$1K Web Video Studio – For the blogger on a budget

Almost daily I get emails asking for my recommendation on the best budget video studio equipment. I hear from beginners, itching to get going on YouTube. They need to be in front of the camera, teaching or demonstrating their products and talking about their services.

Maybe you have the same question?

The essential items you need in your video studio are:

  • Camera
  • Lights
  • Microphone
  • Backdrop

In this post I’ll give you my recommendations for setting up your video studio with the gear listed above, for under $1000.

This video studio gear is good for:

Is $1000 budget still too much?

If $1000 is too much then maybe a studio setup is not for you. Creating camera videos does require an investment in gear.

There are other ways to make videos for YouTube and teaching that don’t involve a studio setup, such as explainer videos, screen capture videos, and web cam videos. If you aren’t ready for the studio, try these other ways. I use a mixture of all the video methods for my blogging and teaching, and you can see examples of each on my YouTube channel.

Because of my background in photography, I concentrated on the camera video method first, and I’ve learned a lot since shooting my first video in 2010, which is embarrassingly crappy. If you look hard enough you can still find it. I didn’t have the best setup then. I was using a handycam, no external mic, no backdrop and I was shooting indoors with window light. But, even this crappy first video has over 10,000 views, proving that providing valuable content is what matters most!

The best kind of video camera

If you’re shooting video, and you are working alone, you need a camera that has:

  • a flip around screen, so you can see yourself when filming
  • true auto focus that follows you when you move around — most dSLR cameras don’t have this, so they are hard to work with
  • an external microphone input jack
  • adjustable white balance and exposure settings

My camera recommendation is the Panasonic Lumix G6 with the included 14-42mm kit lens for under $600 on amazon.com.

[Update August 2015] If you have a bit more room in your budget, consider the newly released Panasonic Lumix G7. The G7 has all the features of the G6, and also captures 4K Video.

I’ve written a blog post and created a detailed video about different types of videos cameras for bloggers and teachers. Read it here.

Panasonic Lumix G6, is still the best entry level web video camera
Panasonic Lumix G6, is still the best entry-level web video camera for the price

Oh, and don’t forget a good memory card for your camera.

  • I recommend a 32GB card with a Class 10 U3 rating.
  • You want fast recording and transfer speed, and good value. A 32GB card provides that.
  • If you are shooting 4K video you need a U3 rated card – the one on the right in the photo below.

Why only 32GB? Some older computers and card readers have trouble with the large capacity cards. You’ll be safe with the 32GB size. Learn more about memory cards in this video.

You can buy these on amazon.com but I also suggest you keep your eyes open for sales at your local retailers. When you’re shopping around, remember, it’s important to get the fast cards for video recording.

I highly recommend either of these cards, and use them both myself.
I highly recommend either of these cards, and use them both myself. Get the one on the right for 4K Video and faster video transfer speeds.

Budget lighting

For video you need a continuous light source. You can actually shoot outdoors in natural light, or indoors if you have a space with a lot of window light. The problem with natural light, is that it isn’t consistent. If it’s cold or raining, you can’t shoot easily. And it might be too bright, which is also a problem in video. You can read more about that in this blog post.

In my own practice I use LED panels, but they are too pricey for the budget conscious.

The next best choice is CFL lighting. The benefits of CFLs:

  • they are cool to the touch, so you don’t have to worry about causing a fire
  • take very little electricity
  • inexpensive

Some of the drawbacks of CFL lights are:

  • the bulbs contain mercury, so when they burn out or if they break, they need to be handled properly. They cannot be put in the regular garbage and you should not expose children to the broken bulbs. (That goes for the household versions of CFL bulbs too!)
  • they aren’t very bright, so you need a lot of them to light your studio
  • the bulbs are breakable, so harder to transport
  • the kits are not very durable, so not good for heavy use, such as in a classroom setting where several people are using the kits

My CFL lighting kit recommendation is this 3-light kit from amazon.com. It’s 2400 watts, so bright enough for your web video studio needs.

