For music artists looking to build a brand for themselves online, videos can factor heavily into a music marketing plan. This is part one of a two-part post with advice about vlogging for musicians. Here, we take a look at the equipment you’ll need to build you video empire.
When musicians and musical artists think of creating videos, they don’t always think of vlogging – AKA creating a video blog. When they think of vlogging, they might imagine videos featuring mundane things like what they had for breakfast or the new microphone they just purchased. Truth is, vlogging can be a powerful part of your music marketing plan when used correctly and can also be a fun way to find new connections and projects.
The equipment you’ll need to start vlogging
To produce a good video, you’ll need a video camera, some sort of stabilization, editing software, good lighting, good audio, and a lot of patience. Note: the links included here are Amazon affiliate links and I’ll get paid if you use them to buy anything. Also, I only review or suggest equipment I have experience with, so there are many good products out there I haven’t listed only because I don’t know anything about them.
Let’s break this into three types of cameras: webcams, handheld cams (pocket) and DSLR.
Webcams. It doesn’t get any cheaper than this. Most laptops and computer monitors come with a webcam built in. The quality is passable, but often limiting, especially if you move around at all. If you don’t have a webcam, check out the Logitech C920. It records in HD 1080p and sells for $70 (sometimes even less).
Pocket cameras. Sometimes called “fixed focus cameras,” these video cameras are small enough to fit in your pocket. These cameras are flip styled, like the Flip HD and VadoHD, and are called “flip styled” because they have USB connector that “flips” out for transferring video to your computer for editing.
These used to be the go-to vlogging cameras a few years ago, and they still work great, but if you have a smartphone, you’re already in business. In fact, the quality is better on a smartphone, and you have DSLR-like feature control over the smartphone’s camera (e.g. ISO, aperture, focus/exposure lock, tap focus, etc.).
Although pocket cams are capable of good video quality, they perform poorly in low light and the on-board audio leaves a lot to be desired, making good lighting and an external audio source a must. Most pocket cams have onboard memory, though, and some allow you to expand memory capacity via SD cards and Micro SD cards.
DSLR Cameras. These are a huge step up from the pocket cameras as they offer better quality and more control over your cameras features: ISO, aperture, light metering, and FPS – plus you can add on different lenses.
The downsides of using a DSLR Camera include dealing with huge file sizes, limited portability portable, and being a bit complicated, especially for someone who wants to record and edit quickly.
If you’re using a DSLR camera, make sure you have a good SD Card – the size and model matter. If the card isn’t fast enough, your video will freeze when you record. Go with class 10 SD cards like a SanDisk Extreme 32 gig.
One last thing, most of the time your DSLR camera will come with a stock lens. If you want to upgrade to a good-quality lens that won’t break the bank, I suggest the Nifty 50. It’s a 1.8 50mm lens, and the clarity is ridiculous. I wish this had been the stock lens on my camera. It goes for $80-$115, and it’s worth the investment.
Light is the food for your camera – proper lighting can’t be ignored! If you have poor lighting, your video will look bad, no matter what kind of camera you have.
A good lighting kit will consist of bright lights, light stands, and diffusers. The more light you have, the better. For an out-of-the-box solution, go with a kit that comes with everything you need. Two affordable options include:
2400 Watt Softbox Lighting Kit. This is a basic three-point lighting set-up for $110. You won’t find better lighting in this price range.
Fancierstudio Professional Digital Video Continuous Softbox Lighting Kit. This is a 3000 Watt, three-point lighting setup. $40 more gets you 600 more watts.
If you’re not ready to invest in a lighting setup, you can build a cheap DIY lighting kit yourself. You’ll need:
- Light bulbs – You want CLF 5000-5500k. The higher the K (Kelvin), the more true to “daylight” the bulb is. Make sure the bulb is 100 watt equivalent.
- Clamp lights – Get an 8 to 10-inch dish that comes with the clamp and socket.
- Diffusion paper – You can use white printer paper, tracing paper, or paper towels. Use clothes pins or binder clips to hold them in place, like in the picture below.
