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How to Get Good Video Coverage Overseas on a Budget

This may be the first tech review in the life of Upstream Collective!


One great way to cultivate awareness in our churches is through video footage from the field. But let’s be honest, getting good footage is time consuming and expensive. I work in a mega church with a great Communications team. To have one of them take a week off to travel around the world to produce a three minute video isn’t a great stewardship of my global budget, of their time, and of what the church is paying them.


For example, here is a cost breakdown of what it would likely take to get a communications team member overseas to take footage:

  • $2,500 - Sony A7iii DSLR Camera

  • $500 - DJI Stabilizer

  • $800 - Mavic Drone

  • $3,000 - Plane tickets and in-country expenses.

  • $2,000 - Salary for that communications person’s time overseas and producing the video.

I actually purchased a set of all this for our global team just before COVID (great timing) so I could shoot some footage when I was overseas. I tried it once and here’s what I found:

  • The equipment takes up most of my pack.

  • I forgot a microphone, so my interviews weren’t great.

  • The Sony A7iii DSLR camera was just too high tech for me to use to take great b-roll footage.

  • The drone on the other hand was really easy to use, really fun, and got some great footage.

Thankfully our communications department was able to use all that gear during COVID for our online services, so it didn’t just sit around!


So, post-COVID, I am taking a slightly different route. How can I, with my limited technical and videography skills, do video and interviews on a budget, without having to pay one of my communications team members to come overseas? I can, myself, get something that is probably 80% as good as a professional.


I did some internet searching and found some products that cut the cost a ton, are easy to use, and easier to carry on the road. Here’s some recommendations:

  • Your smartphone. The cameras on these are not as good as DSLR cameras, but you can get some pretty good footage.

  • $150 - DJI Osmo 4 Stablizer - These stabilizers are much cheaper and easier to use for your smartphone than a DSLR camera.

  • $70 - Rode Lavalier mic that connects to a smartphone.

Ok, so let’s compare costs here:

  • Video

    • $2,500 DSLR camera

    • $0 - The Smartphone you already own

  • Stabilizer

    • $700 - DSLR Stabilizer

    • $150 - Smartphone Stabilizer

  • Mic’s

    • $250 - Lavalier mic and Digital recorder

    • $70 - Lavalier Mic to Smartphone

  • Drone

    • $800 - Mavic Drone

    • $0 - No Drone

  • Difference in Equipment Cost

    • $3,550 - Expensive startup costs

    • $220 - 80% as good as professional startup costs

  • Communications cost

    • $5,000 for Communications person to travel and produce video

    • $500 for Communications person to just produce video

  • Difference with Communications person traveling & producing

    • $8,850 - Startup costs and cost of a videographer

    • $720 - Startup costs for you to film yourself

Ok, I think I’ve made my case for shooting for the budget version! Now on to how you use these:


Smartphone


Most new smartphones have the specs to shoot what is needed to take footage that’s 80% as good as professional equipment. What you need to be able shoot decent footage is a Smartphone that can shoot 4K with 60 Frames Per Second (FPS). The iPhone X and after, some Google Pixels, and some Samsung phones all give this ability.

There are other brands that offer this function as well. Just double check the specs when purchasing the phone.


When you’re shooting video you simply click on the menu button in the camera app to change the video settings to record in 4K and/or 60 FPS. This type of quality will allow your communications team to do slow motion video or zoom in on certain shots.


So, next time you upgrade your smartphone get the one with the extra quality camera. It’ll cost you a bit extra, but in comparison to a DSLR camera, it’s not bad!


Stabilizer


Anything that is shot semi-professionally has a stabilizer. Basically a stabilizer allows you the ability to capture footage that’s smooth and steady, without the jerkiness of a video shot by a normal human being.


The challenge with the expensive cameras are that stabilizers are more expensive, heavier, and take a long time and expertise to calibrate.


This smartphone stabilizer is really easy to use and to calibrate. To use this:

  • First download the DJI Mimo app and create a login.

  • Attach the DJI OSMO 4 cradle to your phone. Stick it on the stabilizer.

  • Turn the stabilizer on.

  • Open the app and click on the camera button.

  • From here select, “Calibrate” and the stabilizer will do the rest.

To use the stabilizer well, there are tons of YouTube videos on this. Here are a few skills I’d recommend searching first:

  • Panning with DJI Osmo

  • Following an Object or Person

Microphone


There’s a super easy solution for interviewing someone when you need a microphone:



  • Adapter to Smartphone

    • IPhone - Lightning cable to 3.5mm adapter

    • Android - USB-C to 3.5mm adapter


Basically, to use this:

  • Attach the Lavalier mic to the person talking.

  • Attach the adapter to the Lavalier Mic.

  • Plug it into the interviewee’s smartphone.

  • Open up Voice Memos on iPhone or an Android recording app. Hit record.

  • Turn on record your camera and have the speaker clap (this will help the editor match the video with the sound)

  • Record away! If the speaker makes a mistake, just keep recording and start the sentence or paragraph over. Editors can handle it.

  • Have your speaker send you the recording.

If you think you will be interviewing two people, pick up an extra mic and follow the same steps.


For a slightly more professional version that doesn’t require you to use the interviewee’s smartphone there’s this great little device called the Rode Wireless Go ii.

This little device does the following:


  • It has a mic that clips on a person’s shirt. You can use it on up to two people.

  • It has a receiver that you can plug in to another smartphone or a tablet (you won’t want to plug it into your own smartphone because it’ll destabilize the smartphone camera.)

  • Buy an adapter. You have to buy these unfortunately. Regular cables do not work. I’ve been able to get these easiest on EBay, but here’s some links on B&H Photo:

    • Rode SC15 adapter goes from USB-C to Lightning Cable (From the Rode device to your IPhone) or

    • Rode SC16 adapter goes from USB-C to USB-C (Rode device to your iPad or Android)

  • Lavalier Mic - If you’d like to hook up a Lavalier Mic to the Wireless Go ii, the Rode Lavalier Go Professional Grade is a good way to go. *The other Lavalier mic linked above will NOT work with the Wireless Go ii.

This is a little bit expensive, but it allows for a couple of advantages:

  1. You don’t have to help the speaker hook up to a bunch of equipment.

  2. You don’t have to transfer info from their smartphone to you.

  3. You don’t have to lug around a bunch of equipment.

Some other ways you can use this beyond yourself:

  • Consider buying some of this equipment for your Sent-Ones so they can get b-roll and do interviews.

  • Send this set with short-term teams. Give them some assignments. If they can get more b-roll of the culture or even enough video footage for one of them to put together a short video recap of the trip, it was worth it.

  • If you’re really not tech savvy, bring someone along on your trip that is a little more tech savvy and the trip will produce results in their speaking or influence.

We live in a great time where we can help our people experience the world at a relatively low cost. Getting people overseas is obviously better than watching a video, but as you cultivate awareness, taking advantage of technology that’s already available is pretty great!

 

Mike Easton is the International Program Manager for Reliant Mission. Prior to that Mike was the Missions Pastor at Cornerstone Church in Ames, Iowa, for eight years, where he got to experience the ins and outs of being a sending church. He served on staff with Cornerstone 2006 to 2022 in varying roles–from college ministry to pastoral staff to being an overseas missionary sent from Cornerstone for two years. Mike is the Director of Content for the Upstream Collective. Mike, his wife, Emily, and their four kids continue to live in Ames, IA, and serve at Cornerstone.




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