What kind of computer and lighting do I need to record and edit video?
May 12, 2016 10:41 AM   Subscribe

What kind of computer and lighting (and recording devices) do I need to record and edit video?

I would like to know the minimum specs I need for a computer and lighting so I can get into making videos for my small business.

I have a small business and I'd like to use my iPad or iPhone to record short videos and then I would like to edit them (presumably on a computer). I am not looking to do anything extremely fancy. I just want to record nice-looking videos of 5-20 minutes in length, kind of like the decent-looking YouTube videos. I might also want to do webinars. I don't want it to look homemade, but I am just getting started and don't want to invest heavily, in case it is a bust. I'm just a small business.

I don't know what I need to set this up, in terms of a computer, recording device and lighting. I am in Canada, if that helps with referring me to stores. I was wondering how fast a computer I need. Right now, I have an older laptop and it kind of chokes if I try to edit a video in a trial version of Camtasia. (It is very, very choppy.) I don't have problems with streaming video.

Thanks in advance.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats to Technology (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The best light you can use for low-cost videos is sunlight. Find an area of your house or your office that gets sunlight that's bright, but not incredibly harsh. This will make the camera on your iPhone (if you're using that) pick up your features quite well. I make 3 YouTube videos per week, and I have yet to upgrade from my iPhone to a better camera, and the quality is so much better when you're well-lit.

If filming in front of your window is inconvenient, then you can use basic desk lamps, if they're positioned right, but that light tends to be a little yellow-ish, so I would recommend an inexpensive pair of umbrella lamps, which you can buy off of Amazon or elsewhere for about $60 for the pair. They're really easy to set up, and once you get the hang of it, you can light yourself during any time of day.

The main thing with the editing is that it takes up a LOT of your computer space, so make sure you have a good enough processor and enough free disk space to make your edits. Downloading the video, then editing it, then rendering & encoding can make your computer heat up like a stove, and it creates a ton of extra preview files that can quickly eat up all your disk space. Learn about scratch disks and get yourself a really large (in memory space) external drive you can fill up with your raw files and your edited videos, because you'll run out of room really easily.

As for editing, it's up to you how fancy you want to get. If you're just making basic cuts and graphics, then whatever comes with your computer (iMovie or Windows Movie Maker) should be fine. There are lower-cost software packages like Sony Vegas that you could use for intermediate stuff, or get the Adobe suite for more advanced editing. I love my Adobe Premiere, but it could be overkill for what you want to do.

Make sure the room is quiet when you film. An external mic is hard to work on a phone camera, but I do have a lav mike that connects via the earphone jack for my iPhone that works okay. For better recording, you may want to make investments, or you can record on another device and sync up the sound.

Mostly, be well-lit, try to make sure the sound isn't muffled (a quiet room and speaking loudly enough do wonders), edit subtly and learn how to do it so that the timing isn't weird and off-putting and be very clear about what you want to say and you'll be fine.
posted by xingcat at 10:55 AM on May 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

What people often overlook is that audio is about 80% (some say higher) of the video experience. You can hear a low budget movie without seeing a single frame.

If you want to ramp up the production value of your videos, pay attention to the sound.
posted by trinity8-director at 11:01 AM on May 12, 2016 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks. While I'm not tech illiterate, I should note that I do not know how to turn those recommendations into hardware. For example, how much hard drive space, memory, what kind of microphone. I'll try not to thread sit, but I thought I should just clarify that I can't quite make that leap. (I can, however, make the leap from umbrella light to products.)
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 11:10 AM on May 12, 2016

As far as computer specs go...
- What's your budget look like for this new computer?
- Do you have a stated preference between a desktop and a laptop?

It sounds like you'll be doing on the lighter end of video processing and encoding, so as far as CPUs go, I'd recommend either an i5- or i7- type processor – anything from the 4th through 6th gen should suffice just fine. Look to see whether you can find any CPUs that have an "M" at the end; these are especially good for performance. You'll find this a lot more commonly in desktop models and more rarely in laptops. The "U" series are meant for predominately lighter-weight operations... avoid if possible.

If you can, shoot for 8GB of RAM or more. You'll find this goes hand-in-hand with an i7-, and commonly is bundled with an i5-. Depending on your budget, you would notice 16GB of RAM to be an unequivocal improvement. In fact, I would make sure that your computer is upgradeable by visiting the Crucial upgrade checker website. You could perform this upgrade at any time.

Also, if possible, you'll want at least your operating system installed on an SSD (solid state drive/flash memory), as that would also be a big, big improvement to the snappiness and usability of your computer as a whole. If not, this is okay, too. Outfitting a desktop with this after purchasing would be very possible, whereas laptops are predominately single-drive'd under $1k USD. Shoot for at least 1TB onboard storage. You'll probably also want a multi-terabyte external USB3 drive for archival purposes.

A separate GPU (video card) would actually prove to be quite useful, depending upon the amount of editing and rendering you plan to be doing. Will these recordings typically be single-take, or multi-take stitched together with post-production?
posted by a good beginning at 11:22 AM on May 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Use a lav (clip on) mic with your phone, that will be good to start. Listen for ambient noises (refrigerators, A/C, cars/planes/kids, etc.) and try to minimize those.

My Canon Rebel SL1 shoots HD video at about 1 GB per 3 minutes of video, to give you an idea of how quickly video eats up drives and memory.
posted by trinity8-director at 11:27 AM on May 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

I managed the tech equipment for a bunch of videographers/photographers and reporters. The videographers shot video on high end cameras and had an Avid workflow (later Premier). The reporters shot on iPhones and used iMovie on a desktop (or the iPhones themselves).

It was often hard to distinguish the end products apart (as far as look, obviously a profession video or photo person will kickass over a reporter as far as composition regardless what corporate says).

I am a hobbyist. I use mostly prosumer gear.

You can get a light kit for about $100 and replace it as you get more involved (I now have full blown studio lighting).

Whenever I record I use tethered mics, but I shoot in a controlled environment. When I can't I use a field recorder and I replace my audio.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:56 AM on May 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

For many purposes, diffused and reflected light will be more pleasing than direct light. Think of the stereotypical umbrella reflector that you see photography studios using. Rather than aiming the light directly at the subject, it's aimed backwards at the reflector and bounced from a large surface (rather than the small one of the light) at the subject.

Examples of what different types of reflectors do.

Having light sources from both sides (or other variants of multiple angles) can have major effects as well. The basics of lighting haven't changed that much over the past few decades, so you can likely find a good book that covers to basics of lighting at your library or a used book store.

There's lots of basic kits that you can pick up to start experimenting with. They won't necessarily last all that long, but the ones from Cowboy Studio are cheap and enough to learn with and if this turns into a long term thing, you can upgrade to better gear. Any moderately sized camera store or Amazon carries them.
posted by Candleman at 1:05 PM on May 12, 2016

Response by poster: Thanks. This is all very helpful. Since you are suggesting the basic stuff on my computer for editing...I wonder if it is possible to do editing on my iPad? Just don't want to go buy something if it's possible my iPad or iPhone could be used....
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 5:04 PM on May 12, 2016

It's certainly possible to edit on the iPad, at least the newer models (I use mine for vlogs on YouTube). I shoot with my iPhone. Mini boom mic for better sound. The results are pretty good, especially if you have decent lighting. I use umbrella lights; the kits are cheap on Amazon. Even cheaper was my previous solution of clip lights from Home Depot.

The iPad does have some limitations. I do find that I have to clear out footage to make room for more. I would recommend having a desktop computer handy that has hard drive space to offload to.
posted by Eikonaut at 11:56 PM on May 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

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