Starting a video production business requires careful planning, especially in equipment selection.
There is no off-the shelf video production package available that will suit your specific requirements so ask yourself some questions before choosing equipment in the startup phase. Do I need a set? Will I need to shoot on the move? In extreme weather conditions? Am I shooting movies, interviews, or corporate videos?
In fact, you might decide to rent much of your equipment, especially early on. This is an ideal way to test drive a variety of tools and make the best selection when you are in a position to purchase or upgrade some equipment.
Below are 30 recommendations from experts in the field on selecting your recording equipment, creating a professional space to shoot video, and building a stack of tools for editing and broadcasting.
Finding the Right Recording Equipment For You
Your Skills Are More Important Than the Specific Camera
Most production companies have several different cameras. More compact than video cameras and ideal for many situations, today’s users are spoilt for choice.
But as StarkInsider’s Clinton Stark recommends, it is best to determine the camera’s intended purpose before selection. “I highly recommend you not think that the bigger or the more expensive the camera rig, the better and more important you’ll look,” he writes. “Forget about that… dare I suggest, get your shots, and instead hone in on composition, story-telling, uniqueness.”
Invest in Multiple Lenses
“If you buy a lens, it is worth investing in the best optics you can afford,” London-based cameraman Daniel Haggett writes. “If you decide later it is not the right lens for you, you can always sell it, and you probably won’t lose much money.”
Don’t Blow Your Budget on Cameras
According to Julia Babcock at Videomaker.com, camera selection is based on knowing your budgets and needs: “Someone who makes commercial, corporate or wedding videos may suggest a higher-end camera due to the fact that these cameras come equipped with a plethora of external manual controls, which can lend to increased flexibility in a wide range of shooting environments.”
But Don’t Go Cheap on Portable Audio Recording, Either
An essential purchase, given the limitation of inbuilt camera microphones, a portable audio recorder is a no-brainer investment. As Patrick Hall writes at Fstoppers: “Poor audio can completely ruin an otherwise great video. Until recently, DSLR cameras have been anything but great at recording audio. The on board microphones are noisy and prone to record camera noise.”
Get a Lavalier Microphone to Properly Record Speech
“A lavalier mic (or lapel mic) is the gold-standard mic for capturing dialogue,” Jonathan Paul writes at The Beat. “These mics capture incredible audio when conducting an interview for television, documentary film, or industrial video. Lavs come in a wired version and a wireless version, with both versions being small enough to hide beneath the collar of a shirt or on the underside of a jacket.”
Shotgun Microphones Will Go a Long Way Toward Professional Audio Quality
Writing for Shure, Davida Rochman says that shotgun microphones offer several advantages. “They screen out sounds coming from the sides. In practice, a shotgun microphone can typically be placed at four to five times the acceptable distance for a standard omnidirectional microphone.”
Rochman recommends that you look for mics “with a balanced XLR outputs signals,” which can cancel out a lot of peripheral noise. However, she also points out that if your camera has a stereo mini-jack input, you’ll need to get an XLR adapter for your camera.
Upgrade from Your Camera’s Onboard Microphone to a Video Microphone
Similar to shotgun mics but attaching directly to a camera, video mics are a better alternative than using the onboard microphone. “Most onboard microphones are omnidirectional,” filmmaker Izzy Hyman writes on his site, which also features several tutorials for learning to shoot and edit video.
“This means they pick up sound coming from every direction. This type of of microphone is not awesome when it’s across the room because it picks up all the sound waves bouncing off the walls and ceilings.”
Invest in an Audio Mixer
“The audio mixer acts as an extension of the camera’s audio controllers, letting the sound person censor and fine-tune audio without having to shake the camera or get in the way of the camera operator during taping,” filmmaker Stephen Joseph writes at Videomaker. He also points out that good mixers can cope with potential overload distortion from background noise.
Teleprompters Are Often Better Than Memorizing Lines
For lengthy scripted videos, teleprompters are an essential tool if participants have difficulty in remembering their lines.
