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Basic setup ideas for & Google video etc

Introduction: buy it cheap buy it twice...

    I had a very specific purpose for filming. This was not little 'happy' family shots. I wanted decent watchable clips 4 youtube. Good audio, decent visuals. As soon as possible. I knew nothing about video. The following took me hours and hours to learn and if it helps others learn it in less time then that's just fine and the purpose of me documenting this!! I was aiming to record spoken interviews/testimonies in relatively controlled environments.

    I write this in part, because as you will see, if you are serious, and the thing is going to work, and you've got some money, well you'd save some by buying to start with certain things that might seem excessive.

Starting cheap

  • microphone

      A decent microphone is a good idea. Inbuilt camera mikes (except v high end) generally catch camera noise or hum, besides which my target would be a distance from camera, and often other people would be around. The ideal is perhaps a wireless lavallier (tie mic). This is dear - to get a good one with good clear signal. Much more on this on .

      So I opted initially for much cheaper wired lavallier with brilliant signal. The ATR35S (Audio Technica) represents great value at £22, with a 20ft cable could often be plugged directly into camera or with a little extension cable, and no noticeable gain in noise. Got some really crisp audio.

      I found that people did trip over wire, or stumble as they talked, but this was unavoidable given our budget, and they understood graciously. It was sometimes thus slightly distracting and they would bang their chests sometimes (it sounds like a thump at least!). Another disadvantage is that it is mono and gave me a bit of interest in trying to get a stereo balanced output...

      Something to note with all mics is to be sure not to leave the battery in it whilst not using it. The battery will die quietly and by next time you use it may well simply not function or record really quietly. Wasted time, when simply removing battery and keeping it in case with mic will save this altogether. Also buy batteries in bulk - whether duracell (go for procell bulk deals - very very much cheaper than shops, and better), or button batteries, just get them in 10's, and always have them ready.

      I also found using the mic with both Canon MV890 and MD101 if it was plugged into the mains would get this horrible horrible static noise/buzz which made the whole recording totally unusable! Not a problem on my later camera. Some sort of earthing/grounding problem I guess.

  • camera

      I needed a camera, and to get good audio a mic input is invaluable. This massively limited the range to choose from. Which helped! I settled for a Canon MV890 £100 on eBay refurbished from their shop, had to return this to get it fixed, and wound up buying the equivalent newest one Canon MD101 (£200), cos I couldn't keep missing the video opportunities. And figured that a spare was no bad thing to have. The spare battery has been useful, and in trialing things, it has been reassuring & helpful to have two similar cameras.

      One thing I discovered, that is perhaps a unique Mac bug - if you have a firewire drive plugged this can really screw up the firewire recognition of your camera, and you may think a perfectly fine camera is ill. If tape plays back on your camera OK, then consider unplugging firewire attached devices and then replugging it. I found this error documented in only one place on the web, and thought I'd make it two!!! I really wasted a lot of time and lost a lot of hair over this!

  • tripod

      Necessary for the camera. I was filming people speaking and envisaged a fixed position camera level with people's heads. The Hama 63 sounded ideal for this, at an incredibly cheap price. This was OK, but sometimes people would actually move and you simply cannot pan this item smoothly, well, not very easily at all.

  • tapes

      For the Canon MD101 style camera's buy 10 packs of Sony Premium (budget!!! lol) from Amazon for £10 a pack. Buy 2 or whatever your needs. But this is the cheap as chips way, use once, maybe twice, but not beyond - so cheap you can afford just once. Don't write reliably second time, lost video cos of this - used a second time and didn't play back properly.

  • editor

      It is fair to say that working in the field of Information Technology I was fairly blessed. As chief buyer for my company when a deal came up that 'buy a new computer and get Final Cut Express HD 3.5 for £100 off' at £69 it was a fairly simple decision what I did the next time I bought a computer. I had talked to some boys about this, and FCE offers massive advantages over iMovie (oh yes, I'm an Apple afficiando), particularly with iMovie 8. So there it is.

