Video Virgin Needs Advice!

Feb 10, 2011

I just got budget approval to spend about 2K on video equipment. My goal is to produce green screen videos where I can modify the backgrounds, put myself in environments and have images and text (of my own creation) apopear behind or next to me.

Prior to this the only thing I've done in the way of videos is to insert pre-recorded videos into my courses. I;ve never shot, edited and imported my own videos.

I'm looking for suggestions on equipment. I'll need everything: Video Camera, Green Screen, Lights, Editing Software, Mics, etc.

Thanks so much.


30 Replies
Brian Allen

I used a version of this a few years ago, but the ease of use for beginners was what stuck in my mind.  It's not professional by any means and admittedly a little short on features compared to other video editors, but if you only need simple and you're just starting out this may be a decent solution to get up and trying some things:

Steve Flowers

$2000 sounds like a lot of money. It can be stretched but you may run into a pinch for tools that really would give you superior quality. For keying I usually use Adobe AfterEffects. This is a pretty spendy program on it's own. 

Consumer level cameras are remarkably capable, though you'll probably get marginally better quality spending double the money Don't count out DSLR or sub DSLR cameras either. With good composition skills and lighting you can push these cameras pretty far. The advantage to an SLR or camera like the Olympus Pen is that you also have a really capable still camera as well (

For your key background you'll want to consider something portable. This is a smaller version of the screen we use. It's essentially an expandable screen that folds away nicely when you're not using it:

For lighting, a set of lights as well as reflectors will go a long way. Don't worry about getting the most expensive lights. But positioning your lights is really important. So lighting stands and clamps will really help. These reflectors are excellent and come in a variety of sizes:

Good luck. Video is fun and technology is much better than it was 10 years ago.

Brian Allen

The biggest problem I ran into in looking at consumer cameras was the lack of a microphone jack, which I couldn't believe.  It was a trend, and still may be, to not include the jack in all but the upper level price cameras.

You may be able to get decent sound quality with the camera's external mic, but if it were me I would make sure I had the option to hook up a lavalier style mic just in case, and you may find that you need a more expensive camera for that. 

My personal experience with using the external mic is that the sound quality is sub par, and that will impact your video more than poor video quality in most cases.

Brian Allen

Now I can't stop thinking about cameras, and Steve's comment about running into a pinch with $2000 is haunting me, so I wanted to throw this in before I lost track of it...  Consider the style of video you want to shoot when considering a video camera, and again (for me) audio quality is supremely important for training courses so I always keep that in mind when choosing the camera as well.

If you are going to be shooting full body video shots, you will need a bigger set, bigger green screen, more lighting and probably a better consumer grade video cam.  Additionally you will find that the further you are away from the external mic of the camera the more your audio quality will suffer, so you would definitely need to look at a microphone solution in this scenario, in my opinion.

Alternatively, if most (or all) of what you will be shooting is closer up shots (head shots), sitting in front of a green screen, then you can scale down quite a bit on what you need as far as green screen and lighting, etc.  In this case, you may find that you will get surprising results with a higher end web cam, which support HD video and full frame rates these days.  This would allow you to record straight to your computer, and you would have more flexibility as far as microphone options as its easy to use mic jack on your computer and a medium grade lavalier mic.

Choosing the right camera for the need will allow you to reserve as much of your budget for software as possible, which is critical to producing a qaulity video product for your training courses.

Just wanted to throw in the last of my 2 cents here on this topic

Robert Kennedy

Just to clarify, @Brian, the Kodak zi8, which I mentioned DOES have a microphone jack.  I used an external microphone with that and got decent results.  The audio wasn't pristine but it was still very good for the price, considering the camera was a pocket HD cam at about $175 and the lavalier mic was less than $100.

Brian Allen

Robert Kennedy said:

Just to clarify, @Brian, the Kodak zi8, which I mentioned DOES have a microphone jack.  I used an external microphone with that and got decent results.  The audio wasn't pristine but it was still very good for the price, considering the camera was a pocket HD cam at about $175 and the lavalier mic was less than $100.

Robert, thank you for clarifying, and as you suspected I *was* reading your post wrong.  When i read "external mic" my first thought was the built-in mic on the video camera - I hate using those (with a passion)!

Robert Kennedy

Brian Allen said:

Robert, thank you for clarifying, and as you suspected I *was* reading your post wrong.  When i read "external mic" my first thought was the built-in mic on the video camera - I hate using those (with a passion)!

