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Filming on a Budget? 7 Cheap Equipment Tips and Picks Just for You

14 Min Read

You’re here – so we know you’re invested in video marketing and realize how valuable it is for your business. Sometimes the stars align and you can hire a video production agency like ours to help you create the high-quality video content you know your brand needs; sometimes you have to bootstrap it and film something yourself.

So what do you do when you’re trying to create your own beautiful, high-quality, affordable videos, but you’re on a tight budget? If you’re just starting out and can’t afford fancy equipment (or even an affordable agency like Lemonlight), there are still ways for you to get out there and put your video marketing strategy in action today. If indie filmmakers straight out of college can create films while living in their parents’ basements, you can too!

Here are the must-have tips, tricks, and go-to gear options for easy, quick, and cost-effective filmmaking!

Necessity #1 – Understand production.

Before we get into the gear, it’s important to understand the basics. If you aren’t caught up on how video production works, check out these handy links on each step of the process, from pre- to post-production:

Everything You Need to Know About Pre-Production
7 Must-Know Tips for Production Day Filming
7 Things You Need to Know About Video Post-Production

Creating a video for your business isn’t as simple as point-and-shoot, so knowing what to expect before embarking on your filmmaking journey will help you prepare on the cheap.

Necessity #2 – Use these upfront ways to save money.

The best way to start a cheap production is by preparing ahead of time. Here are some tips on how to save big during the pre-production stage:

  1. Get it write. Writing and planning out your ideas ahead of time by putting them in script format will help you visualize your video’s story. Most importantly, write with things that are easy for you to shoot in mind.
  2. Cast your team. Creating a video for your business, you don’t need to go out and hire professional actors. By working with your internal team, you can save money, and who knows, you might even have some talented superstars hiding in your ranks! Plus, you can try to find and tap into your employee’s personal passion for your company and channel it into a powerful testimonial.
  3. Shoot on location at your company. Don’t go out of your way to find some grandiose location to shoot your video just to get some gorgeous B-roll. Shoot your video local, on a location you control that you don’t have to pay anyone to use. Plus, you know your office, so you know what props you have on hand that can be used in the video as needed.
  4. Use your team as crew. Odds are, someone on your team is interested in photography, videography, or gadgets and gizmos aplenty. Find the team members who are the most excited and interested to learn a new skill and work with them to help create your video in-house. If you want to hire someone just to shoot the video, that’s fine too. But whenever possible, work internally. Crewing on set can offer a fun break from the typical day-to-day grind!

Necessity #3 – Get affordable camera gear, or gear work-arounds.

When you start looking into what type of gear you need to shoot your own videos, it becomes all too easy to wind up in a rabbit hole of amazing cameras and equipment. Even when on a budget, it’s tempting to want to spend big bucks to invest in the best gear possible. After all, isn’t this what the company credit card is for?!

Slow down – it’s 2019. You don’t need to shell out tens of thousands of dollars on “the best” camera equipment to make a good video. It’s actually never been more affordable to create stunning images on the cheap, and there’s more to a good-looking video than just the camera you use.

Here are some affordable alternatives to traditional video equipment:

Cameras

  • Your iPhone – It’s 100 percent possible to shoot high-quality footage entirely on your iphone, especially if you have the new iPhone X, and it’s definitely worth considering when on a budget. With lens, steadicam rig, and microphone attachments all available, there’s no reason why you can’t use an iPhone or Android to shoot perfectly good marketing videos.
  • Basic DSLR Cameras – Your videos don’t have to be in 4K to still look great. The last couple generations of DSLRs from Canon, Nikon, and more have had amazing video quality, and are still very popular with indie filmmakers. There are plenty of affordable DSLRs like the Nikon 1576 D5600, the Canon EOS 70D, and more under $1,000.
  • Low-Light Cameras – Low-light cameras have special sensors that help them take in more information with less light. This means you can spend less time and money on expensive lighting. The Panasonic LUMIX GH4 is a great low-light camera on the affordable side. On the expensive side, there’s the absolutely fantastic A7s II.