Trevor Boyer, manager of the online video department at New York’s B&H Photo, writes on the company’s Explora blog: “Complex, time-sensitive video projects require higher-end teleprompter gear. For news programs and for pre-taped multi-segment shows, teleprompter software needs to be capable of handling multiple scripts and multi-segment scripts.”
In the absence of a full-on teleprompter, video journalist Cyndy Green recommends using a laptop or some other computer to read from. There are several software options available, ranging from free to commercial-grade. Her conditions for selection include:
- “The ability to type lengthy scripts (some of the shareware or freeware may have limited abilities here).
- “Choice of white on black or black on white. Color does NOT matter here. Oh – and with BIG clear font choices. You want your talent to be able to see the type from a distance of anywhere from four or five feet to maybe up to ten or fifteen feet.
- “Ability to control speed of your content. Either you or (preferably) your talent needs to be able to control the speed of the type as it scrolls up the page so that they can read at a natural pace.”
Setting Up a Professional Recording Space
Take the Time to Get Your Green Screen Right
Used in movies to allow insertion of special effects, green screens allow flexibility in post-editing. Gustav Wilde of Cogito Creative, speaking with ReelSEO‘s Donna Davis, says that the surface quality of your green screen is important.
“No matter what you use, paper, a painted wall, or fabric, you are looking for a smooth appearance,” Wilde says. “A wrinkled cloth or reflective paper won’t work. You want a smooth, even look, just like you want for the lighting.”
Take the Time to Design Your Set, Too
A key part of video production for studio shoots, set design needs careful consideration. As Jan Ozer says at eventDV.net: “The nice thing about a simple background is that it’s hard to mess up. Usually, when something has gone wrong, the set designer either decided to get fancy or the talent wore clothing that provided little contrast with the background.”
A Basics Checklist: Gaffer Tape, Boom Mics and Poles, Camera Mounts and Rigs
An essential part of any video production equipment list is gaffer tape. Let’s start the checklist there.
- Marty Gage, who founded a company to create the industry’s best gaffer tape, spoke with Anna Kemp at Filmmaking Stuff on gaffer tape’s importance in video production: “Its primary purpose is for securing cables to a stage floor or other surface. Since it’s easy to remove and doesn’t leave any sticky residue, it’s without a doubt the most popular roll of tape on set.”
- Don’t forget boom mics and poles. “Boom poles can be expensive little monsters,” Hal Robertson writes at Videomaker. “A quick online search shows models ranging from $300 to $800! Search a little deeper and you’ll find boom poles starting at $50. These won’t have any name brands, fancy features or internal cabling, but they will work perfectly for most projects.”
- Tripods used for video production are very different from those used by photographers with the tripod heads being of crucial importance. In heads designed for video cameras “the plates that rotate the camera are filled with oil, allowing the camera to be moved in a very fluid way, without jerking, something that is important in video production,” says Jason Row at Light Stalking.
- Finally, rigs and dollies will help stabilize your shots, too. Start with a shoulder mount rig, which “is a dynamic piece of equipment that moves with the camera operator. It’s not static like a tripod and it allows you, the filmmaker, the flexibility of movement, which can really help increase efficiency during production,” says the team at Lights Film School.
- Aimed at those with higher production values a variety of tracks, rigs and dollies are available to provide that perfect shot. Generally expensive, many studios use DIY solutions, even for movies. “The process may require a guerrilla-style approach to achieving a specific or desired shot,” says Robert Benoit at Knice Creative.
Build a Professional Lighting Setup
Camera light or no light? Generally avoided by professionals, onboard camera lights are only used when other lighting options are not possible. However, if you know how to use them, they can be useful. “Using on-camera lights does not necessarily have to mean stark, harsh-looking video,” says Dr, Robert G. Nulph at Videomaker. “You can diffuse the light, offset it from center and use it sparingly.”
Invest in a three-point lighting kit, too. The choices are many and varied. According to Anthony Burokas at OnlineVideo.net: “The best plan of attack is to first look away from the gear and then write down your needs. Almost any light of sufficient power will fulfill the basic task of illuminating your subject. How you craft that light makes a big difference in the quality of the images you produce.”
