If you are recording podcast interviews and looking to grow listenership, the odds that you’ve been asked to create videos, is high. That’s because YouTube is the second biggest search engine.
“But I have no clue how to record and produce good videos. I haven’t learnt filmmaking or video production”
That’s exactly where I was a few months back when I decided to record my podcast interviews on video. Since then I’ve produced a few video interviews, and even traveled with the entire setup internationally.
In this article I’ll try and lay out my complete setup so you can get started with producing your podcast video interviews. The focus here is to help you keep costs low, while not compromising on quality.
You don’t need an industrial lathe to sharpen a pencil.
That is the philosophy I believe in, and that’s what I used to start producing videos with this Minimum Viable Video Podcast setup.
I don’t have a Jargonopedia handy!
A Minimum Viable…what?
A Minimum Viable Video Podcast (MVVP) Setup.
The other day I was out for my morning run, and saw my neighbor get ready for a morning walk too. He was wearing a nice fancy running shoe, a big headphone, fancy GPS watch.
Walking or running need not be that expensive. So is video production.
You don’t need all those fancy cameras and expensive lighting to record a podcast interview. A Minimum Viable Video Podcast Setup is an outcome-focused setup that really works well for indoor interviews with low-light settings.
A simple two camera setup.
The setup I use is a simple two camera, three light setup that you can practically setup in less than 30 minutes, and pack-up in less than 20 minutes.
It’s a simple two camera setup, and frankly it doesn’t matter if you just have one camera or two or three. There are a 6 things I considered while putting together my Minimum Viable Video Podcasting setup.
The setup should be fast to assemble and disassemble. The first time I set it up, it took me less than 30 minutes. It took me less than 20 minutes to disassemble and pack up. This is actually pretty good.
I was hoping to put together a kit that is durable with constant usage. I use the setup pretty frequently and the last thing I wanted to do is to look for replacements. The kit has lived up to the expectations.
Want to shoot YouTube videos? Use the setup with a different set of microphones? Outdoor recording? The setup works just fine in all the above scenarios.
4. Ease of Use (and Learning)
Shooting and editing videos is a totally new thing to me. The last thing I wanted to do is complicate the setup and make it really hard to learn.
I had the Minimum Viable Video Podcasting setup complete just 4 days before my first shoot. There was absolutely no wiggle time!
The MVVP includes hardware and software to help you shoot, edit and publish your videos.
Being the first time I was doing all of this, I wasn’t too sure how much I’d continue to use the setup. So I had my eyes on the total cost, and I tried to keep it as low as I could (without compromising on quality or the other factors).
But you don’t need the full shebang.
All you need is your smartphone to record a decent video. That’s the super-MVVP, if that’s all you need.
Is MVVP for me?
Like I said, the MVVP I use is not necessarily for everyone. For example, you might choose to strip down the setup further to cut down costs. In fact a lot of podcasts are recorded just on a smartphone and without external lighting, and that’s perfectly fine too.
Without further delay, let’s jump into the MVVP!
Let’s Unwrap the Minimum Viable Video Podcast Setup.
The setup I’m about to describe is something I use with two cameras. You can use a single camera or three cameras, depending on your needs and budget.
Now this is a nobrainer, I know. We need cameras to shoot the video. But that’s not why I wanted to mention this. It’s the number of cameras and the quality of footage.
How many cameras should I use?
This largely depends on the number of people you would interview, and perspectives you want to have in your final footage.
It also matters if you have someone to assist you during the shoot.
But if you are interviewing just one person, a single camera should be just fine. Two cameras allow you to cover your guest better from another perspective.
What cameras work best?
I use a Canon M50. It’s a mirror less camera from Canon and I picked it up for two reasons.
- It’s small and doubles up as my YouTube camera too.
- The M50 has pretty fast Auto Focus and that matters most when we have less help during the shoot.
The second camera I use is my iPhone 7’s built-in camera. Yeah I do. It’s a great second camera that shoots amazing videos at 1080p.
When it comes to videos or photos, lighting plays a very big role.
But hey, I interview guests sitting right next to a window!
You got it. If you are confident that you’ll always be sitting with your guests next to a window during the interviews, you are good.
But should you have to deal with bad light, continue reading this section.
There are various lights to choose from. I prefer using the LED lights as they use less power and don’t dissipate heat.