      Now, I would say it took 200 hours of pain to learn how to use FCE & the other progs it came with, but it is a skill (once learnt) and, in this information media rich age, increasingly useful... I could not do without it, it comes with LiveType, a brilliant program for quality text stuff, and SoundTrack for putting together the audio stuff.

      FCE has great capabilities used on our every video for improving colour, lighting & contrast after the event.

  • computer

      I initially did this on my laptop, but you need screen real estate for video work, so I very soon had a 19" monitor attached to this. They are now cheap at £85 from eBuyer (Hanns G DVI is good value 1280x1050 at this price - but seems to have gone up - DVI useful cos you can better guarantee colour accuracy. And trust me, to mess with your video colour getting it *perfect* only to find your monitor was the problem can be frustrating). The Samsung 22", V7 20" 4:3 are both nice ones I've used for a bit more.

      The laptop could do this stuff, but max out the RAM at the very least to 2GB or so. Space becomes an issue if you want to keep original files and any music etc.

      God graciously provided a bankrupt company, and we got some Mac Pro's on the cheap, with four drives bays, and power, and ram space, these are the ideal upgradeable-at-your-leisure-economy video editing machines. Many nights now my computer has been working full scale throughout the night. I now have two screens one above the other

  • broadband

      You cannot discuss video work regarding Youtube and Google without considering Broadband, and bethere have so excelled themselves in this department from my perspective both at home and at work that I cannot but give a comment on it. Non stop connection at 120kilobytes/s upload, and between 600k and 1.7MB download. No competition. You do need phat connection if you are going to be regularly uploading high quality vids. Find out from Sam Knows broadband exchange search who you've got providing broadband services in your hood, and if you've got BE, then know that as of 2007 there is no competition.

Pretty solid

    Right, well lots of reasons started moving us on to better bits and bobs, and it was probably in the order microphone, lights, camera & tripod... let me explain

  • microphone

      The microphone issues were a growing pain. People trying to use them, do they hold them put em in their pocket, trip over them, etc. I couldn't justify going the extra distance of £300/400 for the pukka wireless lavallier1, so I went down the Rode Videomic route, having read lots of good stuff about it from experienced users of shotgun mics on panasonic3ccd et al. To quote Guy Bruner the don, "The RODE Videomic is the value choice for shotgun audio under $300."2 Check full Rode Videomic review.

      I mount this on a tripod near speaker, and it picks them up beautiful, hands free, they don't have to worry about any wires, just not move to far from it... Has its own deadcat, can be boom pole mounted, camera shoe mounted, so I knew it had future options open and at £62 it wasn't going to break the bank. I wish I had got this first off, but hey!

      Tried this on Wednesday and wasn't sure how it was going, so went with onboard camera in end. Got messy audio. So tested the creature properly this time. Video footage of test, highest quality audio, 8MB.

  • lights


      A friend, after looking at our videos, said, "Hey, you could do with some lights, they'd really improve things." Yeah, after looking at things, lighting is really significant. Don't mess! I went down the budget route as per usual and got two 5400k daylight soft box (40x60cm) lights from ebay for £140 delivered or so...

      We used these in our last meeting, a bit difficult, tends to glare and distract individual from seeing crowd, nonetheless, combined with green/blue screen3 (at £50 + £50 for dodgy eBay wide frame - you will need one if you use it, but maybe a better one, and a full on green hanging, rather than just collapsible job) allowed us to do this video. Obviously we've still used FCE's ability to improve brightness and image, but the lights surely helped to improve contrast and colour a whole lot.

      On reflection, I think I would NOT [*edit after even more reflection*] seriously consider getting a couple of 'redheads' instead, or three - though substantially more expensive - as you might be able to place these further away, and have less glare, and be less intrusive in front of any meetings etc. Will let you know progress on this one. But in a totally controlled solo interview environment where you can utilise natural daylight too, these are great lights, and all you need.

