Solar Video/Photo Kit Project. How to make low cost video and photo kits with on-camera training

How-Tos

Status. July 22nd: Laura and I are canoe camping around St Regis Lake in the Adirondacks for five days. I’m solar blogging the trip and will post in August.

Sarah on way to Egypt

Marlboro College World Studies Program student

Post Contents

Overview

This blog post documents how to make 100% solar powered video/photo kits with on-camera training for beginners for about $300 or less using off-the-shelf products (Prices as of May 26th, 2010).

Possible Uses

  1. Non-profits who want staff to inexpensively document projects  for Web broadcasting.
  2. University study abroad programs that want to equip students to document their experiences for their studies and also for Web 2.0 marketing initiatives.
  3. Travelers, scientists or researchers who are going off the grid.
  4. K-12 student video curriculum, combined with environmental education around solar panels

Kits

fast charger canon a480 photo and still kit

Canon A480, case and solar charge

Video and Photo Kit

  • $300.00 +-
  • Average sun locations.
  • Charges batteries in 4 hours of direct sunlight.

Components

  1. Canon A480 video and still  camera
  2. Pelican Brand Model 1050 Micro Case with Foam.
  3. Or. Flip Ultra video camera if you want video only.
  4. Pelican Brand Model 1040 Micro Case with Foam.
  5. “PowerFilm” Inc.  AA solar battery charger with 4 Sanyo 2000 mAm batteries.

How To Build

  1. Order products above. (Amazon or BH Photo suggested)
  2. Download training video and load onto the camera
  3. Load kit with camera and panel printed directions.
  4. Optional: Use “Pick-N-Pluck” foam to keep camera in place inside kit

flip case and solar charger

Video Only

Easier training and uploading video only kit.

  • $300.00 +-
  • Average sun locations.
  • Charges batteries in 4 hours of direct sunlight.

Components

  1. Flip Ultra video camera
  2. Pelican Brand Model 1050 Micro Case with Foam.
  3. “PowerFilm” Inc.  AA solar battery charger with 4 Sanyo 2000 mAm batteries.

How To Build

  1. Order products above. (Amazon or BH Photo suggested)
  2. Download training video and load onto the camera
  3. Load kit with camera and panel printed directions.
  4. Optional: Use “Pick-N-Pluck” foam to keep camera in place inside kit

On-Camera Training

setting up training video dowload

This training video is unique because it plays in the camera’s viewfinder.

The training video helps anyone get good light, sound and framing in any language. The training is usable with no audio and/or by non-English speaking people, but the videoalso has an English voice over explaining the three lessons.

[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__gmfi0D78E]

Load the Training Video

screen shot of downloading traiing video
Downloading Training Video
training video set up close
Camera recording training video
  • Load Training Video: Set your camera up in a dark room, level with, and about 18 inches from, your computer screen. The goal here is to set up your camera up in front of your computer, then “Play” the video on your computer while you “Record” it onto your camera. It’s a simple and wonderful hack to load any video on any camera for playback in the camera’s viewfinder.
  • Open video and put into full screen mode and frame camera so video fills camera’s viewfinder.
  • “Play” the video to test the audio level. Make sure the audio plays loudly. Then reset the video the beginning.
  • Click “Record” on the camera, and then immediately click “Play” on the video.
  • When the video stops, click “Stop” on the camera.
  • Play the video on your camera to make sure it’s OK.
  • Now try playing the video in your camera. Make sure to delete all other videos before loading camera into case.

Sarah on way to Egypt
Sarah at the Marlboro College World Studies Program offices right before leaving for Egypt

Kits in the field

  • Contact me if you are making solar powered videos at “calebjc at well dot com”
  • If you make a video using solar power, tag it “solarpoweredvideo” (no spaces). So we can all search for similar videos.

Haiti

I donated a kit to the The Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action (CAFRA) soon after the earthquake. They reported in July 2010 that they were using it to document the on-going work of the organization, specifically with orphans in Leogane.  They have also been sharing the camera with other organizations, such as the children’s charity CAFA in Port-au-Prince.

Flavia from CAFRA says, ”

“Our members here in Haiti have been doing some great work in reaching out to some of the international NGOs and calling their attention to some of the issues.  Photos and video footage are very effective in making a case for intervention, especially as there is very little scientific data available here in this country, on critical issues affecting women.  As a result of some of the outreach activities, we have been able to get cooperation from organizations like Red Cross and UN Habitat, for example.  Some of our members also also occasionally also being invited to attend meetings which provide updates and feedback on work being don by those organizations.  I will forward you an email (one of which is usually copied to me) in relation to the work being done by UN Habitat, for example.  They had a meeting in Haiti today and we were invited because we have been calling their attention to the situation in communities like Carrefour etc. where the situation is most dire.  They have made promises on the way forward and our plans are to hold them accountable.   So when they promise to get certain thing done or when there are plans to do interventions in certain communities, we then try to follow up with the Mayor of that community, just to see whether the right people are aware of what is being planned.  We also encourage all of them to include women in discussions and plans. Thank you so much for the flip camera.  We will need more of them as we are planning to train a team of women from various communities, so that they can monitor the situation in their respective camps/areas, and to send this information to our office here in Haiti and also at our regional Secretariat, so that we can do advocacy on their behalf.”

Marlboro College World Studies Program

Sarah is taking a kit to Egypt as part of her Marlboro College World Studies Program. We’ll post her videos when she comes back in May 2010, or sooner if she uploads videos from Egypt, or ships the kit back to us and we upload her videos.

Caleb

Here’s a sample of 100% solar powered videos I’ve made.

1. CNN iReport: Harris Hill Ski Jump Competition
2. CNN iReport: Nor’easter hits southern New England
3. Video Blog: Winter Wonderland. Hiking in the snow in Vermont
4. Sailing in Maine


5. Sledding in Brattleboro, Vermont.

DIY Medium

  • Uses: Sunny locations where you only need to shoot about an hour of video a week, while batteries charge
  • Charge time for two AA batteries : 18 hours of direct sunlight.
Budget solar video kit

Budget Solar Video Kit

Budget Kit Closed

Budget Kit Closed

Solar Panel for Budget kit

Solar Panel for budget kit

  1. Flip Ultra, with 50% charitable organization discount.
  2. Pelican Brand Model 1040 Micro Case with Foam
  3. DIY AA solar battery charger, or assembled solar battery charger.
  4. Shoe Goo
  5. 1 foot “Industrial Sticky Back” Black Velcro.
  6. 4 Rechargeable 2000 mAh AA Batteries.
  7. Tools: Solder iron if you use the DIY panel, solder, flux, knife.

How To Build

  1. See Photo based directions here to assemble kit
  2. Download training video and load onto the camera

DIY Small

Junior

Junior

For unny locations, where you only need to record about an hour of video a week while batteries charge.
Training Video that plays in the camera’s viewfinder

  • Flip Ultra
  • Pelican 1020 Case.
  • Silicon Solar 2AA battery charger. Charge time for 2 AA batteries: About 24 hours direct sunlight
  • Shoe Goo
  • 1 foot industrial Velcro
  • 4 Rechargeable AA Batteries

How To Build

  1. Glue Veclro strips to top inside of case and back of solar panel and battery tray using Shoe Goo type glue
  2. Reinforce where wires meet solar panel with some Shoe Goo
  3. Download training video and load onto the camera.

Product links

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