Teaching Tools

Working With Limited Resources

Working With Limited Resources

Posted by: San Francisco Film Society

Don’t let a lack of equipment prevent you from developing your media making program. While you might not have the materials at hand to make the next Hollywood blockbuster, it is more than likely that the tools you need to design a powerful media arts program are already available in your school or your community.
What Other Equipment Can We Use?
The reality of equipment limitations is always a concern in youth media initiatives, but a bit of creativity goes a long way. Audio and video recording devices are all around us, and it can be beneficial to students’ learning to work with readily available equipment instead of professional gear. That way, when they want to make their own projects outside of class, they will have access to the equipment.
  • Contact your school’s media arts department, the administration, or any community organizations that work with your school to see if any equipment is available on loan. 
  • Connect with your local public library. Libraries often support youth media learning, and they may be willing to partner with your class. Even a single field trip will encourage students to take advantage of the library’s media resources.
  • Use the FilmEd. Community to find potential partners such as a media-arts teaching program in your area.
  • Organize an equipment drive in your community using our step-by-step Gear Drive Guide.
  • Remind your students that you can do serious filmmaking with lo-fi gear. The Oscar-winning documentary Searching for Sugar Man was shot partially on an iPhone!
Alternatives/supplements to video cameras:
  • Smart phones
  • Still cameras/DSLR’s
  • Flip cameras/Kodak Zi8

For examples of classroom projects made on these cameras, visit our Media Gallery.

For instructions on how to use this equipment, search our Technical Tutorials.

Other resources to consider in your planning:
  • What spaces in the school, beyond the classroom, are available for shooting or production meetings?
  • What resources are available in other departments? Art, theater and music programs may have supplies that you could share. The art department may have supplies to build costumes. If your school has instruments, you may be able to use them to make sound effects.
  • What simple craft materials can be used to transform existing space? For example, a solid-color bed sheet can become a simple background.
  • Sound recording can be difficult in large spaces without a proper boom mic. If sound recording is an issue, how can you design a project that treats sound creatively?
  • What are the available lighting sources? Natural lighting is often the best and easiest option. Household lamps can also provide directional light, and white poster board can be used to help bounce light.
  • If you are working with an array of donated cameras, you may be combining different footage formats. Read our article on video file formats, and use your best judgment in combining media.
  • If you feel comfortable using editing equipment that is available in the classroom, we encourage you to do so and to add a post-production component to your program. Read our series on Classroom Editing for more information about teaching post-production and available software programs. Post-production can be time consuming, so we encourage you to allow ample time and manage students’ expectations of the final product.

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