I finally stared working in video a bit this year. I’ve been meaning to for ages and finally did thanks to YouTube and comic book haul videos. I know they’re not much but they’re an intro to the form. I also made a couple of four minute videos set to music this summer but they are much more time consuming to make. Plus they get far fewer views on YouTube so I’ll have to revisit what I do with those. I’ll have to find a way to make them more interesting for me and the viewer.

Being a gadget guy I’ve been thinking lately about what cameras I have to shoot with and if I need any new ones. My general philosophy has been to “Shoot with what you got”. I’ve seen too many people never do anything because they don’t have the perfect equipment. Y’know, as soon as they get this doodad or that gizmo they’ll get started and they never get those gizmos so they never start. Just use whatever you have even if it’s inferior to your ideal.

The first thing I shoot with is my iPad. That works well for my Comic Book Haul videos. I plop it on a tripod, point it at my easel, and put the comics I want to film on my easel. Works fine. The mic is good too. Or I should say that the mic is good when I’m right on top of it. Since I’m sitting behind the iPad and handling the comics that means the microphone in very close to my mouth and it picks up my voice well rather than the sound of the room.

The other camera that I use is my Canon S95. It’s a small camera that I put on a small tripod to record my ASMR drawing videos. I’m not talking during those videos and the camera mic does a nice job at picking up the sound of the pencil or pen on paper as I’m drawing. It’s only inches away from the paper so it better do a good job.

The problem I had was when I turned the camera on myself to talk for some heads-up comic book videos. First off I tried my laptop. It has the typical built-in iSight camera and everybody else on YouTube seems to use their laptop webcams to make videos fairly easily so I thought I would too. It didn’t work out so well. First off I have bad lighting for filming in my studio. I have a couple of glaringly bright fluorescent tubes on my ceiling. Great for working under but no so great for filming under. I knew that was going to be a problem and it was. But I moved a few things around and waited for some natural light and it was okay.

I tested out the video on the laptop and it looked alright but the sound wasn’t very good. The mic picked up the room sounds and my voice sounded weak and hollow. Pretty typical stuff for a laptop mic in a room. I muddled through and filmed about ten minutes of video when I noticed the spinning beach ball cursor that means things aren’t right. The video capture program had crashed and left me without any video. That made me abandon the laptop approach and go back to my iPad.

I have an iPad 2 that is getting a bit long in the tooth these days but it’s still a nice little machine. I was able to talk for fifteen minutes on video with no crashes and no problems. With my Comic Book Haul videos I film them on my iPad in little one minute segments. I talk for about a minute for each comic and then quickly edit them together in iMovie for the iPad and upload right from the iPad to YouTube. It’s amazing how smoothly that all works. But with the heads up video I ran into the same microphone problem. It all sounds hollow when I’m not right on top of the mic.

These are typical mic problems and there are typical mic solutions to them that usually involve buying a better microphone and keeping it closer to you mouth. This line of thinking, of course, always leads me down the path of evaluating all of my equipment. I have the money right now to replace one of my things but which one? The iPad is the most expensive but would it give me the most bang for my buck? Probably not. My iPad 2 has a terrible still camera and I’d like an iPad with a better one but I’m not sure that’s worth the $800 bucks I’d spend to get it. And for video it’ll be about the same. I’m not lying. I want a new iPad. I just don’t think it’s worth the money right now.

My small Canon camera is just fine. It works well for filming my drawing videos so I don’t really need another small camera. It’s my Canon SX30IS super zoom that might need replacing. I bought that camera back in October of 2010 and it was supposed to be a sort of stop gap camera until I decided if I wanted to get a digital SLR or micro 4/3s camera. Turns out that I really didn’t need either and the Canon SX30IS suited me just fine. I shot with what I had. Though one of the things that camera is missing is a microphone jack. So if I shoot video with it I get a lot of room noise. Or wind noise if I’m outside as I shot with it this past summer.

All that lead me to check out various digital SLR or micro 4/3s cameras once again. Turns out that though those two types of cameras offer a lot of advantages they’re still too expensive for what they’ll offer me that I think I’ll actually use. I’m going to settle for another super-zoom. The latest Canon SX60 even has the mic jack that I’m looking for. I’ve noticed that those high end super-zooms often get mediocre reviews but I’ve muddled through with my Canon SX30 quite well. I have no doubt I will do the same with the SX60. Meanwhile I’ve actually bought a USB microphone this week. I caught a nice one on sale at Amazon yesterday and decided to order it. Not quite spur of the moment but almost. Since it’s USB it won’t be able to plug into a camera but it turns out than I can get a camera mic for only about $25 bucks. I don’t know how great it’ll be but we’ll see. Maybe. I still haven’t decided yet. Meanwhile I’ll continue to shoot with what I got.