Want to start shooting video in-house but still want a professional look? Here’s what to buy
Shooting your videos in-house can save you a lot of money, but it requires the right gear. Contributor Aden Andrus walks you through some affordable options that will meet your needs.
Whether you’re a blogger or a business, these days, digital video is all the rage. Every website seems to have a video; every business seems to have a YouTube channel.
There are a lot of great reasons why businesses and individuals are so interested in video. Digital video is an incredibly rich, expressive medium.
After all, if a picture says a thousand words, how many words do 24 to 30 pictures a second convey?
However, there’s a dark side to video. All of those figurative words are great, but if your video is poor quality, the main message your viewers will come away with is, “This video is terrible. Therefore, the business or person who made this video must be terrible.”
That’s not a message you want to send.
The easiest solution, of course, is to simply hire a studio to shoot your videos for you. But if you plan on making a lot of videos, that can get expensive — fast.
In this situation, the cheapest way to do things is to shoot your videos in-house. However, if you’re going to shoot your videos in-house and you don’t want your videos to look like they were, you know, shot in-house, you’re going to need to invest in some video equipment.
To help you identify the right sort of video equipment for your needs, let’s take a look at some of the more affordable options. Just as a disclaimer, I’m not affiliated with any of the companies that sell the products we’ll be discussing; I simply think that they are great examples of the kind of products you should consider.
Doing things on the cheap
Obviously, the cheapest possible way to shoot a video ad is to grab whatever camera you have on hand, set it on a table and do your thing.
However, that sort of approach usually produces videos that look about like this:
To produce a halfway decent video, you need halfway decent video equipment.
The good news is, you don’t have to spend a fortune on equipment to get your digital video efforts off the ground. Cheaper equipment means more work on the editing end of things, but if you’re willing to put in the time and effort, you can still produce a pretty nice video.
On the lower end of the cost spectrum, here are some solid choices to consider:
iPhone 7 Plus camera
It might seem a bit odd to recommend a camera phone for shooting quality digital video, but — unlike many camera phones — the iPhone 7 Plus comes with a large and a small camera aperture. This is important because multiple aperture sizes give you a lot of options for more professional shots (wide shots, close-ups and more).
Here’s a great example of some of the sorts of shots you can get with an iPhone 7 Plus (You can see a great close-up-to-wide transition at around 38 seconds):
This sort of transition works best with multiple lenses. The standard zoom on most camera phones simply can’t produce shots with this sort of quality. That’s part of the reason why it’s usually not very hard to spot a video that’s been filmed on a phone.
Panasonic GH4 camera
If you’re willing to spend a bit more, and you want to take things up a notch, it may be worth it to invest in a Panasonic GH4.
Buying the camera and lenses will set you back at least $1,500, but this package deal should set you up with everything you need for most standard shooting situations.
The great thing about this camera is the fact that you can use it to shoot in 4K. You might not need 4K footage for your typical digital video, but filming in 4K gives you the ability to zoom in on your shots as needed during editing without sacrificing video quality.
Of course, if you want to simply shoot at lower resolutions, the camera can do that, too, but it’s incredibly handy to have the ability to shoot at a range of resolutions.
Tascam DR-40 microphone
When it comes to digital video, sound quality is just as important as video quality. If your budget is tight, the Tascam DR-40 is a great low-cost option.
The Tascam DR-40 is a directional microphone, and it does a great job of filtering out background noise. All you have to do is point the microphone in the right direction and you’ll get reasonable quality audio. The Tascam also works well on a boom pole, giving you a lot more flexibility on the types of shots and videos you can put together.
Of course, if you don’t have $180 for the Tascam, and you only plan on creating “talking head”-type videos, Rode sells a lavalier microphone that will get the job done for around $70 (plus an app). It all depends on the sorts of videos you intend to shoot.
Fancierstudio 2,400-watt professional lighting kit
The final key to creating a decent video is lighting. To see why, check out this video:
The good news is, Fancierstudio sells a nice lighting kit that only costs about $120 and should allow you to create some decent three-point lighting.
For more involved filming projects, you’ll need additional light sources, but for most basic videos, three lights should be enough.
As a quick side note, these lights are not battery-powered, so you’ll need to keep that in mind as you set up your shots. Even if you plan to shoot most of your videos in a location with abundant electrical outlets, it’s still probably a good idea to invest in some extension cords.
Additional things to consider
Unfortunately, it’s not quite enough to buy a camera, audio and lighting. There are a few other odds and ends you’ll probably want to pick up as well.
One great indicator of video quality is the stability of your footage. Nothing says, “I took this video with my phone” like a wobbly shot. Fortunately, this is an easy problem to solve: Just buy a tripod.
Almost any tripod will do the trick — just make sure that your camera will attach to it properly. (If you’re going the iPhone route, find a tripod with a phone adapter.) This will do the trick for most shots, but if you want to move the camera around during a shot, consider investing in a 3-axis gimbal to keep your picture stable.
It’s also important to remember that high-quality video files are big — really big. For example, last year we shot a one-minute commercial that had 130GB of footage.
Your videos might not have that much footage, but I would still recommend investing in an external hard drive if you plan on shooting more than one or two videos.
Finally, it’s always a good idea to have a few extra memory cards and batteries on hand. There’s nothing worse than getting partway into a shoot and having your camera die on you.
Between the camera, microphone, lighting and extras, if you want to produce decent videos, you should probably expect to spend at least $1,500 to $3,000 on video equipment.
Admittedly, the options we’ve discussed in this article aren’t the best equipment money can buy, but I’m betting that you’re not looking to invest $50,000 in a RED Weapon.
For most digital video projects, the products we’ve discussed here (or their market equivalents) should deliver great quality without breaking your bank.