Impulse: Choosing a Budget Camera for Video Work

Today at 1 PM Central I’ll be working on my new video course: Working Without Apps. If you want to see the behind the scenes process, join me here: joebuhlig.live.

When lockdown struck in March, I had a little bit of a head start when it came to live streaming our church services. We had been using a couple of nice Sony cameras for a few years and had a full Blackmagic ATEM setup as well. So the only trick was learning to kick out the broadcast feed itself.

But at the same time, I learned that I didn’t know as much about cameras as I thought I did. I spent many hours working with coworkers on lifts to get our lighting figured out. And there was likely a couple of hundred hours put into testing different settings on those cameras.

And when it was all done, I realized that I loved the process of tweaking and producing live video. That’s partly why I decided to start streaming myself. But that meant starting over with cameras and I had no budget.

So I pulled out an old webcam I had from six years ago and went for it. The first couple of streams were bad. But they all are. And that’s ok. I knew it would be. But it’s better than not doing it at all.

After those first few streams, I added a desk cam and started streaming my Bullet Journal setup. The second camera I used was nothing more than my iPhone. The setup to do this was a bit clunky, but it worked. And a lot of folks asked how I was doing it. The trick is NDI.

NDI works pretty well, but it’s still showing its newness. It can be a bit laggy and if your home network isn’t built for high data loads for extending periods, it can crash occasionally. However, I loved the quality of the video I was getting from my iPhone into my computer with this process.

And then I did something as a test. Instead of using the iPhone camera as a desk cam, I set it up as my main camera. I didn’t do this for a real stream, but only for testing as I wasn’t sure it would hold up the way I wanted. And I was right. It didn’t. So I canceled that idea for now.

At the same time, I had been keeping my eye on a few dedicated cameras to increase my camera quality on stream. But frankly, it’s too pricey for me to jump into without a solid income backing it. I did however notice a deal on a capture card.

A capture card essentially lets you use high-end cameras or any other HDMI source as a webcam on your computer. It would have been a necessary part of my camera upgrade anyway. So I did purchase it.

And later that night, it occurred to me that I have a Lightning to HDMI adapter for my iPhone. I rarely use it, but I have it because I’m crazy and think I need to HDMI all the things sometimes.

I also know that Filmic Pro added a clean HDMI output to their iOS app a month ago. Bingo!

So, now, I have a capture card and a solid method for using my iPhone as an HDMI source! When you look at the control that Filmic Pro gives you over the video output and the resolution/framerate it makes perfect sense to set this up as my new dedicated camera. And I’m a long way from spending the $750 or more on a dedicated camera system.

All this to say that I have a new capture card on the way and I stoked about setting up my iPhone as a solid camera system. Now I’m eyeing the Peak Design system for mounting it. :wink:


Work Life Task System with Harry Marks

This session on Analog Joe was a lot of fun. And it’s free for all! In this video, Harry Marks takes us through his WLTS and explains how it is designed to help you break your email habit.


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