I received an email yesterday asking what equipment I would personally suggest for a starter video kit. I get that you can produce great video quality simply from a smartphone, but what the user is asking is for a kit that offers ease of use while providing better video quality for sit down interviews when out in the field and at various locations.

What this means is we don't need RAW, nor do we need the best sounding microphones. We just need something to capture simple interviews to post mainly on social media channels - yet with somewhat of higher production quality. So what i'm going to recommend is just coming from my personal opinion, but you're all welcome to make suggestions of your own. In this post i'll also include a little insight on why i've selected some of the equipment for a Basic Video Kit. Also, while trying to keep it low cost, some of the equipment might not be the cheapest. Sometimes it's worth spending a little more to get the features in equipment that I believe would make for better efficiency and have less issues during live production.

I've personally used many cameras from Panasonic, Sony, Canon, Blackmagic Design, etc. In fact I own all the brands to this day because they all have different use cases for me. Each has pros and cons, and smaller gear is easier to navigate with, but and larger gear typically offers features not found in the smaller equipment (SDI, Timecode, XLR audio, etc). While I would recommend the following equipment below for anyone just starting out doing simple interviews, there are reasons you'll eventually want to upgrade if you plan to do more professional work, but we'll save that conversation for another day.

LET'S START WITH THE BASIC CAMERA
For sit down interviews, a camera that's easy to travel with, and fast to produce video edits from, I recommend starting with the Sony A6600. This is not even one of Sony's latest cameras, so besides being a bit budget friendly, this camera offers ease of use and plenty of features for quick on location video interviews.


Learn More Sony A6600 Mirrorless Camera

Why do I recommend the Sony A6600? Sony is known for it's fast autofocus and quick face / eye tracking. This is one big reason I would choose the A6600 over a Panasonic GH5 for simple interviews. The A6600 is also a larger sensor over micro four-thirds which can offer a different aesthetic and help to blur out not so ideal backgrounds. Though I believe the in-camera recording quality is better in the Panasonic GH5 (bitrate and codecs), the A6600 would my recommendation for someone just starting out.

Sony is also known for decent quality in dim lighting conditions which means being able to work with ambient lighting, and being able to work with smaller less powerful lighting kits. The A6600 doesn't have time limits on video clips (something even smaller Fuji cameras have), and offers both a microphone input and headphone output (again something some Fuji cameras may lack). Those two audio features are very important to have for video interviews.

If you're wondering why not save money on an older Sony APS-C bodies like the A6400, here's why. Even though final image quality is not much different from an older body, the Sony A6600 was redesigned to use the larger Sony battery (longer run times), and also includes in-camera image stabilization. The IBIS is something that would benefit anyone doing interviews handheld or recording b-roll handheld. It will allow you to work with more lenses that may not have IS built in. The older A6400 for example also lacks a headphone output. So while you would pay more for an A6600, these extrea features I feel are worth the extra investement. There's plenty of other reasons why I would choose the A6600 over other cameras, but let's move on to which lens I think would be great for general use.

MOST VERSATILE LENS FOR INTERVIEWS
My first pick for an overall versatile lens on the Sony A6600 would be the Sony 18-105mm F4. Although this lens does not have the same aesthetics as one that can shoot at F/1.4 or even F/2.8, you get a lot of focal range. This can be helpful when you need to choose between a wide angle or longer focal length to compress the background and frame tight. It has built in Image Stabilization and coupled with that of the A6600 will allow you to easily get handheld footage into your projects. If I had one lens to travel with a Sony A6600, it would most likely be this one.


