Travel Video Gear: Putting Together a Run-and-Gun Travel Video Kit

Travel Gear

Since starting up Hilah Cooking, we’ve been very careful about keeping our production costs low. I am a firm believer in low-overhead and zero debt, so we try to keep our gear as minimal as possible.

We started out with a camcorder we had laying around and our only real upgrade was gear we won from YouTube. But when we lined up the deal to do Hilah’s Texas Kitchen, I knew it was time to (hopefully wisely) invest in a little more gear. This is still a micro-budget project, but we needed a little more firepower. I would be a one-person crew, and we would be shooting in awkward situations with very tight time frames.

My goal was to put together a run-and-gun travel video kit that would be easy to transport and allow me to shoot really fast whenever the opportunities presented themselves. This is the package I put together and it’s worked really well for me so far.

LowePro X200 Rolling Camera Bag

loweprox200I wanted something that could hold safely transport all of our gear and was easy to use in the field. This bag has been incredible. I’ve always been devoted to Pelican cases in the past, but I ended up with a bunch of cases holding individual pieces of gear. This case let me jam everything I needed into one bag with wheels. It even has a kickstand so if you’re on location you can set it up at a tilt and easily access whatever you need. Even though I’ve only had it since the beginning of the year, it’s seen some serious miles and been in some rough situations. It’s still in great shape and has done an awesome job of protecting the gear inside.

Canon XF100 Camcorder

canonxf100Buying a small sensor camcorder in this new age of DSLR video seems very old fashioned, but I needed something for run-and-gun shooting. The XF100 has been great. It’s small, has XLR inputs and shoots great images (once you take the time to figure out the picture profiles). I use this primarily for the interviews where we are following people around kitchens or other locations. The real unexpected joy of this camera has been the 4:2:2 50Mbps Codec. In post this footage feels very thick (in a good way). You can do a lot of color correction without the image ever breaking down. My only real complaint with this camera is that it doesn’t have dedicated focus and zoom rings. Instead, they’re combined into one ring and there is a switch to toggle it back and forth.

Rotolight LED Light

rotolightThis is a little round light that you can mount via hot shoe or directly onto a shotgun mic. The design is kind of weird and clunky but it’s really come in handy in a couple of dark locations. It’s not very powerful, but it’s enough to add a little light to your subjects. (TIP: If you’re shooting in a smoky BBQ pit, this is not going to be enough light.)

Sennheiser Wireless Lav System

sennheiserFor almost three years, I very proudly used only a $20 wired lavalier mic. We upgraded to this Sennheiser wireless kit a few months ago. It was the first time we actually bought new gear. This is pretty expensive, so it was a big deal. Thankfully, switching to this wireless kit has been absolutely life changing. I can’t recommend it highly enough. In fact, when we were commissioned to produce a series of kids cooking videos, I bought a second kit so I could mic both people. For most of our travel shoots, we just leave Hilah miked up and start rolling when a good situation presents itself.

Rode NTG1 Shotgun Mic

rodentg1I use this to record a second channel when I’m shooting with the XF100. I just turn it on and try to make sure the levels don’t go too hot. For our first batch of shoots we only had one wireless mic so I relied on this to get the vocals for whoever Hilah was talking to. I’ve been happy with it so far but haven’t had time to mix the sound on these videos yet.

Canon 60D

canon60dThis is the same camera we’ve been using for quite awhile. I wasn’t crazy about shooting video on it at first, but I realized on our first trip that I’ve really fallen in love with this camera. I thought I would primarily use the XF100 but if it was a shot that didn’t require tricky focus pulls, I kept coming back to the 60D.

There are some other odds and ends packed into the case – including a MacBook Air – so this really gave me a complete production kit in a rolling case. Not pictured here are a couple of Manfrotto tripods, but other than that all the gear we used to make the travel show is in the photo above and it’s worked out great. The only things I’ll definitely be adding before our next trip are some ND and Polarizing filters.

