#SciFund Challenge Class

Video storytelling made easy for scientists

Part 1: What You'll Need

Ready to get started? Not so fast. In order to make video right, you'll need some equipment.

Here's the good news. You obviously need equipment to do video stuff, but that doesn't mean you'll need to spend beaucoup bucks. In fact, assuming that you already have access to something that can record video, your equipment cost will probably be between fifty and one hundred dollars (mostly for audio recording gear).

Video recording device. Smartphones can capture great video and, considering that lots of us are walking around with one, this guide will be based around it. The key requirement is to have a recording device that can capture video at a resolution of at least 720p (1080p preferred). You have three basic ways to go here.

  • Most Apple iOS devices. Since the hardware and software on Apple devices is pretty standardized, this guide provides detailed instructions for them.
    • an iPhone OR
    • iPad (iPad 2 or newer, any model of iPad Air or iPad mini).
  • An Android device (running KitKat or later). As there is a tremendous range in the software and hardware associated with Android devices, these instructions can't be quite as tailored to your situation (but you'll still be good to go). One thing: you'll need to ensure that your Android device has: 1) the capacity to record video in HD and 2) the capacity to record audio with an external microphone that is plugged into the Android device.
  • A stand alone digital camcorder or camera. As with the Android option, this guide can't quite get into the details of your particular device (but, again, you'll be fine). Do ensure that the device has: 1) the capacity to record video in HD and 2) the capacity to record audio with an external microphone that is plugged in.

Video editing software. This guide will work things through with two editing programs – so please use one of these. For either of these programs, check to ensure that your computer meets the suggested hardware recommendations for the software (attempting video editing on a slow computer is an incredibly frustrating task). Here are the options.

  • HitFilm 3 Express. This video editing program is available for both Macs and Windows computers and has the benefit of being free (certain add-on packs that we won’t be using and that you are unlikely to need are not free). It also has the benefit of being really awesome software and you should use it. You can download it here. Please note that, during the download process, the website makes it seem that you need to mention HitFilm 3 Express on social media. You can skip this step – no social media mentions are actually needed to download the program.
  • iMovie for Mac (version 10). iMovie for Mac is only available for Macs and comes preinstalled on those computers.
  • iMovie for iOS (version 2). iMovie is also preinstalled on iPhones and iPads. This guide won't be providing specific advice for the iOS version of the software, but it is pretty similar to iMovie for Mac. If you choose to go this way, definitely use an iPad due to the larger screen size.

External microphone. Though smartphones have built-in microphones, you wouldn’t want to use them for recording video. Instead, you’ll want to use a microphone that plugs into your smartphone. Here are the options.

  • We recommend the Giant Squid lapel microphone (on the page, you want the “Omnidirectional Mono Microphone” for $40). Although there are cheaper microphone options out there, they are mostly terrible. The Giant Squid lapel mic is be reliable and a very good value for the money. This microphone is not specific to smartphones, so if you graduate to other cameras in the future, the Giant Squid can continue to serve you. The microphone is also available on Amazon, but it costs a bit more there (though it will likely arrive quicker).
  • Some other external microphone. It is of course possible to use another external microphone in this class, but this guide can't quite get into the nitty gritty of your specific situation like it can for the Giant Squid.

Audio adapter. Many video devices do not accept standard audio inputs, so you will need to use an adapter for the microphone to work. Here are the options.

  • iPhone (seven or newer). You'll need a Lightning port to 3.5 mm adapter (please note that not all adapters actually work for recording, so do choose carefully).
  • iPhone (six or older) or an iPad. Do note that though a standard 3.5 mm audio jack (which your microphone will probably have) fits directly into this device, you can't record this way. You'll need a "TRS to TRRS" adapter which costs about ten bucks and is widely available at Amazon, B&H, and plenty of other places.
  • For any other video recording device, you will need to investigate on your own whether an adapter is needed. Remember that, even if this other device has an input jack, it may still need an adapter.

Extension audio cable. As the cable that comes with most microphones is short, you will need at least ten feet of extension cable in order to be an appropriate distance from your camera. Here is the cable this guide recommends. If you don’t use the recommended Giant Squid microphone, you will need to double check that this cable is compatible with your microphone.

Tripod. This is essential for framing your video successfully. The Joby Gorillapod, an affordable tripod designed for smartphones, is recommended. Note that the GorillaPod comes in different sizes in order to accommodate differently-sized devices.