Tabletop product videos were never my favorite thing to do, but after two years of doing it, I felt like I had a pretty good handle on the basics of making a tabletop video helpful for making product decisions. Here are some tricks and hints that I stumbled upon along the way:
The camera isn’t the most important part of tabletop product videos, but it’s a good idea to get this one figured out early on. I filmed hundreds of tabletop reviews and overviews on a Canon XA-10. In my opinion, it is the best prosumer video camera for the money right now. For $1,500 you’re getting great picture quality, manual capabilities, XLR audio inputs!, and great auto features. If you’re looking for the second best, go with a Canon XA-20. It’s a more expensive version of the XA-10 with a few upgraded features, particularly the ability to adjust your manual settings externally on the fly if you’re using the camera for non-tabletop uses. More than anything, these cameras excel because of professional audio inputs and their keen ability to auto-focus quickly.
DSLRs have come a long way in the last few years (the Canon 70D auto focuses fairly quickly now), but they still operate best with external audio recorded separately and with manual focus pulling. Simplicity is best when it comes to tabletops. It will be to your benefit to remove variables where you can make mistakes or cause yourself headaches in post-production. The Canon XA-10 and XA-20 remove the step of syncing your audio and video– a process that will cost you TONS of time in the long run.
Audio is your friend! Seriously, most people are watching YouTube videos at 360p on their lousy DSL connection anyway. They’ll never know you shot your video in beautiful 1080p. Sorry about that. However, they will know immediately if your audio is terrible. And they’ll hate you for it. Invest in a decent lavalier microphone. Learn the basics of capturing good audio with your tabletop setup and crush it.
I used to think that only the best light kit could create pretty pictures. Not so. At Blade HQ, we went super cheap on our lights the first year. I found some el cheap-o lights on Amazon that I figured would break before our next cap-ex expense, but they’d do for the moment. I was elated to find out how well they worked. I felt like I scored the Amazon jackpot! The soft-box style lights are cheap, no doubt, but they are daylight balanced and they made the knives look great. Buy extra bulbs to have on hand; you’ll have one die every couple of months. Here is a fine little diagram of how to set up your lights for success:
And there you have it! Enjoy your tabletop product video-making extravaganza.