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Getting Into Vlogging – Part 2

In Part One of the series on vlogging I shared a recommendation for a camera: the Sony ZV-1. Obviously this is the centerpiece of any vlogging configuration. Getting good clear video is important. However, a great case could be made that the audio of a vlog is of equal importance…perhaps even more important. Viewers will quickly move on from a video they can’t hear clearly. While the Sony ZV-1 has a good microphone, it will vary depending on conditions (wind, background noise, ventilation, etc.). The best way to insure the cleanest audio capture is through a dedicated microphone, and in the world of vlogging, that means a wireless microphone. The good news is there are a lot of excellent choices out there at various price points.

Microphone Kit

Goal

To have a microphone setup that is easy to use, captures audio at the source (i.e. very close to the speakers mouth), and is wireless to allow disconnected movement. The battery life should be sufficient for at least an hour of uninterrupted use, send audio to the video source, but also record it as a standalone mp3 file.

RODE Wireless Go II (my recommendation)

The RODE Wireless Go II is a dual channel wireless microphone system. It comes with one receiver that can be attached to the hot/cold shoe mount on the Sony ZV-1, and two transmitters with wind screens which can be clipped to a shirt collar. It’s key features (from their website) include:

  • Dual channel wireless microphone system for recording two sound sources simultaneously
  • Series IV 2.4GHz digital transmission, 128-bit encryption – crystal-clear audio at up to 200m (line of sight), optimized for extremely stable operation in dense RF environments
  • 3.5mm TRS analog output, USB-C and iOS digital output – universal compatibility with cameras, mobile devices and computers
  • On-board recording – over 40 hours of internal memory
  • Option to record each channel separately or combine them for ultimate flexibility in post-production
  • In-built rechargeable lithium-ion battery – up to 7 hours battery life

After using the product for a little while now, I’d note the following pluses and minuses:

Positives:
  1. Very small and compact. It can be carried in a pocket or purse.
  2. Great audio quality, especially when paired with a Lavalier mic. I’d suggest the RODE SmartLav
  3. Having the audio sent back to receiver and recorded on the transmitter as well is a real life saver and allows you to get out of range of the receiver and still capture audio.
  4. There is a “safety channel” which records at -20dB in case you main audio clips, so you have a usable recording despite the wrong gain on capture.
  5. Can be used with most cameras and even smart phones with the write adapters.
Negatives:
  1. A little pricey. Currently about $300 on Adorama.
  2. When clipping on a shirt collar it is very obvious, especially with the windscreen. It also has rather bright status lights on the front, making it even more obvious.
  3. Uses micro usb to charge. A small nit pick, but it would be nice it if had USB-C.

All in all, this is an excellent solution for anybody who wants to regularly vlog and capture consistently great audio.

Watch for a video review soon.

Next time we’ll address post production video software options.

camera

Getting Into Vlogging – Part 1

Vlogging is the act of creating and adding content to a “vlog” or “video blog” (think YouTube). Vlogging a term often used by content creators on YouTube, or “YouTubers” when talking about their craft. The advent of good quality video cameras on phones, like the iPhone, has launched a generation of videographers eager to use the internet to get their message out there. At last count nearly 500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube EVERY MINUTE!

Just for fun, here are few more fun facts about YouTube:

  • There are 2.3 billion YouTube users world-wide
  • 79% of all internet users say they have a YouTube account
  • YouTube viewers watch over 1 billion hours of video each day
  • 62% of US-based businesses use YouTube to post video content
  • 70% of YouTube views come on mobile devices
  • 90% of people say they discovered new products or brands on YouTube

It is a compelling platform that millions use either to consume video or the subject of this blog post — to create it.

Today it’s becoming very common to find those in ministry (pastors, teachers, staff ministers, lay leaders) using vlogs to deliver their content, whether that be a devotion, lesson or other ministry-related content. Pastors might want to “vlog” shorter devotions, mini Bible studies, congregational reports, sermon “extras”, topical counseling tips, flipped catechism lessons, and, well you get the idea. Teachers have just as many vlogging opportunities. The obvious application are flipped classroom lessons, but others include parent updates, educational or how-to videos for colleagues, individual instruction for virtual students or those with specific needs, and even recordings for assessments and personal growth.

There are many use cases for getting into vlogging. Just think of all the written content you produce and ask, “Would creating a video enhance this content in some way, or increase its likelihood of being “seen?” When it comes to communications, those are the two big questions: how to amplify it and how to increase its useful viewership.

For those of you who have decided to get started, you probably are starting with using your smart phone to capture audio and video, and then uploading to YouTube or your ministries web site. You try to find a pleasing background and a space without too much competing light or especially noise. Great. But this series of blog posts, and subsequent vlogs will outline how to up that game a little bit with techniques and equipment. Why? Mostly because we now are publishing content in a world full of high production quality video. We don’t want, nor could we match, them, but it is important to recognize the gap between what people watch on YouTube, and our stuff. So things we can reasonably do to improve quality will be worth it —  balancing cost, complexity and results of course.

