Best Video Cameras Under $600

Over the last few years the price of video cameras has dropped dramatically. Due to recent advances in technology – namely software and hardware the quality these cameras output has gotten better. This is fantastic news for camera enthusiasts like myself because not only has it made it easier to get my hands on a new piece of gear it also mean that my work now looks 100 time better than it did – for half the price.

Now, I’m not going to be highlighting the Red cameras or the Black Magic Camera. The cameras I’ve selected below all have one thing in common: They’re cheap. Really. Cheap.  Under $600, that’s great bang for your buck. Here are the best video cameras.

Great HD Video Cameras

GoPro HERO3

GOPRO cameraIf you’re doing any extremely videography – surfing, snowboarding, skate, etc. This is the one tool you need to have in your kit. Not only does it shoot in standard HD, it also goes all the way and lets you shoot in 4k! Yeah, that’s some serious image quality. You also have the option to record in a range of frame rates from from 30fps to 120fps at 720p. This is great if you really need to detail, slow down and emphasis specific moments in your project. You’re probably thinking you’ll need a whole crew to power this beast. Nope, the thing only ways about 1.5 pounds and can fit in your pocket. It’s so small I actually misplaced my first one. I can laugh about that now…

Canon EOS Rebel T3i

A few years ago Canon and Nikon changed the way amateur filmmakers create their content. They released a line of digital SLR camera, mainly designed to take photographs, these guys also output some stunning video. Furthermore, it gave camera guys to ability to use multiple lenses, a feature that was hard to come by on a regular pro-sumer camera in those day (You could always use a 35mm adaptor but the loss of light was a killer).

Flip UltraHD Video Camera

I’ve always been a fan of the flip cameras. I’ve found them to be a super convenient tool when I’m traveling light. Similar to the Go-Pro, it’s small size lets me put it in my pocket. That being said – it still lets me record 720p at 60 frames a second. I can get about 2 hours of footage on these things, plus it has a built in USB stick that will let me upload my footage to the computer at the end of the day. It’s not as easy to handle, or mount as the other two cameras but makes for a great camera when we go on trips.

What to Look for When Hiring a Production Company

So you have finally made up your mind to go for that video project. You have put it off for so long that now you need to double up on your speed and effort. The next important step, after you made the decision, is to go and find the best video production company to help you out.

But that isn’t as easy as it sounds, what with the sheer number of video production outfits out there! You need to be able to select the production company that is perfect for your specific project. Since I’ve lived and worked in and around California, I’ll use San Francisco video production companies as an example of  what to look for.

Below are some tips to help you out and ease the process:

How To Find The Perfect Video Production Company

1) Learn About the Video Production Company

The first step in the process of hiring a video production company is learning their background. Have they been in business for a long time? Learning if they’ve been around for some time could at least give you the idea that people have trusted them to last that long. You would also like to learn about the kind of videos and project that take on. This would allow you to judge if they are a good fit for your project or if you need to look elsewhere.

2) Are They Enthusiastic About Working With You and Offer Some Nice Ideas?

video production companiesIt is important to know if the video production people are actually showing signs of really being excited and enthusiastic to work on your project. This is an indication that they are interested in the project and would put forth a nice effort in creating it. And it would certainly help if they offer some good ideas that are meant to improve the video and make it better.

Image provided by Darren E

3) Do You Have Good Chemistry?

Chemistry is very important in the production of a video. If it is not there, then the project is likely to reflect that and the production is going to suffer and will probably not reflect what you envisioned.

video production san francico This chemistry thing can be apparent right from the start, when you have that initial business meeting with them. If it is not there and there is no connection between you and the video production staff then you would be well advised to look for another company.

An example of good chemistry is Market Me Video Production, I worked with these guys on a product demo and the chemistry couldn’t have been better right from the start. The process from beginning to end was seamless. Love it!

4) How Prepared Were They for Your First Meeting and Is Their Price Range Okay?

You could tell by now that the first business meeting with them is pretty crucial. Aside from sizing up if you have good chemistry with them early on you should also take note of how prepared they were for that initial meeting. They should be on time, know your company’s background, and have every indication that they respect you and your time. It would also be nice to know if their price range for the specific type of project that are going to do fits right into your prepared budget.

4) Do They Bring New Ideas To The Table?

An important thing to find out is whether the video production company is able and willing to provide you with advise and ideas on how to multi-purpose your video project. Look at it as a way of getting back on your investment, because let’s be honest about the fact that video production is not cheap at all. It might be through optimizing the video for SEO or being uploaded to a video sharing site like You Tube, and any other way to get something back from your investment.

Don’t forget to check out my home page for more videography and post production tips.

Post Production: My Favourite After Effects Plugins

Being behind the camera means you have complete control over your shot – from the lighting to the composition. However, with recent advancements in technology and computer graphics being able to control your footage in post-production is a skill on it’s own. I’ve been using after effects for many years and I’ve shared a few plugins that I can’t live with.

