5 Ways to Make a Low-Budget Video

by Peter Gavin

The following is a small departure from our regular music app coverage that we cannot resist reposting, because it contains valuable, easy to understand information about how to shoot a music (or any other) video that doesn’t suck. The ubiquity of video cameras is great. It would be even better if the skills to shoot decent videos were as ubiquitous. And so it is in that spirit that we repost this article from my former CNET/MP3.com coworker Peter Gavin, now of GigMasters.com, which we have edited slightly to suit our readership, who are more likely to be using a couple of iPhones or Androids on mini-tripods than the actual cameras Gavin recommends. The point of this tutorial is to record yourself or your band playing music, or doing an interview, so that you can get gigs more easily, but these tips apply to a wide range of scenarios.

5 Ways to Make a Low-Budget Video If your dream is to be the next Spielberg, this post is not for you. This is for anyone who has no clue on how to make a video [and wants to make something that looks professional]. You should shoot in the best quality possible, but you don’t want blow your entire budget on one camera. When you upload your video to the web, it’s going to get compressed anyway, so top-of-the-line gear isn’t necessary.

1. It takes 2 (cameras) to make a thing go right

If you’re low on cash, you have to make a decision between video quality and quantity of cameras. I’d recommend going with two cheaper cameras over one that’s higher quality. Multiple angles will make for a more compelling video, plus you’ll want a backup recording in case you screw up your main camera.

Best Buy is everywhere and good place to start looking at prices.

2. Lighting is the more important than your camera

Make sure that your location is very well lit. Video always comes out darker than it looks in real life. Grab some lamps from your house if you have to — just make sure it’s bright enough. If you record during an event where you can’t control the lighting, save the shoot for another gig. But if no one minds, turn the lights up higher than normal.

Softbox lights are cheap and they make you look very professional.

3. Audio quality can make or break your video

If you only use your built-in camera mics, your audio will sound noisy and echo-y. Mics can get pricey, but a great audio recording can really make you stand out from the rest — especially if you’re a musician. If you can’t afford studio time, borrow or rent some mics and piece it together, if it has multiple elements, on Garageband or ProTools [ed. note: or my favorite, the open-source Audacity]. For interviews, I recommend a lavalier mic (the one that clips onto your shirt) or at least a handheld Shure mic.

Guitar Center is a good place to compare a variety of mics.

4. You already own editing software

Most computers come with basic video editing applications such as iMovie for Mac, and Movie Maker for PC. And these days you don’t need to go back to school to learn the basics. Online video tutorials such as Apple’s “Find out how” series show you all you need to know for basic editing.

For more professional editing, Final Cut Pro is now only $300. (It used to cost $1000).

5. Resize your videos without losing quality

You may have noticed that your video’s file sizes is very large. When you’re finished editing your video, you can custom export your files in your editing software, so that they’re at the image size and quality you need. The two image editors mentioned above even guide you on what quality to use for the web vs. a DVD, and so on. But if you have any older videos weighing down your hard drive, there are easy and free ways to compress them to a manageable size in order to free up space for more projects.

MPEG Streamclip (Mac or PC) is an excellent freeware editor/converter.

(Image courtesy of GigMasters)

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