How I Make My Videos

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Use a video camera – no matter how simple – with an external microphone jack.
  3. Use an external microphone. A simple wireless setup is inexpensive and can make a big difference.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

5 thoughts on “How I Make My Videos”

  1. Thanks, Bob! (I’m a little behind in my blog reading.)
    All fantastic tips! Now all I have to do is a little shopping and a little planning. 🙂
    I really appreciate all your help.

  2. Thanks for the info, Bob. I’m considering a new camera purchase on the low end (because I’m cheap) and I’ve heard the praises of an external microphone jack, which I can really understand after doing some interview type videos. But after looking at the Kodak Zi8 and the Sony Bloggie (with pivotable lens) I’m not real impressed with the zoom capability – jerky and not very far. I loved the optical 60x zoom power of the Sony Handycam, although not HD and no external mic jack.
    I guess it does come down to what you want to do with it, but I’d like to hear your thoughts about the value of HD and an external mic jack. If you’re thinking about mostly posting videos online, is HD really necessary? And what about the creative effects of a slow zoom or the ability to capture interesting events at a distance?
    Thanks Bob.

  3. Hi Rex – I’m no expert on HD. In fact, my video expertise is all new. I am pretty well qualified to talk digital imaging, color management and anything PhotoShop. But, that doesn’t translate to the web. I’m going to forward your question to my friend Paul Durban and who is an expert.
    Here’s what I do think about the hardware. Spend what you can afford for a decent camera with an external mic. My Canon G11 shoots great video quality but no external mic and it also pics up every single sound the camera makes. And, as near as I can figure out since it a still camera, the auto-focus feature just doesn’t work on video. Although I’m still playing with that.
    Point is it is an expensive digital still camera and still isn’t as good as ones you can get for half the money.
    It seems like the gap between good and great in video cams is really, really wide. You have to spend thousands to move up to great quality and HD.
    Now, having said all that I’ll see what Paul has to say and post it here.

  4. Paul had a problem with TypePad deleting a post. I’m sure he’ll try again. Meanwhile, I should have mentioned lighting again. The two things people forget is that video is also audio which is why you need a decent microphone. And, the other is lighting. Yep, the new digital cameras do a great job for the most part in low light. But, what a difference good lighting will make for you. With two lights you can get great video. With three and some practice you can almost get professional set looking lighting. So, don’t skimp on those two things.

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