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Simple Strat Blog

Our Favorite Equipment for Cheap Video Production

Posted by Emma Urbanek on June 1, 2017
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 “Cheap” catches the eye every time, and this time we’re really going to wow you. Would you believe us if we told you can outfit a video studio for about $200?

When you think of video equipment, you might imagine the rolling cameras and sweet setups you see in Hollywood. But you don’t need all that to produce great videos, you can do it with cheap video production equipment. Heck, this is the stuff that we even use ourselves.

Let’s start with a disclaimer. We did not include cameras in this post because that is a whole other subject. Additionally, video production is about more than just your equipment, but we’ll touch on that in another post.

We’ll take you through our favorite tools, why we use them, and how much they’ll cost ya! If you want to dig deeper into adding video to your marketing strategy, download our ebook now by clicking the button below! 

Crafting a Social Video Strategy eBook

Now, let's get to all the fun stuff. The first piece of equipment we always set up is the all-important tripod. 

TRIPODS

Whether you’re shooting video or photos with a mobile device or a DSLR camera, you need a tripod. Stabilizing your shot and providing a consistent frame will always make for higher quality content.

There’s a few different types of tripods that we want to cover, including pocket, tabletop, portable, medium duty, and studio tripods. 

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Pocket and tabletop tripods are great for your phone or camera when you have a surface that is the desired height of your shot. We’ve got at least three of these bad boys in our office at any given time because they’re great for capturing social content! Plus they’re pretty affordable, you can get a nice one for fifteen bucks!

Portable and medium duty tripods are the types that we use in our studio and for our high end production shoots. They’re a step up from your pocket and tabletop tripods so they’ll set you back about twenty-five to thirty bucks. These are common tripods you see with the extendable legs and have the pan handle to make it easy to change between camera placements.

Check out the cellphone tripod and portable tripod we have in our office! 

LIGHTS

When we say lighting is key, we mean it! So let’s talk about the different types of lights and when they’re appropriate to use. Incandescent, fluorescent, LED, and studio strobe are all different types of artificial lights that you can use in your shoot. We’re going to focus on incandescent and LED since those are the ones we commonly use. 

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Incandescent lighting ranges from the common light bulb to large tungsten “hot lights” used in studios and on movie sets. They are warm in color temperature compared with natural daylight. The quality of incandescent lighting can be modified using flags, reflectors, and diffusion material.

LEDs can range from very stable in color temperature to very unstable. The brightness can be varied with a built-in dial and some models have two color temperatures, or the capability to slide in filter panels. The quality of the light from LEDs tends to be a bit harsh and doesn’t spread out much, so you might need to soften this light with a material (shade or cover) or bounce it off a wall. 

These are the LED lights we have in our studio for about $100.

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And of course we've got a selfie light, which we also repurpose for regular shots and video. 

MICROPHONES & RECORDERS

A lavalier (lav) mic is a small microphone that clips onto your speaker's shirt. Lavaliers are a great option if your talent is going to be moving around. Bonus, there are both wired and wireless versions. 

However, lavalier microphones are particularly finicky. Whether or not they'll capture good audio depends on getting the perfect placement. Start by placing the lav about six inches below your talent's chin. Your goal is to make sure that the microphone has a clear path to the mouth. One accessory that you'll want to make sure to snag is a microphone extension cable

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Shotgun, or boom, mics are another option that will help you get the best audio for your video! These mics make voices sound close and clear without being visible in the shot or invading the subject's personal space. Normally, shotgun microphone placement is right above the subject's head and just in front of their mouth or mounted to the top of your camera.

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Lastly, you can also capture audio by using external recorders. While DSLR cameras provide incredible video quality, they don't always have audio inputs or high quality on-board microphones. Portable audio recorders fill that gap. With these recorders, you can plug in a microphone of your own, or use the stereo pair of microphones that are built-in.

Our favorite lav mics, dual lav mics, shotgun mics, and recorders are all actually from Amazon!smart lav microphone for iphone.jpg

ACCESSORIES

Battery Packs and Chargers

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You never want to run out of battery during a shoot. One way we make sure to always have batteries on hand is to use rechargeable batteries for our DSLR cameras. You can get rechargeable batteries at Walmart and you can get a charger for next to nothing on Amazon. Just make sure to actually recharge your batteries, not that we’ve ever forgotten that before. 

Another great hack is to use portable phone chargers if you’re shooting on anything that can charge via USB. You can splurge and get a Mophie case or charging station or you can get any portable phone charger that plugs right into your device for about $20.  

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Reflectors 

If you’ve ever been on a shoot with our team you’ll see Emma toting around our favorite reflector. Reflectors are great to bounce natural light and help make shooting outside easier.

You can have your subject hold the reflector depending on how much of their body is in the frame. Another option, one that we use, is to have someone else hold the reflector and so that your subject doesn’t have to worry about moving and changing the light.

The only downside to a reflector is folding it back up once you're done using it. Don't worry, we struggle with it too. But hey it's always good for a few laughs!

Check out these reflectors for about $20 on Amazon!

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LENSES

DSLR lenses aren’t going to fit into our $100 production setup, but you can get some low cost lenses for your phone to expand your filming capabilities. The types of lenses for DSLR cameras will be the same, but those are normally made of higher quality glass.

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Let’s dig into the different lenses and see how they affect your shot.

35mm: The 35mm lens can be used for almost anything: Landscapes, portraits, travel shots, macro photography, street photography, real estate photography, product photography – just about everything. These lenses are great for video because the focal length is wide enough but not so wide that you can’t focus on your subject.

70mm: The 70mm lens is great for full-length and environmental portraits. These lenses maintain a good balance between low-light performance and zoom flexibility.

Smartphone Lenses

Macro (15x) Macro lenses are useful for photographing any subject at very close range. Typical subjects include insects, animals, and plants, but they are also popular for taking extremely detailed photos of everyday objects.

Wide Angle (.45x) Wide angle lenses are useful for photographing landscapes, cramped interiors, and other subjects which won't fit into a normal lens's field of view.

Our iPhone lenses only set us back about $25 and you can get your own set too!

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CONCLUSION

Video content is a necessity but shooting good quality video requires a few things, one of which is good equipment. The best part is that it doesn’t have to cost thousands of dollars to get started.

Now you know you can get cheap video production equipment that delivers high-quality footage. All you need to do is click the links and fill up your Amazon cart! Once all your gear is in, you'll be on to creating great videos! For more details on creating great content, check out our post on composing the best looking shot.

What's your go-to cheap video production equipment piece? We'd love to hear it! Drop it in the comments below! 

Crafting a Social Video Strategy eBook

 

Posted in Video Marketing