Learn More Sony 18-105mm F4 G OSS Lens - via B&H

SECOND CHOICE FOR A LENS
My second option for a versatile lens would be the Sony 16-55mm F/2.8. This is more of an expensive lens, so I left this as a 'second option'. It's not imperative to just making simple interviews, but it does add a higher quality of aesthetics. A lot of great looking content is often related to having better lenses. It's somewhat equivalent to popular 24-70mm F/2.8 lenses on full frame cameras. You get great wide angles and zoom, but also a constant F/2.8 which helps to blur out backgrounds, and isolate your subject, keeping them as the main focus. This all helps to add a more pleasing aesthetic to sitting interviews. Though this lens does not have image stabilization, the A6600 does have in-camera stabilization (another reason why I would choose the A6600 over earlier Sony bodies).


Learn More Sony 16-55mm F/2.8 Lens

STARTER AUDIO KIT FOR INTERVIEWS
Boom microphone or Lav microphone? Because audio is incredibly important for interviews, I'm going to suggest both. There's good reasons you may need one or the other, and at times both simultaneously. For really simple sit down interviews where the camera and subject aren't moving too far apart, I would start with a small wireless system such as the Comica BoomXD Wireless Audio Kit. While the frequency and dynamic range is not going to be at Hollywood standards, most clients can't tell the difference, and audio from these systems is perfectly fine for content that ends up on social media and consumed through mobile devices. It's a fair price for the features it offers and easy to use for those mobile interviews.


Learn More Comica BoomXD Wireless Audio Kit - via Amazon

A Lav mic will help to get more focused sound, and send the audio directly into camera - so no worries about audio sync in post. And since the Sony A6600 offers a headphone output, you can monitor the wireless audio for any issues.

There are many similar small wireless kits like the Rode Wireless Go and Movo WMX-1-DUO. Whichever you choose I think it will work fine, so long as your subject and camera are in fairly close distance. The Comica BoomXD does come with dual transmitters just in case you need to interview two people, and also has a standard 3.5mm TRS input (not TRRS) in case you want to upgrade to better sounding LAV microphones. The transmitters can also be used without a LAV mic connected for quick setups. A pretty versatile kit for ease of use.

YOU MIGHT NEED A BOOM SETUP OVER A LAV MIC
So if you have to use a Lav microphone outdoors with a slight breeze, you could easily end up with wind noise or wind rumble. One trick that can help is to mount the lav microphone under the subjects shirt or jacket. But without the proper equipment to conceal and protect the capsule, you could end up with clothing rustle (rubbing against the microphone) if the subject moves about. Some lav mics offer furry covers, but I personally don't like the look of a fat furry object on a subject during interviews. These are just some reasons when I would suggest using a boom microphone overhead with a quality wind cover - (no more wind noise or clothing rustle issues).

Since we're still talking about a basic almost entry level kit for interviews, and because the the Sony A6600 uses a 3.5mm mic input, I would suggest the Azden SMX-30 Switchable Stereo microphone. You could use this microphone directly on camera when doing handheld interviews. With a 3.5mm extension cable, you could use it as an overhead boom setup. It's also self powered which typically leads to better audio than trying to increase the gain in smaller cameras. It automatically sleeps when plugin power is not detected which means longer battery life (as it doesn't accidentally stay on when you pack it away). It's also two microphones in one - stereo and mono which can be helpful depending what you're trying to record. It's a versatile mic with great sound.


Learn More Azden SMX-30 Switchable Mic - via Amazon

BASIC LIGHTING KIT FOR INTERVIEWS
Lighting. Wow, this topic I think is one of the most difficult to suggest. Because no matter how good a lighting kit I could recommend, it still boils down to the experience level of the person setting up the lights. Lighting is also something very subjective. Do you always need splashes of color? Not enough contrast? Lighting too flat? For these reasons, i'm not going into detail about how to light an interview or theories. I'm just going to suggest equipment that I would personally suggest that would to make it easy to setup, be less hassle and that can help with just general exposure.

First, I love being able to work with lights purely off of battery power. This means no extension cords to deal with, and easier to setup in remote locations where AC power may be difficult to setup. Also, i'm a huge fan of v-mount batteries. They run much longer than smaller Sony batteries, so you don't have to worry (as often) about a light shutting off in the middle of an interview. And charging 3 large batteries is much easier than charging a set of 12 smaller batteries. So I would recommend finding lights that can somehow be powered by v-mount or through a d-tap cable (connected to a v-mount battery). For this i'm going to recommend the Boltzen Q-55 portable Fresnels.


