How to Create a Video Studio on a Shoestring Budget
As an Inbound Writer for Lean Labs, Melissa writes about high-converting websites and customer-centric marketing. She's an avid traveler, with trips to Iceland, Ukraine, and Portugal under her belt. She currently resides in Wilmington, North Carolina with her dog, Morrie.
It’s never been easier to create a video. Nowadays, anyone with an iPhone can call themselves a filmmaker, with on-the-go editing and publishing to YouTube, Facebook, and more. The result is on-budget, but a high-quality video that you can quickly share with your followers. However, is it practical to take the same shoestring budget approach for your B2B marketing videos?
Our answer: yes. When you’re first starting out, you want to start small and find the right mix of equipment, materials, and process to create excellent videos without dissipating your marketing budget. All you need to do is create a DIY video studio with the right resources.
The DIY Video Studio Checklist
When you’re selecting items for your video studio, there are a few things to check off your list. If you know the foundation of tools and resources you need to create exceptional videos, you can select software and equipment that fits within your budget and makes sense for your space.
Overall, a studio should be in one consistent location and have:
- A Camera
- Editing Software
- A Backdrop
- Microphones and Sound Support
With those items in place, you’re on the right track to start producing videos.
Find A Location
Depending on what kind of videos you're making, you will probably need a consistent location to shoot your videos. There are a few DIY options for a place, including:
- At your house or office, if you have a well-lit, quiet room.
- A co-working space you can rent daily or weekly.
- An Airbnb room, apartment, or house that you can rent for a few days and get permission to film in.
- A local business that will allow you to film.
- A room at your local library or university.
- A stage at your local community theater or university.
- A community or recreation center.
- Local meeting space for rent.
Although a lot of these options depend on available rental space near you, and what your location is like, the most important thing is a quiet space where you’re free to work. Any location close to train tracks, airports, heavy foot traffic, etc. will likely disrupt you and trigger reshoots and wasted footage.
The location may take a large chunk of your video marketing budget and will inform other equipment and resources you will need to purchase.
Choosing A Style of Camera
There are so many cameras to choose from now. You can purchase an expensive camera and create beautiful videos, or start small and get a feel for videography with a cheaper option, such as a webcam or a Smartphone. Regardless of your choice, there is a way to use it to record and edit excellent videos.
Built-In Webcams (Computer)
I use a MacBook Pro, and the camera is pretty good. A lot of vloggers start with the camera on their laptop, which can help you get up to speed with how to shoot and edit a short video. To gain an understanding of how these videos typically turn out, check out this excellent webcam video guide from YouTuber Michael Kinney.
If you're still not sure whether or not a webcam can capture great video, consider this recent advice from Vlogger Gear, a site specializing in video equipment for aspiring videographers.
"While many may argue that laptops are being replaced by smartphones, this is simply not true. It can be said without a doubt that smartphones and even tablets have a long way to go before they can possess processing power similar to that of computers." - Bill Roberts, Vlogger Gear
Computers with Great Cameras:
- MacBook Pro 2016 (Refurbished Start at $1,1k)
- Asus VivoBook (Starts at $1k)
- MacBook Air (Refurbished Start at $300)
- Lenovo YOGA 710 (Start at $640)
A surprising amount of people use iPhones and Androids to shoot their videos. The phones are a less costly option to a camera, portable, and easy to use. As long as you maintain the phone camera and equipment effectively, you can get a great video. There are also a ton of video editing apps that you can install and use alongside a video, such as:
- Videohance, an app that supports special effects and shoots a 1 x 1-inch square or 16 x 9 HD video.
- Vizmato, an app for Android users that can use both front and rear cameras.
- VidLab, an app for iOS that makes it easy to edit, add transitions or sound effects, and record a voiceover.
"Content is everything, and the gear that you use does not dictate the content that you make." - Ryan Connolly, Film Riot
If you’re planning on creating a lot of videos, and will not be hiring a freelancer or videographer to shoot them, buying a camera is a good choice. There’s no limit to the type of camera you could purchase, and you can base it on budget.
Here are all of the cameras that top YouTube influencers use:
- Adam LZ uses a Sony a7S II ILCE7SM2/B 12.2 MP E-mount Camera
- Pewdiepie uses a Sony a7R II Full-Frame Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera
- Binging with Babish uses a Sony a7S II ILCE7SM2/B 12.2 MP E-mount Camera
You can also rent a camera from B&H Photo or Borrowlenses.com. If you rent first, you can get a feel for different types of cameras. If you rent long-term, it will likely cost more than if you bought a camera from the start. You can also choose to hire a freelance videographer and have them use their camera or equipment.
