The constant improvements in mobile technology mean it’s never been easier for people to get out there and record stories. The smartphone has become the new studio and mobile journalists are on the rise in all the major news networks. It’s very easy to get confused by all the different types of mojo kit out there and how much to spend. I am a firm believer in buying the basic kit to start with and then graduating to the more expensive kit (if needed) in the future and when you’ve gotten a better understanding of what works for you.
Because of this, I decided to make a list of the basic kit required for digital storytelling on a budget. All of the kit listed below can be kept in your bag at all times meaning you are always ready to record.
The Storytellers Kit:
1: A Smartphone
Whether you are an Android or and Iphone fan the smartphone is the ultimate tool for any digital storyteller/mobile journalist. It allows you to record video and audio to the highest quality and also allows you take top notch photos of your subjects. I am a huge fan of everything Apple produce and I currently have an iPhone 6 and it’s fantastic. This is most likely the most expensive piece of kit for a lot of digital storytellers/mobile journalists so shop around to get the best deals.
2: A Tripod
If you want a nice clean and still shot without and shakes then a small tripod for your smartphone is a must. It’s perfect to sit on the table and point at your interviewee so that you can concentrate on your questioning and not keeping the smartphone still. One of the main advantages of a small tripod and smartphone is that it is very unassuming so your interviewee tends to forget it’s there making them more relaxed. I have a number of tripods that I use, a small fixed leg tripod, a small flexible leg tripod, and a larger extendable leg tripod. I have bought all of these on eBay for between €3 and €8 each so not expensive.
Link to Smartphone Tripod on Ebay here.
3: A Microphone
Although smartphones have the ability to record audio to a very high quality their internal microphones tend not to be that good. You are far better off buying an external microphone that can plug into your smartphone. There are loads of different types of microphone that you can use but I mostly use a Lavalier Lapel microphone for my interviews. I have two types at the moment, one is a Rode SmartLav+ which cost’s around the €65 mark and the other is a Toner Dual Head Lavalier microphone that I bought for a bargain €10. The Rode SmartLav+ is a great microphone but if it has one flaw it’s that the cable is far too short making it impossible to use with your smartphone when recording videos without buying the extension cable for it which will set you back another €20. For its price the Toner microphone is great, its dual-headed so you can record two people at the same time and the cable is much longer than that of the Rode. So to keep with the theme of Storytelling on a Budget I’d have to recommend the Toner microphone as the perfect starter kit for budding storytellers.
Link to Rode SmartLav+ on Thomann here.
Link to Toner Dual Head Microphone on Amazon here.
4: A Light
Lighting is hugely important when trying to record a good interview. It’s always good to carry a small light with you at all times so that you can light your subject correctly. I have a nice small rechargeable LED light that I fix to one of my tripods. Despite its size it is a very powerful light and works perfectly when positioned properly. These lights are relatively cheap on eBay starting at about €10 and most of them are interlocking meaning that if you buy a second or third one they can be connected to each other for even better results.
Link to camera light on eBay here.
5: A Notepad
Seems like a no brainer but any storyteller worth their salt should never be more than an arm’s length away from their notepad. Not only is it the place where you keep all your ideas it’s a must have when recording your story so you can take note of interesting points your subject has said or to note the times of really interesting answers so as lighten your post-production work a little.
6: A Good Eye for a Story
Earlier I said that the smartphone was probably the most expensive piece of kit on this list, I take that back now. The ability to spot and then tell a great story is priceless and by far your most valuable asset. If you can do this the equipment becomes secondary. Being able to spot the extraordinary in what most people would see as ordinary is the greatest talent of all and it’s what makes great storytellers.
That’s my list of kit for Storytelling on a Budget. Obviously, everyone will have their own ideas as to what works best for them. But as a low-cost starter kit, I personally believe you have everything you need to go out and record stories. At a rough estimate, you could have all the equipment listed above for as little as €25 (excluding Smartphone & delivery costs).