013: What Equipment You Really Need For Video


The podcast dedicated to giving you a no-bullshit look at what it takes to build relationships through video. This is for the scared, the overwhelmed, and the awkward as fuck, and all those who believe diy doesn't have to mean amateur but don't know where to start ...

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Tors Grantham

Tors is a television professional, who studied all aspects of television production before launching her career spanning almost a decade. She's worked with a BAFTA nominated production team, has her own entry on, and has even walked the red carpet several (terrifying) times.

She's had chips thrown at her by David Tennant (it was an accident, he's got terrible aim), she's interviewed some amazing actresses, and she attended the cast and crew screening of Empire Strikes Back at the grand old age of four. 

Now she lives in south Wales with a large dog and a small cat, where she uses the knowledge she gained in her television years and beyond, to help online biz owners step in front of the camera and connect with their audience.

On The Also

How to pick the right microphone

Read it here

Things you should know before buying a video camera

Read it here

In this episode

Do you know that something I hear over and over again is something that’s a complete lie. Most people don’t even realise it’s a lie, which is why I’m recording this episode, but they’re buying into it and that worries me.

Because people tell me they can’t do video because they don’t have the right equipment.

And, really, what does that even mean?

When it comes to equipment, the only “right” equipment you need … and yes, that’s in air quotes, is a camera. Of some sorts. Because, let’s face it, you can’t video with something to video on.

That’s it. That’s the entire scope of what you really need for video. Wow, that was a short episode, see you next week!

I’m kidding of course. Not about the equipment, but this podcast episode is far from over, because I want to chat through the different pieces of equipment available and why you may or may not decide you want to add it into your bag of tools. Most importantly, I also want to talk about when you might want to do that, because it certainly isn’t right outta the gate.

Let’s start with the camera, as we’re already on that subject.

Yes, your phone’s camera is probably good enough quality to use to make videos. If it’s less than five years old it’ll probably do, two would be better. Films shown in cinemas have been made on an iPhone, so whatever you’re thinking about why you can’t use your phone, get it out of your head.

I know it doesn’t look as profesh to be using a phone instead of a DSLR, I know it doesn’t give you quite the same depth of field look as a camera, I know that sometimes footage will come out looking all pixellated. You’re making YouTube and social media videos, you don’t need something that’s all singing and all dancing. And that pesky pixellation? That’s just because you need more light, not a better camera.

Here’s the thing: there’s not just one learning curve to making videos, there’s several. There’s learning to set up and use the equipment. There’s learning to put together content that’s engaging and connects with the audience. There’s learning to stand in front of the camera and behave like you instead of a red faced robot. There’s learning how to edit it all together. And there’s learning how best to market using video. That’s a shit load of learning curves you’ve got there, so why are you trying to do several at the same time?

Trying to learn new equipment AND the process of making videos is overwhelming. I’d go as far as to say it’s one of the reasons a lot of people give up on video. And it’s completely needless! Start with the equipment you have and already know how to use, it’ll make your life so much easier.

Start with your phone so you can focus on learning to make videos instead of learning a new camera.

The best part about doing this is that it actually allows you to figure out if, and what, other pieces of equipment you need before you need to upgrade your camera. Because, surprise!, your camera often isn’t the first thing you need to upgrade. Light or sound usually is.

So let’s take a look at lighting.

Got a window and a decent amount of daylight? Use that first. Trust me, it’ll work for the learning curve.

Make sure the camera is between you and the window so the light can bounce off your face and hit the camera. If the window’s behind you you’ll just end up looking like someone in the witness protection programme, all silhouetted and mysterious, which I doubt is the look you’re going for.

Here’s something not a lot of people tell you: the way your face and environment reacts to light isn’t going to be the same as everyone else’s face and environment. So you’re going to have to play around with light to get it looking a way you like. Three point lighting doesn’t work for everyone. Just a window doesn’t work for everyone. But until you try it, you won’t know.

So start with the window, see what it looks like. Try standing with the window off at an angle to you, see if you like that better. It’ll put one side of you into shadow, so you can either use some white card or posterboard and bounce the light onto that darker side of your face, keep the shadows if you like them, or invest in some lighting.

