Many low-end and certainly mid-level camcorders come with a MIC in port. Buy an external microphone, plug it in and beyond that, all you have to do is make sure your levels are decent and you’re all set.
If you’re going to spend money, this is the area where most of your budget should go. If there’s one thing video experts agree on, it’s the paramount importance of proper lighting in shooting a video. In fact, proper lighting is more important than the type of camera you use. Why?
Key Light: As its name implies, this is the “main” light. Usually placed to the right of the camera and about 3 feet above the subject’s eye level (thereby emulating downward casting naturally produced by the sun).
Fill Light: This lighting fixture is placed on the other side of the camera and its job is to “fill” the shadow cast produced by the key light.
Back Light: Placed behind the subject. This light is sometimes called “head and shoulders” light because that’s the part of the subject it ought to illuminate.
Video Format: Some manufacturers save the on-cam video in proprietary formats that require special software to be converted into standard video formats (.mov, .mp4, .avi, etc.). Look for a cam that natively records in the format understood by your video editing software.
Sound: Look for a cam that has an external MIC-in. See the Audio section in the beginning of the article.
Size: The best camera is the one that you’ll actually use. So a small cam (iPhone or Flip Cam) that fits in your pocket and can be used on a moment’s notice may be exactly what you need. Otherwise, be prepared to carry your equipment with you wherever you go.
You can use software like Camtasia (for PC) and ScreenFlow (for Mac) to capture your computer screen. Combine it with an audio track and you can create visually rich and useful instructions for your viewership.
Honorable Mention: Screenr is a Twitter-integrated free online service that allows you to create screen casts. It’s quick and dirty and exactly how I like ‘em.
Editing Using Locally Installed Apps
If you don’t mind spending a few hundred bucks, my favorite apps for editing a video locally are Camtasia (for PC) and ScreenFlow (for Mac).
More advanced solutions include Final Cut (Express and Pro versions) for Mac and Sony Vegas Studio HD for PC.
Other Distribution Options
blip.tv is not your average bear. The focus is on episodic content and the unique feature of blip.tv is that it can distribute your episodes to other video distribution sites (like YouTube, Vimeo, etc.).
Vimeo was established in 2004 (one year before YouTube) and it’s a solid alternative to YouTube geared toward skilled content producers. Vimeo doesn’t allow commercial, gaming or pornography videos; or anything NOT created by the user to be hosted on the site.
Viddler allows you to make a comment at any point in the video. Very cool and unique feature.