5 min read
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.
(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).
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.
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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.
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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.
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.
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Okay, you should be all geared up and ready to record your video course!
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.
Download this issue of Tradecraft as a PDF to read and reference at your own pace.