camera Which small upgrade should come first?

I’d really appreciate some advice.
I make “talking head” style videos, and I want to make a small upgrade to my gear.
Right now I’m shooting with my smartphone (LG G6) and I use Dedolight 150 spotlights for lighting – these are very high quality (I only have them because my dad used them for work), but not really suitable for these kinds of videos (more for stills and for lighting installations).
In outdoor lighting, the G6 makes great looking vids, but indoors (which is my only setting), it really doesn’t.

So, I have two options for this upgrade:
1. a used Samsung NX3000 camera (and keep current lighting set-up)
2. more suitable lighting – something like the GVM 480LS, for example (and keep shooting with the phone).

Which do you think will make a more substantial difference in the quality of my videos and ease of making them?
 
I wouldn't say I'm all set up in that department, but I'm OK. I have an ATR2100, which gives decent enough sound.
So you think that the upgrade from professional spot lights to non-spot lights (though not professional) is more than the upgrade from a cell phone camera sensor to one on a camera like the NX3000?
 

directorik

IndieTalk's Resident Guru
Yes.

Since you can only do one, lighting is more important than the camera.
Excellent audio is also more important than the camera. Camera phones
quite good these days - especially for "talking head" shots. If you light
the interview well it will look more professional than using the NX3000
with the Dedolight 150 spotlight. The GVM 480LS 2 light kit will go a long
way when added to your Dedolight.
 

indietalk

IndieTalk Founder
Staff Member
Admin
I'm not sure of your subject matter but you may be able to "adapt" and shoot outdoors. Take for example a "talking heads" hot sauce review show, where they sit on a deck at a table to review them.
 
I'm not sure of your subject matter but you may be able to "adapt" and shoot outdoors. Take for example a "talking heads" hot sauce review show, where they sit on a deck at a table to review them.
My subject is skepticism, critical thinking, social commentary... those sort of things. I don't know that I'll be able to do it well outdoors. Also, at least at this point, I do my videos in a pretty scripted way. This means there are a lot of cuts and edits, so consistent lighting is pretty important. If I do it outside, I think the whole set will change too much during the shoot, making editing more difficult. Don't you think?
 

indietalk

IndieTalk Founder
Staff Member
Admin
If you are happy with your indoor set, you think it looks professional, and you just need better lighting to take it to the next level, the answer is pretty clear, as @directorik stated. Lighting. However if your phone is also bad at shooting indoors with good lighting now you will need a camera, so perhaps test first, if you can! The answer could be camera, not lighting.
 

directorik

IndieTalk's Resident Guru
A wonderful advantage you have that I didn't when I was starting
is the ability to test and experiment. When I was starting I had to
shoot film which was expensive and took a week to see what I
had shot. You could step outside today, set up your camera and
shoot a mock interview over the course of several hours. Then edit
it together and see for sure if a change in lighting makes editing
more difficult.

All that takes is time. Even if it took you 4 weeks in your spare time
you would then gain valuable knowledge.

And I'm sure that someday you'll have the money to get a better
mic and then a better camera.

My advice: better lighting > better audio > better camera. And in the
interim test and experiment using what you have. You don't need to
show the tests to anyone; they are for you to learn.
 
If you are happy with your indoor set, you think it looks professional, and you just need better lighting to take it to the next level, the answer is pretty clear, as @directorik stated. Lighting. However if your phone is also bad at shooting indoors with good lighting now you will need a camera, so perhaps test first, if you can! The answer could be camera, not lighting.
I just don't know how to test this. With outdoor daylight, my phone camera does fine, but I'm not sure how it will do with indoor lighting, other than the ones I have, and I don't know how to test that. (It does well enough also with sunlight coming from the window in front of me, but then the problem is that it really limits me to only morning on sunny or lightly but fully cloudy days, as starting at around noon, the sun starts coming in directly, causing all sorts of mass, and when it is partly cloudy the lighting changes all the time).
If I could consistently emulate the light coming in from the window - I'd be quite happy with that.

A wonderful advantage you have that I didn't when I was starting
is the ability to test and experiment. When I was starting I had to
shoot film which was expensive and took a week to see what I
had shot. You could step outside today, set up your camera and
shoot a mock interview over the course of several hours. Then edit
it together and see for sure if a change in lighting makes editing
more difficult.

All that takes is time. Even if it took you 4 weeks in your spare time
you would then gain valuable knowledge.
And in the
interim test and experiment using what you have. You don't need to
show the tests to anyone; they are for you to learn.
That makes sense. I'd need to find the time for that, but I will try to do it. Thanks for the advise.

My advice: better lighting > better audio > better camera.
As a general rule of thumb, that totally makes sense, but what are the "units" here? i.e. what "size" of improvement in lighting is equivalent to which "size" of improvement in camera? It's not like I should first direct all my resources to lighting, and only once I have the BEST lighting, should I consider upgrading my audio, and only once that's done - my camera. This is the question.
 
