What kind of video camera is best? (it’s not what you’re thinking)

The first question that almost everyone asks when they start thinking about making videos is, “What kind of camera should I use?”

Nature Photographer Ansel Adams got asked this question a lot. His advice? “When people ask what kind of equipment I use, I tell them my eyes.”

Use the camera you have (in your pocket)

Camera makers don’t want you to know this, but the truth is, it doesn’t really matter what camera you’re using. Just pay attention to using natural light, framing your subject, the sound you’re getting – and most importantly, getting the right message on camera. If you tell a good story, you’ve made a good video.

So, the answer to what kind of video camera is best could be, “the one you have” (in your pocket).

what video camera is best

Mini tripod, Joby GripTight, Rode SmartLav

Smartphone cameras can provide good quality images and their simplicity makes them a good choice – especially if you’re just getting started (and you already happen to have one). The spontaneous and portable nature of a smartphone, the availability of some excellent image processing apps and the ability to share the work with a wider audience, makes it a powerful and liberating tool, capable of some surprising results.

Two other essential gear items: microphone & tripod. In addition to the phone you need good sound – so getting a microphone will make all the difference in the quality of your video. To keep your phone steady get a smartphone tripod mount and a basic tripod.

There are several apps that will add to the quality of your video. One of the best I’ve seen is called FilmicPro – which helps you control settings like focus and exposure.

You can also edit your video right on your phone – and making short segments with simple edits and uploading them directly to your online network is a great strategy. Keep it simple. Shoot and post often!

Here’s a great video from Wistia showing iphone video-making tips:

Case Study: Intelligent Details

I can hear the gearheads out there saying, “OK, Brad, don’t go all Yoda on us with this ‘use your eyes young jedi’ – show us some equipment already…” So, if you really want to trick out you smartphone and start shooting as if you were making a feature film, have a look at the “Inteligent Details” video above. (Make sure to watch the video through to the end – where they show behind the scenes views with the equipment they were using).

The guys who made the “Intelligent Details” video for Bentley (above) did just that. They shot the whole thing with an extremely accessorized iphone – and then used an ipad for their editing. Their client, Bentley, actually told them that they had to shoot the video with an iphone and then invited them to edit the video with the ipad airs that were installed in the Bentley Mulsanne that was used for the shoot! So, naturally they tricked out their iphones with some pretty fancy gear.

On his website, director Austin Reza had this to say about the gear they chose:

We undertook the challenge utilizing three Apple iPhones (5s) and a few, select, third-party products.

For our handheld rig, we used an iPhone 5s with a BeastGrip case, which worked seamlessly with a handful of threaded lenses, most notably the Neewer 0.3X Baby Death 37mm Fisheye Lens.

Our second iPhone was mounted to a new prototype BeastGrip case with suction cups for interior and exterior mounting. This was a smaller unit built for speed and additional b-roll angles.

For our steadycam rig, we equipped our third iPhone 5s with the MōVI M5 case and Schneider iPro lens. MōVI 5 was among one of our most important pieces of production equipment. It made every shot dynamic and increased the production value far beyond what we anticipated. The Schneider iPro played an important role as well, easily removing and attaching optics, with a modified iPro case.

Finally, with the help from Filmic Pro software—which records at 24fps and 50 mbits—we were able to increase dynamic range and maximize production quality.

The video was assembled in the comfort of the Mulsanne’s back seat with fully integrated iPad Airs. Using iMovie we were able to complete initial cuts and review rushes. We were also amazed at the quality of the phone footage once we moved to the black and white timing. The entire production staff was shocked to see how beautiful the final shots actually looked.

OK, it’s pretty cool to see far you can go with an iphone – especially when you have Bentley footing the bill.

But what was the budget?

what kind of video camera is bestMost of the equipment they used was quite affordable: two iPhone 5s’ were mounted onto a $75 BeastGrip case. BeastGrip lens adaptors allowed them to use threaded lenses, including the $38 Neewer 0.3X Baby Death 37mm Fisheye Lens, as well as the Schneider iPro lens, which you can buy in a kit for $230.

So far so good.

As far as software goes, the “fast and dirty” edits were made using iMovie, while the $5 Filmic Pro was used to offer more control over their cameras.

But they also used one of Freefly’s MōVI M5 gimbal stabilizers for all of those beautiful handheld shots. The MōVI M5 runs $5,000! You might instead opt for a Stabylcam iphone stablizer for $75.

The video is shot in a documentary style – they interviewed two design executives from Bentley while they were riding in the car. While this makes for a very informal, unscripted storyline, of it would have worked even better if they had talked more about the experience the car rather than the features of the car. Also, they were both riding in the back seat – not driving. This was to call attention to the ipads that were cleverly installed but it seemed to imply that if you’re a Bentley owner then you wouldn’t be driving your own car!?

One nice touch is in the way this video is displayed on the Bentley site itself – in which the video player is framed as if you’re watching from within the car.


Editing with iMovie

iMovie Editing Tips

If you have a Mac, iMovie comes free, and its set of tools is usually more than enough for your video marketing projects. With a few tricks, you can get the most out of iMovie and look like a pro!