It feels like just yesterday when I posted my very first process card making video on YouTube. In reality, it was just over a year ago this month when I posted the first installment of Cathy Makes a Card (later, I dropped the Cathy Makes a Card nomenclature to be a bit more more descriptive in my video titles.)
First things first: you should know that I film with an iPhone 7+. In the early days of my card videos, I decided for budgetary reasons to make do with what I had because, well, money. As much as I would like to have a sweet video camera with a ceiling mount, I can’t really justify the expense and so, iPhone 7+ it is**. And really, it’s a pretty sweet little video camera and fully capable of doing everything I need it to do.
But I’ve struggled finding the perfect set up for filming. I’ve filmed in an upstairs bedroom. I’ve filmed in my kitchen. I’ve filmed in my craft/dining room. It took me a while to realize that if I was going to rely solely on natural light, I was going to be an incredibly frustrated videographer. Enter my first purchase in the quest for better quality video: inexpensive studio lights.
I learned about this light kit from my friend Jen Gallacher (who has a really great post about studio lighting she recently shared!), and I’m so glad I bought these lights! I rarely use the smaller stand, but the two larger ones pretty much just hang out in my craft/dining room most of the time. Basically you point the umbrellas (the top sides are what should be facing your project) at your filming area to get a nice, even, diffused light.
2021 UPDATE: The stand I use I will not promote any more. I’m currently in the market for a new one!
Because of the vibration, I use a two-step stool from made by Cosco to set the mount onto. I also use the step stool for all of my straight down photography, as well. I use a five-pound weight to place on the base of the mount, to make sure it doesn’t tip or move.
I was using an app called Reflector to wirelessly turn my laptop into a video monitor, thereby enabling me to really see what I am filming at any given moment without having to stand up and look through my phone’s monitor. I’m updating this post to say that I have ditched the wireless set up. After thoroughly testing it out, I’m not happy with Reflector at all (when using a third-party video app), which I do. It might work better with the native iPhone app, but it kept losing the connection, messing up my entire filming process. Live and learn.
Now I’m using the OBS Studio software on my laptop and using a lightning cable to connect my phone directly to my laptop. This eliminates any dropped connection. I also use a cool laptop stand by 12 South called a Curve. This allows me to place my laptop just behind my mat area and have a clear view of my table top.
There is ONE more thing, and this is an iPhone app that is also making a world of difference: MoviePro. What is so great about MoviePro? It let’s you control focus, exposure and white balance individually and lets you lock them down so you don’t have to deal with your iPhone reading the light and making all those weird shifts. This is the main reason not to use the video app that is built into iPhone. (This video offers a really great overview of Movie Pro.) It took me awhile to find an app that I liked for filming and this one, so far, is my favorite. And the best news? It’s $5.99. (Android users: I do not have any first hand info on best apps to record video on Android devices, however, I found this link that might be helpful.)
For a more controlled light, I’m finding that filming at night is pretty sweet. I just pull the two lights closer to the table and film. This video was shot at night with the lights and using my new wireless monitor set up: (Note: click on over to YouTube to see a better representation of the quality. I’m never sure how WordPress embeds look.)
I share this because I have had a lot of help from wonderful members of this card making community (Yeah, I’m looking at YOU Jennifer McGuire!) and I just want to share what I have learned and encourage others who want to film their creative efforts on a relatively small budget!
I also get asked about my microphone which I use to add voice overs after my clips are edited together. I use a Rode Podcaster kit, which was not cheap, but it has been a workhorse for me. I’ve been using this for about 3 years now and have recorded all of my class voice over audio with it. Although I will say this: my audio is not as good now that I record in iMovie. iMovie has zero ability to do anything other than raise or lower your levels (at least not that I am aware of!). I’m presently researching a better audio program. That said, I stand by this mic. It’s been a great tool for me.
One additional thing I use for all of my photography, and even for blocking light coming in from my craft/dining room window is my Wescott 4-in-1 Reflector Kit. I’ve had this for 15 years and have used it religiously to bounce and reflect light where I need it. I will place the reflector on the floor, silver side facing the project an it will flood the area I’m shooting with light. I always use the silver side because I prefer a cooler light. I stand on the step stool and shoot down.
For taking photos of my projects that I use for my video openers, I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark II (here is the current model) and a Canon L-Series 24-70mm lens. I’ve had my Canon 5D for many years now and am very happy with it, however, if it should ever die, I would look strongly at the Canon 7D.
LIVE STREAM SET UP: In 2020, I started live streaming on my YouTube channel. For that, I also use my iPhone for my table view, and I use a Canon M50 for my front facing camera. I use a simple Boya lavalier mic for my audio, plus assorted cables to plug into my old MacBook. I use Ecamm Live for Mac as my software.
I hope this info has been helpful! I’m sure my set up will evolve over time, but I’m just happy that I have something that is working well, finally!
**In late 2020, I upgraded to an iPhone 11.
***On January 1, 2022, I upgraded to an iPhone 13
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