Great Question – A Video Wish List!

A teacher from Georgia who attended a DEN event at the great statewide PBS station at Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) sent an email asking for a wish list for making videos.  She was applying "for a grant to get "things" needed for video making."  This is a great and delicious question.  Since I have been working with videomaking teachers for two decades, I had some ideas on the subject. I replied with this list, with my own very personal choices but I know there are teachers out there who can add admirably to this list.  What would you add?  Think about it as if money were not the object (instruction is always the object, of course)! There are other software choices and interesting hardware and I would love other opinions.  As I think about it, I forgot to throw in a "green screen" (chromkey) curtain of fabric.  What else did I forget…?

Here would be my list, in no particular order, with software, hardware, and infrastruction all thrown together!


  • A computer. Mac or Windows XP
  • A USB microphone
  • A wireless microphone (VHF frequency) around $150. Recommend Azden brand. See if there is an educator discount (there is if you buy in volume).  Definitely shop price.
  • A USB microscope (Scalar), around $190.  Exports QuickTime movies for video!
  • The most appropriate Canon camcorder(s) (2 for $300 for most classes, 1 for $900 for a video class, etc.) Camera should use miniDV format.
  • The biggest external hard drive you can afford (recommend LaCie, >$300 will get you a big one)
  • $100 for wires, adaptors, extension cords and things from Radio Shack you didn’t know you’d need. (example, firewire cable to connect camcorder to computer ($30!)
  • $150 for tape stock (miniDV)
  • $100 for blank DVD stock (shop wisely)
  • $50 for music CD’s
  • Still Camera (don’t forget stills make great videos!)
  • Adaptor for reading memory cards from most cameras (around $25)
  • A good tripod ($60 will do it)
  • A good "mini-tripod" for desk use (>$20)


  • Adobe Premier Elements for a Windows machine. Very reasonable educator pricing through school districts. Alternatives include Ulead, Pinnacle, and others. (Note:  Pinnacle would not import QuickTime movies in the last version I worked with).
  • The Gee Three effects package for iMovie (Macs)
  • A morph program (free, if you look around online; PrintArtist (>$25 if it’s around)
  • SuperGoo (under $20)
  • CrazyTalk (Windows) (pricey at $140)
  • Adobe Photoshop Elements (alter photos and use them in videos) Very reasonable educator pricing through school districts.
  • $50 for music authoring software (MovieMaestro ($50, with extra CD’s), Acid Loops, etc.
  • Time to learn GarageBand (Mac’s only)
  • QuickTime Pro ($29, Mac and PC)


  • Highspeed, broadband connection to the Internet


Hit comment to add to this list!  – Thanks, Hall Davidson


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  1. Hall Davidson said:

    A gig flashdrive is a good addition to the list. It fits in a pocket and can transfer video from one user to another. There is always a flash drive in my pocket, usually my Swiss Army Knife with a flash drive “blade” (a gift from from the ed director at my old PBS station). It is so ubiquitous, I didn’t think about it. Good note! I do also carry with my computer a portable hard drive, a FireLite 40 gig that fits in my shirt pocket. Also handy! But the flash is invaluable when I see teachers present videos I want to grab (or share ones I have brought myself). I have not always needed a gig, which is slower to load, but I’ll need it soon enough, I’m sure.

  2. Karen C. Seddon said:

    One of the most “delicious” tools for video is SnagIt and Camtasia from Tech Smith. As long as you can push the F9 and F10 keys on your keyboard, you can create videos of what is happening on your computer screen. I have created small segments from lessons, PowerPoints, websites and presentations within minutes. Using SnagIt and Camtasia adds that personal touch without a lot of equipment. It is presently only for PC but helps the PC user feel more like a MAC user. Just remember to always give credit where credit is due.

    As always I am,
    Ubiquitously yours,

  3. Joe Brennan said:

    Great subject!! Here are a few more goodies that we’ve found useful in my schools.
    • Chromakey is a must! It lets your students be anywhere in the world or universe in their videos. A cheap green or blue plastic tablecloth works. Use a hairdryer to get the folds/wrinkles out.
    • Wireless microphones do add a great touch of class and quality. Make sure your camera has an input for an external microphone before making the investment.
    • Among those miscellaneous cables from Radio Shack, consider a mini to female XLR. It lets you connect to a microphone cable when you show those videos in the auditorium or any other place where there is a built in sound system.
    • Print-on DVD’s and CD’s. Needs a special printer, but really adds a sense of class and permanence to the final projects. Cheaper and easier than disc labels in the long run. I get the DVD’s at Costco for ~$.40 each.
    • An analog/digit media converter box. We use one from Canopus that costs about $275. This lets us use any video camera the students might have, though DV camcorders have obviously taken over. You can also any VHS tape and connect a laser disc player (mind fair use, now!) It also lets you export back out to VHS (Beware! Some models only import to the computer) A lot of DV camcorders have this capability built in. Check your manual and see if you camera has a “pass through” feature.

    • Audacity is free for Macs and PC’s ( Clean up sound/voice and play with it. Want to sound like Alvin and the other chipmunks? This is your program.
    • Visual Communicator from (~$200, PC only). This is a powerful and very slick program. It lets you do evening news type programs with a virtual set and graphics/video clips over the shoulder or spinning in. A teleprompter like scroll runs on the computer screen as you record and their is a track right next to it where you drop in video and images to coincide with the script. You still need a video editing program to prepare the video clips though.

