Today we can create video almost anywhere. We aren't confined to using a TV studio, edit lab, or even our own den. With the barest of tools we can create meaningful video from wherever we find ourselves, be it on vacation in the RV, camping and hiking, or on an international trip. Our mobile studio consists of three main parts: a camcorder, a laptop computer, and an occasional connection to the Internet. These allow for shooting, editing and distribution on-the-move. Here are some things to consider when setting up your mobile studio.
Think minimally. A mid-sized laptop is the best solution here. An ultra-portable 12" model travels easily, but may leave you wanting more screen real estate that a 15" could provide. The largest models often offer the largest screens and the most storage capacity for your video. The downside is bulk. For editing HDV, make sure you have at least a gig of RAM and enough hard drive storage so that you won't need an extra one. Having an extra battery is a great idea too.
Smaller is better, but using what you're familiar with is best. Look for a compact camcorder that won't weigh you down. A shoulder mount camcorder is almost out of the question. Also, some cameras require dry lubricated or specially coated tapes. These tapes should fare better in adverse conditions.
If you don't own a rain/dust cover, now's the time to buy one. Meanwhile, you can protect your camcorder using a plastic grocery or trash bag: simply remove your UV filter (you have one, right!?), slide the bag over your camcorder and thread the UV filter back on over the bag. Now unscrew the filter and remove the "donut hole" that was cut by the threads, put the filter back on and if possible, wrap a rubber band around the bag close to the tip of the lens.
Wireless: Many public spaces such as cafes, libraries and even parks and Dairy Queens have wireless Internet access. Many offer free Wi-Fi, but some charge a small fee to use their service. If you're having trouble finding wireless service, many hotels and motels have DSL service that you can plug into.
Dial-Up: It's not fast enough for uploading video. Use it to update your blog, or email your friends telling them that you'll post as soon as you find an adequate connection speed.
Whether you have a homepage or use a file-hosting site like Flickr or YouTube, the web is 'it' for showing everyone what you've done. Software such as Apple's iWeb (part of iLife '06, $79) or Serious Magic's Vlog It! ($49) let you "broadcast" video easily and quickly.
Mounting a light unit on the shoe of your camcorder is ideal here, since you really don't want to lug around lighting stands. Having a small battery-powered kit such as Litepanels DV Camera Kit ($650 with rebate) is something to consider, especially since some manufacturers allow you to use your extra camcorder batteries to power up.
Bringing a flex bounce is something to consider. There are no batteries to charge, cables to lose, lamps to bust and it folds up to be just bigger than a Frisbee
If you're away from power, this is essential. We've seen laptop-powering panels for around $400. Some manufacturers also make 20+ watt panel systems that will charge most camcorders. Find some friendly sunshine and go grab it!
A tiny traveler's tripod will work for the smallest camcorders. These measure less than 10 inches, and will fit in a pocket or purse. Prosumer camcorders will still require a standard, lightweight set of sticks. Or maybe just one stick; a monopod that is. Works as a good boom pole as well.
Andrew Burke is Videomaker's Editorial Assistant, a member of AIVF and has worked in video production worldwide.
This article was originally published in the July 2006 issue of Videomaker Magazine. For more info on video production, visit their site or return to the Video Toolbox.