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