My Top After Effects Plugins

Element 3D

element3dupdate2_thmThis amazing plugin gives you 3D functionality right inside of After Effects, crazy right? You can import pre-built 3D models, (with support for OBJ, FBX, C4D, 3DS Max and Vray), straight into your scenes, add a camera and start compositing your shot in minutes. You won’t believe some of the stuff that’s come from this little plugin.

Magic Bullet Looks

When it comes to applying colour effects and grades MBL is the fastest, it’s one of those tools that just makes things easier. You can start by using a preset you take it one step further and fully customize your looks by layering up filters and effects.

Light Leaks Me

light leaksOkay, so this isn’t exactly a plugin but for the price I think it’s worth having a good set of Light Leaks. A simple google search should some good results for these. Using light leaks is a lot simpler than installing a plugin. This is a true plug and play system. Simply add the video files to your editing program and change the blending mode and you’re off to the races.

Trapcode Particular

Trapcode_Particular_2_HeroIf you’re in the business of making particles of any kind then you can’t look much further than Trapcode Particular. Snow, Sparks, Dust, it all happens in this fairly cheap plugin by Red Giant. The programs gives you complete control over the type of particle, it’s shape, size, colour and blending mode. Basically you can play God and make anything imaginable, pretty F-ing awesome right? At $399 it isn’t the cheapest thing in the world but once you learn how to master it, you’ll be raking in the dough.

Optical Flares

You’re probably not JJ Abrams but you’re sure as hell going to try. Now with the new optical flares plugin from those guys over at video copilot you’re basically directing the next Star Trek film. This plugin isn’t just good, it’s damn good, like really damn good. You can start with the basic preset flares and take it up a notch by creating your own. Add a null, track that thing and boom. You’ve got yourself a real life-like flare in your scene.

How to create lens flares and light leaks on set

Lately I’ve been using a few different techniques to add an extra level of depth to my shots. One of the ways I’ve been doing this by adding my own lens flares to my footage.

flaresLens flares are a natural occurrence (and sometimes an annoyance) when film in any big light source. This is most common when you are pointing you camera in the direction of the sun. There are two results from this: you can either get visible artifacts – the light will create shapes on the lens. Or, you will see a haze like effect over certain parts of the image, this creates a washed out look on screen -reduces the contrast, adds light to darker regions and lowers the overall saturation.

light leaks

There are a few ways to achieve these effects. The first, as mentioned before, is to face the direction of the sun, slowly change your angle until you start to see a lens flare appear. If your lens does not have a lens-hood, you will start to see a lens flare quickly quickly as stray light will start to enter your image.

Another way to create a light leak is to detach the lens slightly from your camera. Basically you’re creating a tiny gap that will allow a small bit of light to hit your camera sensor, or film. These light leaks are quite strong and will boost the white areas of your film – it’s a distinct look but one that can really look good. Alternatively, you can purchase pre-made effects online from a variety of vendors. These effects have been made in a studio and you can quickly integrate them into your “clean” footage during post production. You can also view my post on my favorite after effects plugins here.

If you’re filming indoors and finding a strong light source is a bit hard to find. You can always try pointing a flashlight into your lens from just outside of frame. If your lens is detached the light will creep in nicely creating a light leak. If it’s not, you will still get a cool looking lens flare on the image.

Stay tuned for more tips on how you can create interesting looking images for almost no money.

Best Videos Shot On A GoPro

I’ve expressed my love for all things GoPro. That little sucker seriously packs a lot of punch. I’m constantly surprised how good the video quality can be for something so small. The latest version of the GoPro, the Hero 3, records 4k video at 15 frames per second and can record 120 frames per second at 720p. Along with these amazing specs are a series of accessories that will really take your videos to the next level. From suction cup mounts to underwater housing units, these guys have thought of everything. One of my favourite features of the new camera is the ability to use an app on your smart phone to control the camera.

I’ve compiled a few videos that show how remarkable the quality of this camera really is. If you’re looking for a list of other cameras make sure to check out my post on other cameras under $600

GoPro Videos

This video, released by GoPro, follows Kevin Richardson as he lets a crew document his passion for lions and the bond he’s formed with a particular group of lions. You really get a sense of the size, scale and detail of the creatures in a way that has never been photographed before. His chest camera-mounted lets you experience the power of these creatures first hand.

This video about pelican learning to fly for the first time is incredible. The story is impressive as well as the recover and teaching methods of the individuals in the video. What’s really striking in the camera angle, it’s something that has never been seen before. It was probably never even possible before. Check out the video to see some amazing visuals. It doesn’t even look real.

Okay, this final one is a bit cheesy but it definitely take you back to a time when everyone had a copy of Goldeneye on their N64.

Here’s a final compilation video that shows the range of these camera – snow, water, dirt, air – is there anything these cameras can’t handle?