What Kind of Video Equipment Do I Need?

One of the benefits of producing video today is that it can be done on a shoestring. Add the internet as a free distribution route and there’s your network! A $50 web cam, upload to YouTube and you can get you a dandy one-shot video on the web in just minutes. This might just be all you need to establish credibility with your customers.

For in-depth videos that go beyond one head-shot, what kind of equipment you use is largely determined by budget. No doubt you’ve heard of the multi-gazillion dollar Hollywood budgets. The good news is that you can get started on the internet for a lot less. (However if you want to buy tons of cool electronic gadgets, video production is the obsession to have!) This lesson will focus on ways to produce videos cheaply.

If your piggy bank suffers from the scrawny syndrome, (trust me, I know the feeling!) but you want to do more than single head shots videos, you can produce professional quality videos with nothing more than a simple camcorder, available for $200-$500.

I’m currently using a mini-DV Panasonic I bought for about $400 in 2001. In some respects, it shoots better quality video than some of the dinosaurs I used in 1980 and it sure weighs a huckuva lot less.

Don’t feel like you can’t shoot professional quality video because you budget won’t allow lights. (Or you simply don’t want to hassle with lights!) Today’s cameras don’t need much light. You can get a decent shot using natural lighting. Look for the brightest spot in the room. Shoot there.

Open blinds, curtains, doors, whatever you have to let in more natural light. Then, put the bright windows to the BACK of the camera. The natural light should fall on the face of the subject, otherwise you get a silhouette.

If all you have is a small camcorder, learn to maximize the characteristics of your on-camera microphone. A distance of about two to five feet is optimal. Speak loudly, slowly and clearly. Turn off any background noises such as radios or TVs. You can even shut off the air conditioner if you want to be picky.

Don’t have a tripod? There are substitute tripods all around you. Try using use a nearby table, chair or even a rock as a tripod. Lay the camera on the ground for a steady shot and a cool bug’s eye view of the world.  I use a cheapie tripod I picked up for twenty-five bucks. I personally consider a tripod essential.

Video editing programs, like Windows Movie Maker or iMovie, can be had for free. Learning them is relatively simple. iMovie by apple is a lot better in my opinion.

The basics of video editing are:

  • Import the video into the video editing program. Sometimes this is actually the most difficult part!
  • Organize your video and audio in your program.
  • Cut, paste, move and add stuff to your video in the timeline, which is a visual representation of your story.
  • Build your story in the timeline by adding various story-telling elements like music, graphics or narration.
  • Convert your video into a sharing file format like mpeg4, .flv or .mov.
  • Upload to free service like YouTube or Google.

Don’t want to mess with editing? OK. You can still achieve a video that looks professionally editing. How? Edit in the camera.

While shooting, think editing.

Back when I used to shoot run-and-gun-news, (News Flash! Mayor Gets Drunk and Causes Twelve Car Pile-Up!) I knew that sometimes there simply wouldn’t be time to edit. I had to shoot raw video that was presentable.

Here’s how:

  • Hold your shots steady at all times.
  • Don’t punch the record button until you’ve got the shot right.
  • Punch out of the shot before you movie the camera.
  • Don’t hang on any one shot longer than ten seconds unless it’s totally awesome. (The drunken mayor cussing out the police chief.)
  • Use the fade feature of your camera to fade up from black at the beginning and down to black at the end. That one trick alone will make your videos look more professional!

Even if you will still be editing your video on a computer, shooting with these methods can save you tons of time in the edit room.

Narrate as you go. The on-camera microphone will pick up the sound of you speaking as you shoot very well.  This can save you the trouble of scripting and recording narration later.

MODERN VIDEO PRODUCTION EQUIPMENT MAKES THE JOB EASIER

Of course, part of the fun with video is that it offers plenty of cool toys if you can afford them. The digital cameras and edit systems of today make me go gaga. Truly. I think they’re incredible wonders far superior to the antiques I learned on. (Ever heard of a vacuum tube or a manual typewriter?)

The camera I used back in college shot blue video no matter how many times you white balanced it. Today, you hardly need to know what white balancing is. (In case you’re the curious type: White balancing is a process of adjusting your camera to the light you’re shooting under so the camera picks up the colors accurately. Different sources of light are different colors, even though they all look white to the eye. The human eye is a marvel at automatic white balancing. Sunlight is blue compared to incandescent light and the closer your get to dusk the bluer the sunlight is. Dawn is quite orange but nearly as orange as a standard incandescent light bulb. Fluorescent light is green.)

Your budget and how much work you care to take on determines what kind of equipment you will need. If you know how, professional quality video can be yours with nothing but a camera, just follow the suggestions above.

Thanks for reading video production tips.

Lorraine Grula

Internet video Gal

Comments

  1. Nice writing style. Looking forward to reading more from you.

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