There always seems to be a shinier piece of gear, another editing software or a new trend on the market for videojournalists. We decided to consult the experts, Columbia’s adjunct professors of video, on the equipment that they can’t live without and the advice that helped them. Here’s some amalgamated wisdom on what they think is essential for anyone starting out in the videojournalism industry.
No one interviewed for this post was compensated for recommending gear.
“While there’s been an increasing emphasis on mobility and portability in cameras, it remains true that tripods are very important pieces of gear for both interviews and getting certain visuals that will work only if the camera remains stable. To make it easier for beginners to carry and use tripods, I’d suggest that you look into the latest light-weight versions.” –Bill Wheatley
“I would add the Leatherman Skeletool to the mix. The Skeletool (or any similar multi-tool) is a handy item to have on your belt when going out on a shoot. I use it for quickly attaching tripod plates, cutting gel or diffusion, and tightening loose joints on various piece of equipment. Plus, there’s a bottle opener for after you finish the shoot!” –Matt Bockelman
“The wireless mic, because audio is the most under appreciated thing in video. Even if you have shitty pictures, good audio will save the day. And also, with the wireless mic you can be at a distance from your protagonist and they might say interesting, revealing things. Bad audio and good video is nothing, but good audio and shitty pictures is a documentary.” –Hilke Schellmann
“I’d have to say that my favorite piece of gear is my iPhone 6. Even though I shoot almost everything with more professional gear, the iPhone is the camera I always have in my pocket. I’ve used it to pick up video, stills, and even sounds that have ended up in my pieces, and the quality is surprisingly great.” –Tom Mason
“When you need a little burst of light to add dimension to a subject, or brighten up a dark corner, carry one of these hand held pocket LED lights. They’re so much better than the iPhone flashlight app and they fit on the camera’s hot shoe.” –Nina Berman
“Still photographers using DSLRs to shoot video need to carry a neutral density filter, preferably a variable one. Without the filter, you won’t be able to make shallow depth of field shots in bright light because of the 1/50 sec shutter setting required in video. Video cameras often have internal ND filters but few still cameras do.” -Nina Berman