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My advice: better lighting > better audio > better camera.
It's not like I should first direct all my resources to lighting, and only once I have the BEST lighting, should I consider upgrading my audio, and only once that's done - my camera. This is the question.
A good lighting kit and a good sound kit will both serve you no matter which camera you use. Plus, good lighting can make even the cheapest cameras look remarkably good.
 
A good lighting kit and a good sound kit will both serve you no matter which camera you use. Plus, good lighting can make even the cheapest cameras look remarkably good.
Yes, but it is true for the camera also - a good camera will serve me no matter which lighting and sound kit I use. The upgrade choice, I think, should depend on which part of my setup is more in need of an upgrade. This is basically the question.
 
Yes, but it is true for the camera also - a good camera will serve me no matter which lighting and sound kit I use.
False.

Bad lighting is bad lighting. Bad sound is bad sound. Both will give you poor end-results even with the best camera in the world.

Good lighting and sound can overcome the shortcomings of a camera. No camera can overcome the shortcomings of piss-poor lighting and sound.
 
Bad lighting is bad lighting. Bad sound is bad sound. Both will give you poor end-results even with the best camera in the world.

Good lighting and sound can overcome the shortcomings of a camera. No camera can overcome the shortcomings of piss-poor lighting and sound.
Right, but what if it's not piss-poor lighting and sound? What if it's mediocre lighting and sound and camera? What you're saying assumes the camera isn't piss-poor (because hardly any camera is, these days). If I were using a cell phone camera from 10 years ago, I'm sure you'd say that the camera should be the first thing I should upgrade. If I didn't have a mic - that would probably be the first thing to upgrade, and if I didn't have any lighting - that would probably come in second.
But, as I mentioned, I do have professional spotlights (not right for the job, but far from piss-poor), and a decent mic. As that is the case, the question remains which of these components most in need of an upgrade.
 
Right, but what if it's not piss-poor lighting and sound? What if it's mediocre lighting and sound and camera?
Then your results are, at best, mediocre.

What you're saying assumes the camera isn't piss-poor (because hardly any camera is, these days). If I were using a cell phone camera from 10 years ago, I'm sure you'd say that the camera should be the first thing I should upgrade.
Irrelevant argument. You aren’t using a cell phone from 10 years ago. You’re using a current model. The camera in it is perfectly functional, especially in ideal lighting.

But if you want to talk about how the argument holds up retroactively, even 15-20 years ago when miniDV cameras were very popular, lighting was still of utmost importance. Those cameras had tiny image sensors in them... 1/8”, 1/4”, 1/3”... and lighting was the way to make them look good.

If I didn't have a mic - that would probably be the first thing to upgrade, and if I didn't have any lighting - that would probably come in second.
But, as I mentioned, I do have professional spotlights (not right for the job, but far from piss-poor), and a decent mic. As that is the case, the question remains which of these components most in need of an upgrade.
Your camera is the most capable piece of your kit right now.

Piss-poor lighting doesn’t necessarily speak to the quality of the lights used. It can speak to not having enough light. A three-head Dedolight kit can run nearly $4000. They’re well-built, high-quality lights. But they Don’t have enough output. Your Dedo kit is a very good kit, but not for your uses. Those 150w spots aren’t powerful enough to serve as key light sources. They are great for accents and kickers. Use them to give your background some texture. You need a better key light, and something else to use as fill and/or backlight. Save the Dedos for little details elsewhere on set.

I would hardly argue that your mic is “decent”. It’s a very low-budget mic, one in particular that I have never particularly found impressive. It’s also not the right type of mic for video use. A lavalier is a great choice for a talking head. Even better is a condenser mic (short shotgun, or hypercardioid, or supercardioid) boomed overhead and just out of the frame. If you’re recording your sound straight to your phone, you’ll need a mobile phone interface to connect a better mic.

However, proximity is the key to making any mic work for you, and if you’re okay with seeing it in the picture for now then you have a mic that can be placed close and can do at least a mediocre job. It’s been said a few times before around here that a cheap mic in the right place will outperform the most expensive mic that isn’t properly placed. The fact that you have one that’s functional puts it a notch down from the top of your priority list. Which brings us back to lighting...


TL;DR
You don’t have enough light to shoot indoors. Up your lighting game first.
You have a mic that can at least do a passable job, but that needs to be upgraded second OR along with your lighting.
Then, if you get to the point that you need to, get a better camera.
 
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Then your results are, at best, mediocre.
Same is true for a mediocre camera. The thing is that you say (and are probably right) - that mediocre cameras don't really exist. What you're basically saying is that I have mediocre lighting and sound, and a very good camera.
Your camera is the most capable piece of your kit right now.
===
Irrelevant argument. You aren’t using a cell phone from 10 years ago. You’re using a current model. The camera in it is perfectly functional, especially in ideal lighting.

But if you want to talk about how the argument holds up retroactively, even 15-20 years ago when miniDV cameras were very popular, lighting was still of utmost importance. Those cameras had tiny image sensors in them... 1/8”, 1/4”, 1/3”... and lighting was the way to make them look good.
When cameras were bad, lighting improved their performance. Another option would have been to get a better camera. If the camera is fixed, of course better lighting would improve the quality of the shot, if the lighting is fixed - a better camera would improve the quality. When both are not fixed - it's a matter of which will give better bang for buck, in terms of improvement.

