If you're just starting out in digital video, you can be easily overwhelmed by the large amount of equipment (hardware and software) that's available in the market.
Camcorders, video capture devices, video editing programs, etc. - which do you buy, and where do you begin?
To make matters worse, salespeople in electronics stores will often confuse you even more by recommending tons of models to you.
Here, I'd like to give you a little overview of the essential equipment for getting into the digital video hobby. You don't have to be confused anymore!
The first order of the day is a solid digital camcorder. You obviously need to be able to shoot videos and a digital camcorder is the device to do it.
A good camcorder is essential for your work
I know that there are other options (e.g. an iPhone that takes videos) but for serious video work, you absolutely should invest in a proper camcorder.
In addition, I'd also suggest that you go for a handheld camcorder instead of a pocket camcorder. While pocket camcorders are good for fun, snappy videos on the go, if you want to do serious digital video and movies, a handheld camcorder is the way to go.
Which camcorder do you buy? Well, it depends a lot on how you intend to use it.
For a beginner, a handheld is fine. If you're a professional, you'd want to go with broadcast quality devices like 3-CCD camcorders.
Your budget will also influence your decision. If you're just starting out, I'd advise against plonking down a large amount of cash into the camcorder until you're more sure of the hobby.
Here's a short guide I've written to help you buy a good digital camcorder.
The next item you need as a digital video enthusiast is a computer capable of editing videos. A video editing computer can be built on your own or bought off the shelf.
Get a solid video editing computer for post-processing
For me, I'm familiar with computers, so I often decide to build the units myself. If you're less proficient with computers, I'd suggest you go with Apple, HP and Dell as these are more reliable computer brands.
There are many things to look out for when purchasing a video editing computer. Things like the CPU, RAM and video card play an important role in determining how fast your video editing package and rendering will run.
You also want to make the computer you buy has a card reader port for reading SD cards from your camcorder. I've written a guide on how to choose a video editing computer to help you out.
The next piece of video equipment you need is a video editing software program. This is important for doing post-production work - adding titles, credits, special effects, music and so forth.
Video editing software for adding effects to your videos
There are basic video editing programs like Adobe Premiere Elements and Corel VideoStudio which are suitable for beginners. You can learn the basics of video editing, then move on to more advanced functions when you're comfortable.
Then there are more advanced packages like Adobe Premiere, Sony Vegas and Final Cut Pro - these give you industrial strength tools for getting creative with your videos. The downside is that they cost a lot of money. Which is why I don't generally recommend them to newbies.
Video editing packages also usually have DVD and Blu-ray authoring capabilities built in. So you can easily burn your videos to various media or even upload them straight into the likes of YouTube and Vimeo.
Here is some information on video editing software in the market.
If you're adventurous enough, you can also host your own domain and get videos stored in there. But for beginners, a nice YouTube or Vimeo account will be good enough.
There are some accessories which I deem to be quite important for your digital video hobby. These are:
A tripod is necessary because it lends stability to your videos. Even more so than in photography, videographers need to have their videos looking stable and can often be filming up to 30 minutes without stopping. So you need a tripod to stabilize the camera and also allow you some freedom in moving around to adjust the scene's elements.
Microphones are an important tool, especially in vidoegraphy where you may be interviewing folks. I like to keep an interviewee question list with me and a small clip-on microphone which I can deploy to my subject easily if a video opportunity arises.
Finally, extra batteries are a must if you plan on doing prolonged video shooting. I have three battery packs for my camcorder - a bit excessive, but you never know when you'll run out of juice and need some power in your camcorder.
Those are the basic elements of what you need to get started as a digital video enthusiast. Now, I recommend that you at least procure a camcorder, a video editing computer, a good video editing software and an online video sharing account.
Additional accessories like a tripod, microphone and extra batteries can be obtained later, when you're more familiar with shooting videos.