Breaking news waits for no one, which is why it's so important for both aspiring and professional video journalists to have specific pieces of equipment at the ready. After almost a decade of freelancing for a large news channel, I know that what you might pack to shoot your next film won’t do you much good crafting news packages. You will need to have the right gear ready to go when your producer frantically calls asking if you can be on location immediately to cover a tornado that’s about to touch down (true story).
So we at the Connect2 team are here to help you choose the right camera, lenses, mics, and cases — and offer up some production tips to help you capture incredible broadcast-quality footage. Plus, for those on the go looking to travel extremely light, we’ve included some info on a minimalistic kit to have ready for the mobile journalism (mojo) approach.
This is really important for video journalists, who are constantly on the go and often alone. You want something that can take a beating while keeping all of your fragile and expensive gear safe, you want something weather resistant, and you want something transportable.
Pelican Storm Cases
These are the industry standard for transporting gear, and for good reason. They're waterproof cases that can handle the most careless airline baggage attendants, and they will never fail you, even in the harshest environments. You can get these hard-shell cases with shock absorbing foam that you can custom-cut to the exact dimensions of your equipment — or with padded dividers that you can change to accommodate your pack as you acquire more gear. As a video journalist, you will often have to cover long distances on foot, so it's wise to spend the extra money to get a model with a handle and wheels.
You can also use the hard-shell cases as an impromptu apple-box (weight restrictions apply). SKB also makes a more affordable option of these cases.
Peak Design Everyday Backpack
A lot of thought went into the design of this weather-proof backpack. It has everything you could want while also being one of the more stylish options available. I absolutely love the gear slotting into the side of the backpack rather than the back. You can swing the bag around on your chest to swap out gear on the fly rather than taking it off and placing it on the ground. It's also one of the few bags that can accommodate a 16-inch laptop, which could be crucial for anyone using the new MacBook.
Pro tips: No matter how long your day was, always re-organize your case or bag at the end of the shoot, check all your gear, dump all your footage to clear room on your cards, and place batteries on their charger so you're ready to go shoot again on a moment’s notice.
The new Sony A7Siii is a wonderful option for a video journalist on the move. While it may not shoot 8K video, it operates very well in low-light situations. It's light, it has fantastic auto-focus (759 phase detection points), it's great on a hand-held gimbal, and it has a screen that can flip out to face toward the lens for anyone who might also need to be on camera. It offers a long battery life, and it can shoot 4K footage at 120fps. I prefer the overall look of some other cameras like the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K/6K, but the Sony’s image actually fits broadcast quite well and has features that make it the perfect tool for video journalism.
Blackmagic Design URSA Broadcast Camera
Blackmagic actually intended this camera for broadcast so you could go about shooting news packages with a more traditional option than their other cameras. Pair it with a Fujinon 20x lens, a shoulder mount, and some Anton Bauer batteries, and you'll be covering the news like a pro. While it is definitely worth the money, this kit won’t fit every budget.
Pro Tips: Be sure to include a color card in your kit so you can grab a reference and white balance for your color correction later in post-production. You will also want to carry a stack of release forms with you wherever you might be filming, so that you have written consent from anyone that you interview.
Tamron 28-200mm f/2.8-5.6 Di lll RXD
This lens has an E-mount option that will fit natively with the full frame A7siii, and it has the versatility to shoot wide and grab tights from a distance. I believe it’s important for video journalists to capture the scene immediately upon arrival and grab all of the essential b-roll that will end up filling out your piece. This is the perfect lens for these situations because you can grab wide shots if you need to and then grab a tight from afar since you might not have access to shoot your subject as close as you might want.
For an extremely cheap option for a zoomable lens, the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm could work in a pinch.
Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN Art
The 11-blade diaphragm of this gorgeous lens is capable of producing some beautiful, smooth bokeh, and the weather-resistant coating will put your mind at ease when you're shooting in the elements. Switch to this lens for your interviews and standups to give your packages a more dynamic look. The Sigma 18-35mm lens f/1.8 DC HSM Art Lens is also a great option for great looking interviews.
