Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

Video Journalism: small cameras used well

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on March 9, 2010

Last year I put together a short video recommending Kodak’s Zi8 camera as a cheap, but high quality alternative for video journalists and film makers on a small budget.

It’s external mic input and HD capability give it the edge over its rival the FlipCam, and I really think if it’s used properly it can create professional looking footage. Well I’m glad to say someone has gone out and proved that point.

Markham Nolan shot this piece for the Irish Sailing Association. In particular look out for the interview clips which appear about 01’07” in. Well framed, well lit, with an external microphone used, you wouldn’t think this had been shot on a camera the size of a Blackberry. As Markham says:

On the whole, this was low-budget, low-tech. Rory was sitting on a kitchen chair in my garden shed office. I hung a black sheet behind him and sat him with a window on his left (camera right) so we had nice soft, natural light.  On advice from Adam Westbrook, I had splashed out on a Kodak Zi8 HD Pocket Video Camera to record the interviews with Rory (a whopping €130). The Zi8 has a microphone line in, so I nabbed a cheap lapel mic, and the sound quality is great as a result.

And here’s my original review of the Zi8 from back in December.

Now it’s easier to get professional shots with a Minicam!

Posted in Broadcasting and Media by Adam Westbrook on January 10, 2010

After testing out Kodak’s HD minicam, the Zi8, on this very blog, I have been able to use it for professional work myself, mess around with it, and recommend it so several friends and colleagues.

With its external microphone input and double lens function it is (at the moment) better than the MinoHD Flip cam. But, as ever, there’s lots moving in the world of camera technology, and I’ve got three big improvements to share with you.

01. Get the Firmware upgrade for the Zi8

If you have a Kodak Zi8, they have a firmware upgrade which vastly improves the camera’s zooming capabilities, and audio recording quality, among other things. To find out if you need it, switch on your Zi8 and go to the settings menu; moving to the “i” sign will tell you the current version it is running. If it is anything less than version 1.06 then click here to upgrade it! You loose a little bit of recording space, but the optics are much improved.

02.  A steadicam for minicams?

Yes it’s true, if you prefer the iPhone 3GS to a Flipcam,  you’ll soon be able to buy your own rig to achieve the smooth shots Hollywood studios pay thousands for. Smaller steadicam rigs, including the Merlin, have been around for camcorders for some time, but aren’t able to carry something as small as an iPhone or Flipcam.

The Steadicam Smoothie is weighted to provide counterbalance for really small cameras. Check it out, if just for fun. No word yet on how much they’ll retail for.

(Thanks to @EdMoore for the tip)

03. Awesome vintage shots

Need a retro vintage feel to your footage? Well, it’s possible to do it in post production with most software, but someone’s gone and made a camera which does it for you. It’s called the Harinezumi Digital 2.0, (or Zumi for short) and it appears to have been designed to be less-good on purpose. It has no viewfinder, so you can’t really see what you’re filming, and it’s sensor is designed to produce faded pictures with a vignette edge. It also has a macro lens setting (like the Zi8) to create elegant depth-of-field.

I’d be dismissing it right away if the pictures didn’t look so fantastic, and if vintage/retro wasn’t a-la-mode in design circles. The latest version (Zumi 2.0) can now record sound.

Kodak Zi8: the tool to change video journalism?

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on November 20, 2009


Broadcast quality video cameras are only doing one thing: getting smaller.

But the smallest one, the Mini-HD camera, has so far been largely shunned by professional video journalists, chiefly because of their shaky footage and poor on-board audio.

Now though, there’s a new camera on the scene which threatens to change all that- and it weighs just 110 grams. It’s Kodak’s latest MiniHD cam, the Zi8, and now has an external microphone input for high quality sound recording.

I’ve put together a quick run through explaining its features…

Now I think if used creatively, it’s possible to produce a high quality film with the Zi8. If so, the potential for citizen journalism, hyper-locals and other smaller news enterprises could be profound. Michael Rosenblum has already written about the potential of giving cameras like these to large numbers of people.

And you just have to watch this film by PNW Local (previously featured on this blog) to see the potential. It was shot entirely on the Zi8’s predecessor the Zi6. Elsewhere Cisco are now promising wi-fi with their next FlipCam model, but unless its’ got better audio I think it won’t rival the Zi8 for professional use.

I’m going to keep filming and experimenting – all the results will appear right here!