Learn More Boltzen Q-55 Bi-Color LED Fresnel

Each light is about the size of a Canon 70-200mm lens, so they can travel in a backpack if needed. The lights can be powered via AC outlet, Dual Sony Batteries (if you prefer Sony batts), or through a D-tap cable for the longest possible run time from large Cine batteries. The lights have a lens that can work as a tight spotlight getting the lights in just the right places (and not everywhere else) and barn doors for flagging the lights (another layer of controlling spill). But you can also remove the lens for more of a broad flood effect.

On the Yoke itself is an umbrella holder, so you can quickly throw a shoot through white umbrella to soften up your light and increase the size of your light source for softer shadows. Umbrellas are easy to pack and easy to setup / breakdown. Or you can also add the optional Bowens mount adapter so that you can work with soft-boxes and a million other Bowens mount accessories. The Q-55 also has built in WiFi to control through a smartphone app, or a handheld remote. They are also available in an adjustable color temp, so that you can dial between Daylight, Fluorescent, or Tungsten temperatures. These are incredibly versatile lights and easy to work with for interview setups where you may want a Key, fill, and rim (hair) lighting.

While there are tiny powerful LED lights out there, smaller source lights create more defined (harder) shadows. Just remember, if you're trying to achieve a more 'flattering' soft light, you need to find a way to create a larger source. So whichever lighting kit you choose, make sure you have a way to modify them. And if the lights are too small throwing up modifiers will often cut down the power (output) of the light reaching the subject. I find the Boltzen Q-55 fresnels offer a good balance and lots of versatility.

CONCLUSION
To be clear, I know there's no such thing as a perfect single camera, audio, or lighting system. I myself own various lighting kits, various cameras, and various audio equipment. Through my own personal experiences, I constantly switch up my equipment based on the project and my client's needs. What i've recommended here (though not the most budget friendly kit) is just a personal recommendation of what I would use myself. Even though these products might be slightly dated, I feel they offer versatility, ease of use, and great quality while still remaining somewhat budget friendly. You could certainly go cheaper, but you may sacrifice many features and reasons (many of which I have not have even touched in detail) of why I selected these products.

Anyone reading this article is probably here for research and advice, so if you have suggestions for a camera, audio, and lighting product that would work for quick and simple interviews, leave a comment below.

1 Comment

I've always loved the image quality and Dual ISO capabilities from the Panasonic GH5s and I still use it actively to this day. I shoot V-LOG exclusively as I personally favor Pansonic's VLOG over SLOG from my Sony A7R3. But the few things I wished it had was slightly better autofocus, in-body image-stabilization, and more of a full frame look. When Panasonic finally announced the S1H full frame, I loved all the features of this camera, but the body was much bigger and heavier than the GH5s. The price of the S1H body alone was pretty expensive and it would require me to purchase a whole new set of lenses (L mount). At the time of that announcement, there was a limited amount of lenses, hence I didn't go that route.

Today, Panasonic announced the new S5. The body is as small (or smaller) than the GH5s, but like the S1H is full frame. The camera also has in-body image stabilization and still provides that lovely flip out LCD screen, Dual ISO, and the VLOG profile that I love to shoot in from my GH5s. The body is priced at under $2K and with a growing line of available third party lenses for L Mount, it's more affordable now to add new lenses. The new Panasonic S5 for me ticks off a lot of boxes, and adds pretty much everything I felt was missing from my GH5s. I'm excited to be adding this camera to my workflow!


