Video Production Basics: Assembling your in-house video kit

In house video production kitWe all have a need to film video for our businesses. Whether you’re a small business operator or an integral part of large company or corporation, video production is an important part of your marketing as video is a great way to communicate to your workmates and clients.

Good video production requires the right equipment

There are many ways to film your video projects. In many cases, lots of smaller businesses use cheap options such as iPhones or lower level cameras to get an important message across. But there are great options to make your video go from good to great.

We live in the age of the smartphone and very capable digital cameras that all have video functions. But this doesn’t mean that they are the right fit. There are some great kits and cameras setups to help you get that amazing video recorded first time, every time.

There are many aspects to make your in house video projects first class, but to use the right equipment will make the quality of your projects and replay ability go through the roof!

To start a video project, you need the basics right first. To film an interview, you need the right camera, memory cards, tripods, light and audio. Here are some ideas to get together your kit.

The Low Budget Option: SONY RX100 MARK 3

User Skill Level Required: I’ve had some experience with my smartphone.

Price: $949 Estimated Retail Price

In House Camera

If you want a low budget option, that combines the best of Zeiss optics, Sony build and great functionality, the RX100 Mark 3 is the perfect camera.

Pros:

  1. Zeiss Optics – offers a low-light Zeiss zoom lens that has a wide angle range (24-70mm).
  2. Small – the camera is very light (300 g) and is around the same size as your mobile phone.
  3. Photo quality – is capable of shooting 20 megapixel images that are both sharp and vibrant.
  4. Low light- its lens offers a very wide light range, which for the shooter offers great amount of light in low-light situations.
  5. Amazing Video –the Rx100 offers multiple frame rates (for shooting with – cinematic, home video style and slow motion) as well as using great on-board software to compress your videos with.
  6. Electronic Viewfinder – the electronic viewfinder is simply amazing, offering sharp focus and multi faceted viewing functions for the user.

Cons:

  1. Battery Life – the camera, especially when used in video mode will only last a few hours. When using the electronic viewfinder, this is drastically decreased. It also takes a long time to charge.
  2. Video quality – Although it beats many sub $1000 cameras video quality, it does not match its bigger brother, the Sony A7 or a professional DSLR video.
  3. Controls- The build of the camera is great, but unfortunately the layouts of the controls are slightly cluttered and can be confusing to some users. The user interface itself is also not very well managed.

The All in One with Benefits: PANASONIC HC-VX870M 4K CAMCORDER

User Skill Level Required: I’m a logical thinker, I can figure things out.

Price: $899 Estimated Retail Price

In house video camera

This is the little camcorder that could. Due to smart phones and DSLRs taking over the camera market, there aren’t that many options for cheap camcorder buyers. But Panasonics 4K camcorder has a place in the market and is a extremely strong sub $1000 camera that has many professional qualities and options that aren’t normally offered at the price range.

Pros:

  1. 4K – this camera offers 4K footage for under $1000. Although, currently this might not be an option to shoot with at the moment, it is future ready. Having a 4K sensor also offers extremely sharp video in Full HD.
  2. Manual controls – it offers the user an array of manual options (7 to be precise), via a small click wheel near the front of the camcorders lens.
  3. Zoom – up to 40 times zoom, with the assistance of digital zoom on-board the camera.
  4. Shoe – it has an attachable shoe, which will allow you to use an on-board microphone or light. This means that it will also draw power from the camera itself. Also on the body itself, is a mini jack for microphones and headphones.

Cons:

  1. Small Sensor – it has a very small sensor compared to most similar price DSLR cameras. This in turn affects its image quality and ability to perform in low light situations.
  2. Photography – it only offers limited photography options via its 8-megapixel sensor. Its sensors and lens are not very capable of taking high quality images with.

The Professional Camera with an Amateur Price: SONY A7II

User Skill Level Required: I’m a hobbyist photographer and sometimes shoot my own videos.