Camera Attachments

  • Tripods – Tripods can vary a lot in price (and quality), which is why it’s always good to do your research. Focusing specifically on Tripods for DSLRs, one of the best under $100 is the BONFOTO 671A Travel Aluminum Camera Tripod, or the AmazonBasics 60-Inch Lightweight Tripod. If you don’t need all that reach, you can get something more like the Patekfly 12 inch Flexible Camera tripod, which works with DSLRs or iPhones for under $25! Not cheap enough? You can always stack some books on a table, take a few practice shots to make sure your height and spacing are accurate, and start filming! You’ll get the stability you need without spending a dime – perfect for one-time filming on the fly.
  • Steadicam Rigs – Creating steady footage is a vital part of creating your own videos, but there are all kinds of steadicam rig options available. Some cheap ones include these $79 and $159 ones from Glide Gear. However, there’s actually a bunch of creative options for creating your own DIY steadicam rig. Check out a few, like the PVC stabilizer, Silver Flyer, Dual Shoulder rig, and others, courtesy of Premium Beat.
  • Lens – When shooting with DSLRs, the lenses are what you’re actually paying for. That’s why we recommend renting a lens package instead of buying your own. These rentals can still be expensive, so evaluate if you’ll be shooting enough content that it makes more sense to buy your own lens. If you are looking to buy your own, Lifewire has a great list of the best here.

Necessity #4 – Get affordable lighting.

Thanks to the magic of LED, lighting kits are finally both affordable and lightweight for the first time in the history of filmmaking. That doesn’t mean that every LED light kit is cheap, however. With so much variation in lighting setups and lighting styles, there’s no one-size-fits-all for what you’re trying to shoot, but there are a few resources to help.

For example, check out this $250 LED lighting kit you can create yourself from YouTuber DSLR Video Shooter:

You can certainly spend a lot more, or a lot less (like this LimoStudio lighting kit here), so do some research to figure out exactly what you need.

Alternatively, by shooting with a low-light camera, you reduce the need for using external lighting exponentially. For some tips on how to reduce “noise” (that grainy looking overlay that shows up when shooting in low light,) check out this video from YouTuber DSLRguide.

Necessity #5 – Don’t forget about sound.

Sound is one of the most overlooked aspects of video production, but it can really end up hurting you if it’s bad. That being said, when recording sound on a budget, there’s two main pieces of equipment you need.

First, you need an audio recorder. You can record audio either through your camera with an external mic, or with an external recorder, like this Zoom H4N Pro Handy Recorder.

Then, you’ll need an external mic. On the cheap side, you can go with something like $60 Audio-Technica ATR-6550 Condenser Shotgun Microphone. On the slightly more expensive side, you can get something like this Compact VMP Shotgun Mic by Rode.

With these two things, anyone on your internal team can quickly and simply record high quality audio.

Necessity #6 – Edit your video yourself.

The last way to save costs on the backend is to edit your video yourself. Editing software can be pretty expensive, so make sure you familiarize yourself with all the cheap and free editing software options available to you. Post-production can get expensive (audio-editors, VFX artists, color-correction specialists, and more) so the more you learn to do yourself between you and your team, the cheaper post-production can be. And don’t forget – even iMovie, which you can download free, can work in a pinch, plus it’s super easy to use.

Necessity #7 – Work with professionals when you can afford to.

If diving into DIY to-do lists, scouring Amazon for good gear deals, and pulling in favors from talented team members isn’t your idea of a good time, that’s OK. You don’t have to do it all yourself! You can still develop a strong video presence by shooting social content around your office on your iPhone, while you save up enough to work with a professional production agency like us. (But don’t worry – we come pretty cheap! Check out our pricing options here.) There’s no shame in calling in the pros when you can afford to, so don’t hesitate to reach out!

Conclusion

From production planning, to filming, to finding the right marketing software to promote and distribute your videos, video marketing can be expensive from start to finish. But, with the right tricks in your back pocket, you can save money in extraordinary ways you probably never expected. In the end, video marketing is too important to ignore, so do what you can to save money and you’ll see huge benefits come your way.

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