviewee, do a two-person interview or use a shotgun and a lav to get a fuller sound.
- Juiced Link Riggy Micro
- Tascam also do excellent mixers
ND faders are a must for DSLR video shooters wanting to get the maximum benefit from the large sensors. With the shutter speed fixed in most cases, the ND fader gives you another way to bring down the light levels so you can open your aperture up and get shallow depth of field.
- Heliopan 77mm Variable Gray ND Filter
- Polaroid 77mm Neutral Density Fader Filter This is not something that you want to go cheap on if possible as it’s an add on that will directly affect the quality of your shots. However, the Heliopan is expensive and a cheaper option like the polaroid can still make a big difference to the look of your video
- You can pick up cheap, no brand LED lights at the camera market for around 2–300 RMB.
- Cineroid L2C-3K5K On-Camera LED Light These are expensive for their small size but are very small yet powerful with lots of options.
- Westcott Ice Light 2 LED Light This small form factor tube light is excellent for lighting interviews as the tube gives very little fall off onto a wall behind the subject and is also a very soft light. Not cheap, but beautiful and portable.
Small stands for lights/mics etc
- Lollipod I normally carry at least one or two of these, sometimes more. They are very lightweight, easy to set up and can hold a go pro camera, a light, a monitor, a microphone etc. They do break easily but are cheap so always good to have a small stock of them
- Zacuto Z-Finder Pro 2.5x I bought one of these soon after they were released and have used it almost daily ever since. It’s expensive but solidly built and makes the task of focussing in bright light so much easier. I prefer to use the clip-on rather than attaching a mount to the camera as this way I can quickly flip it off to shoot stills.
- Cheaper models can be found online and in the camera market for 2–300 RMB, sure they are not as good as a Zacuto but they do the basic job.
- Canon Timer Remote Controller or no brand copies. Not needed by Nikon users or those with magic lantern installed on their cards, the intervalometer allows DSLR filmmakers to shoot time-lapses. Great for moving clouds across a landscape or a busy road junction to show time passing. It’s lightweight and cheap so should be in everyone’s bag just in case.
- BlackRapid RS DR-1 Double Strap A friend tried to persuade me to use these straps for a year before finally, I did and I have never looked back since. They are comfortable to wear, quick to use and when combined with a tripod baseplate make it very fast to unclip and drop onto a tripod. I use the dual ones for two cameras with the option to also just use a single strap. Well worth the investment for anyone who has to do a lot of walking with their cameras.
(To be updated soon)
The great thing about rigs is that they are extremely adaptable and you don’t need to have a single unit from one company. My rig is made up of components from four different companies which all bolt together to form one (multicolored) unit. In essence, the rig should comprise of a base plate sitting on two metal rods to which you can bolt things. Handles for holding the rig off the tripod. A shoulder pad with a counterbalance to allow you to use a DSLR as a shoulder-mounted camera. A focus finder, either connected to your lenses or plugged into the USB socket of the camera (Canon only) and a bracket to attach your monitor. You may need extra places to plug additional extras like microphones, mini mixers, and radio receivers.
- Zacuto Recoil DSLR Not cheap, but makes you look and feel a little ‘Terminator’
Aperture MagicRig Rigs come in all shapes and sizes and can be built slowly as you develop your video skills and add extra equipment. This is a good starting point as a simple brace that allows you to hold the camera more steady. Add a viewfinder and you have a great lightweight run and gun rig
Slider’s and jibs are extra weight and hassle to set up but can really lift your video. Movement sets apart straight forward news assignments to make them look more cinematic and combine this with the short depth of field the large sensors bring and you can elevate a straight forward assignment into a video that looks amazing.
- The pocket dolly is expensive for its small size but robust and will give you a unique look that news crews shooting from tripods can not match
- The Varavon Slide Cam Lite is a cheaper option.
Extra very cheap add-ons to pick up in local photo market:
- Deadcat for mics
- Hotshoe adaptor
- Extension cord for microphone
- Line to microphone wire to connect Zoom H1 to camera) — around 20 RMB
- You will need a VPN — we recommend Astrill
- Microsoft Word/Powerpoint or Pages/Keynote or similar word processor and presentation software. You will need to be able to save your written work as .doc files for our system of feedback.
- You will need photo and video editing software, we recommend either the complete Adobe CC collection (Student edition or Chinese Trial Version is fine). Alternatively, you might choose a photo editing / archiving software and FCPX for video editing. In class we teach using Adobe Premiere for video editing; however, all tutors do also know FCPX so can help you with that.
- Lightroom ( available as a free trial and cheap in China)
- A website domain name and host subscription. This can be done in week 1.
All the above software packages are considerably cheaper if you buy the student versions please ask your tutor for details.
Formatting external hard drives
Note Please format your external hard drives so they can be read both on PC and mac — instructions below. Please choose exfat and only do it with empty disks. Never format a disk with material on it as you will erase the files. Watch this video to learn how.
You should install antivirus software on your computer. I’d recommend Sophos, its free and decent. It’s also easy to install and use. If you have USB drives you should be checking they are virus-free before plugging them into other computers.
Need more info? See these links
Here are two good overviews to get you started:
- The Ultimate Guide to Buying a New Camera
- Multimedia Week In this episode we talk multimedia cameras – the Canon 5D Mk3, the Panasonic GH4, and the Sony A7s.
- Once you have some ideas of the model or brand you might like, we suggest you search the model in www.newsshooter.com posts to see recent reviews and tests.Do not miss this: Building a set of usable lenses for less than $60 each
Where to Buy
Those looking to buy in Beijing we suggest buying from Zhaohui Shi in Hailong building, (call for exact floor and room). Her phone number is 13601183889. She’s a busy woman, so don’t just call her and bother her with questions, better to go to the shop. If you take the subway, metro station is Zhongguancun (close to the university) and you go to exit D. Hailong (written “Hilong” on the building but pronounced “hailong”) it’s huge building so you should find easily.
For Macbooks, we suggest one of the two Apple stores in Beijing. They have student discounts so bring your student ID. There is a shop that imports from Hong Kong and sells at discount prices. If you are planning a trip to Hong Kong it is a good place to buy all things Apple and hard drives.
taobao.com is the best choice for many things but beware memory cards and hard drives which could be fake. JD.com is similar to Taobao and Chinese folks say more reputable. From either of these stores, you can purchase LED lights, microphones and anything not too expensive. You will need a Chinese classmate to help you buy and be sure to check the contents of what you bought when it arrives. Again there are a lot of fake goods in the market so be very careful about the store you buy from, a Chinese friend can help you to find a more reputable Taobao store.
If you like think tank or RRS gear check out http://shop34296443.taobao.com/
Manuals – It’s essential to bring all your manuals for your equipment to class, with so many different models we may need to consult your manual from time to time.