Price: $1918 Estimated Retail Price

In house camera

The A7, when it was realised was a truly ground-breaking camera. It is a full frame interchangeable lens that that is not only lighter and cheap that other equivalent DSLRs, but just as packed with as many features, including an amazing 24 megapixel sensor.

The video quality on the A7 is exceptionally good. Shooting in multiple frame rates and resolutions, it offers very clean and sharp results. The ability to use an array of Sony’s E-mount lenses as well as its Zeiss range, it gives an extremely professional look to anything you want to shoot.

Pros:

  1. Excellent Stabilization – the A7 camera has a brilliant 5- axis stabilization system that allows to shoot in multiple situations and still keep a sharp image, even with movement added.
  2. Image Quality – with new features like better autofocusing and the new 5-axis stabilization, the quality and sharpness of the camera has risen.
  3. Great Design -the A7 has seen an upgrade from the previous iterations of A7 cameras. One of the gripes of the previous series was its handgrip, now offering the user much more grip to utilize and better hand placement for the buttons.

Cons:

  1. Lens Choice – unfortunately, the lens range of the Sony E-mount lenses is still quite limited. Choosing this camera, as your business-shooting weapon shouldn’t matter though, as the zoom and prime lens options are enough for your business needs. Adding adapters will however allow you to use Canon, Zeiss and Leica Lenses.

The Jack-of-all-Trades: SONY VG30

User Skill Level Required: I know what I’m doing, I’ve even done a course on video.

Price: $2799 Estimated Retail Price

In house video camera

The Sony VG30 is a part of an army of new interchangeable lens camcorders.

Coming with an 18-200 long zoom lens, as well as an electronic viewfinder, touchscreen monitor and on-board professional audio recording features, this camera is definitely a jack-of-all-trades.

The VG30 offers great video production facilities, shooting both cinematic (25p) and regular film mode (50p). It offers a large sensor that gives great depth of field and a very nice cinematic look.

Due to using an NEX sensor, unlike most camcorders, it offers 16 megapixel photos as well. It benefits the user, the opportunity to shoot in both RAW and JPEG modes.

The camcorder has the added feature of being able to shoot on Sony’s E-mount lenses, as well as using its entire range of A-mount lenses (thanks to a relatively cheap adapters.) The kit lens supplied is a SEL 18-200mm lens, which is extremely versatile and should cover most shooting functions for the user.

Pros:

  1. Great video – the VG30 has cinematic and very clean shooting video modes, and it a very capable shooter for the amateur to professional videographer. Versatile in both outdoor and indoor situations as well as a solid lens, the quality of the image is great.
  2. Good looking -the camera offers a great build and finish, as well as functional button layout and easy to use menu system.
  3. Battery powered – the batteries used with the VG20 are very high powered, and gift the user many hours of shooting time. This is incredibly beneficial for long shooting times on the camera.

Cons:

  1. Lens Choice – unfortunately, just like the A7 DSLR, the lens range of the Sony E-mount lenses is still quite limited. Choosing this camera, as your business-shooting weapon shouldn’t matter though, as the zoom and prime lens options are enough for your business needs. Adding adapters will allow you to use Canon, Zeiss and Leica Lenses.
  2. Sound – onboard sound recording gives the user the opportunity to use Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, and the captured sound is quite clean. Using the kit’s ‘dead cat’ mic cover (not really a dead cat!), allows you too shoot in many different scenarios.

Memory Card

When purchasing a camera, you will need a memory card to capture all your amazing video and images onto. The video and photo market is flooded with many different brands and types of memory cards, but everyone needs a starting point for reference. A great size for the purchase of a new camera that will last you over a few shoots is the 64 GB cards. Sure you can go all out and buy the very expensive 128 GB cards, but as a general starter, having a fast 32 GB or 64 GB card on hand should be beneficial.

SanDisk Ultra SDXC 64 GB Class 10 Memory Card

Price: $69.95 Estimated Retail Price

SanDisk 64GB

The Ultra SDXC 64 GB Class 10 memory cards is your best choice for mid-range point and shoot cameras and is very capable of shooting Full HD video.