Now that I’ve geeked out about all of this gear, I’m excited to get back on the road and back to shooting!

NOTE: I want to thank Mark Shea at Overlander.tv for his helpful posts on lightweight travel gear.

I’d love to hear what YOU are using to make your videos. Also, am I missing out on anything obvious pieces of gear that would increase my either production quality or overall quality of life? Let me know in the comments below!

Quitting Time

Empty Cubicle
Yesterday afternoon I shut down my iMac, flipped the switch on a fluorescent light and – for the last time – walked out of the cubicle where I had spent most of my working hours for the last 3 and half years.

I don’t have a big dramatic “Take This Job and Shove It” story to tell. I’m one of the lucky few who actually liked their day job. I had great supervisors, awesome people to work with, plenty of freedom to experiment, a decent salary and killer benefits. To top it all off, this was a state job which means I would have had to really screw up to ever get fired.

nce you get a job like this, you tend to stick around until retirement… if you’re smart anyway.

But I am a restless entrepreneurial spirit. As soon as I landed solid full-time employment, I immediately began working on side projects. Some of them brought in some decent money. Some of them were total failures. All of them were valuable learning experiences.

Hilah Cooking was the most fun of these projects to work on, even though it lost a significant amount of money for the first three years. There is no way I could estimate the amount of hours we invested. We have produced so much content that you could watch the Hilah Cooking YouTube channel for 24 hours straight and never see the same episode twice. I’m currently applying all that I’ve learned to Yoga With Adriene which is growing at more than double the rate that Hilah Cooking did.

Now that we’ve built an audience and established ourselves as creators who produce content on a reliable basis, we’ve been offered the opportunity to produce work for other companies. In the past we always turned down these offers because we intentionally wanted to grow the brand slowly. But late last year, we started to say yes to a few opportunities that seemed financially solid and creatively interesting. One of those is the upcoming travel show.

We went into production in January. By February, I had used up all my accrued vacation and personal time traveling around Texas shooting the project.

As we got back and started to edit it was clear that we were falling behind schedule and for the first time I was the bottleneck in the production flow.

Between the internet video projects and my day job, I was exhausted. It felt like I was living two separate lives but not giving either one of them 100% of what I had to offer. So… even though we’re currently walking a financial tight rope, I decided to bite the bullet and go all-in.

Two weeks ago I turned in my resignation. Yesterday I walked out the door.

It felt like jumping off a cliff, even though I have no doubt that it was the right decision. Nothing has captured my imagination like internet video. I’ve only scratched the surface. There are so many things I want to try in this medium and I really feel like this NOW the time to do it.

I want to sincerely thank everybody who has supported me during this journey and thanks to everybody who watches Hilah Cooking and Yoga With Adriene. This would all be impossible without you.

Let’s put the pedal to the floor and see what happens.

Making a Travel Show is Harder Than It Looks

Texas Travel Show

Texas Travel Show
If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you’ll know I’ve been traveling even more than normal and going to some pretty strange places. I’m happy to announce that the reason for all the travel is that we’re making a travel show. Or… kind of a travel show. It’s definitely a show with a lot of travel in it.

Some of the most popular episodes of Hilah Cooking have been our field trip episodes where we go meet up with local farmers, BBQ experts and other interesting characters. Last year we started pitching the idea of a travel show to some of the new YouTube networks. Nothing came of it until our recent trip to the Tastemade Studios. Now, I’m happy to report that we are moving full-speed ahead on Hilah’s Texas Kitchen: a new travel/eating/cooking show that will launch next month. This is an exciting opportunity to not only build on the Hilah Cooking brand but to stretch ourselves creatively.

When we brainstormed the project, I thought it would be easier than it has turned out to be. However, the obstacles that we’ve run into have actually shaped the direction and format of the show in a way that is going to make the finished project even stronger.