The cool thing about lighting is that you can actually do that really cheaply by not buying an expensive set of pro lighting, but by going to your local hardware store and grabbing some daylight balanced lightbulbs. I talk more about light in episode 2, Getting Started With DIY Video, so go check that one out too. But essentially, rather than go straight for shelling out the big bucks, try switching out your lightbulbs for the daylight balanced ones and see what happens.

There’s a couple of things you do need to know about light though. First, if you wear glasses, try putting the lights more to the sides or from above, that way the light won’t reflect in your lenses and obscure your eyes. We want to be able to see your eyes, that’s really important, because we connect with people by eye contact.

And secondly, if you find you’re getting white spots of bright light reflected on your skin, you’re too close to the light, so try moving away from the light until those hotspots disappear. What’s happening in that situation is that the light is too bright in those spots for your camera to be able to properly see, so even if you turn down the exposure in the edit, what’s underneath that spot was never recorded so you can’t ever get the detail back.

Instead, try layering light. Have some high and looking down, some off to the side, something in front of you but maybe further away. Play with distance, angle, and height. And pay attention to the time of day, if you’re mixing actual daylight with electric light of some kind, then the time of day and the weather will also impact your results. As will the types of light you’re mixing, but I go into that in more depth in episode 2, so seriously, go take a listen if you haven’t already.

There’s no right or wrong with lighting, it’s entirely subjective. Well, no right or wrong so long as we can see your eyes, the feel of your lighting supports your brand - for example, don’t go for moody if your brand is upbeat and fun - and you don’t have loads of hotspots, or so much light you’re being washed out. But other than that, it’s all down to your personal tastes. 

Okay, sound.

Yes, your phone’s microphone may be good enough. Seriously, it might. You won’t actually know until you try it though, so y’know, try it.

If you’re getting echo, add soft furnishings to the room you’re in. Hang blankets around you, off camera. Add a rug or two. Chuck in some cushions around the place. Echo is sound bouncing off hard surfaces, so if you reduce the amount of hard surfaces there are in the room then you reduce the echo.

If you have a second phone, use that as a microphone. Just tuck it into a pocket, or hang it over your head out of shot. Make sure the bottom of the phone is pointed towards your mouth, that’s where the mic is after all!

The problem with using a second device that’s not plugged into your camera as a microphone, is that you get two files you have to sync up in the edit: one sound, one video. You can help do that by clapping, once you’ve pressed record on both devices. Make sure your hands are visible in shot, that way you can match the moment your hands meet with the big spike in the audio soundwave. Voila, synced audio.

But that’s pretty technical and often makes people nervous. So, if that's you and you decide you do need a microphone, look for something you can plug directly into your camera to get around that issue. Sometimes that means an extra long lead (in which case make sure it’s good quality, your leads impact the quality of your recording), sometimes that means a mic that points at you from across the room (in which case make sure you’re standing directly in front of it, they can be very sensitive and only pick up what’s in front of them). 

When you’re looking for new equipment, read the reviews. Ask people to tell you about the environment they’re using it in and any changes they noticed the equipment made to how they look or sound. Little known fact about mics is that they can amplify certain frequencies, making your voice sound deeper or higher, even more nasal. Some mics work better in certain environments. If you’re planning to use one mic to pick up two people, that can make a difference too.

So please, for the love of PB&J sarnies, don’t just ask random people in a Facebook group what they recommend, that’s a great way to end up forking out dosh for something that isn’t going to work for you. Do your research! 

Because if you hate your voice, and you pick a microphone that amplifies the things you hate about it, you’re never going to get on camera again. And if you hate your nose, and you set up your lights the way you’ve been told, and it makes your nose look bigger, you’re never going to get on camera again. And that’s a crying shame, because you have something important to share. You help change people’s lives, and that’s really fucking important.

So learn to experiment. You only have to do it the once, because once you’ve figured this shit out you never have to do it again! There’s no “right” or “proper” equipment when it comes to making videos for your business, there’s only what works for you, which - ps - is not necessarily what works for others. When it comes to the equipment you really need for video, that’s down to you to decide. And everyone’s different.

Okay, now this podcast episode is over.


What Equipment You Really Need For Video - on this week's episode of the #videomatterspodcast, I'm talking about the equipment you actually need, which may not be the same as the equipment you think you need. Take a listenn to see what's what, and what you can ignore