Yeah, those can sound CAVE-like .  Nope, I usually refer to those as built-in as you said or internal mics.  Again, the setup I mentioned isn't perfect, but on a budget, I got results I was pleased with from a video perspective and also from an audio perspective.  I will use this setup again.  If I had to invest, I will probably look to get a really good mic though as a cheaper one is a bit more sensitive to brushing against clothing, etc.

James Brown


Thanks for the post on the Pen. That is a pretty impressive video.  I've been an avid photographer for approx. 24 years and my first camera was Minolta X-700 SLR. When I took a photography course is college about 18 years ago, I was introduced to slide film and I used it quite heavily for a lot of my projects and it tended to give me really good quality. Now we are in the digital age it's been hard find a SLR camera where you could interchange lenses like the old SLR's and use filters. I'm curious to see what's next.

There is also a key element that has not been mentioned; you need a good tripod. If you noticed in the YouTube video, you will notice they were using a tripod to shoot the video. If lighting in poor or if you are trying to do night shots, you hand cannot hold the camera still and that is why a tripod is critical. Plus a tripod will help you compose your shot. There are times when you look at a scene and think you see everything only to find out after you take a shot there is something you wish to crop out. You could do this on scene by adjusting the zoom and position of the camera with the tripod or with video editing software. I personally would opt for retaking the picture by adjusting the tripod.

Tripods don't cost a lot but they are worth their weight in gold. I would suggest a normal and compact tripod. Again, $20 - $30 bucks is typically what you need to spend for a normal tripod and $10 to $20 for a compact.

BTW I did find the camera here on Amazon.

A note on Videos:  if anyone hasn't noticed, you can copy and paste the YouTube video embed code into your post and the video will appear in your thread once you post your reply.

Hope that helps.

James Brown

You want to hear a really off the wall use of a tripod? Everyone is familiar with police dash cams. A while back I decided to make one using a piece of square tubing, some c-clamps, and a tripod mount. It cost approx $20 to make and It mounted on the headrest of my car and I was able to successfully mount a video camera. Next I took it for a test spin around town and when I reviewed the video naturally I had bumps from the road but it was kind of cool seeing myself drive. I also thought about using this to help teach my son how to drive by filming him during his practice sessions and then using it as a video critique.

I got the idea from here..

eric mongrain

I wanted to add one more item that might be helpful to anyone who is using video and needs to walk with the camera.  I found a link to a guy who provides instructions on how to make a stabalize for $14 dollars. He will also make one for you if you don't have the time to make it.  I have not made one yet since i am still trying to figure out what type of camera to purchase.  here is the link.

If anyone makes one or purchases one please let me know what you think.

I also am so confused about what type of camera to get.  i know everyone has there own opinion but is there any consensus on what type of camera for $200-$500 would be good for the following:

1. interviewing -  a head shot or a body shot of a person in a chair or standing

2. outside action shots of people performing a task

3. indoor/outdoor action shots of  people performing a task (low or bad lighting is an issue)

4. a camera with a plug for an external mic (would probably use a wireless

Also lights I would probably need a set of plug in and a set of lights that we can use on a battery since we do some video near and around propane filling stations

thanks everyone

Steve Flowers

The fellow that designed that DIY steadycam mount is brilliant. As I remember he was also the same dude that experimented with the WII controller in some neat ways shortly after the WII hit the market. You can likely still find his source code around somewhere. Had downloaded it at one time. Some neat videos out there from early days of WII tinkering featuring Johnny Lee.

Sammy Hwang

Hey, we are in the same boat. I just submitted the following proposal based upon Mark Apsolon's advice. Try to watch his video tip clips on youtube. These items have pretty reasonable price, and you can have more options to buy a better camcorder.

Chromakey Green Screen Muslin Backdrop 10' x 20' : The Price: $89.95

Twin Head Halogen Light - 1000 Watt : The price : $49.95 X 2 = $99.9

Green Screen and Support Stand (This is an optional because I can use four green pins) : The Price: $149.98

I have been using a Blue snowball mike. It works well to me.

To buy a video camera, stop by the following web site. It is awesome.

For editing software, I would consider buying After Effects, and Premiere pro. There is a tool kit called Adobe Master Collection CS5, which includes everything you need. But, if your operating system is Window 32 bit, After Effects and Premiere Pro cannot be installed on the system. (You have to install these two softwares on Mac) Or to ensure to have Window 64 bit operating system.

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