Learn More Panasonic Lumix DC-S5 Mirrorless Digital Camera

If you have to shoot outdoors and you need to diffuse the harsh sunlight you'll want to setup a scrim. But setting one up is not always an easy task for one person, and to one over your subject's head typically requires at least 2 stands. With each stand, you'll need to drag out some weighted sand bags to prevent the setup from tipping over (as it becomes a sail in a slight breeze). While this is the preferred method on most shoots, sometimes it's easier to just move your subject into a shaded area and relight (or bounce light back in with a reflector). Here's where a simple Pop-Up tent could help.

Using a lightweight fast setup one like this 10x10 Easy Pop Up Tent will offer some overhead shade. And choosing will a white canopy will help to diffuse (mostly block) the sunlight without causing any color casts. Once you have your subject in the shade, you can bounce light back in with a reflector. The cons for this type of setup is that you can't shoot too wide as the legs of the tent could get into the shot. So using a longer focal length will help to compress your image, and this setup should be great for talking head shots done outdoors.

While a simple pop tent is no replacement for a good scrim, it's better than nothing when you find yourself (being lazy) not wanting to setup a scrim with all the extra bits and heavy sandbags typically required. You can find many pop up tents some as small as 5x5 for under $100 these days. And if you're not using it to shade your subject, you can use it as an area for the rest of your gear and crew.



Learn More Sony a7S III Mirrorless Camera

Sony A7S III Overview (via BHphoto)
Optimized video, optimized sensitivity, optimized speed, the Sony Alpha a7S III raises the bar for what a full-frame mirrorless camera is capable of. A revised 12.1MP Exmor R BSI CMOS sensor and updated BIONZ XR image processor offer faster performance, improved noise reduction, and a wider dynamic range, along with UHD 4K 120p video recording and internal 10-bit 4:2:2 sampling.

Video is the primary application of the a7S III, and improvements to the sensor and processor enable faster readout speeds and greatly reduced rolling shutter, along with high-bitrate internal recording, 16-bit raw output via the full-size HDMI port, and flexible control over motion with variable frame rate selection. The a7S III also does away with recording time limits and incorporates HLG for direct HDR production as well as S-Log2/S-Log3 gamma profiles for advanced HDR production with editing.

The updated sensor design also brings improved autofocus performance via 759 phase-detection points, which offer intelligent subject tracking and Real-time Eye AF to ensure critical focus on moving subjects in all recording modes. The sensor and BIONZ XR processor also facilitate impressive sensitivity, with an expanded range from ISO 40-409600, as well as fast 10 fps continuous shooting for up to 1000 consecutive raw frames. Additionally, 5-axis SteadyShot INSIDE sensor-shift image stabilization is available, too, which minimizes the appearance of camera shake by up to 5.5 stops.


Complementing the imaging assets, Sony has also made some changes to the a7S III's physical design, including a rear LCD with a side-open articulating design and an impressive 9.44m-dot OLED electronic viewfinder. The camera's menu system has also been updated for more intuitive navigation and the body design helps to promote better heat dissipation for improved continuous recording capabilities. Additionally, dual memory card slots both support working with CFexpress Type A or SD UHS-II memory cards for flexible and high-speed file storage.


Learn More Sony a7S III Mirrorless Camera

Today Blackmagic Design announced a new Ursa Mini Pro Camera capable of shooting up to 12K at 60fps resolution. The 12K Super35 sensor was developed directly by Blackmagic Design. So while many productions may not 'always' require such high resolutions, the new Ursa Mini Pro 12K can switch to lower resolutions using in-sensor scaling due to a symmetrical sensor design. The camera body itself has not changed (much) and all previous accessories designed for Ursa Mini Pro cameras should work such as any rigs, Ursa EVF, etc.


Learn More BlackMagicdesign Ursa Mini Pro 12K Camera

But one accessory i'm really glad to see them figure out is the new SSD Adapter. I admit there was some controversy around the one they made for the 4.6K camera, when I returned mine and went with an aftermarket solution. The problem was that their SSD recorder for the 4.6K used the SDI outputs to record. But because I use the SDI outputs on my ATEM switcher, this option didn't work for me. Instead I used an SSD adapter that connected to the CFAST ports, and left my SDI outputs free for me to use.

