DSLR Wedding Videography Setup

This article is my way of sharing a very low-budget equipment setup for wedding videography. This is by no means a comprehensive list, and is only meant to serve as a starting point. It might be helpful to those who are considering this kind of work with limited funds for the necessary tools. With wedding season now upon us, it’s the perfect time to take stock of your equipment. 

A few years have passed since I was supplementing my income with weddings, and while I still do random videography gigs here and there, I don’t have the same access to quality equipment I once did. Currently my options in terms of cameras and lenses is limited and my audio equipment has dwindled, so when my girlfriend and I decided to produce the wedding video for her sister’s upcoming nuptial, I set to work on a bit of research.

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Producing a wedding video for someone can be a lot of work. Time, effort and money are all factors when creating something of high enough quality to satisfy the Bride, Groom and their families.

You have to consider the preparation. Checking equipment, scouting the locations, understanding the schedule of events, managing/employing a potential second camera operator, and planning for proper coverage (all while conferring with the client) can be an undertaking. Prepare for the preparations.

That is why I needed to get my gear in order now, even though the wedding day is still month’s away.

The Equipment

There are two main parts of a good budget equipment list. You guessed it: Audio and Video. There are a variety of supplementary tools and supplies that aren’t mentioned here, like expendables such as gaff tape, peripherals like headphones for monitoring audio, batteries, memory cards, etc. What I will cover are the things you should consider purchasing (or renting) in order to have a proper handle on things.

Audio

Easily the most overlooked portion of video productions, audio can make or break you. It is what can set you apart and what can make your life a living hell in post.

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The standard

With three lavalier (lapel) microphones you can catch quality audio by hooking up the groom and the priest. I would avoid putting a mic on the bride as this can be difficult to hide in a dress and might be uncomfortable for her. The third lav mic is for backup and the reception, and the third Zoom H1 is to place on the podium for speeches and verse readings. Finally by having both cameras plugged into a suitable shotgun microphone, you can catch ambient audio at two sources.

  • Zoom H1 Portable Recording Device — $99 x3
    • The Zoom H1 is a small portable recorder with a variety of great features. The built in stereo microphones set in an X/Y pattern will capture clean audio and the 3.5mm stereo line-in will become essential in this setup. It records to micro SD cards and is perfect to slip into the grooms inside jacket pocket. The Auto Level function regulates things very well, so you won’t have to worry too much about peaking or muddy audio.
  • Aputure A.Lav Lavalier Microphone — $35 x3
    • The Aputure A.Lav is an inexpensive lavalier microphone with a built in preamp. It’s design is extremely functional, supplying a variety of adapters and windmuffs (one of which looks like a furry mouse took a nap on your lapel. Plugging this mic directly into your Zoom H1 gives you an easy way to record good audio without having to worry about wireless signals or multiple tracks.
  • Rode VideoMic with Rycote Lyre Shockmount — $149 x2
    • The Rode Videomic shotgun microphone performs very well for the price and you don’t have to worry about extra adapters or an external power source. A 9 volt battery supplies the microphone with enough power to capture clean ambient sound and even podium audio in the right circumstances.

A Step Up

These products are definitely better, and definitely more expensive. Upgrading the on-camera microphone is an option, but honestly your money is better spent on upgrading the lavalier microphones and the recorder.

  • Zoom H4n Portable Digital Recorder — $199
    • The Zoom H4n is a 4 track portable digital recorder with two XLR inputs capable of picking up great audio. You can plug right into a mixer or PA system to get amazingly clean sound, and using the H4n in tandem with a few wireless lavalier microphones, you can be sure to get the right coverage as well.
  • Wireless Lav System — $150-$650 
    • By hooking two of these into your Zoom H4n you will be able to record audio wirelessly into one spot and monitor levels at the same time. The downside is the maintenance and setup. The Azden WLX-PRO and Sennheiser G3 are fan favorites.
  • Tascam DR10L — $199
    • Tascam saw that a lot of videographers were moving away from the wireless signals and recording straight into portable recorders on the talent and decided they could simplify this process. Their solution was to minimize the size of the recorder and combine it with a high quality lavalier microphone. You obviously wouldn’t need the wireless lav system if you got these instead, though you would probably still want a portable recorder (H4n) for pluggin into PA systems and placing on the podium.

Video

Everyone wants the newest and best products in terms of video, but you can do a lot with less expensive camera equipment. I’ve produced plenty of content, including feature-length films, using crop-sensor DSLRs. My suggestion is to spend as much (if not more) money on lenses as on your camera body.

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The Standard

Pairing two Canon T series cameras together, with some good lenses, you can achieve some great stuff. I still use a canon t2i and vintage prime lenses I’ve picked up over the years. If you are reading this far into the post, then you probably already have a camera and some lenses, but you are going to need a second.

  • Canon T5i or similar Canon cropped sensor Camera — $ 399 x2
    • In case you are starting from scratch, understand that their is no shame in going with a quality, cropped-sensor DSLR for this kind of work. By selecting a Canon T5i you can load Magic Lantern firmware and set yourself up to record great 1080p 24fps video with a variety of tools to make the process easier. You will need two cameras, and I suggest tryi
    • ng to match them as closely as possible to avoid a stark contrast in the video quality.
  • Wide Prime Lens — $150
    • As I mentioned above, I have picked up quite a few manual focus prime lenses over the years that work great. My Olympus 24mm f2.8 is a solid wide angle lense that doesn’t give you that fisheye effect. This lens will be your go to for B-Roll.
    • If you want to keep it cheap and fast the Canon 24mm f2.8 is a solid choice though it’s really tiny.
  • Medium Prime Lens — $125
    • For the vintage category I love my Pentax Asahi 50mm f1.4. It’s particularly fast and wonderful, with a soft bokeh and smooth focus.
    • The Canon 50mm (the perfect “nifty fifty”) is a great, inexpensive option for this category.
  • Med Zoom — $500-$2000 (consider renting)
    • You can find quite a few 24-70mm zoom lenses that fit the Canon eos mount, but they can be kind of expensive (comparatively), so you might consider renting it. I will say that these type of lenses are crazy esssential for videography.
  • All-in-one Zoom — $500-$2000 (consider renting)
    • The all-in-one zoom is perfect for your second camera. You will need to have something that can capture the entire chapel and then pull in from the back for a closer view of the action.

A Step Up

Bumping things up a bit can be great, but it’ll be expensive. Opting for a Full-Frame Sensor will make your image crisp, and also bring new life to your lenses. Getting a full set of prime lenses is also helpful as a supplement to the zoom lenses you already have. IF you do proper location scouting at the rehearsal, then you might even be able to get away with just the prime lenses.

  • Canon Full Frame Camera — $2000-$5000
    • The Canon 5d mkIII can still utilize the magic lantern firmware, allowing you to take advantage of the great tools available with this simple upgrade.
  • Cinema Prime Lens Package — $1200-$10,000
    • A set of prime lenses designed for videography, can make a big difference in the appearance of your final image.
    • The Rokinon DS Cinema lenses are an inexpensive option here, with built in focus rings for your follow focus system.
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