      Can let you know progress on the redhead front: you can get them cheap - BuyBuyEasy sell 3x800W lights, bulbs, stands, barn doors, local plug adaptors & one carry case for £118 + £88 p&p. This is amazing. I'm glad I didn't see deal when I was buying cos on reflection that's like having a kettle going for ages, and will heat a room up and blind people too! I got away with running my two day light 85W (500W equiv) lights throughout a two hour meeting without any real blinding or heat issues. Great stuff. Lovely light, I don't need to faff about with gels also. But if you want redheads don't let price put you off! Though these may not have flood/focus options - their 'continuous adjustment' maybe a euphemism for dimming or something else rather than focus. Besides you'll need softboxes for these to use them in normal interviews I reckon...

      Here is my ideal now, after more investigation...

      [everything bar the lights are from Photoskill - very efficient delivery and high quality of goods, and no he hasn't paid me]:

      • 2 x 85W 5500k bulbs @ £36 delivered off eBay... [brighter than PhotoSel's, but one downer about these relative to PhotoSel's - they come in very fragile polystyrene, whereas PhotoSel's came in rock solid two piece polystyrene cases which I'll need for transporting the bulbs...]
      • 2 x 2m, 2.5kg @ £23 the pair
      • 1 x 3m, 6kg stand @ £25 for 45° keylight on a standing person?
      • 2 x PS 4017 umbrella ES27 lamp holders @ £16 [comes with UK plugs, unlike some Chinese imports - for which I had to buy shaver adaptors from B&Q, still cheap though - let me just say about these bulb holders, cos scopescan offers a good deal too 85W bulb + bulb holder delivered at £30.30 - the ones i got from China don't fit as well as Photoskills which *snugly* fit the light fittings on his stands, it is minor in truth, but a detail in favour of getting from mainly one source.]
      • 2 x PS 4039 Octagonal 100cm softbox @ £32.50 the pair - these are just the bomb - they provide 3.3 times the surface area of the little 40x60cm softboxes provided4 I will put a little vid up of them in time, but suffice it to say, I bought a cheap lux meter from ebay [look for lux meter] and compared these with my 60x40 softboxes and they do very nicely thank you. Also seeing one light up my whole room in a way the other didn't... Nice soft light source. Want Octagonal soft box, but can't afford the space to keep it up (in car or at hom), or the time to set it up and take it down every time? This brolly has to be the way forward. Silver reflective inside.
      • PS 4009 Kit bag, 1.2metres long, holds the 3 metre stand, a 2m one, two brollies, and two light fittings comfortably - bulbs seperately. £16

      Photoskill charges a flat £10 for delivery, however many items, so total cost [excluding the 3 metre stand which is a luxury]: £133.50 (inc p&p). A cracking and superior set up to the one I first bought - the set up from Photosel...

      I also bought other stuff off this guy:

      • PS4058 tripod bag, also intelligently padded/lined, comfortably fits my Velbon DV7000, would fit a bigger one. £14
      • PS 4005 - a counterbalanced boom for overhead miking/microphones or getting my 45° key light on speaker - put light over near crowd etc.

      On reflection wish I'd got PS 4008 off him, instead of cheaper chinese import - but it cost £50 or so - significantly better spec, goes higher, more variable width, has serious tubing [34.5mm max diameter] - the one I got from China bent in middle with a simple reversible blue/green screen...!!

  • camera

      I needed a better camera. We had hopes of putting our stuff to DVD at some point, but our current video quality was just not there really. Plus low light operation was quite common as we couldn't afford 3 redheads, or always set them up in recording situations. And effective green screening would be much improved by a really good image grab in the first place, with good colour. To all these problems a better camera seemed the way forward.

