Low-Cost Hi-Def video gear list

Canon VIXIA HF200 camera test. Be sure to click on the hi-def setting!

Low-Cost Hi-Def video gear list:

I was pretty amazed at how little I needed to spend to put together a gear setup for hi-def filmmaking. What I usually do is get to something late, when the prices have come down, instead of being a first adopter. This setup would have cost about ten grand a few years ago.

First of all is the Canon VIXIA camera. They list for $1100 bucks, but I found one for $433 (NOW $289!) on Amazon. (If that package sells out, there are other places selling them on Amazon for a few dollars more.) This thing is unbelievably small, but shoots hi-def, and is capable of getting a really good look and sound if you take care with the setup.

Next thing you need is a good microphone. This one is amazing for the price, and it’s what I used in the camera test above….The Audio-Technica ATR-35S Lavalier Microphone. $17 on Amazon.

You’ll also want to get a 3.5mm Stereo Male to 3.5mm Mono Female Adapter. It doesn’t produce stereo sound (you don’t WANT stereo sound for dialogue in a movie, even Hollywood records talking in mono), but it will record your mono mic as two tracks of mono, rather than one track, which will save you a lot of pasting and panning in the editing. Here’s one for five dollars.

If your camera does not come with a tripod, I recommend this one from Polaroid, $17.58 on Amazon. It folds down and fits snugly in the included soft carrying case.

For a larger memory card, I recommend this, SanDisk Extreme HD Video 16 GB SDHC Class 6 Memory Card (you’ll need at least Class 4 to do hi-def video, and Class 6, the highest class, is the best.) $64.05 (now $30!) on Amazon. Holds over an hour of hi-def video, or nearly two hours at the second-highest camera setting, which is the setting I prefer. It still looks great, and is easier to edit and takes less rendering time.

I’d recommend getting a second battery, since they only last about an hour before needing recharging (you charge them in the camera). Get the BP-809, $55.14 (now $40) on Amazon.

Finally, you’ll need something to safely carry your camera in. I got an aluminum briefcase for $25.69 on Amazon. I took out the compartments and simply put foam in there. Cut it to where it holds everything snugly without squishing things.

So far we’ve spent a paltry $625 bucks (if you order all this together on Amazon, shipping should be free.) If you already have a computer with at least four gigs of RAM, you should be able to edit a FEATURE-length film with this setup.

The Vixia camera comes with a disc that has some video editing software on it, but it’s not very robust, more for editing short YouTube videos than feature films. For feature films I recommend Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 (which I already had). $750 (now 500_ here. Not cheap, but it’s the best there is. You can get it for Windows or Mac, and it runs fine on Windows 7, which is what I have.

For really serious editing of feature-length films (like my latest), you’ll want two external hard drives. I recommend these, the Cavalry CAXM Series 1TB. Connects via USB 2, but also includes much-faster eSATA connections, if your computer can handle that. (Mine can, but I had to hook it into the motherboard with the included breakout ports.) on Amazon.


The Vixia takes good stills too.

All in all, a great little camera, and if you want one, I’d recommend you get one before they sell out.

–Michael W. Dean

How we made a distributed hi-def feature film in 4 months for $2350


Click above image to see the budget for “Guns and Weed, the Road to Freedom“.


The director is the author of the book $30 Film School. We recommend it. It has almost everything we know on how to make a movie….Though that movie was written about miniDV, not hi-def, but most of the info is the same. For an update on the hi-def info we used to make Guns and Weed, check out this blog post by Michael Dean, “Lo-cost Hi-def video gear list“, which covers gear and software used.We also learned a bit (including how to do animations and greenscren, which we’d never done before) from the good guide Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 Classroom in a Book.  (I already had Premiere, got it free from Adobe as a review copy.)
This book also helped us with learning to color correct. We did that ourselves, as well as the sound mix, and the book gave us good tips on in-program audio compression and EQ. It also taught us all we needed to know about outputting for hi-def delivery to our distributor, outputting to DVD for promo copies, and outputting hi-def cleanly for both iPad and for YouTube.

Here’s a post by Michael Dean called Secrets of Home Recording (Including “How to soundproof your home studio for under ten bucks”), which has information on the recording techniques we used for the music and voiceover, and here’s another post if you’re on a budget. The sultry narration for the film was done by Michael’s wife, DJ.

The entire film was made for $2350, including the hi-def camera, in a period of just over four months. Here’s an interview with Michael and Neema about some of the specifics of how that all worked.

Bus-proof liberty – Michael Dean After Dark radio archive


Thin libertarians Chandler St. Pierre and Michael W. Dean tell you how and why to make your own media and change the world, right from where you’re sitting right now, for free.

(Photo of Dutch Feen fan Mart vacationing in Malta with homemade Guns ‘n’ Weed t-shirt)

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The Thin Libertarianism Diet – Michael Dean After Dark radio archive


Michael W. Dean talks about “How to lose 50 pounds of ugly statism in a single night!”, libertarian trading cards, libertarian hero worship, and the many confusing types of libertarians that apparently now exist. Michael isn’t sure what kind he is, nor does he care. Randy England helps sort it all out, Michael still says “I DON’T KNOW WHAT THAT IS!”

Download free Michael’s libertarian self-help/time management book, A User’s Manual For The Human Experience.

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