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Video Toolkit

The Equipment and Process Behind Mack Web's First Video Shoot

This is the second in a series of posts written by Mackenzie Fogelson and her team over at Mack Web Solutions. They experimented with video to promote the launch of their free Truly Monumental Guide to Building Online Communities. This post covers the production process including a breakdown of all the tools used in production. The first post in the series covered how they turned ideas into videos.

Hello Wistia friends! My name is Tyler Brooks, and I have the pleasure of working with the team at Mack Web Solutions. When we were preparing to launch a major piece of content we created, we decided to take the plunge into video production. Here is a breakdown of that process.

We shot everything using gear that costs around $1000 in total. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Check out a brief behind the scenes we did of the shooting process.

Here is a list of the tools we used for the shoot.

Camera: Canon T2i

I've shot video with a ton of cameras in the past. Although I love the Canon 5D, it is a little pricey and slightly overkill for this kind of shooting. Although I wouldn't use any Canon lower than the T2i, there are a bunch of cameras between the T2i and the 5D. The T3i, T4i, 60D, and 7D are all great options. Or you could just use your iPhone—it works surprisingly well!

Lights: Photo Studio Kit

This simple light kit has been a huge help. It's bright. Really bright. There was actually a window close to where we were shooting, but you can't tell because the lights balanced out the light from the sun. They are kind of fragile and take some time to set up properly, but I haven't found anything else better for the price. I've used many (expensive) light kits, and these hold their own for literally 1/10th of the price. The softboxes spread the light evenly without casting too many shadows.

The location that we chose did not lend itself well to having a backlight, and we didn't have any available at the time, so we just went without one. Backlights are nice to help separate the subject from the background, but if you don't have the budget or equipment, that's always the first light I remove.

Tripod: AmazonBasics Tripod

Many video professionals tell you never to buy a cheap tripod. In the old days, when cameras weighed 50 pounds and pans and tilts were all the rage, they were right. But we don't do enough video to drop $500+ on a tripod, so we went with this one. It's just over $20. Just don't try to do any smooth pans. It's not happening.

The other advantage of this tripod is that it comes with a handle on the side. During some shoots, I mount the camera on the tripod with the legs folded up and can use it as a makeshift Steadicam. Although it's not nearly as forgiving, it's much better than just using the camera as a handheld device.

Audio: Tascam DR-40 Recorder and MXL Lavalier Mics

The Tascam DR-40 is my go-to recorder for all of my audio work. It has two condenser mics built in that sound way better than the in-camera microphone. It also has two XLR inputs to plug in the lavalier mics for interviews. Just be sure the mic cable doesn't look super obvious like it does in the video above. :-)

As a bonus, the DR-40 can record in 4-channel mode, using the two built-in mics plus the mics plugged into it. This allows you to get some ambient noise (if you're doing an interview where you want some background noise). We also used a couple XLR cables to extend the length of the lavalier microphone. You can get these on Amazon or at your local music store.

Editing and Titles: Adobe Creative Cloud

I edited the video using Adobe Premiere Pro, my favorite editing software at the moment. One handy feature is the ability to automatically sync the audio from the external recorder with the internal audio from the on-camera mic. This one feature saved me (at least) four hours of work. I also used Premiere Pro to tweak the audio and apply color correction.

The llama animation we created for the opening was originally a layered Adobe Illustrator file by our designer. We then brought that file into Adobe After Effects, where I animated all of the motion. As I mention in the video, After Effects has a steep learning curve, but it is incredibly powerful once you understand what you're doing. If you have a copy of After Effects and want to learn it, I recommend starting with Video Copilot's tutorials. They are fantastic.

Location: Mack's House (address: classified)

We chose to shoot in a home for a few reasons. First, her house was in a quiet neighborhood, so there was a low risk of ambient noises from sirens, horns, and traffic. Our office is in downtown Fort Collins, so there's always noise outside.

We also chose the house because of the props. When you have kids, you tend to have quite a few toys laying around. A few of those made an appearance in the videos. Although we had a rough script that we wanted to follow, a large part of the filming was spontaneous. The gag with the eggs literally occurred to me about two hours before the shoot, so we had no time to plan or test how it would work -- or in this case not work.

Finally, it was free to shoot at Mack's house. We have a lovely photo studio just down the road that we've shot video in previously, and they often let us use that space for free. However, we didn't know how long the actual shoot would take, and we didn't want to tie up their studio for a whole afternoon. Besides, a photo studio isn't designed to be as quiet as we needed. Beyond the outside noise we already mentioned, they have phones and computers and an open office environment that can get quite loud.

Hosting: Wistia

Our final video was exported in 720p at 5 Mbps. We then uploaded the files to our Wistia account, where I customized them with calls to action, thumbnails, and player changes as needed. We had fun looking over cool engagement metrics like this:

Conclusion

That's pretty much it! It was really a simple shoot. If you were to buy all the gear listed above, you'd spend just over $1000. If you've always thought that video was out of your budget, well, you're wrong. That said, doing video well does take a good bit of time, especially if you plan to do any editing. But it's certainly worth it. At least it was for us. And you can read more about that in next week's post.

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