VIDEO MAXIMUS Part 3: The Video Production Hardware Checklist

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This is part 3 in a 7-part series of articles examining how a nonprofit organization with a small staff and limited budget can successfully delve into video, and utilize it in a variety of powerful ways to achieve multiple goals. See if it doesn’t get you thinking about Video Production for your organization. Access the previous entry here.

GETTING STARTED – EQUIPMENT

When your nonprofit is seriously thinking about utilizing the power of video, one of the first and very important stages you will encounter is the budget. This will, of course, be based upon the type of equipment you will need. This installment of the series focuses on that area.

Equipment

Let’s talk about what kind of equipment is required to produce video that can be used for all your organization’s needs. There is one principal factor that will determine the type of camera you need, and that is the resolution. If you are only going to use video online (such as on YouTube, to reference on your website, in your newsletters, and on your social media channels), then you do not need high resolution video, and a cheaper camera will be suitable. But if you are going to require high resolution video – say, for example, for the production of a film about your organization that you plan to show on a big screen – then you will need a camera that can film in high resolution.* Remember, as we discussed earlier, you might want to make this type of “presentational” video at year’s end, utilizing the “representational” videos you produced throughout the year. In that case, then even the “representational” videos would need to have been filmed in high resolution, in order to be utilized in the later “presentational” film.

Your video production system will likely need to include the following items:

  1. A video camera. For standard definition purposes, a standard home camcorder is sufficient. For my company, I use this camera.   Purchasing a backup battery can be helpful.
  2. Yes, camcorders come with built-in microphones, but they often do not produce quality audio. Audio is arguably more important than video – if you can clearly see the speaker, but can’t quite make out what they are saying, the video is useless. For external mics, a shotgun style microphone that mounts on top of the camera and can be aimed at a speaker is usually adequate. Sometimes you might want to invest in additional microphones, such as wireless clip mics. The primary mic I use is this one.
  3. A tripod.
  4. A laptop computer.
  5. A still camera (optional).
  6. An Internet connection.
  7. Video editing software.

Comments on Equipment

For cost-conscious nonprofits, the investment in equipment causes the greatest trepidation. But bear in mind that the organization usually already has a laptop computer and some kind of still camera (even a cell phone) – and may even already own the camera equipment. Also, the venues you are working in usually already provide an internet connection. So there are often only a few items that need to be purchased, namely the camera, mic, tripod and software.

Cameras need not be terribly expensive. Mine was over $700 but there are high-definition camcorders on the market for less than $200.

Also, when it comes to both still and video cameras, I urge you to consider how often you will utilize this equipment and the images they produce. I have seen many companies try to save on cameras, buying something that was already low-end and on sale. In short order, the camera becomes obsolete or breaks and is not under warranty, and becomes useless. I’ve seen organizations miss prime photo/video opportunities because they didn’t have a camera, were relying on borrowing a camera from someone, or trying to use the video from an old cell phone that’s output is unusable. No, in terms of digital image production, this is an area where you should feel comfortable about making an expenditure on something that will serve the organization well over a significant period of time.

Don’t be intimidated by the immense and complicated cameras you see media and videographers using. Even using a simple camcorder and a decent little microphone, you will discover that your video quality is perfectly fine.

In terms of software, there are many video editing programs available, at varying prices. I use a program called VideoPad Video Editor, which is available at well under $100. Most video editing programs work in the same way (with similar interfaces), which will be discussed later.  Likewise, the usefulness of a laptop computer (vs. desktop) will become apparent in future installments of this series.

Learn the Hardware

If you are buying anything new (such as a camera or even a tripod), I suggest taking the time to read the manual and experiment with it so that you become comfortable with it prior to using it. It really helps you achieve more professional results when you feel like a professional in terms of simply setting up the equipment, and using it. But it’s also worth noting that, as you use the equipment and begin filming events, you will become increasingly comfortable with and confident in what you’re doing, and the work becomes increasingly easy, and even enjoyable.

 

* Also, bear in mind that higher-resolution video files are very large and can be difficult to manage on antiquated computers, so the organization will need access to at least one higher-end computer for the purposes of video editing.

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The articles in this series, and others relating to nonprofit social media, can be accessed at http://www.socialnet-works.co/blog/.

My company is called SocialNet Works, LLC, & our motto is “Helping Faith-Related Nonprofits Gear for Growth through Social Media.” We provide all of the video services described in this series, as well as offer training to in-house staff on the same practices.

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