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Beginners Guide on How to Video Blog on a Budget – Part One

Video is a powerful and effective way of presenting content.

Beginners Guide on How to Video Blog on a Budget - Part OneNot everyone has the innate ability to write blog posts or enjoys putting pen to paper.

Finding your “online” voice could mean video blogging, or communicating through images and PowerPoint  presentations on social media networks.

Video bloggers such as Gary Vaynerchuk have used online video as the media of choice to great effect.

But many bloggers are intimidated by the technical side of producing a good video. At the same time, many bloggers that do use video do a pretty bad job of it in terms of production value. This could be improved with a little knowledge and a little money.

This is part one of a three part series, which will look at Equipment, Lighting and Audio, and Postproduction.


In this article we will list the items necessary to produce a good-looking, crisp-sounding video.


There are three possible types of camera to choose from:

Good: The first is a Kodak Zi8 Pocket Video Camera. These little things are about the size of an iphone and they shoot high quality HD video straight onto a flash drive, so you don’t need to use a mini-DV tape. What is most important about these cameras, over the Flip camera for instance, is that they have an external port for an audio line. This is necessary to get a good, clear sound. Using the on-board mic of a camera will pick up all the ambient sound in the room and will come out full of echo and fuzz. Though it is sufficient for the average blogger’s needs, it has limitations as you can’t manually adjust the white balance, the aperture or the focus. The Kodak costs around (US $247.00).

Better: The second is just your average video camera. There are numerous types of these. It is important to try to get a model that has an external mic port and average to good quality visuals.

Best: The third type is the more expensive SLR digital (Canon Rebel T3i / EOS 600D). This camera is top of the range and will give you the best quality shots and sound on the market at the moment.

How to Video Blog Camera Canon 600D


Basically you are just looking for something quite sturdy. You will need one large tripod for the camera and a second one for the auto-cue system (I will get to this next). This second tripod can be a small one that stands on a desk.


An auto-cue is a system that slowly scrolls the words you need to read at an angle in front of the camera. The angle is such that you will be looking straight into the camera and reading at the same time. “Prompt-it” is an auto-cue system that uses an iphone and an app called “telepromtplus”. The Prompt-it system has just brought out a platform for an iPad too (Approx US $290 for the PROMPT-IT MAXI plus $14.99 for the Teleprompt+ iPad App).

The auto-cue helps you give a seamless performance that covers all your points without having to do too many takes.

The iPad Auto-Cue System

iPad Teleprompter - How to Video BlogBackdrop

Unless you want your bookshelf as your perennial background you need a chroma-key area. Chroma-key is a special type of paint that makes the background “transparent” in as far as you can key yourself out and make the background interactive — you can overlay video, photos, key-words, basically the Himalayas if you wanted to.

This makes your video more versatile and adds an extra layer of visual interest and information. The Chroma-key paint can be bought at an audio visual supply company and comes in shocking blue or shocking green. The blue is slightly less shocking. If you don’t want to paint one of your walls, or you rent, you can paint a polystyrene board with the chroma-key colour and lean that against a wall. The paint costs (US$76.00) and covers 90m².

How to Video Blog Backdrop Chroma-Key


You will need a pair of headphones that completely cover your ears. These are the best headphones for video because they block out most of the ambient sound, whereas in-ear headphones are designed to pick up some ambient sound for safety reasons. The headphones are used to set your sound levels.

Good headphones like the Sennheiser HD280 Pro (pictured) should cost around (US $80.00).

How to Video Blog Headphones Sennheiser HD280 Pro


A good lapel mic is designed to only pick up sound within a small range around it. This means that it will only pick up your voice and not the traffic, bird calls, dogs, children or whatever you are surrounded by. Lapel mics cost R1134.00 (US$140.00). Another option is a rifle mic. These are the elongated, furry mics you see being held above actors in the “Behind the Scenes” shows. If you want to feel really popular and special get one of these. It also has superb quality. They cost (US$240.00).