Main, Fill and Back lights.
I use three lights – a main light, a fill light and a back light. One is an 18-inch Dimmable LED Light from Neewer and the other two are LED lights from Harison Photo in India. If you live in the United States, I recommend you pick two of Aputure AL-M9 Amaran LED lights, and one Aputure Amaran AL-528S.
You’ll also need two light diffusers to use with the main light and fill light.
Get the complete picture.
At the end of this article, you can download the complete setup with light, camera and microphone placement diagrams we’ve tried and the ones recommended by lighting experts we consulted.
The above two were to do with capturing the video. But what about the sound?
That’s exactly why I use a recorder for. I know that some podcasters use recorders to record Skype interviews, while many others do it on their computers. Either ways would work for these in-person interviews too.
That said, you’ll need to use an audio interface to connect multiple microphones to your computer (if you’d like to use a laptop to record).
Using a recorder also has a bonus – you can choose to record every microphone as a separate track. This helps us greatly during editing, as you can independently adjust the volume and manage background noise.
What recorder should I use?
I use a Zoom H5, and I’m very happy with it’s performance. There are other recorders available like Tascam and Roland which are used by a lot of people. I went with Zoom for a couple of reasons:
- It’s pretty popular amongst musicians, journalists and podcasters too.
- Zoom is a Japanese product.
When it comes to choosing a field recorder like this, the most important things one should look for are durability, number of microphones it can take, if it can add phantom power to all microphones, ability to record in microphones as independent audio files.
If you plan on doing just single or two person interviews, Zoom H4n or even Zoom H1n is great, but I happened to find the H5 for a lesser price and didn’t see a reason *not* to pick it.
I know a few people who use Tascam too, but I’m no expert on all field recorders to make a comment on that. My recommendations are purely based on what I use.
Whenever I end up meeting podcasters, the most common topic around is this – “What microphones do you use?”
Fair enough. End of the day, no one can listen to a conversation that has lots of noise or feeble. When it came to in-person recordings on camera, there are a few options people recommend. Let me explain what my choices are, and why I made them.
The first choice was to go with lavalier microphones for these interviews. This is where it’s important to have some clarity on what kind of in-person interviews you’d be doing. Do you intend to be recording these videos to like a *show* (think of The Ellen Show) or is it just to have a video to capture expressions?
Since I decided on experimenting with video formats, I picked up two lavaliers. Lavaliers or ‘lavs’, as they are popularly called, are condenser-type microphones that you can clip onto your dress or shirt. While they are nice and sensitive, they can also end up being over-sensitive if you are seated in a highly noisy place.
Okay what ‘lavs’ do I use?
I picked up the Rode SmartLav+ microphones and they are great. I chose them over many others because they had a perfect balance of price vs quality. I didn’t want to compromise on quality while not having to pay through my nose. They were the best bet.
Dynamic Microphones from my studio
I’ve also experimented with using the microphones from my studio, and they actually work super great. If you’ve seen the interviews on The Tim Ferriss Show or The Joe Rogan Experience, you’ll know what I mean.
So if you intend on recording videos like these, you’d want to pick up one of these dynamic microphones I use:
I’ve also heard great reviews about Shure SM7B (one that Tim Ferriss uses).
Tripods and Stands
You need tripods and stands to hold and place your cameras and lights. Let’s talk about the cameras first.
I have a tripod for my Canon M50 and a gorilla tripod for the iPhone 7. While there are plenty of tripods in the market, I use the Slik 700DX AMT tripod. I had picked this up many years back for my photography needs, and I really love it.
For the lights I use two light stands and a magic arm. I use the Mini Tower AC from Harison Photo. A videographer friend in the States recently tried using these Amazon Basics light stands and he had lofty words of praise for them.
For the phone, you can pick up any gorilla tripod in the market. Here’s the best one – the Joby Gorillapod.
Cables & Mounts
There are a few cables that you’ll need to pick up. These include the cables for your microphones, charging cable for your recorder (I don’t recommend using the AA batteries), etc.
If you are using a field recorder, you’ll need to pick up XLR cables to connect your microphones to your recorder. These XLR cables are great, and you’ll also need these converter cables to convert the 3.5mm output from your condenser microphones to XLR inputs in your recorder.