Blackmagicdesign's new SSD Adapter fixes this problem now by connecting to the (newly relocated) Type-C USB port. The adapter is powered through the camera, and the data is recorded through the Type-C leaving your SDI ports free to use. Finally!

Product Description:
Featuring a revolutionary 12K Super 35mm 80 megapixel sensor with Generation 5 Color Science and 14 stops of dynamic range, URSA Mini Pro 12K is designed for high end feature film production.

Storage Features
Storage Type
2 x CFast 2.0
2 x SD UHS-II cards
1 x high speed USB-C expansion port for external media.

Storage Rates
Storage rates based on 24 frames per second.

12K - 12,288 x 6480
Blackmagic RAW 5:1 - 578 MB/s
Blackmagic RAW 8:1 - 361 MB/s
Blackmagic RAW 12:1 - 241 MB/s
Blackmagic RAW 18:1 - 160 MB/s
Blackmagic RAW Q0 - 241 to 578 MB/s 1
Blackmagic RAW Q1 - 144 to 361 MB/s 2
Blackmagic RAW Q3 - 96 to 241 MB/s 3
Blackmagic RAW Q5 - 72 to 180 MB/s 4

8K - 8192 x 4320
Blackmagic RAW 5:1 - 258 MB/s
Blackmagic RAW 8:1 - 161 MB/s
Blackmagic RAW 12:1 - 107 MB/s
Blackmagic RAW 18:1 - 72 MB/s
Blackmagic RAW Q0 - 107 to 258 MB/s 1
Blackmagic RAW Q1 - 64 to 161 MB/s 2
Blackmagic RAW Q3 - 43 to 107 MB/s 3
Blackmagic RAW Q5 - 32 to 81 MB/s 4

6K - 6144 x 3240
Blackmagic RAW 5:1 - 145 MB/s
Blackmagic RAW 8:1 - 91 MB/s
Blackmagic RAW 12:1 - 61 MB/s
Blackmagic RAW 18:1 - 40 MB/s
Blackmagic RAW Q0 - 61 to 145 MB/s 1
Blackmagic RAW Q1 - 36 to 91 MB/s 2
Blackmagic RAW Q3 - 24 to 61 MB/s 3
Blackmagic RAW Q5 - 18 to 45 MB/s 4

4K - 4096 x 2160
Blackmagic RAW 5:1 - 65 MB/s
Blackmagic RAW 8:1 - 41 MB/s
Blackmagic RAW 12:1 - 27 MB/s
Blackmagic RAW 18:1 - 18 MB/s
Blackmagic RAW Q0 - 27 to 65 MB/s 1
Blackmagic RAW Q1 - 16 to 41 MB/s 2
Blackmagic RAW Q3 - 11 to 27 MB/s 3
Blackmagic RAW Q5 - 8 to 20 MB/s 4

Recording Formats
Blackmagic RAW Q0, Q1, Q3, Q5, 5:1, 8:1, 12:1 and 18:1 at 12,288 x 6480, 11,520 x 6480, 12,288 x 5112, 7680 x 6408, 8192 x 4320, 7680 x 4320, 8192 x 3408, 5120 x 4272, 6144 x 3240, 4096 x 2160, 3840 x 2160, 4096 x 1704 and 2560 x 2136 stored as 12 bit non-linear with film, extended video, video or custom 3D LUT embedded in metadata.