How to Video Blog Lapel Mike Sennheiser ME 2 omni-directional lavalier EW microphone


You will need four lights in total, three to light the subject (key, fill and back light) and one to light the chroma-key background (although two lights for the background is better). There are three different options when purchasing lights.

  • Cheaper (you may as well order stronger globes)

You get a cheap kit that contains three lights for about (US$70.00). Then you get a more expensive one, also containing three lights, for (US$370.00), these will obviously last much longer than the cheaper kit. The final, super cheap option is just to buy clip-on lights from your local hardware. Make sure you buy the correct globes. They need to provide a white light. The white light energy saver bulbs are really good for this.

Recommended lighting kit2 Spiral 4 x 105 watt Lights (pictured)

Video Lighting Kits

Editing Software

For your postproduction process you will need some editing software. Variations of Adobe Premier for Windows users or Final Cut Pro X for Macs are both excellent programs. Make sure you have plenty of harddrive space and RAM as these programs take a lot of processing power to run smoothly.

Once you have kitted up, you can start the filming process.

In Part 2 we’ll look at how to set up lights and audio to get the best production values.

Have you attempted video blogging? Are you a video blogger? Look forward to hearing your stories.

Beginners Guide on How to Video Blog on a Budget – Part Two

6 Simple Mistakes to Avoid when Creating an Online Video – Part Three

About the authors: Francois Karstel is the owner of Sound Idea Digital, a full service digital agency. You can connect with him on Twitter @soundideadma, Robyn Bloch is a digital journalist at Sound Idea Digital. You can connect with her on Twitter @soundidea or visit: Sound Idea Digital

Image by chelzdd

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Jeffbullas's Blog


  • Jeff, this blog post is very timely for me!  Are there any headsets with mikes built into them which you recommend?  I was just looking at some online today, and I’m a bit confused!

    • Mitch

      You could try the Zoom Q3HD, very handy and quite inexpensive

  • Wow, first post and my budget is blown out of the water! LOL Looking forward to the rest of these… BTW I use the Zi8 and absolutely love it!

  • Karen Paxton

    We run a professional development training company for training subjects that public affairs officers (media, marketing, PR people etc) need.

    On 23 February 2012, we’ll be running our Social Media 106 – Video Production for Social Media course with our Presenter who’s been preparing and placing videos on how Parliament works (a fairly dry topic). We’ll also have on hand a winegrower who started doing their own YouTube videos to come and explain how she did it and show and tell uploading a new video. And we’ll also have on hand a professional cameraman to show a professional setup. All with give tips and hints on how to do it well.

    The course will be held in Canberra, but we have interest from Sydney as well.

    Courses@publicaffairs.com.au for further information.

    Very good information as usual, Jeff. Thanks for the great overview.

  • Seems daunting and requires so much gear/space. The Auto-Cue System looks great, but do not have an iPad. I may find to video blog on a ghetto budget. 🙂

  • Gieo

    Great blog piece.  It breaks down the process into easy bits.  I have done my own productions as well as hired professional crews.  For most online delivery a more simple approach is much better then the professional crews.  The professionals tend to get caught up in a production standard that is out of proportion to what is needed for online delivery.

  • jitendra

    is any simple way for posting the video blog

    • Thanks for that comment. Easiest way is to upload to YouTube and then embed in your blog. That is quite easy.

  • Thanks for the question. The Flipcam is another similar alternative.

    • Hallo Jane
      There is no good alternative to the Kodak Zi8 at the moment.
      If you have an iPhone you can use that instead by connecting you external microphone to an 1/8 inch microphone adapter sold by http://www.kvconnection.com.

      • jane

        THanks, I actually have an Tascam iM2 MIC/INST.INTERFACE f/iPAD/POD/PHN – TAIM2 on order for my iphone, looks awesome but just thought I needed more professional videoing equipment than the iphone.  Might just have to wait awhile.

