Building a Video Studio on a Budget

I’m convinced that if I had to either spend my days behind a video camera or behind a computer screen processing the said footage, I’d have the greatest job in the world. Fortunately, at Evol Empire Creative, I spend many of my days doing just that. I love videography, and I even have a side-hustle as a professional wedding cinematographer.

For the past 6 years, I’ve always had a job where videography was part of the package. I’ve worked in the marketing departments of colleges and hospitals. I’ve been the media director for a summer camp. I’ve even worked for a professional video studio for a time. All of these experiences allowed me to work under a variety of different circumstances, where I’d use many different pieces of video and audio equipment to capture footage from scripted and unscripted projects alike. I know my way around a video set.

Even You Can Produce Incredible Videos

That being said, I know that amateur videographers and regular folk often think of professional videography as either something they can’t afford or something they’d never have time to learn. Fear not, insurance agent or specialty baker! Even if you’ve never handled a DSLR camera before, your and your business can be up and running with affordable professional gear and the knowledge to work it with just a few hours of work.

In order to build your DIY video set, you’ll need about $1500 for equipment and tax, and an afternoon for set up. Then, you’ll be able to create all of the videos you can think of for your website, blog, or social media presence!

Get the Gear

You’ll first need to buy a DSLR kit. The Canon Rebel t5i kit with an 18-55mm lens is a great option, and at about $650 it won’t set you back too badly. Pick up an On-Camera shotgun microphone from Rode for $100 and a 64gb SD class 10 SD card for $35 to accompany your new camera.

Next, you’ll want to shift your focus to lighting, stabilization, and an optional backdrop. For lighting, you can pick up a great fluorescent lighting kit for about $400 (IMPORTANT: Don’t cut corners with lighting. It’s the most important piece to pro-video). Magnus makes a great video tripod for about $80. Finally, if you’d like an all-white background, you can pick one up right here for about $110.

For much less than the price of bringing a professional crew in, you’ve just assembled the basic necessities to make a killer how-to video, interview, or whatever else you’d like to film!

Learn the Basics

You may be thinking, “Gee this sure is great, Steven! But I still don’t know how to use the camera I just purchased, and I don’t know how to arrange my studio lighting!” Well don’t worry. I’ve got you covered there.

Here’s a series of great tutorials for anyone beginning to learn to film. It’s important to keep your camera in “P” mode, so that your settings are all set based on what your camera thinks is correct. For a studio environment, this is a perfect setting. Then, make sure your white balance is set to “Automatic” as well. Your camera will be set to film 30 frames per second (fps) automatically, so that’s good! Manually set your focus by moving the focus ring on your lens.

First off, it’s important to use one of your softboxes from your lighting kit as a spotlight–aimed higher than your subject(s) pointing down to your subject(s)–and one of your softboxes level with your subject(s) pointed directly at them. It’ll look something like the photo near the top of this post.

Next, set up your tripod. Attach the tripod mount to the bottom of your camera and then the camera to the tripod. Insert your SD card into the camera and place your shotgun mic on top of the camera and feed the cord into the camera. Your camera’s default audio setting will manage the volume for you automatically.

Finally, now you’re ready to roll. In my next article, I’ll talk about processing your footage with Adobe Premiere and Final Cut Pro X.