Kathleen Jaffe, a reader with a brand new business, asked me yesterday what kind of equipment I use to create my videos. I thought I'd make a list here and also offer some tips.
The camera I am using is a Canon FS200. I bought it a few months ago and then they discontinued it. The main reason I went with it is that it has a jack for an external microphone and the reviews on it were about as good as you're going to get with a camera in this price range. The replacement is the FS300 and it does not have an external microphone jack. That to me is a deal killer.
On the camera microphones are notorious at this price range for being poor and picking up all kinds of extraneous noise. With the external jack I can use a wireless microphone pack or even a wire mic. I have both.
It seems like you can buy a good consumer video camcorder for $1000 down to a few hundred and there isn't a lot of difference. But, I'd definitely recommend one with the external microphone.
If you want to really have some of the best you need to move into professional equipment that costs a whole lot more. There are also some interesting rigs out there now that use still cameras video feature because the video quality is that good on some of the new still cameras. Take a look at this one that uses a Canon 1d Mark IV still camera's video capability.
Of course if all the video you intend to shoot is of yourself as you hold the camera and point it toward yourself or the occasional small tripod then go for the Flip or one the Kodak Zi8. The Zi8 has an external jack. I have two tripods I use left over from my professional photography days. One is small and carbon fiber and works well with the Canon camcorder. And, it cost more than the camera so I wouldn't suggest you need it unless you are looking for something very lightweight.
My wireless system is an Azden WMS-PRO Wireless Microphone System. It is inexpensive and it works great for me. There is a lavaliere mic and a hand held included. My wired microphone is an old one I had from my early professional speaking days and it still works perfectly.
I use a 2 light kit made by Westcott that I got from Amazon. It comes with the stands, light boxes, lights and a green screen for around $200. Lights make all the difference in the world with video. I was using an inexpensive contractors halogen light stand I got at Home Depot for about $70 but the bulbs didn't last long and it is very hot. You can also buy an upgrade that uses florescent bulbs that I'm going to try. It's even cooler temperature and you can use daylight temperature balanced fluorescents.
Eventually you'll want to do some editing. There are plenty of good choices for video editing. iMovie or Final Cut for the Mac and Windows Movie Maker (which is free) work. I see more and more simple video editing software being included with DVD players especially Blu-Ray. I use Pinnacle Studio 14 Ultimate from Avid which is a pretty amazing piece of software for the price.
To sum things up:
- Learn to use a couple of lights. There is plenty of free instruction on the Internets and it will make a big difference in quality.
- Use a video camera – no matter how simple – with an external microphone jack.
- Use an external microphone. A simple wireless setup is inexpensive and can make a big difference.
- Hand held and shaky videos have their place in spur of the moment shooting but for a more professional look that doesn't make someone dizzy watching learn to use a tripod. Find one on eBay.
- There are tons of video camcorders. Start with something simple that you'll use and then work you're way up when you want better quality or features. The consumer models are getting better and cheaper.
- Take the time to learn to do simple edits like adding titles, dissolves, music, and cutting/splicing.
Have fun with video. YouTube is the number two search engine. Make it part of your marketing.
And, now Kathleen, I expect to see a creation like the Underpants Gnomes from you.