  4. Hall Davidson said:

    Absolutely right! Thanks to Karen for mentioning Snag-It and Camtasia. They are windows products (and I miss Snag-It on my Mac). I usually use my Mac for video capture, but Camtasia is definitely something to have onboard at least one PC somewhere. At $149 (Ed price), it’s pricey (Snag-It is $24.95)but remember a class could have it on one machine and download the video products from Camtasia onto a flash drive and move it to another machine. Another nod to Cindy for reminding us of the importance of fat flash drives.

  5. Hall Davidson said:

    Great tips as usual from the fabulous DEN member Joe Brennon, who I last saw in the Papal Room at Buco Di Beppo. Audacity is great. For the Mac, I also like Audio Hijack ($16). Visual Communicator is a one trick pony, but what a great trick. Something wonderful right away, after a short learning curve. Works only on Windows XP, but the chromakey is right on. And, Joe, when are you going to podcast that dinner at Buco’s?

  6. Eric Langhorst said:

    I would also like to add my support to checking out Visual Communicator by Serious Magic. We have used it for several years on various projects and to do green screen projects with students it is great. Our building broadcast class also uses it for their weekly news broadcast.

    We have some video samples from something we do called “The Liberty Minutes Project”. You can view three of the videos at:

    We have improved the green screen quality in more recent projects but it does give you an idea of what Visual Communicator can do with junior high students.

  7. Pingback: Teach42 - Education and Technology, by Steve Dembo

  8. Joe Brennan said:

    Speaking of Audacity and Audio Hijack, neither handy, useful, powerful program could get the sound files from Buca di Beppo ready for a papal imprimatur or nihil obstat. Don’t hold your breath for that podcast. However, Hall, I think Eric’s students have found a place for us when we finally retire – the Oddfellows Home!

  9. Casey Hales said:

    Karen had a good idea on having a female XLR, more commonly known in broadcasting as a cannon connector, to a mini.
    However, you need to be sure to watch out for impedance conflicts. Microphones come in two varieties: high impedance and low impedance. They don’t get along too well. Here is a link that explains the difference, kind of techie until you get to page 2.

  10. Ryan Collins said:

    I’ve used both the Epson R300 and 960 to print directly on DVDs and CDs using The Print Shop on the Mac works really well.

    I don’t think this article really hit on how easy beginning video production is on the Mac. A Mac comes with all the software you need to edit the videos (iMovie), create a soundtrack (Garageband), and export back to tape or burn a DVD. Even if you’re all Windows it is something every school should look into. Once they outgrow iMovie the students can move on to Final Cut Express and Final Cut Pro.

    And finally, for quick slideshows, it doesn’t get any faster than iPhoto for the Mac or Picasa for Windows.

    p.s. Why am I catching up on my bloglines posts on New Years Eve… 🙂

  11. John Blake said:

    We have been looking around for a new digital camcorder. However, the ones we have seen in retail stores no longer have external mic jacks. Anyone have a recommendation?

  12. Hall Davidson said:

    Good question! Because the external microphone jack is a truly important tool, and the whole reason to buy an wireless microphone (100′ range, through glass, etc.). The last time I checked, both the high and low end Canons had the jack. Canon (and others) began to combine the mike jack with the earphone jack–a serious pain, which forces you to use an external mike with a headphone hack (Azden). Check and see if the headphone jack doesn’t do double duty. Either way, you have given me an excuse to go window shopping again…
    Camcorder info (below) showed mostly people complaining about the lack of the external mike. There are used camcorders (not recommended!) for sales with ext mikes but a deeper search found a Panasonic DVD-R camera ($439) with the feature. JVC is also an option.

  13. Hall Davidson said:

    Casey talks about printing directly onto DVDs and CDs–making very cool individual DVD’s. I have been this with the mediafestival winners for some time, and I thank Casey for his Epson recommendations. I have used the Epson Photo R 200, which is a pain. It requires a deep reset after each DVD or CD (at least when printing from my Mac). A tip: CDs and DVD’s now come printable on silver backs–you no longer need the “white” backed stock. Make SURE the package says “printable” because the CD’s look almost like non-printable CDs. Be sure to mark the spindle with marker in case the packaging disappears. The silver looks pretty neat through the “spaces”
    in many label designs. Regarding Macs, I was with Casey completely until Windows XP and Adobe got together on Premier Elements. Then I began to worry for Steve Jobs and the strategy of alienating software manufacturers (Confessions of a MacHead)

  14. Casey Hales said:


    Actually it was Ryan Collins talking about, “printing directly onto DVDs and CDs–making very cool individual DVD’s”
    As a PC guy, I don’t have much good to say about Macs… 🙂
    And I have several Macs from the Mac Classic to the 1400cs, the 145, and a new-ish iBook.
    The was this blog places the “Posted by:” is confusing. Must be done on a Mac. (grin)

  15. Mark Bantle said:

    The tool I have been spoiled with over the past year is a dual monitor setup. With all the tool palettes used in programs, and the ability to move files from photoshop to iLife to Final Cut Pro, more desktop real estate is something I could not live without. And a simple video card (on a pc or G5) and another monitor is not that expensive. But this is a wish list; WISH BIG!!!

  16. Joe Brennan said:

    Yes! Our “pro” stations have dual monitors and it makes life a lot easier for heavy duty editing.

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