Budget Video Podcast Setup

LockerGnome reader John asks:

“I am going to start doing video podcasts and am in the process of picking out what gear [I want to use]. I don’t want to use my MacBook Pro iSight as the quality just isn’t there. As I am not up to speed with the current equipment available these days, I was wondering if you have any suggestions? My budget is around $400.”

Well John, you’re definitely entering the world of online video at the right time. The trick to finding a good video setup is determining exactly what you want from your vlog. Do you want it to be a pro-level rig with green screen and 1080p video? Would you want something a bit more along the lines of you sitting in front of a camera, giving your thoughts on various topics? If you’re looking for a good setup without a lot of investment, here are some ideas that might help you out:

  • Audio is Key – Even if your video looks fantastic, and your edits are absolutely perfect, your audio can make or break your ability to maintain an audience’s interest. Weak volume, echos, background noise, and overdriven audio are clear indications of a poorly planned production and can drive your audience away.
  • Check Your Lighting – You won’t find too many most watched videos on YouTube that have poor lighting. If your subject is lost in a shadow or covered in low lighting artifacts, you’ve got to add another lamp behind the camera. Chris Pirillo, Ray William Johnson, and Philip D. Franco are all fairly well lit in their relatively simple productions, and that small detail makes a huge difference in their overall quality.
  • Keep it Modular – As your video podcast grows, so should its budget. Investing in an all-in-one solution may be a great solution in the short-term, but that means reinvesting in every aspect of your show’s equipment when it comes time to upgrade.

Budget Video Podcast Setup

So, what kind of setup can you put together on a tight budget? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Using an iPhone
    • iPhone or iPod Touch ($200-250)
    • AT2020 or Blue Yeti ($60-120)
    • PC or Mac
    • Windows Live Movie Maker or iMovie (Free)
    • GarageBand or Audacity (Free)
    • With this solution, you’re going to want to record audio separately using GarageBand, Audacity, or any other quality audio recording software. The iPhone and iPod touch provide decent video, but their audio could use some improvement. Once you’re set to edit the video, simply sync up the two audio tracks, detach audio from the video, and mute it. This way you’ll have your best audio track in play. This may not work in situations where you’re out and about, but the audio at your primary filming location should be your best.
  • Pocket Camcorder
    • Bloggie Duo Camera ($165) (Alternatively: The Kodak Zi8 and PlaySport) ($130-150)
    • AT2020 or Blue Yeti ($60-120)
    • PC or Mac
    • Windows Live Movie Maker or iMovie (Free)
    • GarageBand or Audacity (Free)
    • This solution is a lot like the first, only using a dedicated camera which can give you slightly better results. If you decide to go with the Kodak PlaySport, you’ll have the ability to go underwater with your videos as well. One advantage to the Bloggie Duo is its self-facing monitor so you can position yourself as you’re recording for best results. Audio is a bit better on the Bloggie Duo though it’s always recommended to have the best possible audio when recording. Room echo can kill a good video.
  • Webcam Solution
    • Logitech C910 or Pro 9000 ($60-80)
    • AT2020 or Blue Yeti ($60-120)
    • PC or Mac
    • Logitech Recording Software (PC) or Photo Booth (Mac)
    • Windows Live Movie Maker or iMovie (Free)
    • This solution only works in front of your computer, but it does fall in line with your original setup. The C910 gives you 1080p recording capability with a quality camera while the 9000 pro is incredibly simple to use and delivers remarkable 720p video. In some cases, I’ve found the 9000 to be more reliable software-wise and have used it over the C910. This will hopefully change as Logitech tweaks the software. Because audio should be recorded live with the video and you can set the source, you may not need to do any difficult audio edits after the initial recording.

How to Get Clear Stills from Video

A LockerGnome reader asks:

“Could you let me know as to how I might get a better quality snapshot of a paused video recording (playback)? I’m trying to avoid hazy printouts.”

This is a great question. Unfortunately, the very nature of compressed video works against you here. As long as there is movement in a frame, you are likely to end up with slightly blurry stills. There are a few solutions that can help your chances of achieving a solid snapshot from a compressed video file.

Windows
For Windows users, Video Snapshot Genius is a program that takes snapshots automatically as a video plays, giving you the ability to pick the best out of a larger group of photos to use. Through this program, you can export snapshots as a single image or a thumbnail gallery.

You can also run the video through Windows Live Movie Maker and hit “take a picture” when you reach a spot that looks good enough to capture. The trick here is to keep navigating through the video until you come across a frame that looks the way you want it to.

Windows and Mac
VLC
also has an option under the video menu to take a snapshot of the file you’re viewing. It’s best to pause and navigate through rather than capture something as it’s playing live. This way you have the best chance possible of getting a good snapshot.

Patience is the key here, as it can sometimes be difficult to find a frame free of motion blur and/or compression artifacts. With a little luck and time, you should be able to capture a great image.

Make Your Own Movies With Windows Live Movie Maker

There should be an image here!Windows Live Essentials includes several free programs, including Movie Maker. Movie Maker is video software that lets you easily turn your photos and videos into movies or slide shares that can be shared with others via the Web or on DVD.

Some of the specific features of Movie Maker include:

  • Built-in publishing so you can post your videos to YouTube or burn movies to DVDs
  • Editing tools so you can create polished movies with transitions, titles, captions, etc.
  • Audio editing to add background music to your movies
  • Photo effects so you can add zooming and panning effects to your photos

Although Movie Maker is part of Windows Live Essentials, you can download the program on its own, without the other essential programs. Keep in mind that you must be running Windows Vista or Windows 7 to install the program.

You can download Movie Maker here.

[Photo above by Joshua Rappeneker / CC BY-ND 2.0]

Make Your Own Movies With Windows Live Movie Maker

There should be an image here!Windows Live Essentials includes several free programs, including Movie Maker. Movie Maker is video software that lets you easily turn your photos and videos into movies or slide shares that can be shared with others via the Web or on DVD.

Some of the specific features of Movie Maker include:

  • Built-in publishing so you can post your videos to YouTube or burn movies to DVDs
  • Editing tools so you can create polished movies with transitions, titles, captions, etc.
  • Audio editing to add background music to your movies
  • Photo effects so you can add zooming and panning effects to your photos

Although Movie Maker is part of Windows Live Essentials, you can download the program on its own, without the other essential programs. Keep in mind that you must be running Windows Vista or Windows 7 to install the program.

You can download Movie Maker here.

[Photo above by Joshua Rappeneker / CC BY-ND 2.0]

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