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5 Best Buys

The Gear To Get You Filming Fast
Published October 2010

New to the world of video production and unsure what gear to buy? Our guide to the five best options in three categories will get you started.

Professional Non‑linear Editors

These packages are built to handle the latest compression formats (codecs), and many have been used to create programming you will have watched on TV or the Internet. Depending on your budget, you may want to invest in a professional NLE and learn as you go, rather than starting with a simplified version.

  • 1. Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 (£793$999): Benefits from GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) acceleration with selected Nvidia cards and a 64‑bit video engine called Mercury, which allows native editing of many codecs. Closely integrated with other Adobe tools.

  • 2. Apple Final Cut Studio 3 (£816$999): Exclusive to Apple Macs; works closely with Logic Pro. Studio 3 includes Color for grading and Motion for animation. Benefits from widespread use across many levels of broadcast and film production houses.

  • 3. Avid Media Composer 5 (from £1522$2295): Cross‑platform editing; optional hardware acceleration; good Pro Tools integration; Avid software commonplace in professional suites.

  • 4. Grass Valley Edius 5 (£700$799): NLE from producers of professional video and large‑scale broadcast hardware and software; edits a wide variety of formats; comes bundled with iZotope VST plug‑ins.

  • 5. Sony Vegas Pro 9 (£580$569 download): Friendly interface for DAW users; edits many formats; integrates well with Acid and Sound Forge. A solid editing package.


Point a wonderful, professional cinema camera at a poorly‑lit scene and you'll be disappointed with the results. Lighting is important, and there are many solutions out there for all budgets, whether you're a dedicated semi‑pro or first‑time documentary maker.

  • 1. 500W Worklight (around £20$25): If you're on a budget and really stuck for lighting, workman's lamps can really help. Careful positioning and improvised filtering help.

  • 2. Arri Arrilite 800 (£299$549): The real deal, complete with barn doors, focus control, protective mesh, gel frame (for filters) and in‑line power switch. You'll need to get a stand and fit the plug, but you can rely on it for plenty of shoots to come.

  • 3. LitePanels LP Micro (£210$305): A rectangular light for hot‑shoe mounting, comes complete with dimmer switch. Colour temperature remains constant throughout dimming, and gels can be fitted over the top. Uses six AA batteries.

  • 4. Rotolight RL48 (from £99$115): Innovative 48-LED design mounts on a shotgun mic, or in a hot shoe with an adaptor. Lasts three hours on three AA batteries and comes with filter gels, with others available.

  • 5. Sima SL20LX (£20$29): Very low priced, this tiny LED panel is ideal for those with pocket video recorders. Comes with a mount for connecting to a tripod. You can even clip multiples together!


When shooting anything other than a music video, you're likely to want to capture sound on set. Shotgun mics are highly directional, rejecting sound off axis and letting you capture just the vital voices. As with all mics, there are models to suit each and every taste and budget.

  • 1. Azden SGM X1 (from £99$199): A popular low‑priced mic, which comes with hot‑shoe shockmount and foam windshield. Known for a warm sound when compared to other shotgun mics. Powered by a single AAA battery.

  • 2. Audio Technica AT897 (£275$259): A short shotgun that can be powered by an AA battery or phantom power. Has a rich but bright tone.

  • 3. Rode NTG2 (£199$269): A great mic at a good price, the phantom‑powered NTG2 is moisture resistant, robust and known for balanced sound and good value.

  • 4. Rode VideoMic (£99$149): Low‑priced short shotgun mic powered by a single 9V battery, and sold in a kit complete with shockmount and foam windshield. It connects using a 3.5mm jack, perfect for small camcorders.

  • 5. Sennheiser MKH416 (£766$999): Popular premium shotgun mic for those with the money to spare. Rugged and resistant to the elements, it has a 130dB peak SPL handling and a neutral sound, without the brittle high frequencies that can mar cheaper models. Used in many movie productions.
Published October 2010