Fieldwork equipment suggestions

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The following list is tentative...I suggest you research online, compare features and reviews, then take equipment for a spin before committing. And know that whatever you purchase it will soon be superseded... :)

ProMax advice

[the following advice comes from ProMax, an AV firm in can purchase from them directly if you'd like. Get on their mailing list to be informed of all the latest...]

Choose your camera wisely

Understanding what format your camera records in is vital to choosing an editing application which can work with it. Most consumer HD cameras record in Mpeg2, Mpeg4, or iFrame/H.264. Professional HD cameras record in HDV, DVCPRO HD, XDCAM, 2K, and 4K. These formats are formally referred to as the “CODEC”, which stands for Compression-Decompression. To insure your editing application can support your new camera, take the time to discover which codec your camera records in and check this against the editing application you are using by opening a NEW PROJECTS, and viewing the list of SEQUENCE PRESETS. Use this list as a guide to selecting a compatible camera. You may need to consider upgrading your software to accommodate the formats of new HD cameras.

Know the capabilities of your editing software

All editing applications work under the same simple concept of taking source media and combining them in a timeline with cuts, transitions, and affects. This media is accessed from Capturing from a recorded tape or transferred from a solid state media card Some will give you greater codec support and artistic capabilities. Mastering discs of HD content also requires Blu-Ray support. If you master your project to a standard DVD, although you can create a widescreen appearance, you cannot write the highest quality level available from your HD camera. If you are mastering to the web, encoding your projects in H.264 can be a great option. They also vary in the level of audio support they offer from adding voiceovers to creating projects in 5.1 surround sound. In general, choose an application which supports your camera, gives you the visual effects you desire, and supports the distribution method you are planning to use.

Understand your computer in what you need for HD Editing

Once you have chosen your camera and editing application, you can choose the hardware required by viewing the Minimum System Requirements for the editing application. This is easily found on the software manufacturer’s website under the category of Specifications or Minimum System Requirements. In general, for HD editing you need a Duo Core Processor and a minimum of 4GB of memory. You also need a high performance graphics card. In general, any consumer computer designed for multimedia and gaming, will offer the type of features you are looking for. Laptop systems can also be used for editing as long as they meet these requirements. Most have a DVI or VGA ports from which you can add a second desktop display. If you are hoping to connect your computer to a HD TV or Plasmas to preview your work, depending on your computer and your TV, you can add a simple cable to do the job, or a video capture device to give you additional connectivity.

Audio Options

Not all cameras offer a RCA jack to connect a microphone to. The Canon Cameras I have recommended all have one Mini RCA jack for and audio input. Most high quality microphones have a 3 pin XLR connector, so you will need an adapter cable. Learn more about microphones at

Apple v. PC…which is best for editing

Recent advances in the operating system for PCs have eliminated many of the arguments against using them for video editing, such as memory limitations. This arguments has become less valid, so you as the consumer have more choice than ever.

Training Resources

Many software manufactures now sponsor free application training on their websites listed under Tutorials or Resources. Another low cost option is purchasing a monthly account at For less than $25.00 per month you get unlimited access to their online tutorials of hundreds of applications from beginning to advanced. I also recommend the book, “Digital Video Hacks.” Your local community colleges and universities are also a great source for training through their Communications Departments.

I hope this information helps you in your selection of a system which meets your needs. I wish you the great success in your career as and editor and hope we have a chance to work together again in the future.


Heather Latchford Account Executive Direct- 949.861.2725 Toll Free- 800.977.6629 x 125 Skype: promax.heather

18241 McDurmott West, Suite A Irvine, CA 92614 (949) 727-2040 : Fax

Professional Video Editing Systems "Your Cure For Complexity"

Equipment at Long & McQuade

As my son takes drum lessons there, I visit this music store frequently; there's a branch on the south side (next to Costco, 28th Ave and 91 St). Here are some of the products I've seen on their shelves of late. This is not a plug for L&M, by the way; you may like to visit them (another branch is on 107 Ave downtown), or the other music stores in town (e.g. Mother's Music on 109 Street downtown, or Axe Music on Wayne Gretzky drive, near the hockey stadium) to talk to knowledgeable professionals. The music stores on Whyte tend to have less pro gear, but check them out too as they're near campus.

For office equipment (e.g. recorders especially suitable for interviews) you can check a different kind of store (e.g. Staples).

Audio Recorders

Typically record uncompressed wav (48 or 96 KHz, 16 to 24 bit samples) as well as various mp3 resolutions. Many companies are entering the fray... Better recorders record at higher sampling rates and bit depths, and provide XLR connections. Note however that "pro" gear -- bigger and heavier, not to mention more expensive -- is not always not preferable.

  • Zoom H2 audio recorder, $189
  • Zoom H4n recorder, featuring 24 bit, 96 KHz recordings, for $359
  • Olympus linear PCM recorder, $399. I don't know this recorder. But if you want a good interview recorder, check out other Olympus products, perhaps in an office supply store.
  • Tascam DR-07 Digital recorder, $179
  • Consider also the Roland Edirol models (check online).

Portable studio recorders

These allow for mixing and overdubbing, and sometimes allow you to add effects (of uncertain value in ethnomusicology), and may enable more than 2 mic inputs as well. Some ethnomusicologists, such as Simha Arom, have used the overdubbing technique in the field to isolate lines in a polyphonic texture for transcription (once parts are mixed they can be very difficult to separate later). Some may allow XLR inputs, others don't. If you want to record more than two tracks at a time you'll have to pay a bit more, but this may be worthwhile for serious recording projects.

  • Tascam pocket studio mixer/recorder. 4 tracks ($299), 8 tracks ($339). Can only record 2 tracks at a time, but enables overdubbing.
  • Boss digital micro recorder, $250. Portable studio with mixing, recording, and effects.
  • Zoom R16 portable battery powered recorder/mixer, with 8 inputs, 16 tracks. $479
  • Roland BR-600 portable studio

A/D converters

If you want to record direct to laptop, these are essential. The good ones provide XLR inputs. Minimally you need 2 inputs; more expensive models will allow you to record more sources simultaneously. Typically can handle MIDI as well.

  • Cakewalk UA - 25 EXCW $250. USB audio capture 25 bit 96 KHz, made by Roland.
  • Edoral 24 bit 96 KHz USB Audio Capture - UA25


  • Flip video (available at Costco). Basic flash memory recorder. [Now obsolete - but there are other similar devices available.]
  • Zoom Q3 video recorder; records to flash memory. Similar to the Flip recorder, but better audio, and in fact can record just audio with a flick of a switch. This may be perfect for all AV needs, short of documentary production - clearly video won't be top quality, but allows you to add a video dimension which can help in transcription and ethnographic interpretation, when you need it. $299.
  • Very small camera:
  • Head-mounted camera:
  • Camcorders recording to removable media or SD cards: For serious documentary work a good camcorder is a necessity. Ideally it should be possible to add lens attachments (wide angle lenses are very useful - more useful, in my experience, than strong zoom). Think about lens and audio quality. Top brands are Sony and Canon. Canon has a reputation of providing excellent audio control (e.g. level control). Other brands are Samsung, JVC, Panasonic, Sanyo. All offer many models, always changing. Not available at L&M - check a camera store, or Best Buy, Future Shop. Current consumer standards are mini DV, DVD (records straight to a DVD), HD (ditto to a hard drive).