Video Studio Sound and Lighting on a Budget

November 18th, 2016

Here are some of the basic tools that we first acquired as a startup working with limited financial resources:

Continuous lighting is the term used to describe a constant light source to light your subject, meaning that your lights will stay on during the entirety of your photo shoot. This is essential for the videographer. Fluorescents or LEDs stay cool even if left on for hours. We started with a set of these…

Cowboystudio 4-Piece Continuous Photography /Video Studio Digital Lighting Kit with Umbrellas and Background Lights



Being able to focus and direct ambient or direct light sources when you need some extra fill lighting under any circumstances, is easy to do with a set of reflectors. In a pinch, I have made them using tin foil stretched over cardboard or simply used a sheet of white, foam board for even softer fill lighting. Now, I always carry along one of these inexpensive Neewer reflectors:

Sound quality is vital to any filmmaking project and there are lots of inexpensive ways to avoid muffled or indistinct vocals.

With the leap in pixel level of typical smartphones, having a video camera is no longer a reason not to make high quality videos but that tiny, little input mic remains a weak point. You can fix that problem by adding a small shotgun mic, made to fit the audio jack on your phone.

The Rode VideoMic Me Directional Microphone for Smart Phones is a compact and lightweight, high-quality directional microphone that connects directly to an iPhone/smartphone’s TRRS microphone/headphone socket. Its flexible mounting bracket accommodates a wide range of smartphones and allows the microphone to be fitted for primary camera or front camera (‘selfie’) use. A 3.5mm headphone jack on the rear allows for play-through of audio while recording (app dependent) as well as easy playback of your videos without having to remove the microphone. The VideoMic Me includes a deluxe furry windshield for shooting outdoors or in adverse weather.

 On a wire…

The Audio-Technica ATR-3350 Lavalier Omnidirectional Condenser Microphone is one of the best, inexpensive solutions for improved sound quality. It is a direct wire plugin that comes with a 20-foot cable, terminated with a 3.5 mm (1/8-inch) mini-plug. The mic also includes a tie clip, battery and a foam windscreen, which I often use indoors or outdoors. It’s probably a good idea to order a 10-pack of MAXELL AG13 LR44 357 button cell batteries.

Follow DesignWise Photography & Video Production on Facebook for ongoing tips and ideas…

Slik Slidin’ Away to Benro-ville… when money is no object!

August 29th, 2013

My Slik tripod had to go… ever since I heard the words “fluid head.”

I have had it for more than a few decades and small parts were falling off. Then last week, one of the leg locks broke off into a handful of small bits! As one reviewer says, “Sure I’d love a Manfrotto or Sachtler, but I don’t want to spend 3-5 times more for it.”


The Benro C1691T Travel Angel Transfunctional Tripod Kit with Carbon Fiber Twist Lock Legs with B0 Head would be a great replacement for the sturdy old Slik – if I was still just a “still” photographer. I am really impressed with the firm, yet extremely lightweight carbon-fiber, 4-part telescoping legs all folding down into a very trim package, with a nice zippered, shoulder sack included. It is currently (8/29/2013) priced at $485.

But, as a photojournalist turning filmmaker, I need to be able to pan and tilt a live-action shot without any hitches. I had to feel the action, so I did the evil-shopper dance down at my local Camera Corner store, asking questions and testing out all of the stuff in stock. I even checked on the rentals.

Benro C2573FS6

Above and beyond all of them, the smooth and silky feel of the Benro head was like the taste of rich, dark chocolate. I cannot stop thinking about the leap forward it will add to my work.

The Benro C2573FS6 Single Leg Video Tripod Kit has a fluid head designed for videographers …and that makes all of the difference! Price: $465.

But, out of respect to an old friend I did look at Slik’s latest and am even tempted to save some money…


Slik Pro 500HD Tripod With 500DX Leg & SH-736HD Head 615-501 615501 is now (8/29/2013) priced at $149.

…or save even more with Sunpak Tripods:

Sunpak 6200 PG digital 620-620-CPG Tripod

List Price: $89.99
Price: $29.98

If the Sunpak 620-PISTOLGRPQR Tripod, Ball Head (price below) is included, this is an amazing discount.

List Price: $49.95
Price: $24.99

 …and if all else fails:

Sunpak SPK620786 5-Inch Flex Leg Mini-Spider Tripod

Breakthrough Tools: Livestream Studio HD500 Brings Affordable HD Multi-camera Switching to Streaming Broadcasters

September 5th, 2012

“A key part of our mission at Livestream is to make it easier and more affordable for producers and event owners to produce high quality, HD, multi-camera live streams.” says Max Haot, Co-Founder and CEO of Livestream, LLC .

Livestream Studio HD500

Livestream Studio HD500

It is an exciting time to be working in tandem with a rapidly evolving informed culture. Being an information creator is no longer dependent upon selling your soul to the devil aka the mainstream media. Unlike many other industries like Detroit, the technology industry seems to be continuously going against the grain, becoming cheaper, better, faster and smaller.

As a private indie filmmaker since 2006 and a content creator all of my life, I too am evolving thanks in great part to the availability and affordability of new and emerging “power tools.” Stewart Brand, founder of The Whole Earth Catalog explains it best, “…a realm of intimate, personal power is developing that of the individual to conduct his own education, find his own inspiration, shape his own environment, and share his adventure with whoever is interested.” In 1968, his publication of the first edition marked one of the earliest examples of desktop publishing, due in no small part to breakthrough tools.

IBM Selectric ComposerBrand says his breakthrough tool was the IBM Selectric Composer, “…a fancy electric typewriter with a replaceable ‘golf ball’ instead of individual keys striking the paper. Typesetting was instant and cheap. The other revolutionary tool was a Polaroid MP-3 camera, which allowed us to copy line shots directly from books and to make halftones which could be pasted right onto the layout sheets.”

In a similar fashion, the affordable tools to produce indie, live, multi-camera broadcasting have now been introduced by Livestream…

The Livestream Studio HD500, built to television broadcast standards, features:

  • 5 HD/SD SDI inputs
  • 5 Live Video Outputs (HD/SD SDI, HDMI, Component, S-Video, Composite)

Livestream Studio provides real-time multiviewcut & fadegraphics overlayvideo clip playback and recording (DDR) plus a full audio mixer with cross-fade support. At $8,500, Livestream Studio HD500 is less than half the cost of competing SDI integrated switcher/streamer products, many of which aren’t even portable!

A free, software-only version of Livestream Studio is still in the works, set for an early 2013 release.  The paid version will let you stream to any streaming service provider or in-venue screens via the live video output (SDI, HDMI, Component, S-Video, Composite.) The free version will exclusively stream to the award winning Livestream service (live video output will be disabled.)

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