production basics

Inexpensive Camera Options & Resources For DIY Video

Posted on by Mike Liebensohn in Video Production Leave a comment

Professional video production often requires cameras and lenses costing thousands of dollars, specialized lighting, expensive microphones, and years of experience. Yet, it is possible to get really amazing results using inexpensive gear, if you know what to get and which aspects are important.

In this post I’m sharing my thoughts on the cheapest options that are still going to give you good results for a basic “talking head” type video. And I’m sharing this freely because what differentiates VideoActive Productions is found in the content of the video, not the camera or lights we know how to operate.

The main things that make up good video (aside from the content) are:
1. use lots of light (more than you think you need – always set up lights or use natural light from a window)
2. good audio is half the video (always use an external mic, like a lavalier right on the person)
3. keep things steady (use a tripod!)

Earlier on, I recommended going with a “flip” style camera, in particular the Kodak Playtouch – but it’s discontinued, and the one’s that are still available are overpriced. So, I’ve looked at the specs for a number of “camcorders” and below is my recommendation (and I have used it personally). There are other less expensive options, but few have a microphone input (to connect a lavalier mic).

Here is the camcorder link (currently about $200)
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1110404-REG/canon_0280c001_vixia_hf_r600_full.html

Here is a lavalier mic with a nice long cord (about $20)
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1037063-REG/audio_technica_atr3350is_lavalier_mic_with_smartphone.html

You’ll need at least one SD card (that’s where the files are saved, and how you transfer to your computer)
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1077089-REG/sandisk_sdsdun_016g_g46_ultra_sd_16gb_card_40.html

Tripod
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/328957-REG/Smith_Victor_700165_P800_Pinnacle_Tripod_with.html

Lighting kit
http://www.amazon.com/Studio-Photography-Video-Lighting-Softbox/dp/B001AIU5G0

My recommendation for video editing software on a PC is Sony Vegas Movie Studio Platinum – here’s a free 30 day trial
http://www.sonycreativesoftware.com/download/trials/moviestudiope

For Mac, use iMovie (comes with it or can be downloaded for free)

Here’s a resource for royalty free music to use in your videos (you can’t just use popular music without a license)
http://youtube.com/audiolibrary

Here’s another camera that I liked, but it doesn’t have a mic input – yet it’s waterproof, like a GoPro camera (real GoPro’s are like 400 bucks)
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1015166-REG/kodak_kodak_pixpro_spz1_digital.html
* this option uses a micro-SD card, so don’t use the link I provided above

These videos go deeper on …
lighting – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bz7ue1xud04
audio – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCSMXxpjCFY

As for the content of the video, we take an unscripted / documentary type approach that involves interviewing the subject, followed by creative editing. Why? Because we’re often dealing with business owners and entrepreneurs who are not professional actors, and it’s important that they come off natural to the viewer. Even outgoing people and experienced speakers tend to get a little awkward once the camera turns on, so we engage them in a conversation, and ignore the camera. The result is a video that evokes a feeling of trust – like they’re meeting the real person behind the business, not just a talking head. For more info on our unique interviewing / taping process called “Shower & Showup™”, click here.