This guide covers some of the peripherals you might consider buying to improve the quality of your recordings (especially during filming sessions where you are on screen). Factors like stability and lighting quality are important parts to creating high quality video. While this guide does make recommendations, you should test out any hardware you have first - you do not necessarily need to purchase new items for good video quality.
During COVID-19, many items are being sold for much more than their original price (especially by resellers). Please use your due diligence to investigate the seller before purchase - if it seems too good to be true, it probably is (see How to avoid fake and scammy Amazon sellers).
What is the difference between the hardware for self-recording your screen and for self-filming?
For self-recording (or screen capturing), you're likely not using a camera at all! Usually, it's capturing just your digital display and your voice, so you are free to use headphones, a microphone connected to your computer, etc. because the equipment that you use is likely not going to be captured on the recording. You are also less likely to be moving around. The set up can be a bit "messier" since no one will see it. For more about self-recording, see the ETO's overview of how to self-capture (and share) course content.
For self-filming, you'll be on camera! You might be speaking to the camera or perhaps filming a demonstration or other activity. You're going to want different equipment, like a wireless microphone, a remote to control your display, and perhaps lighting, in order to ensure a high quality recording. If you're planning to be on camera, it increases the complexity of the recording - remember to leave yourself time to test out your set up!
1. Data Storage
1.1. SD Cards
Many cameras use SD cards for added storage; some cameras have a limited amount of onboard, built-in storage. You'll likely want to pick up a few of these! Below is the one we use for our FASE Lecture Capture Program but there are many available. You do want to confirm compatibility before your purchase.
1.2. Hard Drive
In addition to camera storage, you'll also want to think about where you're going to save your raw footage and your production files. An external hard drive will provide extended storage space. Remember to continue to back up those particularly important files regularly!
2. Battery Packs
Filming requires batteries! We use rechargeable batteries, even though they sometimes lack the punch of disposable batteries. Below is a battery pack that we use for our FASE Lecture Capture Program but there are many available. As always, please make sure you are buying the batteries that you need for your devices.
3. Remote (e.g. for presentations)
A presentation remote can be handy if you'd like to navigate your presentation from a distance. It can help to contribute to a more seamless presentation and comes in handy even if sitting at your desk (tip: make sure you can't hear the "clicking" by making a test video).
There are multiple options for remotes available; select one that is compatible with your computer. Pictured is the Logitech R400 Wireless Presenter (Buy it! Best Buy; $56.18)
Consistent lighting is an integral part of good video recordings. It helps to brighten up the subject, and create a consistent lighting environment across all of your videos.
4.1. Lighting kit
One option popular amongst influencers is a ring light, which are compact and work great for brightly illuminating a subject. Don't knock it till you try it! Not only is it helpful for when you're filming yourself, it can improve the quality of your video feed during webinars.
4.2. Ring Light
Softboxes are another option, which tend to be larger, but create less harsh light, and are often seen in the professional photography space. A similar effect can be had by diffusing a lamp off a wall, reducing the harshness of the light.
Clearly the trade off here is set up. If you're filming during a class, it is unlikely that you will have the time to set up and take down this type of lighting kit. However, if you are self-filming in a more controlled space, this might be worth the investment.
5. Tripods and Stands
Having stable video is very important to good video quality. Having a tripod or stand to hold up your camera not only keeps it stable, it allows for greater flexibility and positioning of the camera. And it helps prevent accidental tip overs!
5.1. Mini tripod for small devices and phones
Mini-tripods hold webcams (if they have include screw/base plate) and phones (not likely not a full size camera). The ones with bendy legs are particularly handy to hold the camera at the perfect height/angle using whatever you have handy (see more tips on how to angle your webcam like a pro).
- Buy it! UBeesize Tripod S (Amazon | $18.20)
5.2. Full-size tripod for Cameras
If you have a camera, you'll want a full size tripod to support it (many of the smaller tripods don't hold much weight). Tripods range in price, depending on their durability. You can imagine if you're using it on location, you'd want something heavy duty. For a home set up, you can get away with something mid-pack, but you want to read the reviews and make sure that it is reliable (after all, this will be holding an expensive piece of equipment).
- Buy it! Magnus VT-300 Video Tripod with Fluid Head (Amazon | $140.00)
5.3. Table-top Device Arms
A handy trick is to turn your webcam (or, second webcam) into a document camera using a device arm. These arms are usually inexpensive and often clip to surfaces in order to allow you to position your camera over a writing surface. You can then share your web camera feed (or smart device) while you are writing, as a homemade document camera (see an alternate example of DIY PVC arm from MSE TA Crystal Liu).
6. Gimbals and Stabilizers
If you are planning on moving the camera around while filming, a gimbal or stabilizer is a great purchase for smoothing out all the bumps and vibrations in a video. It’s often what professional videographers use to create a fluid and cinematic shot. When choosing a gimbal or stabilizer, you want to consider if it can handle the weight of your camera, the price, and whether it is manually controlled or battery powered. With a manually operated gimbal, you won’t have to worry about battery life, but getting super smooth shots will not be as easy as a battery powered gimbal.
7. Green Screens
If you are looking to remove your webcam background in your videos, a green screen is a great option. It allows you to create a “Newscaster style” video, where your face and body are superimposed on top of your presentation without your background showing. One important aspect to keep in mind when using a green screen is eliminating all shadows and inconsistencies in the green color by brightly and evenly lighting up the green screen.