Pro Tips: when shooting handheld, your footage might be shakier than you'd like. In these cases, be sure to leave some extra room in the frame so you can use the warp-stabilizer function in post to smooth out the final product.
Rode VideoMicPro Compact Directional On-Camera Microphone with Rycote Lyre Shockmount
You most likely won’t have a dedicated audio person with you while you're out covering stories, so you're responsible for yet one more extremely important aspect of video journalism: capturing great audio. This mic, which mounts directly on the camera’s shoe mount, is compact enough that it won't get in the way, and it has a 3.5mm stereo audio output built in so everything you capture automatically embeds in your footage.
This will save you some valuable time later when you're trying to meet a deadline. It’s perfect for interviews or capturing your own audio, should you need to double as the on-screen talent, making it a great investment for video-journalists.
Movo WMX-1-Duo 2.4GHz Dual Wireless Lavalier Microphone System
Not everyone can afford a nice Sennheiser or Rode lavalier system, so for the price, the Movo WMX is a great substitute. If you're working with a reporter, a lavalier microphone is essential so you can quickly and easily move about a location and know that you're constantly catching your talent’s audio, even if the two of you have to separate.
Always pack extra batteries for these as they tend to burn through them, and the quality can start to suffer once the system has dropped below 50 percent.
Pro Tips: If your microphone is taking up your audio input jack, most cameras these days have a Bluetooth function so that you can use some wireless headphones to monitor your audio. I’m not saying this is the best case for quality but it will at least let you know if what you're capturing is usable.
The Mojo Kit
Incredible advancements have been made in cell phone technology and the cameras built within can be an extremely practical (and sometimes the only) choice. Here are some items to keep ready to go for whenever your cell phone needs to become a broadcast camera.
UBeesize 67" Phone Tripod Stand
A sturdy tripod that is actually tall enough for a professional looking news “stand-up”. This tripod also happens to be lightweight enough to handle like a selfie stick for covering a story while moving around a location.
DJI Osmo Mobile 3
DJI is an extremely well-known company for their exceptional production gear and the Osmo mobile gimbal is the perfect fit as a mobile journalist’s stabilizer. It features excellent battery life, sturdy design, reactive controls, and a comfortable ergonomic handle. I have used one before while canoeing down a river and in tight corridors, it was the perfect choice in both scenarios.
Rode Microphones VideoMic Me-L
A compact shotgun microphone that can plug directly into your lightning port if you are using an iPhone but also has a 3.5mm cable that can also plug directly into a multitude of different cell phones. Mobile journalists should definitely invest in an external microphone as audio is usually the weakest portion of a mojo package.
Pro Tip: Pack a chargeable LED light like the Aputure Amaran in your mojo kit for whenever an external light source is needed but if possible, try to rely on natural light. Make sure you also have sufficient storage, a portable charger, and a plan for if you’re miles from the studio and out of network coverage. If you need more ideas about refining your mojo technique – look out, we’ll be posting again on this soon!
Take a look at our new video for some more advice on what to have packed ready in your bag. Plus I'll give you some more tips on how to become a great video journalist.
Thanks for reading. May you meet all your deadlines, and always have enough batteries! And if you’re still at school be sure to check out your university’s equipment rental programs to help subsidize your shoots. Lastly, keep an eye out for more fantastic info and insights from the Connect2 team.
About Lorensbergs and Connect2: Equipment checkout software Connect2 from Lorensbergs supports equipment lending programs in colleges and universities worldwide. Over 100 institutions use Connect2 to showcase, schedule and track their resources. It helps students to make the most of the video journalism equipment available to them, build their kit lists, and achieve superior results in their productions. Find out more about Connect2 here.
Editor’s note: This post was updated in March 2021 to include mobile journalism equipment recommendations for comprehensiveness.