I’ve had a quite few questions about my video setup, so I thought I’d write a post explaining how I do it, what equipment and software I use, and generally giving you a behind the scenes peek. If you’re not familiar with the look of my videos, you can check out my YouTube channel here.
I should start with a disclaimer. I have a college degree in film. I say that not because my videos are perfect (they’re so not…and the film professor on my shoulder often tells me exactly how they’re not perfect), but to give you some background on how/why I approach making videos the way I do. If I was coming from a background where I had taught myself instead of going through a scholarly program, I’m pretty sure there are things I’d do differently. And my opinion on that is that it’s fine! Whatever works for you; this is just what works for me.
Also, I am my own cinematographer, editor, everything. So this setup is a very bootstrap way to shoot video, and I’m OK with that. Sure, after shooting on real three camera enabled soundstages with a full crew, I sometimes dream of hiring a production crew like I know some other YouTubers do. But that is out of my league currently with what I can invest on video.
I should also add that the product links in this post are affiliate links, so should you choose to buy any of them, I get a small percentage of the sale.
I have invested in some equipment, with the thought that I’ve still spent less that I would have hiring a crew and that all the equipment I’ve purchased gets used in other parts of my business too. I have 2 Canon T3i cameras (link to the more current T6i model). I already had one T3i that I use to shoot photos for this site, and I knew I liked it, so buying another was an easy decision. If you are looking to purchase a camera for photos and video, the major thing I’d look for when using a DSLR for video is a flip out LCD screen. When I’m shooting, my LCD screens are turned toward me, so I can see where I am in the frame.
On my cameras I use the kit 18-55mm lens and a Tamron 28-75mm 2.8 lens. The Tamron lens is my go to lens for the majority of the photos you see on this blog too, just FYI. It lives on my camera and did even when I only had one camera. Someday I’d love the Canon version of that lens, but at 1/3 of the price the Tamron does very nicely for me.
I also use a remote so that I can be in the frame and focus on myself and start/stop the camera from several feet away where I’m standing. I use the Canon manufactured remote, which at $20 is totally worth it and I already had it before I started doing much video because it’s so handy to take blog photos of yourself.
I put one of my cameras on a tripod, and it’s nothing fancy, similar to this one. Since my camera stays still while I’m shooting, that cheapy tripod works just fine.
For the other camera, I had the Coach install a DIY ceiling mount last year and it’s my favorite. Before I had that, I used to put a tripod (I have 2) on the table and spread the legs as far as the would go then point the camera straight down. Not only is this not especially stable, it was also very hard to set up the camera that shoots straight at me, because tripod legs would always be in the shot. So I had to make more samples of everything, so that I could shoot myself making the thing, then shoot the same thing from a bird’s eye view. In addition to taking more time and materials, that also was harder to edit and I never could get the camera totally parallel to the tabletop. You can see the angle on some of my earlier videos.
So, I decided I needed a ceiling mount for my camera. I looked around online but couldn’t find exactly what I wanted, so the Coach and I headed to our local Precision Camera and spent an hour with the salesguy rigging parts together to get to what I wanted. Here’s what I have:
That rigging starts with a closet rod that we mounted to the ceiling, just drilling the brackets into the ceiling joists.
We added a screw through the rod on each end to make sure the rod couldn’t turn in the brackets – I didn’t want it spinning under the weight of the camera.
The camera is attached to a Giotto Quick Release Plate. The plate is then attached to a Kupo Max Arm, which is the main and most expensive part of this rig. The Max Arm has two ball joints, so it can bend in any direction pretty much. Finally, on the other end, we attached a Manfrotto 35L Super Clamp with stud. I didn’t use the stud part though, it’s in a box in my closet. The clamp allows me to move the rig anywhere along the closet rod. The whole thing is very secure; in fact one of my T3i’s lives up there and I use it to take tutorial photos as well.