      As I watched the market for some time, I held out hopes for AVCHD to come to rapid fruition and HDD recording to be the way forward. However, it really did seem that for price point for a few years HDV would be well ahead, and AVCHD might not be the longterm HDD format anyway. So while I eventually intend to switch to it, the Canon HV20 seemed an impossibly obvious choice in the light of the following reviews:

      This camera has mic in, headphones out, so I can know immediately if mic battery is dead, if audio is good. Audio gain also for similar reasons. The 25P recording is meant to be brill in low light too. OH, goodness, praise God, I've just found out its 'Instant Auto Focus' - a great fear of mine - is in fact meant to be well ahead of its peers, especially in challenging low light. So much less worries on that score. Simple point and shoot, whatever the light. All this ting make me buy it... (oh, and the fact that it was the cheapest in its range!!!)

  • tripod

      Much debate about tripods. Basically absolutely essential to have a relatively 'fluid head' for smooth panning should you *ever* plan on moving the camera whilst filming. The alternative is an ugly jerkiness guaranteed by still tripods such as the Hama etc. Whilst wading through the enormous amounts of available literature, I became aware that camera weight was a huge issue. A tripod review from someone with a 3kg camera, light & mic says is just right, and unbelievably smooth, is absolutely useless for someone like me who chose a 450g camera and was not planning to have an attached light or mic. In fact, it told me that probably it would be much to stiff.

      With the minaturiasation of technology and thus the increasing lightness of cameras, you need to look for cameras designed for exactly your weight. The tripod that was perfect for the heavy camera of yesterday may just be way too stiff for the camera of today and so you'll still get that ugly jerk at beginning of pan.

      After looking at many threads relating to my chosen camera (I figured people who had invested in such a camera would have equally seriously contemplated tripods), I came down towards the Velbon DV7000, particularly when I saw it available at a mere £69. Purportedly 'really smooth' alternatives all seemed to be in the £300/400 region and for heavier cameras than I was using. I feared this was going to be another case of 'buy it cheap buy it twice', but thought at that price I had to try it, I was finally persuaded by this brilliant thread and Velbon DV7000 demo movie. Totally sold on trying it at least. Tomorrow will be first day, I don't have to pan often, but sometimes.

      Right, used it now, and on reflection, i might have spent a little more on a Manfrotto 390RC2 head, which I tried (using another HD cam) at a local MBU (Meeting for Better Understanding - not inter-faith compromise - between Muslims and Christians). Definitely a bit smoother than the Velbon DV7000 which does jerk a little mostly if you are only trying to move it very very slowly. Though it worked very well for one of my more lively *targets* (ha ha! she is a great lady).

  • tapes

      Bulk tapes once again. Having read boys on this one, some people say HDV can suffer frame etc drop outs, so get decent tapes, and then you can reuse and they not fade away etc. So I just decided better safe than sorry. Each time you set up its an effort. Time and stuff, people - unique opportunities, I ain't wanting to damage them for want of a couple of quid. So I got these JVC Pro HDV tapes recommended on one of the forums I read.

Comments & Tricks

  • Buying tips, from hindsight!

      Let's assume you have a computer. It will do (maybe, if it is a Mac, but I hear there are OK editing progs for PCs). Else get the family to buy one!

      If I were to start again, first off I would get:

      • Canon MD101 £150 (not a bad camera by any means, especially with good light, and will still have value as a spare should you upgrade)
      • 2*500W (equiv) soft box daylight lights £130 (you can, of course, get by without these, you'll get OK quality, film outside, using the softbox of a bright cloudy day or so!!)
      • Rode VideoMic £62 (save the money on the wired lavallier which will do your nut in time)
      • Final Cut Express HD £170
      • some tapes, batteries, mic extension cables £35

      Total initial recommended expenditure: £550

      You can mostly find an old bust up but tolerable static tripod, and that will do for the camera for most interviews, lectures etc, and find another one for mounting the Rode VideoMic near speaker. Thus the more fluid tripod is an optional luxury for those on a real budget. As and when you have money to upgrade I would do so in this sort of order:

      • Velbon DV7000 £70
      • Canon HV20 £580
      • 3 Redhead set £600?? at best
      • Wireless lavallier £300/400 ha ha
  • Youtube & Google settings

      I always use multi-pass best encoding settings where possible. If aiming for a large audience your computer churning for an extra few hours is minor compared to thousands of hours spent watching by audience. Ho ho, no longer true! I just upload solid files for google (i get 200kb [yes kilobytes] per second upload with BePro Annex M), and divX for youtube is so much better at first pass [than the previous mpeg4's i'd been using], that i figured what's the point in a second pass. I can't notice the difference, and the time it takes!!

      google video recommended settings

        According to google answer.

