If you take anything away from this guide, it should be: have backups for all your equipment and backups for your backups.

Have Backups of All Your Equipment

When working on The Marshall Mission: Negotiating a Unified China, one of our cameras failed during our most important interview. Thankfully, we were running two cameras the entire time. We were filming with both a Canon 550D and a Nikon D7000. The Nikon D7000 overheated and stopped recording about twenty minutes into the interview. The Canon 550D continued chugging along and got it all. You never want to stop or pause an interview for technical problems. You never want to miss important parts of an interview because of technical problems. Have backups for all your equipment incase it fails: SD/CF cards, batteries, the cameras themselves, anything you can possibly think of.

Import Recordings Immediately and Back Them Up

After conducting one of our interviews for The Disease of Hope, we didn’t import our footage immediately and instead just stored the camera (with SD card) we had used in one of our lockers. Unfortunately, a bit later, we dropped the SD card and, despite it being flash storage, it became corrupted and we lost an interview. Minimize the possibility of losing data by importing as soon as you can and then immediately backing up to teammates’ computers, external storage, and/or the cloud.

Know the Capabilities of Your Devices

You should know if your phone or tablet is capable of recording HD video. You should know if your computer can record audio. You never know when you’ll have to throw together some recording rig on the spot and you can’t guarantee you’ll have working, dedicated A/V gear on hand. It’s also just good practice to use everything. For example, if you take video from a camcorder and record audio on a laptop and a phone at the same time, perhaps the audio from the phone is higher quality than the audio recorded from the camcorder, in which case you can just sync up the audio track with the video track and replace the camcorder’s audio. For NHD projects, I’ve used computers, phones, and even DSLRs for audio recording. In the case of camera failure, a phone with HD video recording capability can help cover for it (though you’ll seem less professional to your interviewee).

Test and Practice With Your Equipment Beforehand

Pretty self explanatory. Test recording a long video on whatever equipment you intend on using and actually import it into your computer and make sure you can use it. A lot of camcorders will record in .MTS format. Do you have software to convert .MTS video files to something more useful? If not, find another device to use.

Set Up Your Equipment in a Timely Manner

Nothing is more unprofessional than looking unprepared. Either set up in advance or be able to put together your setup quickly. One of our interviewees told us that we set up our equipment for our interview with him faster than a TV station did for theirs. Don’t keep the interviewee waiting.