Doing Video on a Budget: Plan, Research and List

It's doubtful that anyone is going to hand you a blank check when getting financial approval for the hardware or software that you are looking to get.

It goes without saying, we're all in the same boat, in that if we're doing anything, it's on a budget. And for that matter, usually a tight one. Fortunately, there are ways to work within financial constraints without having to bang your head against a wall at every turn.

All things are for the glory of God, and the internet is no exception. Put it to work for the Kingdom.

Will you be able to pull what you need to do with video off with just a GoPro camera and some low-cost or free software? Maybe. Maybe not.

If you're reading this piece in the hopes of finding an itemized list of precisely what you've been shopping for, you're going to be disappointed.

I couldn't possibly know what equipment or systems would best meet your specific needs.

Quite simply, there are things that come before an equipment investment. That's a great lead into the first point:

Make a Plan

You very much need to sit down with your team, administrators, pastoral staff, deacons, council, church leaders or whoever should be a part of an assessment of your ministry's needs and goals.

Begin with one's needs first, followed by one's goals, but plan for both.

Single or multiple camera setup? What type of shots do you want to get? How many angles will you need to cover? Do we have people, either staff or volunteers, to run cameras? Can we actually purchase cameras that will require an operator?

Get it all figured out.

After a Plan, Then Do Your Research

Once you have that plan in place, get ready to spend the next week sitting in front of a computer with a phone in your hand. You can't just sort by the lowest price and pick the first thing (at the lowest price) on the list. You must determine if any piece of equipment has the correct inputs, outputs, recording modes, audio options, whatever.

This doesn't just apply to hardware, but software as well. Is there great software out there that doesn't require a major investment or a subscription? You bet.

Do you need a decent NLE (Non-Linear Editing) system? A good place to start is to download Hitfilm Express or DaVinci Resolve, as both are free.

Need a software suite that will stream your service live? Open Broadcast Software (OBS) is a great open source, and therefore a free utility, that'll stream to just about anywhere you want.

Will any of these work for you?

Install them and test what they can do.

It's all part of the research phase.

You're going to have to read specs and compare and reread and check reviews to minimize the risk of incompatibility issues, to improve your odds of not throwing money out of the window. If you do this, then the chances of everything working once you plug your new item or items to your system, will be much better.

We all know it probably won't work perfectly at first, though, as it rarely does. Welcome to the media team.

Once you know what you need:

Make a List

Sound obvious? Maybe, but probably not for the reasons you may be thinking.

It's doubtful that anyone is going to hand you a blank check. You'd better have an itemized list with an actual, exact price on it.

You're going to do this while researching anyway, by means of scribbling on a notepad or adding items to a wish list or shopping cart.

Most importantly, you need to have a copy of this list in your hand when you walk down to the office when it's time to seek financial approval, if that's required.

You have a grip on this and you know what is needed and what these things do, but unless you lay it out in simple layman's terms for anyone who doesn't have a technical background, it's all useless.

It'll be a hard sell otherwise, because if you don't explain it well enough to those financial people who need convincing why something is necessary, they'll never understand or agree that it is necessary.

Throwing seemingly abstract figures or demands into the air without specifics, such as pricing and component functions, could bring the progress that you have achieved thus far, to a crawl.

What Can You Get Away With?

Image and production quality are of a very real importance.

Going too low on the quality to save a few bucks, may just shoot all your efforts in the foot. Does that mean you need to invest in a 4k setup? No. It's useful in many ways, but not a priority.

Meeting production standards is more important, than how much your rig costs. A good shot with a cheap camera is better than a bad shot with a $50,000 cinematic camera. A properly framed subject with appropriate headroom, positive and negative space on screen, makes a bigger initial impact on the viewer than resolution or bokeh will.

If you're just filming to post videos on a website or to post to social media for your church, you can get away with a low budget, fixed lens camera. If you have the budget to get a high resolution camera, you can crop, scale and reposition in postproduction, without losing too much of the image quality. Or another way to achieve high quality video, is where you can plop down a 4k GoPro and crop, scale or position the frame so many ways without a notable loss in resolution, that you'll easily create the look of a multi camera shoot.

Food for thought.

To do that effectively, you'll need to be in very close to your principal subject. Don't go thinking you can duct tape your phone or a webcam to the wall on the back of your sanctuary and create a zoom effect later. The major drawback with any fixed lens system is the curse of the digital zoom that cuts into your image to enlarge your subject.

Optical zoom is always the better option.

Having multiple, smaller cameras is going to lock you into the cycle of pulling SIM cards after every filmed event, but it's significantly cheaper than buying a switch and adapters or cameras with SDI outputs.

Capture sources that run independently will also drop you into the never-ending loop of syncing your audio feeds in post. Video without good audio is useless, unless you're Charlie Chaplin. Don't leave out a quality audio capture source.

Footages and Assets

The internet is arguably the best thing since bacon. Use it.

All things are for the glory of God, and the internet is no exception. Put it to work for the Kingdom.

YouTube and Vimeo are wonderful resources for free stock footage, overlays, chromakey assets and backgrounds. Check the licensing, to be sure it's listed as Creative Commons or Free To Use.

There is also a myriad of sites such as Motion Array that will grant you access to free or low cost footage, music or templates that will ramp up the quality of whatever you're producing, be it video, promo, bumpers, slides or trailers.

A Word of Warning

Always be sure that "free" is truly free, if that is what you are specifically looking for. Beware of hidden subscription signups and fees.

When installing "free" software or utilities, always choose the Advanced Install option, or you'll end up with spyware, malware or some other sneaky stowaway. Some programmer somewhere spent time making that free product, and the way that they earn money from it, is by taking money from an unscrupulous vendor to piggyback their software into your system.

Work, Pray, Develop

Ideally, you'd be buying a system to put into place. Truthfully, you're going to be developing a working system from the components you can actually acquire. Laying out a well-planned setup from an economic mindset, may just leave you more lateral room for future expansion, than you originally thought.

Lastly, remember that people get sick. They relocate. They get job offers. The Lord puts them somewhere else. Life happens. Death happens, too.

Do your diligence so that you won't be leaving behind a convoluted mess, just in case someone else needs to take the wheel.

"Make every effort to present yourself before God as a proven worker who does not need to be ashamed, teaching the message of truth accurately."
2 Timothy 2:15

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