So, when I shoot, I typically set my camera with the Tamron lens on an tripod on the far side of my cutting table from me, and that camera is the one I talk to. Then the other camera with the 18-55mm lens is above me. I don’t use an external mic, and I don’t use any external lighting. My studio is in the brightest room in the house, so I just adjust the blinds if there’s a glare and shoot. I use the remote to focus on myself and start the cameras at the same time.
After I shoot the main two cameras, if I need views of my hands stitching something, I’ll do them as B roll and set the camera with the Tamron lens zoomed in and high on a tripod or on the ceiling mount to shoot over my shoulder while I sew on a second sample.
To edit, I use Adobe Premiere. It has a cool feature where it will sync video from two cameras based on the sound, then I just switch back and forth between the two, depending on what’s more important for the audience to see at the time. It’s a lot like when I was in college and we learned how to shoot three cameras live in studio. There is a bit of a learning curve to this software, as opposed to something like iMovie, even for me. Because when I graduated we barely had one course in digital video editing – I went to college as things were switching over. My lower level classes literally consisted of shooting on film and editing by cutting film strips and taping them back together with special editing tape that was like Scotch tape with reel to reel projector holes on the edges.
Tips for Being Your Own Crew
Some other general video tips I’ve picked up or figured out:
- Rehearse. Write a posterboard of major points and prop it under the camera so you don’t forget anything.
- Save your introduction to film last. That way you’ll be warmed up and you’ll have the finished project to hold up and introduce. Then through the magic of editing you put this shot first on your video. This also works really well if you only have 1 camera – have your camera on your hands while you make the project, then move it at the end to shoot your introduction.
- If you mess up, it’s better to stop the camera than to keep going. Then reset to just before the mistake and start shooting again. That way it’s easier to find the points where you need to edit out mistakes.
- Cut between shots on action when you’re editing. For example, if I’m moving my hands in the close up, I’ll cut on that to the wide shot where the viewer can see my hands complete the action. That’s the easiest way to camouflage a mistake, too, to add in an edit on action. You can sometimes edit to a different, but similar looking, action (like starting again after a mistake) and because of the action the audience won’t notice those were two different takes.
- If you’re filming yourself talking to the audience, try to look at the camera lens, not the monitor. Even if you’re using your phone, your eyes will look slightly off if you look at the screen instead of the camera lens pin dot.
Whew! That was a long post. I hope it helps some of you. I also want to say, that if you’re interested in video, you can do amazing things with your phone and whatever video editing software came with your computer. Don’t think you need a setup like mine right off the bat.
Great post. Great info. I laugh that your early undergrad editing was with film. My undergrad computer programming was on cards! Ha ha!
Hey, I love this post too!!! I’ve wondered how you get such GREAT tutorial videos from your “home studio”!!! Oh, yes, I remember the old film strip days too!! I even remember having church socials and watching old reel to reel movies projected against a white wall in the fellowship room. Seems like at some point the film always broke and had to be taped back together! I have used the VERY BASIC video editing that came with our Flip camera for putting music over the kids’ soccer games so you don’t hear the parents talking. When we got our first digital camera Hubs bought a Pinnacle program. It SEEMED like it could do cool stuff, but it never worked well. Ugh!! What a pain in the buttocks!!! Now that soccer season is starting again you have inspired me to start looking into video editing software again!! Boy if you don’t inspire me with one thing, it’s another!! 🙂
Waoh, thank you so much for such a detailed post!
That ceiling mount camera is awesome. I attempt to make sewing videos with a tripod, but like you said, it’s impossible to get the camera perfectly parallel to the work surface. I use books and rope to to angle the tripod as much as possible, so yes, it’s rather unstable!
I’m so used to using iMovie but you’ve inspired me to try Premier. Hopefully, the learning curve is not to steep…
Hey this was really fascinating, great to learn that you’re a graduate in film! Thanks for sharing about your tech set-up, was good to hear about your ceiling rig too