FWIW, we just use a standard Sony miniDV camera. Personally, I kind of
wish the thing would die so we could get one that's hard drive based
instead of miniDV, because transferring from tape to the computer is a
1:1 time based operation. With miniDV set on the longer record time, a
standard tape yields 90 minutes of recording, which generally has been
fine for the job talks we have.
These days in general we just set the camera up on a tripod in the back
of the room, with a view that generally includes the podium and the
screen, and leave is set that way for the talk. Although if you get
someone that likes to walk around a lot, you might get parts of the tape
where they're off screen :). If a group wants more than this, I
generally ask them to supply a grad student that can operate the camera
(after all, they're generally at these talks). These video cameras are
pretty easy to operate, so it doesn't take more than a minute or so to
cover how to deal with it. But in general, our people seem to be
satisfied with the static view (I finally convinced the powers that be
that is didn't make sense to be paying me to sit in these, although
depending on the exact area of specialty of the presenter, I could find
it anywhere from interesting, to completely lost and I haven't a clue).
The results I'd definitely say are merely adequate, not great. Even
without an external mic, I find that it picks up the speaker adequately,
but that might also depend on the size of your room. But for the
purpose of someone to review the talk if they missed it, it's good enough.
Also, we haven't had anyone complain about being recorded for such
purposes. The impression I've gotten is that this is actually becoming
fairly routine, although that could vary based on the department that's
But basically, any decently reviewed camcorder with a tripod is probably
going to be adequate. Possibly with some form of external mic. I'd
definitely recommend going with a hard drive based on though, because
otherwise you'll need a computer with a firewire card on it that can be
tied up for the same length of time as the talk. Maybe I can arrange
someone to accidentally drop ours.