SanDisk 64 GB Extremepro SDXC Memory Card

Price: $186 Estimated Retail Price

San Disk 64GB ExtremePro

The SanDisk Extremepro series is a great choice for shooting video on higher end cameras, and specifically cameras that shoot in 4K/ 2K, due to a larger bandwidth in its capture of the footage. This is highly recommended for more higher end cameras.

Tripod

Manfrotto Compact Action Tripod

Price: $128 Estimated Retail Price

Manfrotto tripod

This tripod is a great option for a shooter on a limited budget. Unfortunately, due to its joystick head it only offers limited movement with shots, but it is light, stable and effortless to use. The handgrip is easy to manoeuvre, but stumbles with fast movements. For simple interview shoots though, its more than beneficial.

Manfrotto Carbon Fiber Tripod w/ 3 Way Pan/ Tilt Head

Price: $339 Estimated Retail Price

Manfrotto tripod

This is a step up beyond your basic tripod. Offering a superlight and strong carbon fibre frame, the three way pan head features a quick release camera plate, 3 bubble levels for perfect framing and a unique mechanism to fold the handles for convenient packing. It’s head is way more manueverable than other similar priced tripods, and gives the shooter many more options with shots.

Lights

With small shoots, often carried out in house without the help of a video production company, often an aspect of the shoot that is sacrificed is the lighting of the subject. Even the smallest amount of light gives the shot much more energy and sharpness, as well as making the image much more professional. There are many options on the market, but there are 2 low budget options that are perfectly adequate for a smaller shoot.

Qudos Action Camera Light

Price: $129 Estimated Retail Price

Qudos Light

Designed for the specific purpose of being used with action cameras like the Go-Pro, this camera is very limited in its lighting options. Although, offering 3 LED lighting modes as well as strong lighting (400 lumens), this is a great option for the budget conscious. However, the additional purchase of a Go-Pro mount or tripod shoe is needed to utilize this light properly.

Lumimuse Series 8 LED Light and Accessories

Price: $100 Estimated Retail Price

Lumimuse Light

The Lumimuse, designed and created by Manfrotto are high capacity on-board LED lights. It has a plate on the front of the light that allows the operator to utilize 3 different colour temperatures. The Series 8 light utilizes 8 bright LEDs that give very good coverage on the subject that is being filmed. It is also very small and portable. It comes with a shoe for fastening on top of your camera.

Audio

Rode Video Micro

Price: $146 Estimated Retail Price

Rode Mic

The VideoMicro from Rode is a small compact on camera microphone that is extremely lightweight and perfect for use with filming interviews. The microphone itself is a condenser microphone that is perfect for use in capturing audio is multiple locations and comes with both furry windshield and suspended holster for when placed on top of the camera, will both minimize vibrations and external wind / movement.

Rode SmartLAV

Price: $70 Estimated Retail Price

RodeSmartLav

Especially when filming interviews, lavalier microphones are great to use to get both clear sounds from the subject and ignore all external sound, as well as being inconspicuous. A staple from professional videographers and TV studios, lavalier mics are perfect for professional shot interviews.

Lavalier mics are usually inserted at the top of the chest (suit jacket exterior/ pocket or top of a dress). Removing its clip and using a piece of tape to insert on the interior of clothes can also hide them easily.

This great benefit of this microphone is that it records to iPhone/ Android devices (all phones), and uses the Rode Rec app to record your important audio onto your smartphone. With no need to connect to your camera, it is unobtrusive and can easily be hidden away inside a pocket or dress.

Conclusion:

So there you go.

Pick and choose one of each category and you will have your basic kit. Most of these items have a learning curve, but for anyone looking to shoot in house interviews and video, these are the perfect beginner items to start shooting with.

Once you get one of these kits, look out for my next article in the Video Production Basics series on how to get the best visuals when you film an interview.

Joel Hamilton-Foster is a Production Manager at Sydney based video production company, Rocket Productions. You’ll find more useful articles on our blog.