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 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.

Adding light leaks in your editing software

I received a few comments and tweets about my recent post on light leaks. Specifically adding light leaks to your films in post production. is one of the vendors online that provide this effects for you to use. I think its safe to say that creating light leaks on-set using the lens techniques I outlined is a skill that takes time to get right.

Today I’m going to describe how you can add light leaks to your adobe premiere and apple’s final cut projects.

Adding LighT leaks to you editing program is quite simple. Each of the main editing programs each have a different way of implementing these effects. It’s quite simple and when you’re done you have some stunning results.

Adding Light Leaks In Post

Final Cut Pro 7

FCP7Although this program has been discontinued, it was (and still is) used by many production companies. Getting your effects into the software is very simple, you can import the footage or drag it in from your finder window. Once in, select the light leak you want to use and place it on your timeline on a track above your footage. Right click and select the ‘composite mode’. Each mode will give you a slightly different look, experiment and see what works best.

Adobe Premiere

light leaks Using the effects in adobe premiere is also a simple process. Once you’ve imported or footage and light leaks into the project look for the “effects controls” tab. The blend mode is located under the opacity drop down button. Select your desired blend mode.

Final Cut Pro X

FCPxAfter initial hesitation, it seems as though people are jumping back on the final cut train. The product that seemed stripped down of many useful features has had numerous updates and is proved be a good tool in the editing community. I’m still undecided but what I can say is that, adding light effects to your projects is very easy. Once you’ve got the footage setup and the light leak in the right spot, simply go to the inspector window. Once there, you’ll be looking for ‘compositing’. Here you’ll be able to select your blend mode from the drop down menu. It’s really that easy.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, you can manipulate any light leak the same way you would footage. Change the colour, opacity and speed to get different results.


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. Something high quality is a must is a good start, however, there are plenty of places online for you to explore. 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 and light leakS to my shots.

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. is a good place to start.

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.

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?