I do work with endangered languages.

Sometimes we get a chance to have a conversation with one of the few remaining speakers of a language, and we'd like to get the best possible recording of their voice, so we can study it later. We'd also like good video of their upper body, as that's an important part of language.

Here's an example, with Yiddish: http://vimeo.com/20128505

Often the spaces are far from ideal - outdoors with wind or traffic, or kids playing in the same room.

Our budget is tiny. We can't afford much equipment. We usually can't dedicate a person to operating equipment - it should be fire-and-forget.

We can't put an omnidirectional mic in the middle, as we need that space to be open. A lapel mic seems like a good choice, since only the fluent speaker's voice really matters, and it's unobtrusive.

We also do a group practice conversation. Here's an example, with Squamish: http://youtu.be/UQImIstZpTM

Would it be sufficient to use a $20 lapel mic, a $20 tripod, and a basic point-and-shoot camera?


Endangered languages, cool gig. Your question of "can I get away with it" is more philosophical than a gear question.... sure you can get away with it, but if you value your work, then you probably want to take it up a level. Since it sounds like (no pun intended) audio would be a priority for you, I would find a used Zoom digital recorder, like the H1 or even better a H2... if you place one of those just outside of frame you will have editable quality audio. Since picture is secondary, use whatever point and shoot you can get your hands on... Most P and S cameras don't have a mic input so you would be out of luck plugging a mic into it.

  • +1 for "if you value your work..." I never really liked the Zoom recorders for their build quality, but I have a Roland R-09HR that I love... There are a few good options from Yamaha as well. – NReilingh Jul 21 '11 at 0:21

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