Choose A Backdrop
Once you have a location and a plan for your camera, you can start looking at backdrops. Overall, we recommend using the same backdrop and not relying on a blank or brick wall. While these look alright, they’re also dull and won’t stand out to your audience. If you select an actual backdrop, you can fill in blank space and create a background that's more interesting for viewers.
From there, you can set up the background using a tutorial.
Our Inbound Marketing Director, Ryan Scott, also recommends avoiding a flat wall if you can help it:
“Having your "back against the wall" makes the viewer "feel" like you're trapped... that's why movie producers always shoot with the wall at an angle, reducing lines into the background.” - Ryan Scott, Lean Labs
A few options we like for video backgrounds include:
- Ready-to-use muslin backdrops
- Never used, ironed, black or white sheets
- Plain curtains
- Fake adhesive wallpaper
From there, you can start to use your camera and take practice shots to get a feel of the space.
Get Editing Software
If you’re new to videography, selecting the right editing software can be challenging. You want to choose software that you can edit and launch videos without too much of a learning curve, but you do not want to sacrifice quality.
Overall, even looking at editing software, here are the features you want to evaluate:
- The interface of the platform, and how easy it is to locate features, trim video footage, and add captions or transitions.
- The video file formats your camera will produce, such as AVI (audio video interleave,) FLV (flash video format,) WMV (Windows media video,) MOV (Apple QuickTime movie,) and MP4 (Moving Pictures Expert Group 4.)
- The number of tracks in the editor, or the number of rows to work on the main video, audio, title, subtitle, and music.
- Any essential transition features, such as cross-fades, dissolves, and fade to black.
Video editing software can be expensive, so it’s critical to get one that will produce excellent video. I use iMovie, which is a basic video editor that’s pretty easy to use, but here are a few additional platforms:
- Final Cut Pro, which offers a 30-Day Free Trial.
- Adobe Premiere, which you can get on Adobe Cloud for $21.99 a month.
- Sony Vegas, which also offers a 30-Day Free Trial.
The last consideration is who is going to edit your videos. If you plan to involve a team member or hire a freelancer, you will need to consider their preferences before purchasing anything.
When you have your camera, location, and backdrop, you can look at lighting. Lighting can be difficult to master for beginners, but once you start using it, you won’t want to go back to natural daylight. The quality of your video will be better when you can ensure a crisp, brightly lit shot in every take.
To start, take a few takes with your video and see how the natural lighting looks. If it seems fine on the video and you're working with a cheap camera, this may be good enough.
However, if the footage looks dark or shadowy, you can vastly improve the quality by:
- Experimenting with the white balance on your video camera
- Buying a light kit off Amazon, and using the Three-Point Technique in your studio
- Making film lights with flood lamps and LED bulbs, with wax paper as a diffuser.
Overall, you need to gain clarity on the kind of lighting works in your studio, and what you can afford.
Find The Right Sound Gear
Regardless of the subject matter, every video should have excellent sound. Otherwise, your soft or inaudible audio will be distracting, no matter how good your content or lighting is. Often, this requires some equipment. There are a range of microphones to select from, as well as accessories you need for every video.
Overall, here are the basics you need to start:
- A portable field mixer - You can use a hand-held mixer to capture recordings on an internal drive or removable media.
- Wireless microphone systems - Wireless microphones are preferable for your subjects, so there isn’t any disruption if the cord moves.
- Headphones - Headphones are preferable to have when shooting so you can go back and listen to the quality of your audio on set.
- Soundproofing - You can soundproof a room using padding or egg crate style foam.
These items are useful for a small space. However, if you’re going to film in a large area, you may need some additional sound supplies, such as a shotgun microphone, boom pole, shock mount, sound cables, and more.
Working With Your DIY Video Studio
Once you have your studio set up, you can use it to start your video marketing strategy. While the studio provides the space and equipment you need, the success of your videos will rely on the strategy you create, and the quality of videos that you deploy. With a tight budget, you will need to allocate funds and resources wisely and establish a process and a plan to stay on track with your video marketing goals.
When we're working with a tight video budget, we find tactics to effectively incorporate video into current content marketing efforts, decreasing the amount of time on generating ideas or conducting research. With the right approach, you can easily repurpose what you already have into memorable video assets. To learn more about repurposing and getting more ROI from content, check out our Repurposing Toolkit: Why & How to Repurpose Content.