As we’re most likely not filming anything that’s going to end up an TV or in the movies, our choice of equipment can be very basic. You may already have some of what you need to get started. The basics are a camera and a tripod.
Unless you’re a serious photographer, you may not have a tripod, but we’ll need one. Handholding doesn’t work. Luckily, a basic one is very inexpensive, in the 20 dollar range. A quick search of stores like Target, Best Buy, or Walmart will give a few to choose from. You don’t need anything fancy. It must be tall enough to place on the floor and give a level shot. Legs with levers are easier to use than the twist-lock kind, but either will work. We just want a steady shot.
There are a number of options in the camera department. Although a dedicated digital video camera is best, you may be able to start out with something you already have. Although your laptop may have a built-in camera, we don’t suggest using it – quality varies, and it’s darn hard to screw into the tripod. In all seriousness, the best looking videos will be those where you can move the camera to get the best shot, and a laptop doesn’t cut it.
A cell phone camera may be possible, depending on your model – you can buy a mount to attach your iPhone 4 or 4s to a tripod, and it captures a nice quality video. An iPad is another option.
The digital camera you use for photos, however, may just do the trick. Property managers need them as a part of doing business, and the latest models can record in HD. Some of the best bloggers out there are doing their work on the video mode of a camera made primarily for photos. You’ll want to give it a try to check out the quality. Also you’ll want to make sure it records in a format that can be imported into a video editing program like iMovie, or uploaded to YouTube. If it passes those tests, then make sure you have the largest memory card you can get. Video eats up a huge amount of space, so you may want to buy a separate card for video, or at least clear out the card you already have. A 4Gb card will hold about an hour of HD video.
In the category of dedicated video cameras, there is a new-ish development, the pocket HD video camera, that seems tailor-made for the prospective video blogger. Sadly, Cisco no longer makes their Flip cameras, but there are a number of other manufacturers making similar cameras, including Sony, Samsung, and Kodak. They’re simple to use and reasonably priced. They usually include a method to easily upload your videos, or a built-in USB dongle to transfer video to your computer. They also save their data in common, easy-to-use formats.
If you’ve got kids, you may already have a full-size video camera. They usually have good to great quality, and some even have an external sound jack – a huge bonus. However, a number of them save in proprietary formats that make them difficult to upload and manipulate without separate software for conversion. If you’re thinking of using one, research it very thoroughly.
If you’re thinking of buying new, we heartily recommend an HD pocket video camera. They’ve got most of what you need for a reasonable price, and most of all they’re easy to use.