Video projects come in many shapes and sizes, and we’re often expected to do more with less. The reality for many of us is that we’ll have to produce some videos by ourselves without the help of a crew. For those of you that are in this boat, we’ve rounded up five must-have tools that are relatively inexpensive and can simplify your one-man band video productions.
The Digital Director
For those using DSLR cameras made by Nikon or Canon, the Digital Director by Manfrotto ($399.88) is an electronic device that connects your camera and iPad via a USB cable to help manage the video workflow. In a nutshell, this tool allows you to add your iPad (most models) to your video setup for full control (aperture, shutter speed, focus, ISO, and video settings) via the iPad application.
The Digital Director runs off AA batteries or an AC power adapter, and allows for up to 33 feet of cabling from the iPad to the camera. This means you can easily record yourself without having to get up and adjust the camera between takes. It’s a perfect tool for video bloggers and video journalists, or for any instance when timing is critical to your production. It will also make your equipment bag much lighter because you’re using an iPad rather than a large external monitor.
Speaking of the iPad, you can also use its display to show the image you’re recording to your talent, a co-worker, or a client. Rather than looking at the camera’s small built-in screen, everyone on-set can view the iPad to judge your footage thanks to the device’s smooth, high-quality video with low latency.
One of the Digital Director’s most appealing features is that the frame is replaceable, so that it can be made to work with different sizes of the iPad when they come out. In the video industry, this is about as future-proof as you can get!
The Look Lock System
One proven way to add production value to your one-man band videos is to use a multi-camera setup. While that sounds daunting, the Look Lock System ($79.95) by Tether Tools is an easy and lightweight device that can help achieve this look. The Look Lock System is a camera-mountable universal smartphone holder with an articulating arm that lets you mount small devices above your camera lens or body. You can incorporate a smartphone, Go-Pro, or any small camera above your main one to record a second viewpoint.
The benefit of this setup is that both cameras are right in front of you, which allows for easy viewing and control, and prevents the camera operator from having to go back and forth between cameras set up on tripods. Not only does this speed production, but it also creates a safer and more efficient environment while working solo.
The Look Lock can also be used to create a lightweight, on-the-go teleprompter by rotating the display toward the talent. There are several teleprompter smartphone apps under $10 that you can use.
Flex iPad Teleprompter
While the Look Lock System can work as a quick teleprompter, more serious videos require a larger setup. The Prompter People Flex iPad Teleprompter ($799) is an ideal solution when you need something both professional and lightweight.
The tool works by connecting your tripod to the frame of the teleprompter system. The camera is then attached to the frame, with the lens recording video through beamsplitter glass. The glass displays text reflected from an iPad or Android tablet. This setup is more in-tune with how old-school TV studio prompters were set-up.
The benefit here is that your talent will look directly at your camera lens and not above, below, or off to the side. Moving eyes can be distracting to viewers. This is why I firmly believe investing in a true teleprompter system like this is worth it if you’re recording a lot of dialogue-heavy videos.
The system works with a variety of camera sizes and is easily readable up to 12 feet away. I recommend that you research the limitations of your tripod before purchasing this product, as it does add some weight when fully assembled.
One downside is that users need to purchase the teleprompter software iCUE, which is an additional $4.99 at the time of the article. However, the setup does include a Bluetooth wireless keyboard remote that allows you to control settings of the iCUE software.
The last practical feature that I will touch on is that this setup blocks the talent from seeing the camera. This can often be an overlooked benefit when working with talent or people who are not used to holding eye contact with the camera. From personal experience, I’ve found it much easier for people to steer and deliver script into teleprompter glass over a camera lens. It can make your talent look way more comfortable and natural.
Red Giant De-Noiser
One of the most common situations we’re put into is a low-light situation. Whether you’re recording something with little or no lighting, the results of that footage can often come out compressed and layered with artifacts. A simple fix is a plugin for your editing software called Red Giant’s De-Noiser II ($99). The plugin supports Adobe After Effects, Premiere Pro, and Final Cut Pro 7.
The software allows users to remove video noise from their footage with minimal to no effort via a drop-and-drag effect.
Not only does this plugin make your videos look better, but also it keeps viewers focused on your content rather than less-than-desirable footage. The beauty of this plugin is that it works with any type of footage including smartphone video. Red Giant offers a 30-day free trial, which I highly recommend you use. Apply it to some of your previously recorded noisy footage and see the difference.
One of the best ways a one-man band can succeed is by staying organized. Many of you will not only be tasked with creating a video, but also with getting it on YouTube. Hootsuite ($9.99 per month) can make your publishing life a whole lot easier!
The Hootsuite dashboard allows you to upload a video and then schedule it to publish to your YouTube channel via the YouTube app. This is extremely useful when you’re timing postings to a content calendar.
Hootsuite can also keep you organized with notifications of when your content is going to publish on platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Its dashboard allows you to view all your social media channels in one place. One major benefit is that it allows you to write posts for your social media channels around your video, which can lead to more exposure on different platforms.
Monitoring this interaction and engagement can be powerful. Hootsuite also gives you a tool to measure the success of your video campaign after production. The company offers a free limited version and a 30-day trial on a paid account.
These are simple, cost-effective tools that can make your workflows easier, while delivering results that don’t come off looking like one-man band video. Give them a try in your own productions this year.