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Our Best Video Production Upgrades

Feb 05, 2018

Time to upscale your production?

Here at Snap Synapse, we’ve done a lot of leveling up in the last year or so. After moving into a new office space, we steadily converted it into an full-on audio/video production facility.

As usual, we’re always experimenting. In this post, we’ll cover the Top 5 Audio/Video gear purchases that we’ve put to the test and still love using every chance we get.

[If you’re just getting started with video production, this post is not for you. Go get comfortable with some Smartphone Cinema first, then come back when you’re ready to level up too.]

  1. 18″ LED Ring Light – This is THE go-to light for every indoor lighting situation. When your camera (or smartphone) goes in the middle of this dimmable ring, everything just gets easier and prettier. There’s a reason they call these things “beauty lights”. It doesn’t have to be your key light though, it makes a great fill light too. In addition to using it in our studio, this model comes with a softcase that travels surprisingly well as airplane carry-on. We brought it to five L&D conferences last year and it worked out great! Fits on any standard lighting tripod, and holds any hotshoe-mounted device. You can buy a kit like this that includes all the extras if you need them too.
  2. LED wand light – This battery-powered light is adjustable to every color and lighting temperature you’ll need. With it we light greenscreens up in green, side fill lights in red or blue, kill shadows outside in the daylight, and work around our most reflective bespectacled talent with all sorts of odd angles. It is the handiest and most portable light we have, and we use it pretty much every day.  The fact that this thing looks like a lightsaber has nothing to do with why we love it so much. (Well, okay maybe a little…)
  3. Livestreaming Mixer – The Yamaha AG06 totally rocked our world! With it you can mix different XLR, 1/4″, 1/8″, and RCA sound sources going in to any computer, tablet, or smartphone. For webinars & livestreaming, nothing beats the “loopback” function. It’s so versatile that we’ve even used it for off-grid live sound with a USB powerpack. You likely don’t have as many inputs to juggle as we do, and can probably do well with the cheaper Yamaha AG03 instead.  And if you’re going to use this with an iPhone or iPad, make sure you get this powered lightning adapter instead of the single-plug kind.
  4. Fabric backdrops – We already had a bolt of some green fabric from the fabric store which works fine for greenscreen work. We purchased several additional backdrops, including a Tyvek brick printed background, some woodgrain looking paper backdrops, and a huge white fabric one for that “infinite” look. But the ones we love and use the most are actually the cheapest of the lot. They are very easy to travel with, and give instant consistency and class to any space. Not bad for only $15 bucks. We found these sold as “tapestries” for household use, as opposed to professional video production. But they work! They work very well indeed.
  5. Mevo – This is billed as a “livestreaming camera” and it is, but it is useful for much more than that. Combine it with an iOS or Android device running the app, and you have a semi-automated cameraman. It can be set to recognize faces, zoom in on them, and follow them around the frame (the camera itself doesn’t move, it simply zooms in digitally). Run a livestreaming mixer like that listed above into your device, and you can add any sound source directly. While it is intended to be used live with the Livestream.com platform (recently acquired by Vimeo), you can also record onto a microSD card and edit/upload your footage later. We’ve used this a bunch for events. Just set this unobtrusive little camera on a simple light stand tripod up close to the action, then drive it from afar with an iPad that’s pulling sound directly from a podium or lavalier microphone. Or just set it and forget it, roaming around the room for other angles while it dynamically follows the speaker across the stage. Sometimes living in the future is pretty cool.

Do you have any such A/V gear in your arsenal that you simply love? Any questions or concerns about those listed above? Reach out and let us know!

Don’t forget that you can tweet your questions to us anytime, and tune in to #VideoFriday from 8-9am Pacific any given Friday on TLDCast.

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