        Quality Recommendations:

        If possible, we suggest uploading the original source file. However, we recommend the specifications below for maximum quality and reasonable file size:

      Youtube video recommended settings

        According to google answer.

        We recommend the following settings:

        • MPEG4 (Divx, Xvid) format - apparently there is movement (courtesy apple iPhone pressure) towards h.264 which is a better compression format... but hitherto have experienced grey problems as with google, so stick to non h.264 forms
        • 320x240 resolution (they now recommend 640x480)
        • MP3 audio (I use AAC, 64k, mono, best encoding)
        • 30 frames per second

        A guy who recommends h.264, but like i said start I found to be a bit ill with grey stuff - to do with keyframes apparently.

        I recently, as of videos from December 7th 2007 (first one), have been using the DivX format. What can i say. Soooo much superior. I'd been using the Canon HV20 for all videos from 25th October 07 (check this one). Not too much difference, especially considering the extra visual info in that last one... but still i think DivX rocks now and only use that - partly because i can make it make files exactly 100MB easily, but chiefly cos youtube seems to process them in about half the time. Or less. A tenth of the time. It doesn't seem to need to do half as much work. And this is nice.

  • Canon HV20 HDV 25P Final Cut Express HD settings

      Partly I write this just to keep my head screwed on with the settings!

      4:3

        This is the best format for Youtube and Google at present. 640x480 & 320x240. However, you are filming in 16:9.

        Just recorded my first ever HD footage, and boy was it an improvement. Since my main purpose is to record for Youtube and Google and at the moment they like 4:3, 640x480, I just see the 1920x1080 as being a good way of getting spare footage in case my subject moves whilst I'm not clocking it, and i've got room to play with. Also in order to get really crisp 640x480 its good to have shot it above that, so i can zoom in if necessary and not lose any quality.

        Was at a bit of a quandry as to how to do it, and after numerous trials discovered that if I altered aspect ratio to -25 (under 'motion' tab and 'distort' of the video) I was away - change the display setting to NOT 'show as square pixels' in main viewer. When you export for Youtube and Google you can then totally ignore the 'preserve aspect ratio' setting, which has always totally baffled me!!! ;)

      16:9

        The straight rapid exporting of a Quicktime movie uncompressed from which to make a DVD will not convert properly into a DVD with good aspect ratio (with above settings). Something to do with Canon HV20's system 1440x1080 => 1920x1080 I believe and the mashed up alterations i made to get my 4:3 easy set up for Google etc.

        The ideal solution I was after was to have a widescreen shot, from which I can cut my 4:3 Youtube stuff, and also then the DVD max quality. I do not believe this is possible with Final Cut Express, without chaning the settings for all video, which is fine if you only have one segment, more complex if you have many...

        I've now reached the conclusion (btw please contact me if you are further down the path towards an optimum solution) that you'd need different sequences really for 4:3 & 16:9. Though you can merrily produce a 16:9 from your 4:3 set up by *zooming* in, you cannot do it by just 'regaining' the sides. This is done by exporting as quicktime movie and choosing 1920x1080, maintain aspect ratio 'crop' (i.e. chop the excess, whether in height or width, but let it fill the chosen area yet keep its aspect ratio). To get maxed out footage for DVD i'll export as 1440x1080 (with settings 4:3 as above) so I'll wind up with 4:3 footage. Jibberish really, I doubt its useful to anyone, when I understand it better, I will rewrite it! ;)

  • What am i thinking about for the future!

      on the audio front

        A really nice wireless audio recording set up... X2 XDS95 is recommended?

