Lately I’ve been recording quite a bit of video, mainly “direct to camera” so I wanted to briefly discuss what my tools are in my video production studio
My goal with the videos was to have as professional quality at the lowest possible price. I guess it’s the 80/20 thing setting in. Yes you can spend tens of thousands on professional grade gear, but what if you could get the same quality for way less.
My First Ventures Into Online Video
I’ve owned a Flip Mino HD camera for some time now. It’s an excellent small pocket with great quality video compared with the price let alone the size. I basically chose it because it won most test on image quality over other cameras and because it was small.
When I bought it I was still on my trusty iPhone 3G that certainly didn’t have any video capabilities to show for (well… it did do video… but nothing you could use for anything).
But as I wanted to do more than just small videos of me in the pool I quickly realized the shortcomings of this wonderful gadget.
I also found out why most other people wanting a similar small sized camera had begun to buy the Kodak Zi8 instead of the Flip camera series (even though the Flip Mino camera looks more snazzy).
It had external microphone input! While the video quality of the Flip Mino HD were really good, it only had the internal microphone and that is a no go if you want to do anything other than just small fun videos.
So I was now in a position where I could buy something like the Kodak camera (or something similar) or I could step it up a bit. I chose the last… Also because I’ve already wasted money on one pocket camera so I didn’t really come home to the girlfriend and have to explain why I needed yet another one (you know girls simply don’t understand gadget unless they come with flowers ).
So I went on the look out for something a bit more professional. Really my only requirement was that there was an external microphone input.
I quickly found a new Panasonic range of cameras that seemed to provide the best quality/price ration. I knew I didn’t want to go pro, but I also didn’t want to save a few hundreds and then be stuck with some crappy cheap consumer “play” camera. So I chose something in the middle.
DSLR vs. Video camera
When I started to look at video cameras I quickly also found myself looking into DSLR cameras. They have now become so good (and cheap) that many people are using them for professional video cameras. I’ve even seen TV and music videos being shot with DSLR cameras (although probably the top of the line stuff).
THe advantage of buying a DSLR camera instead of a video camera was obvious. I would also get a really good still photo camera for the same price.
But as I started to look into this category of cameras, I found a few things that didn’t quite resonate well with what I was gonna use it for.
- Manual focus when in video mode (I could work around that since I was mainly going to use it for direct to camera, but most of the time it would require a second guy acting as a cameraman
- Most cameras I looked at could not record much more than 15 minutes per take making it pretty much a no go for me as I also had record hour long seminars
- No built-in stability compensation. Not really a problem for me as I was gonna use it mounted on a tripod, but it would still make it a problem if I had to use it without
- They become really hot. Not sure that’s a problem – but it’s clearly that they weren’t designed for long term use
So for me the DSLR (at least at the time I was looking into this) was a no go, but perhaps in the near future I’ll go the DSLR route.
So I ended almost ordering the Panasonic HDC SD800 but realized that I couldn’t find anything about an external microphone input which was really my only requirement, so I went with big brother Panasonic HDC SD900 instead (together with a 32GB memory card)
After I had bought the camera I also got rather inspired by Smartphone Video Producer where this guy basically shows you how to get quality video production with the video camera in an iPhone. If I had seen this site before I’ve purchased the Panasonic camera I might have thought twice.
Because this leads me to…
The Secret of Good Video
The secret behind good and professional video is not the camera. And that’s a strange thing as this is usually the most expensive thing in the setup.
NO – doing good video is all about good lighting and sound.
And that is also the fact being teached by the smartphone video guy. If you have great sound and lighting no one can see that it’s recorded on an iPhone 4 (or similar smartphone).
So realizing this… now… – and having spend good money on the camera (and therefore could not see myself suddenly going over to recording on my iPhone) leads me to how my finished video production studio looks like.
Video Production Studio Elements
Panasonic HDC SD900
This was the camera I bought. I produces good looking video. To begin with I recorded in Full HD but this gave me big files of the “MTS” format which is a killer to work with on my mac. So I quickly started recording in a lower resolution which the camera can output in MP4 format that is much easier to work with as it does not have to convert it first (which can take hours with the MTS files on my 2 year old MacBook Pro – “Hey Rasmus… a good excuse to go out and buy a new MacBook Pro….” => Exactly ).
Also I’m gonna use them for web use only, so while it would be nice to have them in Full HD there is really no need. Good sound and lighting are much more important
Sennheiser FreePort Presenter Set
As sound is really important and I’m doing direct to camera, I wanted a clip on mic. First I bought a cheap one from China as again I’m an 80/20 guy figuring that I just need something that is good enough. And the mic was also “good enough”. The sound quality itself was fine, unfortunately there was so much “static background noise” that I threw it out and realized that I had to spend a little more than $15 on the mic.
I basically wanted the cheapest clip on mic from one of the more established names in the music/recording industry. As I have a small music studio I knew about Sennheiser’s products and found this set to be the cheapest one on the market. I think I paid approximately $200 for it here in Denmark.
It’s a complete set with lavalier mic, broadcast and receiver unit. It doesn’t attach to the video camera (like on the horse shoe) or anything, but for the price it’s awesome sound quality.
PhotoSEL LS21E52 Professional Softbox Studio Lighting Kit
Next on my list was lighting. Again I didn’t want to spend a lot but wanting the minimum viable solution that would look really good. There was a number of good lighting kits in the Amazon.com store, but being from Denmark it’s much easier to buy from the Amazon.co.uk store that unfortunately didn’t have the same big selection of light kits.
I did however find the PhotoSEL kit that was quite reasonable priced. I started with one kit, but quickly realized that I needed more lighting.
So currently I’m using two kits (which is four lights) (EDIT: Down to two lights in my new studio) and I’ll probably buy some smaller lights to ensure better background lighting in the future.
Hama Star 63 Tripod
Not sure if I should list this as well, but it’s kind of the last piece of the puzzle and it was cheap
Screenflow vs iMovie
So what about editing your movies you might ask!
In the beginning I was editing my movies on iMovie but it’s a pain to work with. They “tried to make it super easy” but they failed miserable. I mean who has ever heard about video editing software without any timeline.
So currently my process involve editing my videos on Screenflow which is really a screen capturing application, but has much better video editing capabilities than iMovie (at least the 20% that you use 95% of the time).
After I’ve done with the video I export it and run it through Handbrake a fantastic free application for converting videos into MP4.
(EDIT: I’ve actually stepped up and bought Final Cut Pro, so I’m currently doing most editing in this program but is of course still using Screenflow for recording and editing screencasts).
So what now?! What’s all the video for
Well, I’m glad that you asked (and you actually sticked to the end of this post).
I’m currently working on an online private coaching program. Over the years I’ve gotten a lot of questions on how I manage to not having to work all year, and since I mainly saying the same things over and over again I figured there might be a better way.
So if you are someone who is passionate about changing your life and willing to take action, then I would really love to work with you.
You’ll probably hear more about it on this site when I’m ready, but if you want to be absolutely sure to be among the first to hear about it, you should consider joining my newsletter (and get a free ebook at the same time).
If you got any inputs on the whole video setup thing, I would love to hear from you in the comments.