How to Choose Affordable Equipment for Making Your Online Videos

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Choosing the right equipment…

This is the first in the “making you look good online” series of articles where my aim is to teach you how to present yourself effectively on camera whether for internal staff communications, sales presentations, web conferencing, webinars, YouTube videos and video blogging, or simply sharing your thought leadership online.

You don’t need to be a Spielberg, nor do you need to spend a fortune on the latest high tech equipment for your web video production but if you want to stand out from the crowd you will need to purchase some basic pieces of equipment.

“Just be yourself”, they say. Wrong! If you want great results you need to need to present “your best self” –and I will show you how to do that.

Here are two key things to avoid when starting out:

  • Do not use the webcam on your computer
  • Do not use the video recorder on your cell phone

These tools will severely limit you.  Yes you do need to buy a video camera and as I want to make this series relevant for as many people as possible, I will focus on how you can achieve great results using affordable equipment that is commonly available to everyone.

The 3 essential pieces of equipment

All of these can be purchased in Amazon.com’s electronics section for less than $200 total.

  1. HD video camera, with a remote control for filming yourself. HD is vital for image quality ($150)
  2. Tripod, preferably 72-Inch, with built in bubble level ($20)
  3. Lapel microphone, newscaster-style, with full 360-degree coverage (so you don’t have to worry about where it’s pointing), with an integrated cable (20feet) that connects your microphone directly to your camera ($25). Wireless is an option too but more expensive.

If you are really serious, I also recommend you invest in portable studio lighting ($100). Later in the series I will cover simple lighting techniques to help you present yourself in the most flattering light.

Which HD camera to buy?

I love my Flip Ultra HD.  It’s great for everyday videoing but I do not recommend it for creating your online videos because it has 1 major flaw –it has a built in microphone only.  There is no jack to plug in an external mic.  I filmed some of my early videos using the Flip and sounded like I was speaking into a tin-can (or worse in a toilet).  Sorry Flip –you don’t make the grade.

The alternative solution I chose was the Kodak Zi8.  The good news is that it costs less than the Flip (but you do have to buy the extra memory option).

The Kodak Zi8 has two major advantages over the Flip:

    • You can plug a lapel microphone directly into the camera – so you get much better sound quality
    • It has a remote control small enough to hide in the palm of your hand, enabling you to control the camera while you are filming.  This is a big plus if you are filming yourself and don’t have the luxury of a camera assistant.

 

In future articles in this series I will cover topics including:

    • Pre-production (scripting your message, wardrobe, hair and make-up, setting the background),
    • Filming (lighting, camera positioning, learning your best angles, camera framing & psychology, how to speak and look at the camera, how to overcome distracting mannerisms)
    • Post-production (editing, putting it all together).

 

I won’t pull any punches, and will share all the secrets I have learned from many years in front of and behind the camera. From giving auditions as an TV actor, presenter and spokesperson – to being a talent agent – to working behind the camera with casting companies where I have observed thousands of individuals trying out for TV commercials – to working in post-production edit suites as part of a advertising firm. I know what works and what doesn’t on camera.  My goal is to help you look good online.

Connect with me on Twitter @biancaterito where I tweet daily tips on how to create effective online video presentations.

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13 thoughts on “How to Choose Affordable Equipment for Making Your Online Videos

  1. I’m really excited to see the rest of this series. One thing I’m hoping to do at my job is to push us into creating better-packaged, high-quality video of events and other initiatives. I’m hoping I can learn more about video production and editing to help fill this role. Can’t wait to read what’s next on this topic!

  2. I’m really excited to see the rest of this series. One thing I’m hoping to do at my job is to push us into creating better-packaged, high-quality video of events and other initiatives. I’m hoping I can learn more about video production and editing to help fill this role. Can’t wait to read what’s next on this topic!

  3. Guilty of using my webcam and need to get a MAC! I invested in a video camera – a great handheld Sony 2 years ago and love it and a lapel mic that I can plug into it. Makes a huge difference.

    Plus I bought a lightweight portable tripod for just $15 and its incredibly useful. I still find my iPhone video does the trick when I’m on location but it does pick up a lot of other sound if its windy. Still pretty incredible what the camera can do.

    Looking forward to more tips!

    1. Thank you for commenting – there is a process involved to convert the text of the script to screen – not all scripting or text can be made visually compelling or watchable. In future articles I will discuss how to storyboard your text and film it effectively.

  4. Great post Bianca. I am onto my second Kodak zi8. I bought my first one as soon as it came out because of the microphone and unfortunately it stopped working last week. I immediately ordered a new one! I have an expensive HD camera as well and honestly, the picture quality of this little compact handheld blows my mind! Especially if the lighting and everything is set up properly.

    1. Just on the Kodak zi8 – I have noticed that the camera tends to throw a gold/yellow hue while shooting (in a really short period of time). This usually means that the ‘white balance’ is out.

      If shooting quickly and you have no time to switch the camera off for few seconds (to reset the white balance) I’ll focus my camera on something white i.e. paper, a wall, or I’ll cup my hand over the lens for a few seconds and it seems to sort it out.

    1. Hi Chris – thank you for stopping by.

      I have had good results with the following products (all readily available on Amazon.com). I use Amazon because of their excellent customer care service. Any problems with the product or supplier they sort it all out. (That has been my experience anyway).

      Please note the below products are not endorsed by STOTW. They act as a personal guide only.

      Lighting kit: (Recommend 3 point lighting – this is ideal for a small room or talking head set-up)  http://www.amazon.com/ePhoto-Continuous-photography-Background-ePhotoINC/dp/B003TY6O9U/ref=sr_1_22?ie=UTF8&qid=1291412302&sr=8-22

      Mic: (cheap option) although I still have to de-noise the audio when I edit in post. 
      http://www.amazon.com/Audio-Technica-ATR-3350-Omnidirectional-Condenser-Microphone/dp/B002HJ9PTO/ref=sr_1_1?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1310451583&sr=1-1

      Mic: (expensive option) I have heard good reviews – still yet to test in my own videos: http://www.amazon.com/Sennheiser-MKE-400-Shotgun-Microphone/dp/B0014YVAJG/ref=wl_it_dp_o?ie=UTF8&coliid=IY5V3R8UL7BZA&colid=1VM1ZCNL8A95X

      Hope this helps.

      Bianca

  5. Hey, thank you for sharing your advise. I have one question about Flip Ultra HD. It seems that now they have three generations in this series. Which one is better? If you can recommend. Thank you

    1. Hi Katya, thank you for stopping by. Unfortunately, the production of Flip video cameras ceased in 2011 when Cisco announced that it “will exit its consumer business” which included shutting down the Flip. This was a shame because the Flip was still selling strongly when its discontinuation was announced. The Flip is a great single purpose device that takes high quality HD videos. I still take it with me when I go away on holiday.

      The Flip was facing growing competition from Smartphones. Although they are still not as good as the Flip in terms of video quality, they are much more convenient because we are always carrying them around.

      When I am filming my travel vlogs I’ll use both my Smartphone and my Flip Ultra HD (2nd Generation) excellent for outdoor shots.

      For filming my Video Presentation Coaching episodes (in my studio) I use the Canon Vixia HF M40.

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