As well as the tablet kit for our project in Malawi, we brought a high-end set of gear to work with and to compare in how it's used. It was basically Rick Goldsmith's core film-making kit at the moment (built around a decent camcorder) and supplemented with some of my Open University gear. It's just possible to film solo with this setup, but that's not really the point - it allows a crew to work together to capture high quality sound and video, with a lot of control over the recording settings.
The kit, consists of:
Mac laptop set up as an edit deck with
Although our participants needed quite a lot of hands-on support to get going with this setup, it's not quite true that it's harder to use for newcomers to film-making. Most people can pick up an ipad and start shooting and get something straight away. But once the idea that the idea of control over the camera to get an intentional shot is introduced then it's a less straight-forward comparison. Having a large, robust rig with more physical controls provides a good opportunity to work with things like focus, exposure and white balance, which even if they're available on smaller devices are often hidden behind touchscreen menu options. In a sense the equipment itself motivates a more considered approach to shooting and with enthusiasm and appropriate support it can work very well for a group. It also encourages teamworking, with space for several people collaborate in getting a shot.
Issues we've run into
Higher end kit can have a place in participatory film-making and opens doors for creativity and finer control of outcomes. It forces more planning and thinking through how things are going to look, but this pays off in the edit. A nice progression was getting participants interested in thinking about film-making and expressing their own ideas with the tablet based kit, and then working together as a group using this gear. In the end a lot comes out of the particular interests of the participants themselves.