Light reflectors and flags will be useful when you need to create shadows or compensate for low lighting. “There are going to be many scenarios where you need to fill in light, create negative fill, or add a splash of light in the background,” filmmaker Noam Kroll writes at Indiewire. “If you don’t have lights, your only option is reflectors and flags.”
Other Important Details: XLR Cables and Good Headphones
XLR cables work on balanced signals, reduce noise and and are suitable for use over longer distances. “The best gear in the world won’t get the job done without the right cables,” Ken Nail writes at Crutchfield. “They are the links that make your sound system work, by transferring signals between your different pieces of gear.”
Also, don’t skimp on headphones. Earbuds won’t do the job. “For professional sound monitoring purposes — both live and in the studio — the most frequently used headphones are the full-sized, over-ear models, which provide excellent bass response, sound clarity and good isolation from outside noise,” says Frank Beacham at The Broadcast Bridge.
“Recording video will eat through your batteries, so make sure you are carrying at least one spare,” Richard Sibley advises at Amateur Photographer. “It is worth testing your camera before you leave so you know how long you can record before the battery dies.”
Storing Your Work — And Your Equipment — Securely
While most cameras will use memory cards, ensure you carry a spare memory card. Otherwise, you risk interrupting a shoot. “I learned this lesson on a recent trip when I had a memory card die on me mid trip,” photographer Darren Rowse writes at Digital Photography School. “Having a second card handy meant that I was able to continue using my camera. It also means that if you do lose the data on one card, not all of your images from a shoot will be lost.”
Hours of video require substantial storage if filmed in high quality, so invest in an external hard drive, too. Just realize not all drives are created equal. “Specific attention needs to be paid to hard drives you use for video,” Den Lennie writes at F-Stop Academy. “The speed of the hard drive can vary from 520o rpm (revolutions per minute) to 7200 rpm and so if you want to speed up your data transfer and editing you want to be using 7200 rpm.”
Finally, camera bags are a functional item and should not attract unwanted attention from thieves. “Don’t forget the ‘extra’ storage that you may need,” Andrew Childress recommends at envatotuts+. “Adequate pouches and pockets for spare memory cards, batteries and chargers, and anything else that you may need to store.”
Selecting Hardware for Editing and Broadcasting
Get a High-End Computer and Big Monitor
A necessity for video editing, a powerful desktop is needed. Alternatively, for onsite editing, a capable notebook may be used. “When it comes to crunching a lot of information, you can’t get enough processor power,” Neil Mohr and Desire Athow write at Techradar. “Couple that with a large amount of memory and heavyweight tasks can be chomped through in record time.”
Even if you have a laptop for onsite editing, it’s a good idea to have a large, clear monitor for editing at your studio. Jim Fisher at PCMag recommends a setup of an Mac with Retina 5K Display: “Its 27-inch screen has an incredible 5,120-by-2,880 resolution, enough to view a 14.7-megapixel image at full resolution.”
Don’t Forget a DVD Burner
A DVD burner is needed to make sure a film can be shared easily in DVD format when editing has completed. With the cloud and secure network storage, reliance on DVDs is dwindling, but it’s still worth having a burner available. “DVD burners remain the de facto, must-have kind of optical drive,” PCWorld‘s staff writs. “And no wonder: The average price of a drive is $70, with prices running even lower depending on where you buy the drive, and whether there are rebates or other limited-time offers.”
Choosing the Right Video Editing Software For You
There are several editing software options available. For Mac, many video professionals use Final Cut Pro. For Windows, Sony Vegas Movie Studio and Adobe Premier are popular. To navigate all of your options, check out Abhijith N Arjunan’s review of 15 different video editing tools at Beebom.
There is much to consider when dealing with video production. Live broadcast will require further audio and video cabling, for example, and some videographers will want to look into drones for aerial shots.
The list goes on. Most companies will find their equipment list evolves as new projects come in. Be prepared to hire equipment at short notice and your business will thrive in spite of unexpected requirements.