Ursa Mini Pro 12K will be Available for Pre-Order via B&H (here)

Learn More BlackMagicdesign Ursa Mini Pro 12K Camera

Zoom announces a new H8 / 12-Track Portable Recorder that is designed to make it easier to switch between Podcasting setups or Sound Recording with 3 App driven modes.
Podcast App: With four mic channels and two sound pad channels readily available, the Podcast app makes high-quality podcast production easy. Use the 13 pre-loaded sounds or load your own from an SD card to trigger sound effects, music beds, and more from the dedicated Sound Pads. Music App: Record up to 10 input tracks, overdub, mix, and enhance your recordings with EQ and compression, all while the Music app puts important controls such as audio levels, faders, and metering at your fingertips. Plus, you can connect to Zoom’s Guitar Lab via USB to access a vast assortment of amps and effects. Field App: Designed for location sound, sound design, conferences, and more, the Field app gives you instant access to large meters for every track, so you can make sure your recordings never clip. It also lets you quickly adjust input type, lo-cut filtering, compression, limiting, the noise gate, and other key settings.

Zoom H8 Product Overview
With three app-driven modes that instantly configure the color touchscreen for podcasting, music production, or location recording, the Zoom H8 portable handheld recorder lets you quickly record up to eight simultaneous input signals via a workflow that's highly optimized for your task. Plus, it's compatible with an array of capsules (available separately) for easy expansion into 10-input recording, Ambisonics 360-degree audio, and more.

Like other H-Series Handy recorders such as the H5 and H6, you can hold the H8 in your hand, attach it to a mic stand or tripod, or mount it to a camera (shoe mount available separately); the H8 packs an impressive array of features into a lightweight body that's more than ready to meet the varied demands of podcasters, musicians, sound designers, and content creators. The bundled Cubase LE and WaveLab Cast software programs give you the tools you need to edit, refine, export, and upload your projects. Read more >>


Zoom H8 Recorder

Want a simple way to put up a background? These new PortaScreen Retracting Portable backdrops make it easy to travel and setup a solid backdrop for talking head interviews or products shots. When not used as a background, you could easily use the black backdrop as a flag or negative fill to control spill lighting. The portable green screen obviously would make it easy to key products or people out for background replacements. It's just about as nice as traveling with seamless paper as you don't need to fold cloth and worry about wrinkles. But better than seamless paper as you don't need to bring a backdrop stand set.


PortaScreen - Fast Retractable Portable Backgrounds

The PortaScreen is also a quick and simple setup for vloggers that need to hide distracting (ahem 'messy') backgrounds. Simply pull upwards to setup, and retract back into it's case when you're done. The 6'7" x 5' dimension should be more than enough when interviewing a single person, but if you need to fill the entire frame, one tip is to use long lenses to narrow the field of view when working with smaller backdrops. Seems like a handy product, and though i've seen others like this before, the PortaScreen seems to be more affordable. Check out the new PortaScreen backgrounds (product page here).


PortaScreen - Fast Retractable Portable Backgrounds


Officially announced just a few weeks ago and immediately tough to get a hold of, the new Sony ZV-1 camera is back in stock. The appeal of this compact camera is having a fully articulating LCD screen, built in ND Filter, fast autofocus, and image stabilization. Available now via B&H (here).


Learn More Sony ZV-1 Camera with Flip LCD Screen

One of the major downfalls to any of the BlackMagic Design Pocket Cinema cameras is battery life. For the newest 4K and 6K models, you could choose to add the Blackmagic Design battery grip, but the addition will not allow you to use most Cages. We've also recently seen batteries built into Rig Handles just to keep cameras and accessories powered. But now here's another interesting external battery design that incorporates batteries inside of a tripod plate (available via eBay here).


Tripod Plate Battery with USB

This plate sits under your camera even if your camera sits inside of a cage. This Tripod Plate Battery says internally it's using 6pcs of Panasonic's highest capacity NCR18650B batteries. With a total capacity of 20400mAH (or equivalent to 5.5x Canon LP-E6 batteries). Listed at 70wh if you were to compare it with v-mount specs which means you can travel with these batteries on-board most flights. It offers just under 11v output and also a 5V USB out, which could be useful to keep small Sony cameras powered up through USB.

What do you guys think? Is this something you would find useful, and should more companies offer batteries into a metal Tripod plate that to sit under a camera? You can check out the Tripod Plate Battery via eBay (following the link here).



Tripod Plate Battery with USB