What kit do you need to start making videos?

A selection of video kit. (Photo by Jeff Hopper on Unsplash)

‘If you were to compile a starter kit for a charity wanting to do some short videos in house what would it include? I would love to hear what equipment you think is essential and what editing software you recommend.’

This was a question recently posted by someone on a Facebook group I’m a member of.

I decided to write a blog post in response. 

How would I answer the question? 

I’d start by presuming you’ve done some thinking into why video is a solution to the problems you’re trying to solve for your audiences. If you’ve not then that’s the first place to start. Video can be costly, not just financially but also to the detriment of your brand if your messages are not communicated clearly and accurately. I’ll come back to this later.

When it comes to which items of kit you should buy, I’d also need to know:

  • What experience and skill level for video production would you say you were at currently?
  • What sort of budget range do you have available to you to start with?
  • What sort of videos are you hoping to make? (bearing in mind that at the time of writing we’re currently somewhat restricted in filming opportunities due to Covid-19. But let’s be optimistic!)
  • Are you a mac or PC user?

Next let’s look at four kit fundamentals: camera (+ lenses), microphone, stabilisation, software.


I’ve actually gone the extra mile with this one and created a snazzy table comparing the pros and cons of your options. Thank me later.


Clearly audible audio is essential for video. But even professional cameras use an additional microphone/s. So where to start looking for one? Well, that depends somewhat on what camera you are using. 

At the higher end of audio production you have shotgun and lavalier mics with XLR connections. 

Moving a level down, but still doing pretty well, are on-camera and lavalier mics which connect to your camera or separate audio recorder with a 3.5mm jack. 

And then there are the mics that are built into your camera, phone or computer. These are generally to be avoided due to them typically having poor sound quality. But if it’s all you have, you can make it work… just not outside on a windy day.

On that note, if you are filming outside, get hold of a fluffy microphone cover (or ‘deadcat’ as the pros call it).


With the built-in stabilisation many of the new cameras and lenses have it’s possible to go the handheld route for some types of shooting… but don’t expect to do this for long periods before you start to wish you had some sort of tripod, monopod or gimbal.

So what are these and what should I get?

Let’s start with tripods. No points for knowing they have three legs and support your camera. But there are so many tripods out there, so where do I start? As with microphones above, it somewhat depends on what you’re trying to support.

If you’re starting off, you’ll probably see this as the most boring purchase in your kit wishlist. I mean, no one I’ve met ever enthuses about tripods the way they do about new cameras. 

Generally speaking if the thing supports your camera well and securely, is fairly easy to transport and quick to set-up, you’re doing fine.

Yes you can spend a tonne and get a top notch fluid head and carbon fibre legs, but for now stick to the basics.

In 20 years’ of professional video production, I’ve used the pan and tilt functions of a tripod while filming about twice, so there you go. It’s just a personal preference and I’ve not needed to while doing the sorts of shoots I do (mostly interviews or capturing b-roll)

Just watch out for what screw thread you have on your camera and make sure it matches your tripod. And preferably look for a video head, rather than a photo head with your tripod. You can spot the difference because a video head usually has a long handle to use while you’re framing your shots…or God-forbid, panning and tilting while you’re shooting.

OK, let’s move on to monopods. Yup, they are like tripods, but with just one leg. These are useful in situations where you don’t want to carry a bulky tripod, but you still want some stabilisation. They’re versatile, and I’ve personally used them a lot on content gathering trips in east Africa.

Generally speaking if the thing supports your camera well and securely, is fairly easy to transport and quick to set-up, you’re doing fine.

They’re not so good for longer interviews, but for quick vox-pops they’re perfect. And frankly, like tripods, they’re nothing to get too excited about. They do an important job, but I don’t dream about purchasing a better monopod. In fact the one I use most cost me a tenner from a friend at work.

What about gimbals? These are relatively popular nowadays, particularly those made for phones, such as the DJI OM 4. And for a mirrorless or pro video/cinema camera they can be very useful, particularly for capturing interesting, dynamic b-roll shots. And they can get quite expensive for higher-end models such as the DJI Ronin or Zhiyun Crane. Again, it’s horses for courses, it depends what you’re trying to shoot.

Try and either stabilise your footage well with one of the above options, or if you’re going handheld, then try and make any movement you make as you carry the camera smooth and consistent. 


You’ve captured all your footage and saved it to your computer, or ideally an external hard drive. It’s time to edit.

If you’re on a Mac, you have iMovie all ready to use. Not to be sniffed at, this ‘starter’ software can be used pretty well for basic video editing jobs.

A step upwards on the Mac is Final Cut Pro X (or FCPX), which has come on leaps and bounds since a rather tentative jump from the legacy version Final Cut Pro 7 to the latest iteration. 

FCPX is used by many pro editors, and they swear by it. It’s not for me, but only because I’ve gone too far down the Adobe Premiere Pro route to want to switch to a different way of working.

For Mac and PC, there is Davinci Resolve. The free version of this is more than enough for beginners, and feature-filled for pros too. In fact, this software is becoming more and more popular with editors at all levels of ability, partly because it’s free, and partly because it’s so good.

[Davinci Resolve] is more than enough for beginners, and feature-filled for pros too.

Also sitting reasonably comfortably on both platforms is Premiere Pro, which is Adobe’s premium video editing software. Similar in many ways to Davinci Resolve, it is used by many pros across broadcast, corporate and charity sectors. It also integrates really well with Adobe’s Creative Cloud suite, including After Effects (for motion graphics), Photoshop, and Audition (for audio editing). It’s not free, but there are some discounted packages available for charities.

For editing on a mobile, I’ve used Adobe Premiere Rush a few times for editing short clips for my TikTok, but not used it enough to give a fair review to it. Other options I’ve not used but seem to be recommended are: Splice Video Editor for iOS, and FilmoraGo and Kinemaster for Android.

For desktop, other free options I’ve not used but seem popular are Openshot and Lightworks. NB. These apps are usually free for a reason: they don’t allow you to access many features you’d find in pro versions, but don’t let that put you off taking a look and looking at some YouTube reviews and tutorials.

Finally, there are some web-based video editing options such as Animoto and WeVideo. I’ve not used either, and I’m not sure I will at the moment. My question would be how can you work with professional high-resolution footage effectively using a web-based programme. I may need to look into this further as it could be the future of video editing one day.


What you ultimately need to do with video is communicate a message visually in a clear and compelling way. The above examples and tips are about the kit you can explore using, but video production has many more facets to it. 

Remember: the best kit in inexperienced hands, won’t magically help your videos be great. You also need to consider training and practicing with your kit and software, planning your productions well, having a solid marketing plan which your videos will sit within, and learning from data about how your videos perform and can be improved to fulfill your goals.

If you now feel this is all a bit too much to take on board, and you want to consider hiring an external video company to help, check out my free eBook How to commission better videos.

But I’d encourage you to try making videos yourself. At the very least, if you do end up outsourcing, you will have learned more about the video production process that will stand you in good stead when working with an external producer.

If you are a videographer and work for a charity or non-profit, join the Charity Videographers Facebook group.

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