        Perhaps the Sennheiser WE 112 P G2 Evolution, better price? The G2 100 series uhf also gets good reviews, as do Azden but US only - or am I wrong - is it ebay to the rescue again with AZDEN 100LT UHF Wireless Lapel Microphone System, but this gets a bad review - loss of signal if *any* object in between.

        Here is a guy talking admittedly from 1999 where prices were higher:

        Somebody else will mention Samson, Nady, Azden, Low -end Audio Technica, or Radio Shack for that matter . . . same thing . . . even their cheapie UHF systems. Once again, there are better places to save money, audio is NOT one of them. If you don't have the bucks to play, save your pennies until you do. I was unfortunate enough to learn this on a job 1100 miles from the studio which cost airfare, hotel, etc. (for two) and the $500 wireless system I was assured (by joe-blow semi-pro) would be good enough . . . was wrong. Figure out what that deal cost me :>(

        John Beech, Professional Wireless mic

        Now of the Sennheiser diversity mics it is said that they have brilliantly brought the price down of good audio that used to cost $2000 plus, so reckon he is about right from all comments I read. Just got to check if they can deal with objects in between.

        or portable device and just sync it? given issues below...

        In HDV mode, the HV20 records 16 bit MPEG-1 Layer 2 (MP2) audio, while in DV mode it records 16 or 12 bit PCM audio. This is the HDV audio conundrum: HDV video is four times the resolution of DV, but PCM is superior to MP2. MP3 audio (a compression of PCM) has a higher sound quality than MP2 because it has a greater scope of sub-bands that reduce the bit-rate while pumping up the clarity. MP2 utilizes frequency masking, which compares levels of frequency and drops the channels not discernibly perceptible to the human auditory system. The bottom line is that MP2 sound is like an unkempt, rusty old '84 Pontiac while PCM sound is like a well-oiled, tuned up '84 Pontiac. Not a monumental difference, but enough to drive the sound guy up the wall.

        Wikidot Canon HV20 review

        This has led me to think that a really portable thing for my speaker to have on them, with tie mic... M-Audio Microtrack 24/96 II seems the best so far, but a bit more miniaturisation i'm sure will occur in the next 5 years, but how do i wait till then! This seems the best option, however, atm... Then I could get my lapel mic into use again as a back up, or a primary audio source since owing to above HDV/HV20/MP2 recording there will possibly be some audio issues if i use HV20 as primary. We'll see tomorrow, 4.11.07, when i first use Rodemic on tripod at 10meters or so to record...

        This voice recorder beast from Sanyo looks like it could change the field - much more what i'm after... - then a guy pointed out the Sansa e280 8GB and the Sansa 16GB view

        The question then is what lapel mic to use? Giant Squid gets good recommendations for value.

        some say overhead mic

        advantages: could do permanent attachment to ceiling/cross bar - no lumbering of weighty items around:

      lights & lighting accessories

        The stands for the excellent lights were weedy and don't go high, so I'm thinking of some sturdier build ones from Indikit professional, who boast in the details of their frame weights, sizes, and solidness. I also might get a couple of extra lights... (from the previous guy, i like their non-hotness, easy electricity and value... though i don't like the flimsy insecure light fitting bits!).

        Thought i'd get weird mount like thing to attach a light to a roof bar as a permanent fixture for a 'key' light in the meeting room i use, and a tripod bag for my Velbon DV7000, though may not bother with that - these seemed to be the guys for that: Mr Studio One.

        Just looked at large Octagonal soft boxes, on the cheap - and they seem good to judge by a youtube review. But then I read you need the space to store or time to assemble. And that is true - I don't bother disassemble my little lights cos small enough, and I've a big room. So then I read some guy saying shoot through umbrellas are the way forward for speed of assembly in terms of diffuse lighting. Am reading up on it now, here is an ebay review on the soft box or umbrella 4 studio light conundrum.



footnotes