Basic Equipment for Recording
The learning curve for the technology needed to record sessions doesn’t have to be steep. The two basic concerns are having easy to use equipment and a manageable way to view and upload your media files. Fortunately, like most electronics gear, usability gets easier while prices continue to come down. Of course, the technology of today is often surpassed within a relatively short time. While a full review of available methods is beyond the scope of this post, the recommendations here are a good place to start.
The Kodak Play Touch, (also known as Zi10) at about $100 thru Amazon, is an inexpensive and easy to use video camera that meets three important criteria. First, it records onto a removable SD card, about $25 each, so you have ever-expandable recording space, unlike a camera with only an internal hard drive that can fill up. Second, it records in a compressed format to make files more manageable to store and transfer to a computer. Finally, and most important, it has an external mic jack which, when paired with a good mic, boosts audio levels far beyond the onboard mic. If needed, an accessory wide angle lens is available.
Kodak’s earlier model, the Zi8 is discontinued, but is still available online at around $200 and as refurbished units that sell for about half that. It was a very popular model and has all the features mentioned above, although it often required an accessory wide angle lens to get both partners in the frame. A small annoyance reported with the Zi8 is that when the camera is turned off it automatically resets the recording level to the default middle position, too low to pick up soft speech. The easy workaround is remembering to reset the recording level to max when the camera is turned on and, of course, using an external mic. A mini tripod, for about $15, is a key inexpensive accessory, allowing you to aim the camera for best viewing angle.
Microphone choice is at least as important as the camera itself. Countless sessions have been rendered unusable for review and supervision because the audio is inaudible. The Zoom H2, at about $140, is an excellent all purpose mic for video cameras. It has the added advantage of serving as a stand alone audio recorder for the occasional couple who won’t agree to video, but will allow audio recording. It stores audio recordings on a removable SD card.
The Play Touch is compatible with both Macs and pc’s. When connected to a computer, devices with SD cards are generally read by computers as an external drive and files can then be uploaded if necessary. Both Windows and Mac users can further compress files, but this generally isn’t necessary if using sessions for self-review and supervision. The camera can also be connected to a recent model TV that has a usb or hdmi port and sessions viewed that way. Or the SD cards can be inserted directly into computers and some TVs with a card reader and the sessions can be viewed without the camera itself.
For about $300, you can get a camera, mic, tripod and SD cards and be geared up to begin recording and learning from your sessions. You’ll spend a little time getting comfy with your gear, but it quickly becomes routine.
Part 3 of this series will address how to view sessions to improve the couple’s therapy and become a better therapist.