Tools for Reporting Across Platforms

Category: Gear

Just for Fun: Bring Barbie on Your Next Shoot

Introducing Barbie Video Girl. She’s  blonde, beautiful and comes fully equipped with a built-in video camera.

The camera lens is embedded in her necklace, while an LCD viewing screen sits fashionably in her back.

One of my colleagues showed me the following video by digital media maker Brandon Bloch, comparing Barbie Video Girl to a Canon 7D SLR camera. It is HILARIOUS, and the results may surprise you. This camerawoman is not half bad! (See more of Bloch’s work on his website:

Can you imagine bringing Barbie along on your next interview? “Dr. Hansen, if you could please just look straight at Barbie, say your name and spell it for me?”

For aspiring little journalists/filmmakers on your birthday buying list, $50 gets you the doll and a USB cord. Mattel says the camera is compatible with both Mac and Windows. It requires 2 AAA batteries.

Don’t Flip Out Just Yet! An Alternative to the Flip Cam

Don’t get me wrong. Flip cameras are a great buy. But there’s another pocket camcorder on the market that takes the Flip’s features and quality to the next level: the Kodak Zi8.


The Kodak Zi8 captures video at HD 1080P, higher than the Flip’s quality of 720P. The Zi8 also has an external mic jack, while the Flip currently does not.

You can order the Zi8 right now from either B&H or Best Buy for about $130, which is equivalent to the cost of the Flip.

I’m planning to take a Zi8 out in the field for some tests in the near future.

Until then, check out this review of the camera from CNET.

If you already have a Flip and are wishing for higher quality audio, you might want to look into the Mikey for Flip recently announced by Blue Microphones. The Mikey is a small, square microphone that attaches to the bottom of your Flip and is designed to give you professional level sound.

The Mikey also has a mic jack if you want to use a different microphone.  The device is set to come out next year. There’s just one eensy little drawback: the price. The Mikey is expected to sell for $70, about half the cost of the camera itself.

A Backpack Journalist’s Dream Come True? A Look at The JVC GY-HM100U

The days of tape-based video cameras and real-time digitizing are numbered. Now, it’s all about the memory card.

The JVC GY-HM100U is a nice little camera that records directly to SDHC cards (it has slots for 2).

Despite its small size (weighing in at just over 3 lbs), this camera packs a professional punch. It shoots in HD up to 1080P and comes complete with XLR mic inputs for professional level sound.

If you’re a Final Cut user, imagine adding to that the ability to record directly to QuickTime movie format. Picture an editing workflow of drag and drop replacing the headache of log and capture. Would that sweeten the deal? Well the JVC does just that.

The camera also stores files in MP4 format for use with other non-linear editing systems.

Here’s a helpful review of the camera, complete with test footage, from London-based director and filmmaker Philip Bloom.

Video journalist Glen Canning’s review is also worth checking out.

After extensive research, I finally got mine and am excited to put it to use.  At nearly $2,800, it’s a bit of an investment (both for newsrooms and individuals), but the ease of post-production should help make it worth it.

Check back soon for the results of my test runs…

To Use or Not to Use? The DSLR and Video Journalism

The emergence of digital SLR cameras capable of shooting HD video has prompted an informal debate about whether the cameras are suitable for video journalism.

Naysayers like Cliff Etzel of say the shallow depth of field and cinema look produced by DSLRs distract from the story.  Etzel says the need for additional equipment to improve a DSLR’s functionality as a video camera is another major drawback.

But take a look at a news piece shot with a DSLR, and you’ll see that when done right, you really can get a superb product.

Here’s an example shot by photo and video journalist Dan Chung in China for British newspaper the Guardian. (It takes a little time to load, but it’s well worth your patience!)

Chung’s website, DSLR News Shooter, is a great resource if you’re interested in seeing more.

For the video above, Chung used the Canon EOS 550D, a.k.a. the Rebel T2i, which is miraculously, not extremely expensive. I recently purchased my own and have been very happy with its performance so far.  The camera comes complete with an external mic jack, so you can get higher quality sound. The kit I bought rounded out to about $1100 and included an extra lens. Check B&H for deals.

No Teleprompter? No problem.

Who needs expensive teleprompter setups when you can create a mini-teleprompter with your iPhone?

The ProPrompter app from Bodelin Technologies works with both the iPhone and iPod Touch. Scripts are inserted using the ProPrompter script management website, which users can access after purchasing the app.

The iPhone as a prompter could prove useful for reporters shooting standups or liveshots in the field, especially those wanting to avoid fumbling with papers.

The ProPrompter app is currently selling for $10. The company also offers gadgets to make your iPhone prompter even better. At $130, the ProPrompter Wing is an attachment for your camera which secures the iPhone alongside the lens, for easy reading.


ProPrompter Wing. Original image at

The ProMag attachment (shown below) is a little more complex. It’s a lens hood/mirror system that allows you to use your iPhone more like a traditional teleprompter, with the words appearing in the lens. It includes a magnifier, so you can see your script bigger and clearer. It’s also about $1,000.

ProMag. Original image at

Attention all iPhone users!

Now this is cool. Here’s a way for you to use your iPhone to record stable, better sounding video. If you’re like me and you don’t have an iPhone, it’s things like this that could prompt you to make the jump when your current phone contract expires.

I’m talking about the OWLE — the OWLE Bubo to be specific. The OWLE is an external attachment for your iPhone that functions as a camera mount.

Original image here:

You just pop your iPhone into the back and voila, you’ve now got a highly functional, much-easier-to-hold video camera, complete with external mic, adjustable outer lens and monopod/tripod mounts.

And the best part: it’s only $130!

For just a little more, you can also get accessories for your OWLE, like a shotgun mic and a light…

(If you’re interested in buying, click here.)

Taz Goldstein, founder of Handheld Hollywood, did a pretty good review of the OWLE last year that includes some sample footage.