  • Thanks for the comment Kenny. Sorry about that. The next blog post will be “How to create budget videos for clowns” 🙂

  • Hi Jane

  • Heather

    Great post Jeff – thank you.  I am planning on a series of videos to help vacation rental owners become more professional in the way they operate their businesses, and want to demonstrate similar professionalism in my videos so this is very timely.  I recently bought a $300 tripod to replace the cheaper wobbly model I had, and the difference is huge.  It was worth the extra $$$s

  • Jim

    Jane Kodak have a new flip cam with external mic port ..not sure of model (I have Z18)but check out amazon and you will find.. Jim

  • Matthew

    This is not exactly as budget conscious as I expected given the title.

  • Hey Jeff,
    Good post. Simple and clear. We are on a huge video push here and I have shared this with others internally.

  • Hi Jeff,
    Another great line of cameras are the Sony Handycams, Bloggie Dous and Pocket Cyber-shots. The Handycams are amazing HD quality and are less than the SLR- they have projected audio so you don’t event need a mic beyond 3 feet. Also their Cyber-shot mini digital cameras shoot unbelievable HD video, no one even will know it was shot with a pocket camera.

    Thanks Jeff!

    Kimberley Blaine
    Founder, TheGoToMom.TV

    • MetroFax

      Thanks for sharing Kimberley! We are trying to get more into video, and your comments were very insightful. 

      – MetroFax

  • Great post Jeff.  Another alternative for camera is the Nokia N8 (phone) – its 12MP camera produces superb HD video, plus has external port for mic input. Purchasing a regular smartphone “sliding mounting” contraption allows it to be put onto a tripod really easily – available off Trade Me and Ebay for less than NZ$20.00.

  • zi8’s are super hard to come by these days and youre doing very well if you can pick one up cheap, if at all.

    i just purchased a creative vado hd (3rd gen) and its the only pocket cammy that has an external mic jack.

    it is almost lineball with the zi8 but i scored it for less than $100AUD (from the supplier) and so trumps the zi8 for me as a new one from the US is well over $250USD shipped.

    details here  http://www.creative.com/myvado/

  • It is sure that people would like to watch the video instead of reading the whole post..

  • Thanks for that comment Sebastian. I will link to the other 2 for you right now!

  • Andy Teoh

    I was wondering if something like a portable USB (desktop) camera like the following: http://www.averusa.com/presentation/usb_document_camera_U10.asp would be a good companion for a typical blogger to have around?  It plugs into your laptop, brings up a free screen recording software and you can then create video blogs or objects, paper, Apps running on iPhones/iPads, etc..

  • Andre simoneau

    Thanks jeff for taking the time yoh summed up what took me 6 months to learn on my own. Great info

  • Great article. However you can cut some corners when you are first starting out.  First off you can get a green screen and put it on a shower curtain for your background.  For lighting you can use $13 work lights fro home depot and a tall lamp with out a shade.  Of course cutting corners on budget increase the amount of time to setup.  

  • Kitty Newell

    $290 isn’t really on a budget, just sayin’ 😉

  • swangirl

    This article has some great advice, but I think all the gear might be overwhelming for a beginner. As far as lighting goes though, there is an interesting crowd sourcing project to help solve the problems that accompany basic laptop camera vlogging. It’s called The Swan Light. It evenly lights your face from a more flattering angle, and it’s portable too! Check it out at http://theswanlight.com/ and like it on facebook!

  • Cory Missildine

    Using these tips, I was able to somewhat pull off a type of vlog. I hope.


  • Angie Moyler

    I’ve just discovered Vimmy. Reading this is great – but feel slightly daunted. Isn’t this where Vimmy etc will take over?

  • Mikito Ohara

    I guess you are good at video editing. That is one of the quality of video blogger.

    Video Productions Perth

  • Very great post with excellent and insightful information. Thanks for sharing.

    Video Backgrounds

  • Wow! This would be my starter kit for creating stunning video production with my friends and family. Thank you for sharing this article and keep it up. Cheers!