The right equipment is critical for producing a quality class. By “right” we mean both accessible and user-friendly. We have carefully analyzed thousands of great Skillshare classes to understand what you need to create a beautiful class with a setup that won’t break the bank. Let’s start off with the most important aspect of your high quality production set-up that is commonly overlooked (or underlistened?): audio!
Without high quality audio, your video quality won’t matter. The good news: getting high quality audio is cheap and easy!
A lavalier microphone or lavalier (also known as a lav, lapel mic, clip mic, body mic) is a small and powerful microphone that is perfect for picking up clear audio. This is always the first piece of audio equipment we recommend! You can get a lav mic as cheap as ~$15, and they are both durable and easy to use. They clip right onto your clothes so you don’t have to feel tethered to a cord and can back away from the camera to get a beautifully framed image.
A low-cost camera can shoot a great class, provided the lighting is also great. Alternatively, a fancy camera might still shoot a shadowy, low AV-quality class if the lighting is terrible. Good light really matters.
No matter what camera you’re working with, natural light is key. The more natural light you have, the less you’ll need to supplement with artificial lights, and, usually, the better your footage will look. Shoot in locations with plenty of natural light whenever possible.
Here’s a diagram of how to work with natural light.
- Position yourself so that the window is to your side and not directly behind you. This will cast a shadow on one side of your face, which can create a nice "falloff," just make sure the shadow isn't high contrast. Being directly in front of a window will create a silhouette, with the background brighter than the foreground.
- Bounce the light. If you find that the contrast is too high (the “falloff”), use a white poster board or sheet to bounce the light from the window to the opposite side of your face. Photography reflectors are the official tool for this purpose and are generally inexpensive.
In the example below, the window is to the subject's right and creates a nice, soft falloff.
If you don’t have access to a room with natural light, your window is too small, or you’re shooting on a dark day, you can also use artificial lights. We've included some of our favorites below.
Equipment Pack Recommendations
Lucky for us, the world is full of great, low-cost video production equipment. But not all budget-friendly equipment is created equal. Here are a few packages we recommend.
Package 1: Phone Camera + Phone Stand + Lights + Audio
If you have a recent model of iPhone, Pixel, or Galaxy, you’ve already got a great camera that will shoot at the quality we’re looking for. What’s more, phone auto focusing and exposure settings are incredibly easy to get right. All you’ll need is a stand to stabilize your phone, a high quality mic to get clear audio, and lights (depending on where you’re shooting).
Most smartphones built after 2017 are capable of capturing great video, but these three smartphones produce the most reliable and highest quality videos we’ve found: iPhone 11, Google Pixel 3, and Samsung Galaxy S10.
There are many different mini tripods available for phones these days. This SquidGrip tripod by Xenvo is a flexible option with adjustable legs so you can shoot at many different angles.
Remember, natural light is the best option, if you can find it. If not, softboxes are a great way to fill a room with soft, diffused light. These HPUSN Softboxes come as a pair so you can balance them out.
Not all Lav mics work with smartphones. If you’re using a phone to shoot, make sure the lav mic you get is compatible. This BOYA mic works great for plugging directly into your phone. But if you have the budget, we recommend the PowerDeWise for better quality and lower background noise.
Package 2: Webcam + Lights + Audio
If you don’t have a recent smartphone to use but do have a laptop, external webcams are a great, accessible, and inexpensive option.
Most external webcams allow for 1080p video. The Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920 gets consistently clear and crisp video, and is a bit cheaper than the C922.
Again, natural light is best. But you can use softboxes for this setup, too.
Webcams have their own internal microphones. These do not record high quality audio! If you’re using a webcam, it is critical that you record audio with an external microphone. We recommend this FIFINE USB lav mic that allows you to plug directly into your computer.
Package 3: DSLR + Lights + Audio
A DSLR is a great option for achieving high-quality viddo. This is by no means essential, but is a fantastic investment in your creative journey, if you can swing it.
To stabilize your camera, you’ll need a tripod. You can find incredibly cheap tripods that will do the trick, or opt for something more expensive that gives you more options. We recommend this Ubeesize tripod that is both lightweight and sturdy.
One more time: natural light is best! But again, softboxes will work well for this setup, too.
Almost all lav mics work with DSLRs, but some cheap lav mics are made specifically for smartphones so check to make sure yours works with a camera. The PowerDeWise works with both.