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Issue #7 • July 2017

The Exact Gear You Need to Record Videos for Your Online Course

Business Models

Cameras and lenses and microphones, oh my!

Choosing the right video gear to film an online course is an overwhelming task. Not just because there are so many different options, but because it is hard to know which piece of equipment is worth spending money on.

Let me help with that.

Whether you have $150 or much more to spend on video gear, I’ll break down what cameras, lenses, microphones, and lighting are best at three different budget ranges.

Entry Level — $150 Budget

Beginner level online course video equipment

To start off, unless you’re going to just record your computer’s screen using Screenflow or Camtasia, there are three fundamental pieces you need to film a video.

Lights!

Camera!

Audio!

(You thought I was going to say action, huh?)

Each of these are important to make you look and sound great in the videos you make. And if someone is paying for your course, they’re probably expecting it to be high quality too.

To start, I recommend someone film with their smartphone’s main camera (not the lower quality selfie one on the front).

When filming with a cell phone you’ll want a small tripod, like a Joby GorillaPod, and clamp, like the Glif, to hold it in place.

For audio I recommend the Rode smartLav+ Lavalier Microphone, which plugs directly into the headphone jack on a phone or tablet and provides much better sounding audio than the built-in microphones. If you want to be further away from your phone, you may want the extension cable too.

If you’d prefer to record directly onto your computer, I’d recommend getting a better webcam like the Logitech C920 and following my 10 ways to look better on a webcam. You can then record via the webcam in a program like Quicktime.

For better audio recording into your computer, the easiest to use and best sounding microphone I’ve found for this budget range is the Audio-Technica ATR2100. I’d add a Windscreen for a few more dollars too.

For lighting at this budget I recommend you just place yourself in front of a large window on a fully sunny or fully overcast day. Be careful of changing cloud cover, which can make for lighting changes while recording that are hard to fix while editing.

We’ll save the more complicated lighting setups for the next budget level.

Items mentioned in this section:

Next Level — $500 Budget

Next level online course video equipment

At this budget the first thing I would do is get a small point and shoot camera like the Canon S110. You’ll also want to get an SD card to record video onto.

Unless you need a large tripod, I’d stick with a small one like a Joby GorillaPod.

For audio, you’ll need to pick up both an audio recorder, a microSD card, and a microphone.

I’d recommend the TASCAM DR-05 Portable Digital Recorder and a Sandisk 32GB MicroSDHC Memory Card to record onto. Then for the microphone either get the Sony ECMCS3 Omnidirectional Microphone or the same RODE SmartLav+ from above.

Lastly in this budget level is buying some lighting. If you’re filling a large room, your best bet is the Fancierstudio 3000 Watt Video Softbox Lighting Kit. I used these exact lights for the first couple years of filming online courses and YouTube videos before upgrading.

Avoid buying the cheap LED lights as those tend toward magenta or green instead of pure white light.

Items mentioned in the section:

Advanced Level — $1,000 Budget & Beyond

Advanced level online course video equipment

Okay, so you’re willing to invest a little more and get a DSLR to make your videos look even better. Or maybe you’re after the coveted blurred background effect.

Most entry-level Canon DSLRs have similar image quality, so whether you pick up a used T3i or newer 80D, the lens is actually just as important to get your videos looking how you want them to.

Two of my favorite inexpensive lenses are the two “pancake” ones that Canon offer. The 40mm f/2.8 and the 24mm f/2.8. Shooting your videos on a lens like this at an aperture of f2.8 or f3.5 will help you blur your background and separate you from it.

Make sure to get an SD card to record video onto as well.

With a bigger camera you’ll also need a bigger tripod too. The Amazon Basics will be good enough if you’re going to keep the camera stationary the whole time (i.e. no panning or tilting movements at all).

I’ll keep the audio and lighting suggestions the same as above, a TASCAM DR-05 Portable Digital Recorder, a Sandisk 32GB MicroSDHC Memory Card, and the Sony ECMCS3 Omnidirectional Microphone with a Fancierstudio 3000 Watt Video Softbox Lighting Kit.

Items mentioned in this section:

What online course video gear will you buy?

Okay, you should be all geared up and ready to record your video course!

If you have a larger budget or other gear needs, check out all my gear recommendations or my full free course choosing video gear for any budget.

Remember, gear is just half the battle. You still need to set it all up and deliver a stunning performance!

Don’t be overwhelmed by all the moving pieces. Just start recording with what you have or can afford now and you can upgrade to something else later once you’ve made some money from your course.

Please leave questions down below or on my YouTube channel and I’ll answer any you have.

Caleb Wojcik

Caleb Wojcik has been making videos for over a decade. In that time he has filmed the NHL, MLB, NCAA basketball & football, weddings, commercials, book trailers, and plenty of training videos for the web. He runs a video production company in San Diego, California that films with startups and entrepreneurs. He also teaches one-man-band video production for the web at DIYVideoGuy.com and he is the teacher of multiple courses on shooting & editing video at DIYVideoSchool.com.

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  • I’m honored to be feature here and am happy to answer anyone’s specific questions below. Don’t hesitate to ask. 🙂

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