Of course, you can also use natural light, but as most good natural light comes from the sun, you’ll have to be outside or in a room with windows that allow a lot of sun in. If you have big windows in your home studio, you’re in good shape, but if you don’t, you’ve got to get light from somewhere. Sounds simple enough, you can go outside, but depending where you live, there can be lots of outside noise during the day that will interfere with recording. A lighting kit allows you to record at anytime, and just about anywhere.
Microphones for your video recording
Most cameras have a built-in microphone, and most built-in microphones suck. The audio quality will contain a lot of hiss and feedback. For a quality video, you want an external mic to pick up your spoken audio or vocals/instruments while reducing background noise.
The microphone types I recommend are studio (dynamic/condenser), lavalier, portable recorders, and shotgun mics – all have different benefits.
Most of you will have studio microphones, which will work fine for most any video, but if you want to shoot videos without a mic dangling in your face, you’ll need a lavalier, shotgun mic, or a portable recorder. Here are the audio solutions I recommend.
Zoom H1 Digital Recorder. For $99, this a portable recorder with built-in mics that can connect to a lapel/lav mic (optional) and mount atop a DSLR camera.
TASCAM DR-40. Another portable recorder with built-in mics that also has the capability of housing external mics (has phantom power) and can mount atop your DSRL. Very versatile, and at $166, it’s inexpensive for what it does.
Rode NTG1 Condenser Shotgun Microphone. A super cardiod mic, this is a great mic for dialog. It costs $249, and needs phantom power.
Edutige Uni-Directional Microphone ETM-008. This is a lapel mic that will plug into any recorder as well as a DSLR camera. At $73, no lapel mic sounds as good in its price range.
Audio-Technica AT2020USB Cardioid Condenser USB Microphone. This is the USB version of the AT2020. I use this for voice-over work. It’s a high-quality, portable mic that runs $128.
Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB Cardioid Dynamic USB/XLR Microphone. I like this USB mic because it’s dynamic and cancels out a lot of background noise, and it’s cheaper than the 2020. You can buy it for $79.
The USB mics are optional, I like to take them along with me when I travel as they’re good for everyday use.
I hate watching videos where the camera is uneven, and your audience will too, so this is another worthwhile investment. When looking for a tripod, get one that will support the weight of your camera – if it looks flimsy, it probably is. I almost broke my T3i using a cheap Targus. I figured, “Whatever, it’s a tripod, it’ll do.” WRONG, the whole thing toppled over. Lucky for me, the couch broke its fall. If you don’t have a good tripod, here are three that won’t break the bank.
Manfrotto MKC3-H01. This is the best tripod I have in my arsenal because it’s lightweight, easy to use and around $50. There are better tripods out there, but for $50? What I like most is the swiveling head.
Ravelli AVTP. This tripod features a smoother head, which allows you to pull off those nice gliding pans. Ideal for those who will have a camera person working with them or for creating good B-roll.
These are not must-haves, but they do make life a lot easier.
Opteka Battery pack grip kit. You can’t go wrong with this bundle. You get a pistol grip battery pack that holds two batteries, a lens cleaning kit, and a wireless remote. The remote allows you to control your focus and toggle recording – that alone is a life saver.
P&C Pistol Grip Handle. Good for both DSLRs and smartphones.
GorillaPod stand. No other tripod is as versatile as this and it comes with a free smartphone mount.
Beastgrip Pro bundle. This bundle practically turns your smartphone into a DSLR camera. It includes mounts and lenses and all sorts of goodies.
Here’s a vlog we posted back in 2014 featuring Greg using much of the equipment listed here.
This post originally appeared on Greg Savage’s DIY Music Biz Blog. Greg Savage is an entrepreneur from California who makes a living producing music and sound designing for various companies without the use of a record label or manager. He started DIY Music Biz because he wanted to create a reliable resource for musicians, producers, composers, and artists that would be useful regardless of their success or skill level. Reposted with permission.
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