Most often I get the email from younger folks (man did I just make myself sound like I am in my 80′s) asking “how do I get started?”. Usually these emails contain a youtube link to something they made as well as a list of equipment that they can get their hands on. Most commonly it seems, it is a Go Pro and the family Mac computer. This actually is a decent starting point.
Although I am really against people making 10 minute long Go Pro videos, the price tag of one and the quality of it is so unreal, it is kind of a no brainer. And with iMovie you can actually make some pretty decent stuff. It just requires that you get to know the software inside and make it do what you want to do. But what about the person starting from scratch? Well, this opens a lot of doors…and the only advice I can give (since technology moves so fast, any gear I post here will be outdated in week anyways) is what I did.
I was VERY lucky that my girlfriend back when I started saw how much fun I was having making videos on my little digital camera. She got me a new HD Camcorder for my birthday and from there it was on. I had been in technology enough to know of decent PC based editing apps and got Sony Vegas. This was back when HD was kind of a newer thing for camcorders and I had a lot of fun running around town shooting things and making little videos out of them. It was far from professional per say – but I was having fun and that is the point of all of this anyways…
So for the newbie with nothing, I would suggest going to your local electronics place, ebay, or amazon and find a decent camcorder on sale – you can get a good HD one these days for under $500 – it is pretty unreal. I like Sony’s for beginners because they make their menus easy to use and figure out. But I am also a HUGE Panasonic fan on their pro side – I have not used their smaller consumer camcorders. The other wrinkle in today’s market is – do I get a DSLR or a Camcorder? That is a tough one. I would actually suggest the camcorder to get used to the idea of shooting video only. Also, the DSLR will add additional costs with lenses for the camera. In the DSLR world, the quality of the image is not sensor dependent, but more so on the glass on the end of the body. So get a regular camcorder for just starting out – you can save up later for a full DSLR to expand the creativity.
The most important thing in all of this is actually your software. Because really that is where you will be spending all of your time in doing video. Ok maybe a comfy chair too.
For us MAC folks there are a lot of options – iMovie (which came with your Mac), Final Cut X, and Adobe Premiere. And those are listed in order of price. Final Cut X is about $300, while the Adobe product is closer to $1000 for a suite. Now for the person starting out, I would not get the big old Adobe suite. It would be overkill for starters. You can probably find Adobe Premiere Elements which is the “light” version of the pro app for about $200 and has an upgrade option to the bigger suite. It will allow you go get used to the basic controls of a non-linear editor.
Final Cut X is a good app that I have hardly used, but some friends are moving to it and actually get to like it. Lots of studios have moved to it and it is gaining some popularity after a rough start. It is called iMovie on steroids because it has pro features built in. If you are familiar with iMovie this this app will be easy to learn. Otherwise – why spend money? your MAC came with a limited non-linear editor built in that you can use ! iMovie is used by a lot of people I know for basic video editing and it has cool little backgrounds and text tools built in that are easy to use.
PC folks have more options – and really get more bang for their buck in hardware. Sony has a great suite of products for PC editing. Like I said I started on Vegas, and they also have “light” version of it called Movie Studio – for $170 you can get everything you need to make professional looking videos uploaded directly to youtube, etc.. the ONLY problem with PC editing I had was the render times were crazy – I am talking hours and hours. Mac’s just seemed to do this faster. But a PC based editing system can be as much as half as less as a Mac. For PC there is also Adobe Premiere Elements, a great intro to the Adobe Suite and another easy to use application. Also for PC you can opt for the higher end stuff like Avid – and I hear they have a light version as well for $299. Avid is used by a lot of production houses so it may be an option if this is REALLY something you want to do beyond a hobby
For info you may check out these resources:
Another nice compact Camcorder from Panasonic that is full HD - My favorite from Panasonic for starting out
My fav Consumer Sony Camcorder – I love this CX series, I had one for ages and it has always produced very good quality images- comparable to my 7D and other DSLRs
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