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Video Tech Recs For A New Year

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

2020 is the year a twister scooped us all up and dropped us in a brand new technicolor reality. In this adapted couch potato way of life, virtual correspondences are no longer just another option, and a sleek digital appearance is as crucial as remembering to put on pants before leaving the house — back when we left the house. But with a myriad of products to choose from as far as camera, lights, audio and accessories, buying the right gadgets can be intimidating. Here’s a roundup of our tech recommendations to help you look and sound your best in the new year.

The Camera You Want: iPhone 12 ($699–$999)

Apple iPhone 12, Pro, Mini
Apple iPhone artwork

Apple lays it all out in a product compare that makes you nostalgic for the good old Steve Jobs days. I’ve cropped out the long list of identical features, but all three iPhone 12 models record 4k at 24 fps, 25 fps, 30 fps or 60. The only significant difference in the three models is the the telephoto lens in the 12 Pro, which should not be a concern for most people. In a nutshell, they’re all great, and I recommend choosing based on size and color preference alone because the specs are quite similar otherwise.

Other Phone Options? Samsung Galaxy Note 20

Samsung Galaxy Note 20

When looking for a non-Apple phone with a killer camera, the first thing anyone thinks about these days is the Galaxy. I recently tried out the Note 20 Ultra 5G camera’s 8k (7690x4320) video recording and was impressed to say the least. I have reservations about the “8k” video resolution feature, and I’m not convinced anyone needs resolution that high anyway. Netflix currently streams between 720 (1280x720) and 4k (3840x2160), but most of the time on the lower end of that scale. And I’m fairly certain the majority of Samsung Galaxy video shooting is not being distributed on Netflix nor traditional media (not yet at least). So is it hype? Likely, but the phone is still a contender.

What Will Also Do: iPhone 10X or later or Google Pixel 5

The Lights You Want: iKan Micro LED ($29.99)

iKan Micro Flood Lights with Diffusion (Left)

These iKan LED lights are my personal favorite. They’re portable, easy to setup and give off an impressive amount of light for their small size. So much, that I even attached rolled up diffusion paper onto the front to soften the intensity at its lowest. The only drawback to this light is that it lacks a bi-color option, meaning you cannot control the color temperature. But for most consumer-grade uses, that wont be an issue. Speaking of bi-color LEDs…

Other Light Options? Genaray LED ($79.99)

Genaray Bi-Color Pocket LED

The reason this Genaray Pocket LED light retails for $50 more than the iKan is its Bi-Color feature. What that means is that in addition to controlling the intensity of the light, you can also control the color temperature. For consumer-grade work like talking head video recordings or Zooms, you might be scratching your head at what that means to you and why you should care. The easiest way to explain is that without this ability to match your light with warm tungsten or cool sunlight, automatic cameras like those on smartphones may have difficulty reading the colors. This can result in discoloration or extremes in one way or another (you might make your skin appear super orange, or grey and pale). So if you’re going to use a bi-color LED, it pays to watch a few tutorials and understand how to best use this fantastic feature that is table stakes on professional sets.

The Support You Want: Magnus Tripods ($19.95)

Magnus Mini Tripods with Phone Grip

The Magnus Mini Tripods are inexpensive, lightweight and durable. The screw along the middle turns to tighten the device mount, and it can support any phone and many small cameras. For an additional 10 dollars, you can get the version with a phone grip built on. As part of a portable production package to be shipped to various participants for my client, I included two of these and not only do they ship nicely, the clients had no problems operating them.

Other Support Options? Manfrotto Clamp ($44.99)

Manfrotto Twistgrip Tripod Adapter Clamp for Phones

Manfrotto is an Italian company that makes professional grade tripods. So when they decided to break into phone grips with the Twistgrip Tripod Adapter Clamp, you can imagine my excitement. This is going to be a cut above the rest, and you’ll also need a stand or tripod to screw it onto. I recommend pairing this with the Matthews Revenger ($67.15). You could also keep it in the family and pair it with a Manfrotto Backlight Stand ($61.88).

Another Option: westcott Ring Light ($199.90)

westcott Ring Light

Ring Lights have been a staple for social media users and influencers for quite some time. However, when purchasing one make sure to do your research and read reviews. For example, my friend Jon_The_Wine_Guy uses a Selfie Ring Light Kit ($37.99) which breaks on him regularly and he most certainly does not recommend it. On the other hand, pictured left is a complete ring light kit and case by westcott, a company known for professional grade, innovative lighting solutions. I own several of their products and the quality is consistent and superior to other brands. So I can only assume their own version of a bi-color ring light must be top notch. At the end of the day its still a ring light — but if I had to get one this would be it.

The Audio You Want? CountryMan iRig Kit ($300)

iRig HD Pre-Amp and CountryMan Microphone

When it comes to audio, you get what you pay for. While this kit comes at a steep price, the quality is incredible. Pictured here is a CountryMan Lavalier Microphone plugged into an iRig PreAmp, which then plugs directly into your phone or recording device. A built-in headphone jack allows the user to monitor their own audio recordings, as well as bump up gain and volume.

What Else? Apple EarPods ($19.00)

EarPods are one of my favorite Apple products for their simplicity and low price. Contrary to popular opinion, AirPods are not better for recording. At a far steeper price tag, they often create a muffled sound in audio recordings. When we have remote guests join on the podcasts I produce for my clients, I always encourage them to have a pair of EarPods handy. At under 20 dollars, it’s an easy ask.

What You’ll Get Away With: PoP Lav Mic ($13.99)

Several corporate colleagues of mine use the PoP voice Professional Lavalier Lapel Microphone Omnidirectional Condenser Mic and have seen a significant improvement in audio recording quality.

Technology changes fast and we’re all constantly trying to keep up with it. The most important thing to remember when upgrading your video tech is to make a budget and prioritize items that are less prone to obsolescence. A good microphone or light will last years, but a phone will likely need replacing between one to two years, depending on your use. So invest wisely, do your research and try to not get sold on features you don’t need.

Thanks for reading and I hope you found this helpful. I’m the founder and principal of RMP-NYC, a video and podcast production company with a focus on insights and strategy. Visit our website for more information, or reach out with any questions.

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We are a strategic video production firm. With a smart approach to video content, we have earned the trust of global brands, corporations, agencies and creative partners.

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Richard Adler

Richard Adler

I create videos for big brands and corporations. rmp-nyc.com

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