Wistia’s Guide to Video Gear: Three Setups for Any Budget
February 5, 2021
From Wistia’s early days of video marketing all the way to producing One, Ten, One Hundred and Brandwagon, we’ve rocked all kinds of gear to bring these video ideas to life. The most important thing we’ve learned along the way is that you can make amazing videos no matter what your budget for gear might be.
To help you get started with building out your own gear setup, I’m here to give you the ultimate gear guide for any budget. Let’s cut through the noise and look at basic, intermediate, and advanced setups so you can start creating videos for your brand.
Basic video gear setup
If you know anything about me, you know I’m passionate about helping people make videos using the tools and the gear they already have. Here’s what I recommend for a basic video setup.
One thing you most likely have already is a computer. You can turn this into a video-making machine by upgrading your computer’s webcam to a USB webcam. I recommend something like a Logitech Brio, which will increase your image quality way higher than your built-in webcam.
Alternatively, your phone is an incredibly powerful video camera. You can throw it on a tripod with a tripod adapter like the Mefoto 360. If you don’t have a tripod, you can pick up a cheap light stand, put it on your tabletop or on the ground, and have yourself a nice stable shot.
Now for audio, I think that sound is arguably more important than video. If you’re going to start upgrading your gear, start by purchasing a better microphone. Here at Wistia, we’re big fans of the Blue Yeti microphone. It’s a USB microphone that plugs right into your computer and sounds remarkably better than your built-in microphone.
If you’re shooting on your phone you can consider picking up a Rode smartlav+, which plugs right into your phone (Apple heads, you might need a dongle). You can clip it onto your shirt and instantly have a better sounding microphone. If you don’t want to deal with all of these cords, you can go wireless with an Instamic, which records right on itself or over Bluetooth to your device.
Last, but not least, is lighting! Fortunately for all of us there are a ton of cheap LED lighting options out there right now. One of my favorites is this LED light panel from Lume Cube; it’s powered over battery, and charged over USB. Plus, it’s dimmable so you can dim it down or up, and you can change the color temperature. Cool things off or warm it right up to match whatever color temperature you’re working with.
Intermediate video gear setup
Moving onto an intermediate gear setup, this is my playground — I love this price point because there are so many awesome options to choose from.
First, let’s talk about the camera. I recommend picking up a DSLR, like a micro four thirds mirrorless Canon DSLR. What’s great about these is they let you have interchangeable lenses, which gives you a ton of creative freedom to make some really cinematic shots.
If you have a nice camera, you’re going to want a nice tripod to put it on. One of the ones we love at Wistia is the Manfrotto tripod and tripod head. This series of tripods has a column adjustment, which makes it easier to raise or lower the camera instead of changing the leg height every time.
For your intermediate audio package, start by picking up a shotgun microphone like a Sennheiser ME66. You can point this thing at anything and it’ll pick it up like a laser. If you put this on top of a boom pole, grab yourself an XLR cable, and run it into an H5 recorder, this thing is like a portable audio studio.
For your lighting package, you’ll want to pick up enough lights and light stands to pull off a standard issue three point lighting setup. One of the nice soft lights we use at Wistia is a 1 by 2 LED light mat. There are a number of these out there, but we like the one from Westcott, which is a little bit pricey, but boy does it look nice!
Advanced video gear setup
Let’s say you can go hog wild with your video gear package. In other words, you’ve got some money in the banana stand to start leveling up your video gear with some serious professional-grade stuff.
Start thinking about cinema cameras. We’re big fans of the Canon cinema line of cameras like the Canon C100 Mark II. We’ve used this camera a ton for shooting Brandwagon. It’s a late model camera, but it still holds up really well.
In terms of tripods, we use the same tripod that’s used for our intermediate setups — the Manfrotto tripods. One thing to consider as you’re buying more cameras is that you’re going to need more tripods. If you find a tripod brand you like, you should stick with it. By doing this, all of your cameras are going to have the same tripod head, so any camera can click into any tripod.
“If you find a tripod brand you like, you should stick with it.”
A bigger budget opens up a whole new world of audio gear. One thing you’re going to want to do with extra money is upgrade your shotgun microphone to something like a Sennheiser MKH 416.
If your production calls for it, and you’ve got a good chunk of change, consider picking up a wireless microphone package. These Lectrosonics wireless packs are the industry standard, and they’re going to give you great range and really good sound quality.
More money doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go out and buy the most expensive lights you can. In my opinion, more money means you can get more specialized with your lights.
In the Brandwagon studio, we had a bunch of LED light mats mounted to the ceiling that were all controlled by a light board. Additionally, we had a bunch of lights on the wall that let you blast all different colors. This allowed us to do all kinds of special effects.
We also rocked an Apurture 300D with a big old light modifier on it. This let us get a super nice focused beam of light.
When it comes to video lighting, more money buys you more options to dial in the perfect look and feel for your production.
The benefits of mixing and matching gear
We also have some advice for how you can benefit from mixing and matching your gear from these different setups.
If you’re making a show that’s going to have multiple angles that means you’re going to use multiple cameras. However, don’t feel like you have to invest in the same camera for every angle. What we like to do is invest in one really high quality camera for our A camera. For our B or C camera, it’s okay to use something less expensive or an older model.
“Don’t feel like you have to invest in the same camera for every angle.”
For lighting, as long as you’ve got some decent lighting, it’s pretty easy to match the lower quality B camera image to the A camera just with color correction in post production.
The takeaway here is to save your money — don’t buy three expensive cameras. Instead, invest that money in better microphones and better lights to bring the overall production of your show way higher.
Rent before you buy
Another thing you can do before making any commitments is to try before you buy.
Renting is a great way to get your hands on gear that you might be curious about and test which setup might be best for your show. There are so many gear reviews out there and there’s products coming out every single day, so renting gives you some flexibility before you have to invest in a full setup.
Most cities have at least one gear rental house and there are tons of online options that’ll ship right to you. Before you go out and buy a fancy lighting setup, rent it and try it out. You’ll wind up saving money in the long run, and you’ll figure out what works best for you and your production needs.
Get the gear that helps you create consistently
When it comes to making shows or other videos to support your brand, the most important thing to remember is get the gear that helps you create on a consistent basis. Understanding your production needs is the best place to start!