4 steps to a DIY video studio

Don’t let videography intimidate you. Here are four easy, affordable ways to make the leap.

Producing videos can seem daunting, especially when you consider the latest technical terminology, such as 4K, DSLR and 360-video.

You don’t need an engineering degree to create great videos. It comes down to making video a priority and knowing what equipment to use.

Here’s a quick breakdown to get you started:

1. Keep cameras simple—don’t drop big bucks. Do your homework before you buy expensive gear. Your video camera might already be in your pocket.

“Many pros are trading their fancy gear and digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras for iPhones,” says videographer Lou Bortone. “Chances are that your smartphone or tablet will be all you’ll need if you’re creating video for YouTube or a vlog.”

If you want to go higher end, consider what you’ll be shooting.

“If you’re shooting action or outdoors, the GoPro Hero5 gets rave reviews and costs under $300,” he says. “If you’re running Facebook Live streams and want multiple angles or more features, the Livestream Mevo camera is a good bet for about $300.”

Still want more firepower? Then you’re looking at a hefty price jump to get into DSLRs or 4K (4000 pixels vs. 1080 pixels) video cameras, says Bortone.

2. Sound matters—match the mic to the task. Mic selection will depend on your camera set-up.

“If you’re at a desktop webcam set-up, the Blue ‘Yeti’ USB mic is more than adequate and costs under $150,” Bortone says. “If you’ve got a DSLR rig, then check out the Rode VideoMic Pro. It attaches to your DSLR as a shotgun mic and runs under $200.”

Simple lavalier mics are cheaper and easier to hide for video interviews. Bortone prefers the Rode smartLav+. “It gets high ratings and can be yours for about $75,” he says.

3. Dip into video editing—start free and upgrade later. Editing footage can mushroom into an overwhelming, time-consuming task that will eat up your billable hours. That’s why many content creators outsource video editing.

Bortone recommends WeVideo for the DIY-minded. “It’s simple, affordable and user-friendly for any skill level,” he says. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re on a Mac or a PC, because it’s online. You can even start for free and upgrade to a paid plan later.”

Desktop editing, on the other hand, is more robust and more expensive. Bortone says it’s the way to go if you’re looking for deeper functionality.

“In that case, Macs have a distinct advantage over PCs, thanks to iMovie,” he says. “The next step up is Final Cut Pro, which is what I’ve been using for over 10 years. It’s the gold standard for video editing, and the final product is broadcast-quality.”

4. Experiment with live video—start with Facebook AMAs. Many communicators still aren’t comfortable with live video. Facebook Live is an informal video environment, and most viewers are quite forgiving.

“It’s a safe place to experiment,” says Bortone. “You can even ‘go live’ to only yourself by adjusting your privacy settings. This will let you to review your video first.”

The real magic of Facebook Live, however, lies in the interaction and community building.

“It’s all about engagement,” Bortone says, “so PR pros should be ‘present’ with audiences and encourage interaction. That’s why Ask Me Anything (AMA) is such a popular topic for going live on Facebook.”

Screen comments afford you a great way to interact with your Facebook Live audience.

Bortone recommends third-party tools like BeLive.tv. “It allows you to display viewer questions in real time,” he says. “It also lets you bring guests on camera right into the livestream.”

Brian Pittman is a Ragan Communications consultant and webinar manager.Zynara Ng (Google), Lou Bortone, Carmen Collins (Cisco) and Shannon High (Ragan Consulting Group) will reveal more video tips in PR University’s July 20 virtual summit, “Video and visual storytelling: New tools, tricks and formulas to shootmoney-making videos.”

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