As I research opportunities to start creating TikTok style videos, I’ve been thinking a lot more about video blogging, or vlogging equipment. I want these kits to be mobile-ready, high quality, easy to use by children, and offer an opportunity to be a digital ethnographer.
These kits should be fully functioning kits that can be stored or stuffed in a backpack and can be quickly set up to capture video, audio, etc. This post will share the basic equipment you’ll need to consider as you build up your kit. I’ll wrap up the post with some ideas about three profiles, or possible packages to build.
Keep in mind, some of my kits I’ve been building up over the last ten years. A purchase here, a donation there, and a fixer-upper and I’ve build up to something worthwhile. Ultimately, the best kit that you have is the one that you currently have. Get out there and start creating. 🙂
What you’ll need.
I’m starting off this list with a focus on the camera, but I do not think this is the most important piece of the kit. A photographer once told me “the best camera is the one you have in your hand when you’re looking for that shot.”
Cell phones, even older cell phones can be a good starting point for a vlogging kit. As people relentlessly upgrade their phones, their old devices often sit and collect dust in a drawer somewhere. These devices have great cameras, decent mics, optical image stabilization (keeps the shot steady), relatively good batteries, and (sometimes) upgradable storage.
GoPros also offer good options for vlogging kits. The newer GoPros have optical image stabilization, but the old ones could get really shaky.
Most of the vlogging kits you’ll see online focus on a GoPro, mirrorless cameras, or DSLRs. The benefit of a mirrorless or DSLR is the opportunity to swap out lenses, swap out batteries, and perhaps hot shoes for audio, lighting, etc.
Audio is most likely the focus in your vlog (other than storytelling), and this leads us to the microphone. With this, there are several, complementary options. An audience will ignore bad audio, but they’ll never forgive lousy audio.
- Shotgun mic. The Rode VideoMic Pro or the Rode Video Micro connects to the camera or GoPro. Depending on the camera, there may be an adapter cable that is needed. I have an old GoPro and the Video Micro that connect via a short, relatively inexpensive cable and it works well.
- Lav Mic. The Rode Wireless Go is a great option. You plug in the one end to the audio input for the camera. The other end is clipped to the person speaking. They attach the mic near their mouth, and we capture clean audio. I want this.
- Portable Recorder. People love this Zoom H1n. You can connect it to a camera and use it to record backup audio. It can pipe the audio out to the camera or elsewhere. It can be used for interviews, sound collections, etc. I have (and love) this mic for recording interviews, or as a backup web mic.
Outdoors we usually don’t have any issues with lighting. Head inside…and it’s a nightmare.
- Neewer makes these lighting kits. They’re inexpensive, look fancy, and do the job. They’re lightweight, so it’s not hard to unpack/pack for a shoot. The three lighting sources allow for many options.
- People rave about these Aputure lights. They’re small. Color-correcting, and you can place them anywhere. I want these.
- Ring lights are cheap, and we hate to admit that we use them. But, they work. This one is a bit more expensive than the one I use at home. Ring lights are generally inexpensive, can be put on a tripod, connected to a camera, or placed offscreen. In addition, they can be added to the “lighting kits” I talked about above.
Tripods & Stabilizers
Super important as people have weak arms that shake. We can talk about how to stand, or lean against stuff (trees, other people) to hold your arm and hand steady. But, a tripod or stabilizer works wonders.
- I love this one from Manfrotto. It is lightweight, can be used as a short or tall tripod. The legs can also come together to make it a stabilizer.
- I also love this PIXI mini from Manfrotto. You can attach it to a camera, light, mic, etc and it’s either a short tripod or handle.
- GorillaPods are also great additions to the kit that will make life easier out on the road. In some cases, these types of stands will replace the other tripods I recommended.
This may or may not be needed. If you’re walking or following someone…a gimble helps the viewer. I would value the tripod over this usage, but I always get annoyed when I think I have a good video shot, and the camera is bouncing or swaying.
There are a ton of gimbals for your iPhone, GoPro, mirrorless camera or DSLR. Once again, these can get quite pricey. Cell phones are starting to launch with sophisticated image stabilization. I would rather buy a bracket for a cell phone, connect it to a tripod, and record on that device.
There will also be extra cords, spare SD cards, adapters, charging cables, etc. that are needed.
- Cages. I would heavily suggest SmallRig cages for the cameras. Cages like this are helpful for cameras or GoPros. You can screw the camera into it for protection. You can also connect lights, tripods, mics, or other things to the cage.
- Drones. Because you’re filming outdoors, I would suggest a drone with a 4k camera would help for some great shots and transitions. I want one.
Three Vlogging Kit Profiles
The sky is ultimately the limit for what you create. I’ll close with an image showing possible options for the kit you can create. These helped me as I got started building my kit. I thought about the pieces I already owned…and then started building around those components.