This 3 light Cowboy lighting kit is great for those on a budget
This 3 light Cowboy lighting kit is great for those on a budget

The best budget microphone

Audio quality is just as important as picture quality, when it comes to getting your message across. There are several kinds of microphones you can use for web video:

  • lavalier (they pin on your clothing)
  • shotgun
  • using a separate recording device and synchronizing the audio in the editing stage

The price of microphones varies from super affordable to costing more than a camera. And, professional videographers usually record the audio on a completely different system and synchronize the audio and video during the editing process. I don’t recommend doing that if you’re a beginner. It will add extra work in editing.

For the beginner on a budget, you can’t go wrong with this Audio Technica wired lav mic. I have this mic and use it a lot. I also have clients who use this mic and they are very happy with it, for the price.

  • The sound quality is definitely good enough for bloggers and teachers
  • It’s a stereo mic
  • The cord is about 20 feet long, so you can be a good distance from your camera when using this mic
  • The mic is off the camera, so you don’t get the noise of the lens auto focusing — which is a big problem when using the built in mics, and also when using camera mounted mics

Drawbacks of this mic:

  • Sometimes the cord gets in the way if you’re walking around a lot on your set, but you get used to it
  • This type of mic is not good for interviews where more than one person is speaking on camera.
  • A shotgun mic is better for interviews, or if you want a cordless option, but you’ll need to mount it off the camera so you don’t pick up any camera noise
  • If you can only use a camera mounted mic, then this Rode Videomic Pro is good to start with as it has a built-in shock mount so you don’t pick up camera noise.

You can grab this lav mic here on amazon.com.

I use this mic for my vlogs and so do many of my clients
I use this mic for my vlogs and so do many of my clients

Backdrops for video

You don’t necessarily need to use a backdrop, but it’s nice to use in a small space, and it allows you to block off areas of clutter. If you want to save even more money, paint a wall of your office and use it as a background. I do that! I also pin up a fabric in that same spot. I also shoot in my dining room, which has nice yellow walls. You may have noticed that in some of my videos too.

This backdrop from Polaroid is a good starter backdrop kit, and comes with the stands and a piece of muslin. I like it because it has a telescoping pole so you can set it for any width of room.

If you are wanting to hang a heavy piece of fabric on it, then get this Manfrotto 314B kit. It’s the one I have. No complaints.

This is the Manfrotto kit that I use.
This is the Manfrotto 314B kit that I use.

Let’s do the math!

Total for the kit on amazon.com is $880 + tax

Of course those prices will likely go down over time.

I would love to hear your comments on my recommendations. Please leave them below! Thank you.





7 responses to “$1K Web Video Studio – For the blogger on a budget”

  1. Naveen Kulkarni Avatar

    This is excellent tutorial for creating a home studio. In fact, I am in the process of creating one ! How about if my room is getting natural sunlight at one side, any good suggestion so that I can illuminate the other side of face?

    1. Marlene Hielema Avatar

      Yes, I have a suggestion! If it was me, I’d add a large fill panel (3×5 feet). So basically you want to bounce the light coming in from the window back onto you (when you’re shooting). The bounce panel needs to be fairly close to you, but out of frame. You can buy an official free standing panel, or DIY with a large piece of white foam core.

  2. Josefina Morales Avatar
    Josefina Morales

    Even now do you still recommend the lumix g6? i tried finding it online in best buy and fryes but they dont seem to have it.

    1. Marlene Hielema Avatar

      Try the Lumix G7. Brand new and replaces the G6. You won’t be disappointed.

  3. Sandra Revueltas Avatar

    Hi, we are in the process of buying equipment for our media and business consulting company mainly for doing interviews and youtube videos, are there any updates to your recommendations?

    1. Marlene Hielema Avatar

      Hi Sandra, As I mention in the blog post, the Lumix G6 has been upgraded, so I would get the newer Lumix G7. It comes with the same lens as the G6. Also, memory cards are faster now and you’ll want fast ones for video. I have a blog post about memory cards on my photography website. http://www.imagemaven.com/memory-cards/ Photo and video gear is constantly upgraded, so you will also find a wider selection of LED lights and mics now too. But, I still use the mics and LED lights I recommended in this post.

  4. Ralph Smith Avatar

    My wife as a few DSLR’s if I don’t move around much during the video do you think i’ll get the results without auto focus? Thanks