We are still in the middle of this project, but I want to share a few things I learned when we were out on our first travel shoot in Port Aransas, Texas.

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YouTube for Small Business: Trophy Boutique Case Study

In addition to cranking out episodes for my two web series, last year I found myself increasingly interested in how to use YouTube for small business marketing. I wanted to do a small scale experiment to see what might work. I immediately thought of my friend Laurel, a personal stylist here in Austin Texas. I’ve known Laurel for awhile, she’s made a few guest appearances on Hilah Cooking and we even did one of the Learn To Cook photo shoots in her kitchen. She was the perfect guinea pig for my YouTube marketing experiment.

Laurel’s personal styling business actually grew out of Trophy Boutique, her fashion blog. She’s awesome at what she does and has tons of very satisfied clients, so word of mouth was already working well for her. Her blog already did a great job of explaining her services and offering photographic proof that she knew what she was doing as far as fashion. I wanted to build on this with a small no-budget video campaign.
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New YouTube Channel Layout is Here!

New YouTube Channel Design

New YouTube Channel Design

YouTube has started unveiling its new channel layout via select partner channels. The new design will roll out to everybody later this year.

As you can imagine, as with any time YouTube changes anything, people are PISSED OFF.

I’m not one of them. I think the new design is great. It fits in with the new design direction that is being implemented across all of Google’s different properties and more importantly it gives tremendous insight into YouTube’s strategy for 2013 and beyond.

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200 Episodes!

200 Episodes of Hilah Cooking

Yesterday, we released the 200th episode of Hilah Cooking (technically the 201st, but we screwed something up on our calendar). This is a pretty big deal for us because it also coincides with the three year anniversary of the show. When we hit these kinds of milestones I can’t help but do a little bit of reflection.

In some ways the 200th episode doesn’t feel like quite as big a deal as it was when we released the 100th video. When we started the project, my goal was determined to produce 100 episodes and then evaluate whether things were working or not.
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How To Make Money With a Web Series

How To Make Money With a Web Series

The #1 question I get from readers of this blog is usually “What camera do you use?” This is quickly followed up by a question about how to make money with a web series or if it’s even possible. The quick answers are: “a Canon 60D” and “Yes it’s possible, but it’s complicated.”

All “make money online” questions are tricky to answer because there are no clear-cut answers that work for every project. If somebody tells you they have a magic bullet, they are lying. Unless you are already backed by a company with lots of money, the topic of monetizing internet video content is something we’ll all be exploring for some time. I’ll tell you upfront that all the projects I’m currently working on are completely boot-strapped and self-financed. There are no investors and we have zero outside financial backing.

I have a long-term strategy for these projects so I’m not looking for any get-rich-quick or shady solutions. Instead, I want to figure out as many possible income streams (even if some of them are tiny) and make sure all of them build brand equity.

There’s a Swedish proverb that says something along the lines of “Many Small Streams will form a large river.” I like this a lot and it has guided the big picture direction of what I’m doing with these brands.

With at that in mind, here are 5 ways you can definitely make money with a web series. These are things that definitely work and that are a core part of what I’m doing now. None of these are all that sexy or exciting and all of them require actual work.

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Adventures in Self-Publishing

newspaper press

mimeograph

I made my first book when I was 4-years old.

I saw it again for the first time just a few years ago. My mom had kept it safe all those years, tucked away in the bottom of her jewelry box.

It was a tiny thing made from a single piece of paper, cut down into tiny pages, folded over and “saddle-stitched” with a sewing needle. Appropriate for something spawned from the brain of a 4-year old, it was the story of a frog. A picture book. The captions were written in my mother’s handwriting.

I continued writing books and drawing comic books throughout kindergarten and the early years of elementary school. Several wire-bound notebooks were filled with horror stories and the adventures of an assortment of super-hero characters. The kids in my class particularly loved LASAR MAN.

5 notebooks of Lasar Man stories later, somebody finally told me I was spelling laser wrong.
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