First thing’s first: this post is primarily directed at the beginner videographer who is with an organization, like a small church, with a limited technology budget. In fact, such a person may have to purchase all of this equipment themselves, so economy is very important.
Second, what we are putting together here is a basic kit. It is meant to be expanded over time, as the need arises (and as funds become available) for better/more equipment.
Third, I am not talking about a kit for recording live performances. I am talking about for creating movies – sermon illustrations, event highlights, testimony videos, fund raising videos, etc.
With those things in mind, I’ll see you after the break!
#1 Camera ($800)
Get a decent DSLR camera that is capable of HD video. You might be asking why I am proposing a still camera for movie-making. Well, instead of talking about that here, let me direct you to a previous post where I talked about DSLRs for video in detail. You should also visit our post on choosing a DSLR. I highly recommend the Canon Rebel T3i EOS kit.
#2 Basic Lenses ($200)
If you bought your camera as a kit (like the excellent T3i kit) then you have a great start on half of what you need. That kit comes with a respectable 18-55 mm lens. For the majority of what you’ll be going, that lens will do great. You will however begin seeing a need for a longer lens, say a 55-250 mm lens for getting “close” without being in the middle of the action. Now, keep in mind – these are basic, starter lenses. The more you get into this stuff, the more you’ll want better lenses, like the mid-range Tamron 17-50mm lens that I adore. But for a basic kit, these are more than adequate. I will mention another lens that is not initially vital, but is one of the best bang-for-the-buck lenses available – the Canon 50 mm F/1.8. It is a super fast, and very affordable ($100) prime lens, that gets you some excellent depth of field.
#3 Tripod ($150)
Sometimes you’ll get a very basic tripod with your camera purchase. You can also find some inexpensive, but fancy looking tripods at your local department store. To be honest, these $15-$50 tripods are terrible for videography. If you’ve ever handled a pro-level tripod, you would know they are incredibly large and heavy. They’re made that way for a reason. You really need a stable platform, and those cheap tripods just don’t cut it. The pro-level tripods can easily cost $800 – without the mounting head! Fortunately, there are some very good tripods that are quite a bit more affordable. The tripod I use is a ball-mount, fluid-pan-head tripod. For its price, it is very stable, and highly adjustable, with some pretty good movement. It costs about $120. I also got an inexpensive tripod dolly for it.
#4 Extra Battery ($40)
In the long run, you really should invest in a plug-in a power source. But to begin with, you’re better off just getting another battery. Two batteries should be fine for most shooting situations. You can re-charge during set changes and breaks. The battery pack for the T3i will cost you under $40. While a T3i power supply will run you about $70. Even if you do opt for a power supply, you should still get a 2nd battery because it’s not always easy to get to a wall plug.
#5 Camera Gear Bag ($50)
There are all types of camera bags you can choose from. I like the sling-style camera bags because they are great for a solo videographer. Your gear is highly accessible, even while wearing the bag. However, I also like backpack style camera bags. They are usually larger, and more natural feeling while toting, but your gear won’t be quite as accessible. You can find hybrid backpack/sling camera bags that let you reconfigure from a back-pack to a sling, but they are usually a little more expensive.
Remember, this is a very basic kit – for about $1,240 (including camera). I put mine together over the course of several months to ease the financial burden, and along the way learned where to invest a little more money (i.e. better lenses). As I’ve used my kit, I’ve learned what to add/upgrade/replace (i.e. bigger camera bag).
What would you add to a basic videographer’s kit?