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How To Make Professional Online Videos For $3k Or Less

Ready to start doing online video, but don’t know what equipment you need to buy? I know, I know, the costs can be high. But as I’ve been saying, if you do it right, it will pay off for you down the line.

Don’t believe it yet? We need to look no further than Google’s Universal Search announcement last week to realize that video is a MAJOR part of the future of search.

Recently I was able to purchase some equipment that will enable me to take lots and lots of videos. So I figured I’d show you what I bought here, and why, so you can use this as a benchmark for your future plans. Don’t want to read my full analysis? Just scroll to the bottom for a list of links and a summary.

Jim Kukral’s How To Make Online Video Equipment Toolkit For $3k Or Less

First off, let me talk about what kinds of videos I wanted to make. The goal of this setup is flexibility. I wanted to be able to shoot inside and outside, and in low light and in bright sunlight. I also wanted to be able to get good sound. That being said, here’s what I bought. All through Amazon.com because I needed it fast. (My affiliate link is in every product below).

First Off, The Camera…
The first thing I went to find was the camera. I knew that I needed something better than a home camera, but I knew as well that I wasn’t going to drop $10k on a used betacam. These types of cameras are called “prosumer”. Get it? Professional and consumer mixed together?

Based upon insight from my video gurus I know, I went with a Sony for quality and durability. I ended up choosing the Sony DCR-VX2100 3CCD MiniDV Handycam Camcorder.

This camera has a 5-star rating on Amazon and was reasonably priced at $2,216.29. A few technical details include:

* Digital MiniDV Handycam camcorder with a 58mm aspherical lens and 380,000-pixel CCD
* 12x optical zoom lens (digital zoom to 48x) with Super SteadyShot image stabilizer
* 2.5-inch rotating LCD and color viewfinder
* Manual controls for shutter and exposure, Stamina Power Management, and intelligent accessory shoe
* NP-F330 InfoLithium Rechargeable Battery

A few reviews from Amazon on the Sony camera.

This camera is excellent! I used something very similar as a Videographer at the local TV station. This camera to me is just as nice as the $40,000 DVC Pro camera!! Great quality picture, excellent for Johnny’s Soccer games! Has a built in digital stabilizer for those with shaky hands. Overall the best small camera I have EVER USED!!!

I purchased this camera to use with my previous church’s media ministry, based on my trial use of the VX2000. That was three years ago. This camera is STILL running as well as it did when I bought it. I use it upwards of 3 times a week to create content for web and DVD production, plus, I get great digital audio recordings when I plug directly into my current church’s sound system. The ability to tweak audio and video input on the fly is incredible. Now that I am creating a multimedia team for our church, I’ve convinced the church to buy one for themselves.

My assessment so far? I have to say I’m pleased with the camera. I’ve only shot about an hour of video with it so far, but it’s easy to use and takes excellent quality video. The sound is fantastic, although I would recommend getting a wireless mic too, but not needed.

I was a bit surprised that they didn’t include a few key things with the camera. Those being a Firewire cable that you need to connect to your computer and a Mini DV tape. Both of which I had to go buy on my own at the local Circuit City. The Firewire cable was about $50 for a 6-foot cable, and the Mini DV tapes were about 10 bucks for 4 60-minute tapes.

Note: You can spend another $900 or so and buy the HD version of this camera if you want to. Sony HDR-FX1 3-CCD HDV High Definition Camcorder w/12x Optical Zoom.

Next, The Tripod…

While the camera does have a thing called “steadyshot”, which “steadies” the picture as you’re holding the camera, there is a point in filming when you need to set the camera on something and take shots of yourself, etc… To do that right, you don’t want to put a $2k camera sitting on some table and hope it doesn’t fall off and break.

Instead, you need to get a tripod that is sturdy and can give you enough range in height to shoot at eye-level and lower if need be. I ended up going with the Sony VCT870RM Tripod w/Remote for Sony MiniDV, DVD, HDR-HC5 & HC7 Camcorders.

This tripod is built for this camera and also has a nice remote camera control built into it. It’s priced at $119. I’m very pleased with the quality of this tripod and I feel like my camera is safe and secure when it’s sitting up there. It would take more than a misstep by someone to knock this tripod over. I also like that the tripod goes up and down very easily and gives me the ability to shoot at eye level (I’m 6’2) and can lower down to use to sit on top of someone’s desk too if I wanted.

