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Equipment for Video Podcasting, Part 2: Cameras and Accessories to Make You Shoot Like a Pro

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Your quick thrown-together vids that used to do the trick won't catch the eye of today's more sophisticated viewers. Jennie Bourne, coauthor of Web Video: Making It Great, Getting It Noticed, continues her discussion of how to upgrade your video podcasts to more professional-level equipment.

Part 1 of this series examined the most basic equipment and options for people who are getting started in video podcasting, switching from audio to video podcasts, or just want very basic capability. After working at that level for a short time, most people will want to upgrade to better equipment, in order to improve their results onscreen, make their work lives a little easier, or handle more technically demanding podcasts.

This article considers prosumer cameras and accessories that will help you to shoot like a pro. To get the best possible audio and video from your camera, you'll need to add some equipment, and we'll take a look at those options as well.

Time to Upgrade?

So you're ready to lay down the cash and move up from your basic digital video camera to the best camera you can afford. You need to look for a "prosumer" model with an input for audio, as well as manual controls for focus exposure, white balance, and audio levels. Prosumer cameras range in price from about $800 to $5,000.

Will buying a better camera give you better video even if you shoot on automatic? Short answer: Yes. You'll get a better lens, and more sophisticated image processing can improve the quality of your video even if you're not an expert with a camera. As your shoots become more demanding, and you get to know your camera, you can use the manual controls.

Some innovators, such as zefrank and J Smooth, go it alone when shooting—appearing in and editing their own podcasts. Although experts like these make it look easy, it's not. Shooting video and getting good sound requires paying close attention to several small details, which is not easy to do when you're trying to look good and get your message across at the same time. And this style requires careful editing. Shooting yourself may mean that you'll need remote controls for some of your camera functions and special options for monitoring your picture and sound.

Other video podcasts, such as those by Rocketboom and Diggnation, opt for a "TV studio" style, which takes more equipment and a crew to help with production. To get a studio look, you'll need lights. You can use one camera, as Rocketboom does; or use several, like Diggnation. However, things aren't always what they seem. The producer of lonelygirl15 deliberately used angles and shooting techniques that made the result look like an amateur shooting herself to create an intimate authenticity. For the opposite effect, you can create a multi-camera look by shooting with one camera, as producers of the documentary feature "I Bring What I Love" did when shooting their subject, Youssou N'Dour, in concert, and then cheating a multi-camera effect during editing.

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