I also recommend you pick up a 3.5mm coiled stereo cable to get the audio from your recorder into your camera.
Finally, I recommend you use a cold shoe mount to mount the recorder atop your camera. I vacillate between mounting and not mounting the recorder, but end up doing it most times.
Note: I’ve included a complete list of all cables and mounts in the MVVP Setup guide that you can download from the end of this article.
External Battery Pack
If you are recording indoors and you have a good power supply, I recommend you power your recorder using a mini-usb cable. But if you cannot access reliable power supply, I recommend you pick up an external battery pack to power your field recorder.
Video Editing Software
This is the best find I’ve had and my videographer friends were awed. I don’t use an expensive video editing software like Adobe Premiere Pro or Apple’s Final Cut Pro. Neither do I use a free software like Windows Movie Maker or iMovie.
I wanted to use an editing tool that’s easy to use and relatively inexpensive. I was also hopeful of finding more uses to the tool than just being an editor.
As luck would have it, I managed to pick the best tool.
Curious what’s the tool?
Specifically the Screenflow Super Pak that comes with a renewable $60/year Stock Media Library subscription.
Wondering what’s so cool about that? Here me out.
Using Screenflow is like using Garageband for audio, and once you are done with editing, you can export your project as a movie directly to YouTube if needed. With the Screenflow Super Pak, you get access to a ton of royalty-free images, music and video footage that comes handy when you need to use them in your podcast.
While I agree that Screenflow is not a tool that has all features like Adobe Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro, it definitely does what you’ll need – editing your video.
Here’s a Bonus.
Screenflow also has a great noise removal filter that I end up using whenever I need to remove noise even from my audio files.
That completes our Minimum Viable Video Podcast setup.
Now I know what you are thinking…
“Videos are so time intensive!”
I agree, they are. But you like it or not, 1/3rd of online activity is spent watching video as on today. No matter what you use videos for – podcasts, vlogging or anything – it’s a great idea for you to consider video as a form of content generation.
“But I don’t have the budget.”
I guess you know what my answer is. The above setup I put together for less than $500 (excluding the camera). You can further reduce costs in the above setup (and I show you how in the MVVP Setup PDF below).
“I’ve never ever edited or even shot a video.”
Neither did I, until I decided to do. Trust me, it’s not that difficult. Yes, you’ll need to put in the hard work, but it’s not difficult.
When I first decided to start doing video interviews, I consulted a few videographer friends and some agencies. They all charged me a bomb, and said that they needed a good 1 week (minimum) to edit and give me the final cut.
So I imagined the editing to be the toughest part. But when I bit the bullet and started doing it, I realized quite the opposite. If you plan the shoot properly, the editing and post-production is actually much easier than I imagined it to be.
See it for yourself.
You should check out my experiments with video interviews here. They are not anywhere close to perfection from a technical perspective.
Doing something is the best way to learn. As someone who had done over a 100 interviews on audio, I thought it was just the video that I needed to work on. But the reality was very different.
Every experience is unique.
I did my very first video interview, with my 4-year son. My wife was shooting the video and our son suddenly video-bombed the shoot. He felt left-out and chose to walk into the set. This happened during our second shoot too.
My team is just me and my wife (who helps me with the camera). For our third video interview, we had to drive down to a place only to realize there was no parking. We ended up carrying everything for over half a kilometer, and interviewing inside an RPM studio in a gym.
Our third interview was with a celebrity for which we had just 1 hour to shoot and just 15 minutes to setup inside a hotel room.
Make, Learn and Change.
The only way you learn is when you make or do it. Want to be good at shooting videos for your podcast? Do it.
Download the MVVP Setup PDF
While I’ve shown you my MVVP Setup in this article, I have created a scaled-down version of this setup for you to get started. I also have detailed my exact setup if you’d like to learn from my learnings.
Get all of this by downloading the MVVP Setup PDF below. Nonetheless, I hope this article inspired you to shoot your first video. Do leave a comment if this was helpful. If you have questions or would like to share your first video interview, do leave a comment too.
Before I let you go download the MVVP Setup and try shooting your first video, let me leave you with a quote from Leonardo da Vinci.
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” – Leonardo da Vinci
Always remember to keep things simple (to the best you can). If you have a doubt, consider stopping by!