Lastly, Some Accessories You’ll Need…

Get the Sony LCSVCB Camcorder Carrying Case for most Sony Camcorders and be safe. While this isn’t a hard case, it’s good enough to use to transport your camera around so that you don’t break it. Priced at $139.56.

You don’t “have” to have the following, but I highly recommend them.

Get an extra battery. I got the Sony NPF970 L Series Camcorder Battery for the DCRVX2100, HDRFX1, HDRFX7 & HVRZ1U.

You may also want to get a battery charger that you can plug in that extra battery into while you’re filming with the other battery.
Sony BCV500 Dual Battery Charger for MCVDFD100/200, DCRVX2100 & HDRFX1

Lastly, I recommend you consider getting the external light as well. I found that this light adds a nice level of brightness onto my recording that lets me not have to adjust my levels.
Sony HVL-20DW2 Video Light for use with DCRVX2100, HDRFX1 & FX7

One More Thing? You Need Video Editing Software?…

If so, I highly recommend the Sony Vegas 7 + DVD Production Suite. While it is priced at $400 or so, I do think it’s worth it. The software is easy to use and the extra DVD suite allows you make some pretty neat DVD’s.

If you have a Mac, well, just use Imovie or Final Cut (if you can afford it), you don’t need this software.

Video Toolkit Summary

I hope you enjoyed my guide above. I’ll update it as I can, but I believe that if you use this setup you’ll be able to begin to produce high-quality videos that will get your business more exposure in the coming future of search engine marketing.

Here’s a summary list of the products I’ve recommend above.

1. Sony DCR-VX2100 3CCD MiniDV Handycam Camcorder – $2,216.29

Optional HD Version – Sony HDR-FX1 3-CCD HDV High Definition Camcorder w/12x Optical Zoom.

2. Sony VCT870RM Tripod w/Remote for Sony MiniDV, DVD, HDR-HC5 & HC7 Camcorders – $119

3. Sony LCSVCB Camcorder Carrying Case for most Sony Camcorders – $139.56.

4. Sony NPF970 L Series Camcorder Battery for the DCRVX2100, HDRFX1, HDRFX7 & HVRZ1U – $102.44.

5. Sony BCV500 Dual Battery Charger for MCVDFD100/200, DCRVX2100 & HDRFX1 – $96.99.

6. Sony HVL-20DW2 Video Light for use with DCRVX2100, HDRFX1 & FX7 – $86.17.

7. Sony Vegas 7 + DVD Production Suite – $405.99.

Total: $3,166.44

Ok, I know I said in $3k or less. If you just want to go bare bones, I recommend the camera (of course), the tripod and the case. The rest you can live without.

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9 Awesome Comments So Far

Don't be a stranger, join the discussion by leaving your own comment
  1. Mark Evans
    May 22, 2007 at 11:32 am #

    Thanks for the post- lots of solid advice.


  2. Greg Bulmash
    May 22, 2007 at 1:11 pm #

    There are a number of 3 CCD cameras that shoot very good quality video for hundreds less. This isn’t the highest of the high-end prosumer models, but it’s more camera than you need for good quality internet video. And with the hundreds you save, you can buy a wireless mic.

    You can also go with a generic battery and save about $50. While Sony might caution against them, remember that all the “exploding laptop” battery recalls have been due to batteries made by Sony. With Sony and their corporate customers having to recall millions of batteries for fear that they might explode, are you really going to trust Sony when they warn against generic batteries?

    Last, Adobe Premiere Elements gives the budding videographer a lot of pro tools, just not all of them, for about $300 less than Sony Vegas Video.

    Overall, good advice on the types of products someone should get, but it can be done cheaper without sacrificing too much.

  3. cinetech
    June 5, 2007 at 1:50 pm #

    There is a article I wrote that adds to your info:

    How To Produce Videos For The Web

  4. curcjxntjw
    June 21, 2007 at 3:17 am #

    Hello! Good Site! Thanks you! xhoufjkgjlt

  5. Camcorder-Batteries
    November 21, 2008 at 4:18 am #

    Thank you for sharing. It’s great.

  6. LMD
    October 14, 2009 at 12:34 am #

    Ooohh…thanks for that! I wasn't aware of the "prosumer" bracket!


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