I would hardly argue that your mic is “decent”. It’s a very low-budget mic, one in particular that I have never particularly found impressive. It’s also not the right type of mic for video use. A lavalier is a great choice for a talking head. Even better is a condenser mic (short shotgun, or hypercardioid, or supercardioid) boomed overhead and just out of the frame. If you’re recording your sound straight to your phone, you’ll need a mobile phone interface to connect a better mic.
I had a condenser mic, but it picked up too much background noise, which is why I opted for this one. A lav mic might be a better option, though, but for now - I think that a condenser really won't work for me.

However, proximity is the key to making any mic work for you, and if you’re okay with seeing it in the picture for now then you have a mic that can be placed close and can do at least a mediocre job. It’s been said a few times before around here that a cheap mic in the right place will outperform the most expensive mic that isn’t properly placed. The fact that you have one that’s functional puts it a notch down from the top of your priority list. Which brings us back to lighting...
I really don't have a problem with the mic being in the picture, so I think that pretty much settles that (for now; obviously at some point, I will upgrade my mic, and maybe soundproof my studio to allow for a condenser mic.)
TL;DR
You don’t have enough light to shoot indoors. Up your lighting game first.
You have a mic that can at least do a passable job, but that needs to be upgraded second OR along with your lighting.
Then, if you get to the point that you need to, get a better camera.
OK. So, lighting it is.
Thanks!
 
The thing is that you say (and are probably right) - that mediocre cameras don't really exist.
I never said that. There are plenty of mediocre cameras out there right now. But great lighting will overcome a mediocre camera, whereas a great camera can’t do much to fix bad lighting.

I had a condenser mic, but it picked up too much background noise, which is why I opted for this one.
Without knowing which mic that was, and how you had it set up, there’s no way to determine why it sounded so bad. However, proximity is important as I said earlier. The mic needs to be as close as possible without being in the shot, and it needs to be the correct pickup pattern for the space it is in. I use nothing but condenser mics in my sound kit; they’re the standard on film and TV sets.

One thing to consider as a budget option, if it’s just one person on camera, is the RØDE Wireless GO with a lav attached. Inexpensive, made for exactly what you’re doing (video blogging, basically), and mostly plug-and-play.

OK. So, lighting it is.
For what it’s worth, I’m a sound guy, but looking at the big picture in your case I see this as the better first step.
 
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indietalk

IndieTalk Founder
Staff Member
Admin
The camera is a phone so it matters. If the lighting is perfect but the phone can't decide what to focus on, keeps going in and out, is grainy, and terrible... well maybe that will suit Blair Witch but not what he is doing. So it's not always a case of lights trump camera.
 
The camera is a phone so it matters. If the lighting is perfect but the phone can't decide what to focus on, keeps going in and out, is grainy, and terrible... well maybe that will suit Blair Witch but not what he is doing. So it's not always a case of lights trump camera.
True... but there are apps like FilmicPRO that give full manual control and the ability to lock focus and exposure.

Cameras in the more expensive smart phones these days, especially with something like FilmicPRO, aren’t terrible cameras at all. I did spec the LG G6 before commenting on this thread, and it may not be the best one out there (iPhone 11 Pro is, IMO), but it’s not bad.
 
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I never said that. There are plenty of mediocre cameras out there right now. But great lighting will overcome a mediocre camera, whereas a great camera can’t do much to fix bad lighting.
Well, we're arguing semantics. It's all a matter of how you define "mediocre" vs "great", and how that definition might change, depending on what it is that we're evaluating.
Without knowing which mic that was, and how you had it set up, there’s no way to determine why it sounded so bad. However, proximity is important as I said earlier. The mic needs to be as close as possible without being in the shot, and it needs to be the correct pickup pattern for the space it is in. I use nothing but condenser mics in my sound kit; they’re the standard on film and TV sets.
It was a Samson Meteor. Also a budget phone, but supposedly quite good value for money. I'm sure it wasn't set up the right way, but that's the thing - I'm not a sound guy. I had an easier time getting better results with the dynamic mic, vs the condenser. I know they're standard on sets, but those also have better equipment, soundmen and many other things that make condensers work better.
One thing to consider as a budget option, if it’s just one person on camera, is the RØDE Wireless GO with a lav attached. Inexpensive, made for exactly what you’re doing (video blogging, basically), and mostly plug-and-play.
I'll check it out. Probably won't upgrade now, but I will check it out anyway. But why would I need a wireless setup?

The camera is a phone so it matters. If the lighting is perfect but the phone can't decide what to focus on, keeps going in and out, is grainy, and terrible... well maybe that will suit Blair Witch but not what he is doing. So it's not always a case of lights trump camera.
For the most part, the phone does know what to focus on, but the image still seems... I don't know... off... somewhat grainy, yes, but not just that.
 
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