I am planning ethnographic interviews for the new year and I’m putting together an equipment list.
An ethnographic interview is a delicate thing. You are trying to build trust with a perfect stranger, sometimes in their own home or workplace.
The trick is to keep distractions to a minimum. (Because from distractions, suspicions, detachment and alienation often come.)
Two principles follow from this.
1. If you can help it, you don’t want an extra person in the room, fiddling with equipment, gazing around, and otherwise distracting your respondent. In a perfect world, you would operate everything yourself, setting it up and letting in run. (There is lots to be said for having someone worry about the tech while you worry about the interview, so the jury is for me still out on this question.)
2. You want as much video/audio fire power as possible in the smallest form factor possible. You don’t want the camera, mics or lights to get in the way.
This camera pictured here is the JVC GY HM 150U. It has good picture and good sound. It has time code that consumer cameras doesn’t. It records in .mov so which means files can be sent directly to Final Cut Pro. It has the capacity to record great chunks of testimony. It is reasonably inexpensive (~$2100.00) and it is surprisingly small. (This picture makes it look larger than it is.)
We are an image-crazy culture so some people think their work is done when they buy a good(ish) camera. But sound is absolutely key.
And that means buying a good microphone. The Sennheiser EW ENG G2 gets good reviews on Amazon. It’s around $700.00.
Good lighting is also important and I am just not sure what the best/smallest kit is here. Dec. 18 addition: just came across the Westcott Icelight and while not cheap, this looks little and light. Here it is on Amazon.
Your comments please!
I asked Rob Kozinets for his advice on this matter a couple of years ago, and I believe the Sennheiser microphone system was his suggestion. So thanks to Rob for his advice. All other suggestions are my own and I wouldn’t act on any of them without a “second opinion.”