Whether you’re working permanently from home or not, being able to shoot decent video has become a basic skill set required for almost everyone who wants to communicate effectively. The fact is, as we become more global, we need to capture, display, demonstrate, and communicate, and video is a great way to do it.
The good news is that as equipment becomes cheaper and more affordable, it also improves in quality and is easier to use, making it more accessible to the rest of us. Today we will see some equipment and techniques that must meet three requirements:
It has to improve somewhat dramatically. It has to affect the quality of your final product directly, otherwise what’s the point?
It has to be relatively affordable. “I will give you some options to choose from based on your budget.”
It has to be easy to use. “I don’t have time to learn a complicated piece of technology. I just need it to work.” We’re kind of talking about plug and play here.
We have all been subjected to that video of a person shooting through the nose, with what appears to be Edison’s first light bulb illuminating them, speaking to us from an echo chamber, or sitting in front of a window as if they were in the protection program of witnesses. The good news is that each of these problems is easy to fix. All you need is a little knowledge and, in some cases, affordable equipment.
Let’s start with the audio. Good audio is possibly more important than good video. The truth is, people will tolerate a lower quality image before they tolerate low quality audio.
My recommendation is this $ 60 video microphone from Rode. Just plug it into your phone or camera, and you’re ready to dramatically enhance your audio. It’s affordable, it makes a massive upgrade, and it couldn’t be easier to use.
If you want to take it to the next level, we need to go into a lapel microphone setup. Usually, one of these decent with a microphone starts at $ 700- $ 1000. I’ll present you the Rode Wireless Go for $ 200. One end connects directly to your phone or camera while the other hooks to you. The good news is that the transmitter already has a built-in microphone. With this setting, you can be as far away from the camera as you like, and the audio remains crystal clear. Again, affordable and sounds great, and it’s plug and play.
If you don’t do anything else after reading this, get a good microphone. It will immediately distinguish you from others.
Next, let’s talk about lighting. It doesn’t matter which camera you’re shooting with, if it’s low light it will look bad. The opposite is also true. No matter which camera you are shooting with, if you have good light you can get fantastic results.
My recommendation is the $ 45 Aputure AL-M9. Aputure is known for its high-end lights, but this little light is shocking in very complementary soft light. It can be easily attached directly to your camera or any compatible 1 4-inch screw mount. I’ve even taped it to the wall. Plus, you can easily adjust its brightness to suit your shooting needs. For this price, it is obvious.
If you want a lot more light, with more control and convenience, the $ 169 Core SWX TorchLED Bolt 250W is a great option. This light is very bright and you can adjust the color and brightness with a convenient remote control. I like it because it not only looks beautiful, it’s also compact and easy to store and still affordable.
Next, let’s talk about the camera. I’ve been hinting at this, and it’s true that you CAN start with your phone. As long as you know the strengths and weaknesses of your phone.
His Achilles heel is light, or missing. Telephone cameras do not work particularly well in dimly lit rooms, including most offices, whether at home or in an office building. Hence the importance of having an extra light in your kit. With that said, don’t wait to start shooting because you don’t have a fancy camera. Start with your phone, add a good microphone and light, and you’re ahead of the curve.
If you want to substantially improve the quality of your image, I recommend one of the entry-level mirrorless cameras on the market.
- They are relatively cheap
- You graduate to a camera with upgradeable lenses, so it will last longer.
- They perform best in low light.
- You get that beautiful depth of field, which we all think looks so cinematic. (ooo ahhh)
- Examples of a camera like this would be a Canon EOS M50 or Sony a6000, which you should be able to purchase for about $ 500 with an included lens kit.
Finally, let’s talk about stabilizing your shot.
You will need something to put your camera on while recording. For beginners, a simple tripod will do the trick. I’m a big fan of the $ 39.99 Neewer tripod. It’s small, lightweight, and does the trick. There are many more expensive options, but for starters, this is all you need.
If you want a smaller tabletop solution, you can look at something like the Manfrotto Pixi for around $ 50.
Let’s take a moment to talk about composition (or point your camera). When you talk about a tripod, it automatically implies that you are going to place your camera and point it somewhere. How you write it down and how you frame your shot can make a big difference in the professionalism of your video. Best of all, this part is free. So here are your 101 free composition tips.
Clean. The less you have in your shot, the better. Get rid of everything you can. Take a moment to look at what’s behind and around you. Is your child’s toy on the floor shot? Dirty clothes in the hallway room? Is there an unsightly extension cord hanging on the wall? Little things like this go a long way.
Rule of thirds. This is the easiest way to make sure your shot looks a little more interesting. Just draw two vertical lines and two horizontal lines on your screen. Now place your subject at any of the intersections.
- Take advantage of pre-existing lines. A simple rule of thumb is to try to make existing lines point to your topic. This will naturally draw the viewer’s eyes to the subject.
Remember that these compositing techniques apply whether you’re shooting a highly successful movie or a webinar with your webcam.
Additional tip – B-roll and Gimbals
If you’re already using a lot of the equipment and techniques discussed above and want to take your video to the next level, add some B-rolls. B-roll is a video that demonstrates what you are talking about in your main video (not officially called A-roll). You can use these images to add interest and help explain or show what you are talking about.
One of the coolest and now most affordable tools to help you capture cinematic B-roll is a gimbal. Simply put, it stabilizes your footage while moving your camera, allowing you to get beautiful shots on the move without all the jitter. While there is some technique to learn to master your gimbal, straight to the box, it will vastly improve your footage. For your phone, I suggest you check out the $ 139 DJI Osmo Mobile 3. If you’re using one of the mirrorless cameras mentioned above, take a look at its $ 439 big brother, DJI Ronin-SC.
And that is. I hope you have found these tips helpful. As you can see, it doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated to dramatically improve your self-recorded videos, no matter where you are shooting.
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