Today I’ll start by sharing just a baseline camera setup for vlogging created by Brian Urbanek of GoldWing Productions LLC. This recommendation was created for WELS Special Ministries “Gospel Hands” — a video signing project for the deaf and hard of hearing. Here is part of the recommendation’s introduction:

Because the intent is for the equipment to be operated by volunteers, the highest consideration went into the ease of use for each piece of equipment, while still being able to achieve a certain level of quality. Ideally, all of the gear should be operable by a single person, should they need to carry this work out alone.

Camera Kit

Goal

To have a camera that can shoot 4K and have as professional of a look as possible, for the lowest cost possible. These cameras are all very popular among vloggers and YouTube content creators, as they have been created specifically for that demographic. They all feature a pop-out screen to be able to see yourself before and during filming.

Sony ZV-1 (my recommendation)

Cost: $778 @ Adorama

  • This kit comes with an included 64 GB SD card, extra battery, and battery charger
  • PRO: Digital bokeh (more of a mirrorless camera look)
  • PRO: 4K up to 30fps
  • PRO: f/1.8 lens
  • PRO: great out of focus background

Other options: Canon G7X II or III, Canon M50, Sony a6400

Note: If purchasing after August 31, 2021 you may want to consider the newer model (Sony ZV-E10)

Final camera recommendation

The Sony ZV-1 camera is a favorite among YouTube content creators. It shoots at 4K video and has great autofocus capabilities, allowing the subject to always be in focus. It’s capable of creating a slightly blurry background, mimicking a slightly more cinematic look compared to the other two Canons on the list.

– above recommendation by Brian Urbanek

If you are interested in this camera I recorded a brief review of it myself below using the actual unit.

As you can see it records clear and color accurate video. There is no distortion, and it truly is a dream to operate.

Next time we’ll address lighting and backdrop recommendations.


Credits: Featured image courtesy of Jonathan Cutrer

Ten Tips for Vlogging

We live in a “YouTube” generation. YouTube, or more correctly, Google, describes this “group” as “Gen C”. Their analytics group writes:

Gen C is a powerful new force in consumer culture. It’s a term we use to describe people who care deeply about creation, curation, connection, and community. It’s not an age group; it’s an attitude and mindset – and here are 8 of its defining characteristics.

  • Gen C is a state of mind
  • Gen C strives for expression
  • Gen C is a taste-maker
  • Gen C defines the social network
  • YouTube is Gen C’s habitat for entertainment
  • Gen C is constantly connected
  • Gen C connects on YouTube on all screens
  • Gen C values relevance and originality

The full article is here: https://ssl.gstatic.com/think/docs/introducing-gen-c-the-youtube-generation_research-studies.pdf.

Regardless if Google is right, we have to admit that we live in a new electronic culture and it’s citizens are engaged in different ways. The question then is how do we as Gospel-sharers connect with this generation? My sense is that it is less and less through the written word (like this blog :-)) and more and more through the mediums they prefer. At the top of that list is YouTube. And that means that we all need to get a little more comfortable with video creation. A way to start is through the increasingly popular concept of vlogging. That’s a variant of blogging, except via video. I’ll explore this in more detail in my own blog, or perhaps I’ll create a vlog! But for now, here is the wikipedia definition of vlogging:

A video blog or video log, usually shortened to vlog/ˈvlɒɡ/, is a form of blog for which the medium is video, and is a form of web television. Vlog entries often combine embedded video (or a video link) with supporting text, images, and other metadata. Entries can be recorded in one take or cut into multiple parts. The vlog category is popular on YouTube. (Wikipedia article)

Application/audience

I’m convinced that vlogs, or video in general, is a tool that those in ministry need to get comfortable with. And it’s actually not as hard as you think. While traveling on business I took a few minutes in my hotel room to create a quick vlog using just my iPhone and a Shure microphone to prove to myself the fairly obstacle-free process of creating a vlog. All toll, this vlog took me about 1 hour to create and post. I used iMovie on the iPhone to put the clips together, and then, of course, YouTube to publish it. You can see the video below where I offer my version of a top ten list of vlogging tips. It’s not overly professional, but that is somewhat the characteristic of vlogs. They are meant to be fairly spontaneous, more casual, and hopefully engaging.

The top ten list includes: 1) Good audio, 2) Good lighting, 3) Distraction free background, 4) Friction-free workflow, 5) Turn distractions off, 6) Don’t over script, 7) Look “through” the lens, 8) Use lists, 9) Keep it short, 10) Log ideas. I go into more detail on each in the video.

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