rewboss hub

Hardware and software

One of the questions I am frequently asked is what equipment and software I use for making videos. So here’s a brief run-down of pretty much everything I use.

The camera

Obviously, we have to start with the camera. Actually, even the cheapest camera these days would do, and with smartphones now having pretty good built-in cameras, nearly everyone these days is equipped to make videos.

I currently use two cameras: a Panasonic HDC-SD707 for vlogs, and a Panasonic HC-X1000 on location.

The HDC-SD707 is no longer available new, but its successors (such as the HC-V777) are at least as good (and frequently better). These are high-end consumer-grade models and will set you back a few hundred dollars/euros, but I would unhesitatingly recommend them to anyone who is interested in turning a casual pastime into a serious hobby. I got great results using this camera on location, and it had features such as:

I acquired the HC-X1000 in August 2017, and it’s not the camera I use for location work. This is a semi-professional camera and quite bulky to carry around, but delivers excellent quality — but it comes with a price tag in the thousands, rather than the hundreds. The logic of getting another camera by the same manufacturer is that much of the controls and firmware are the same, or at least very similar, so it’s much easier to get used to.

Important features in addition to those of the smaller camera include:

I would definitely recommend to anyone serious about videomaking to work their way up the “camera hierarchy”, starting with a decent phone, and then graduating to a high-end consumer device before investing in a professional camera. Only once you have mastered the camera you currently have should you start thinking about upgrading.

Microphones and sound recording equipment

For ambient sound, particularly outdoors, my camera’s internal mics perform just fine. But for speech, I generally need an external mic.

Most often, I use a lapel mic. One of the things I have discovered is that at the cheap end of the market at least, price is no real guide: I’ve tried really cheap mics that have performed better than rival models twice the price.

I found particular success with the Vivanco EM35, a really cheap thing (although you do need to buy a battery for it) that delivered surprisingly good sound until it developed a loose contact somewhere. I was then unable to find another Vivanco EM35, but instead I found the Yoga EM106, which seemed to be the same mic under a different name. However, it didn’t deliver quite the same quality as the Vivanco. I was able to solve that, though, because on both models the microphone plugged into the battery box: I was able to simply swap the mics over and now I have a properly functioning decent quality lapel mic.

I also have two extension cords, each something like five metres long. This allows me to stand or sit a long way from the camera, so I can zoom in and throw the background out of focus.

Sometimes a shotgun mic is necessary, and so I splashed out on a Røde Videomic. This is very handy for those times when you want to record sound from in front of the camera without picking too much extraneous noise, but a lapel mic is impractical: vox pops, for example. But mounted on a desk stand and with the addition of a pop filter, it can usefully be pressed into action for voiceovers. Instead of using special sound recording equipment, I can plug it straight into my camera.

However, while that did serve me well for a long time, a more professional solution is a studio microphone; mine is the Auna CM001B, which comes with a shock mount to minimize unwanted vibrations. A microphone screen cuts down on unwanted echos.

The Auna CM001B doesn’t plug into either a computer or my camera; it has an XLR connection (which uses “balanced lines” to reduce interference), which is what the professionals use. So for this, I do need extra sound recording equipment: I chose the Olympus LS-100, which is, apart from the camera itself, the single biggest investiment. While it doesn’t come cheap, it delivers exceptionally good quality; it also has its own built-in microphones, so can be used as a stand-alone device, and will even function as a USB microphone when plugged into the computer.

Tripod and monopod

The one I usually use is a Hama Star 63. It’s actually meant for stills, not video, so smooth panning and tilting aren’t possible; but for those times when I have to film myself, or for when I really need to keep the camera steady, it does the job just fine. For special occasions I have a second-hand tripod by Cullmann, which can be persuaded to pan and tilt fairly smoothly. It has an extension arm which can be used to position the camera at odd angles: it’s most often in action, for example, to photograph the postcards for my “Fan Mail” videos.

A tripod, though, is bulky to carry around; so to help keep things steady, I also have a cheap monopod from Amazon Basics. It’s not so important to splash out on a really expensive monopod, as all you really need is something that will keep the camera from wobbling about too much.

Lighting

Lighting is a challenge in the tiny space I have, but fortunately the modern world contains LEDs and other technology that makes life a little easier.

Originally I used two 400W halogen lights of the sort used by painters and decorators, and this worked very well in a variety of situations (and I would still recommend this setup for anyone on a budget that extends as far as a camera with a white balance setting, but not enough for proper studio lighting).

The Nanguang NG-455AB light is a nice, big light, which is always good for keeping the light even and the shadows relatively soft. It is colour-balanced to 5600 K, which is daylight, but the lights themselves are fluorescent tubes, so there is a noticeable green cast: this makes iz unsuitable for greenscreen work, and I have now retired it.

The other lights are LED panels by Neewer and Boling. These are properly colour balanced, and come with filters to lower the colour temperature to that of tungsten, meaning I can also use them in conjunction with the halogen lights if necessary. One is a large 900 LED panel, two others have 304 LEDs each — much dimmer, but can be mounted on a camera if necessary — and two more have approximately 600.

For a simple vlog, I generally use the Nanguang and all three Neewer lights. The Nanguang stands at the opposite end of the room and provides some general illumination; I use the 900 LED light as my key light, one of the 304 LED lights just to lighten up the shadows on my face, and the other to illuminate the wall behind me.

For a simple vlog, I generally use the 900 LED light and one 600 LED light to light me, with the other 600 LED light providing a little illumination for the background.

Video editor

Currently, I’m using MAGIX Video Pro X. I think the mistake a lot of people make is to assume that you need a really expensive video editing program with lots of “cool” special effects, but that’s a bit like wanting a Ferrari to do the weekly shop and take the children to school. Unless you’re a professional, you really don’t need to empty your bank account to buy — or, worse, risk malware to steal — something that is packed with features you’ll never use, or will use once and never again. Multiple tracks, colour correction, chroma key, basic titles, keyframe animation, ease of use, audio cleanup: it’s the workaday things you need in abundance. If you want glittery FX (and you really don’t), you can purchase plug-ins.

The Video Pro X is aimed at “prosumers”, and has a lot of useful extras — but again, the most useful are those are workaday features. This includes things like automatic creation of proxy files (invaluable for working with 4K footage, or even HD footage on a slower computer), better tools for contrast and colour correction, and so on.

As with cameras, it’s better to start with more basic software, and once you’ve mastered it, upgrade.

Image editing

Corel Draw, which has Corel Photo Paint bundled with it, is what I use to create images and thumbnails. Photoshop is another mistake people sometimes make: Photoshop is really designed to manipulate photographs, not to create graphics from scratch. Corel Draw creates vector graphics, perfect for logos and the more “cartoony” images I sometimes have in my videos.

Sound editing

On the very rare occasions I need to edit sound and my video editor’s audio features don’t quite cut it, Audacity is a free tool that has some very useful features, with the option of adding lots of interesting, and free, plugins.

© 2011 – 2018 by Andrew Bossom rewboss@rewboss.com — all rights reserved.