Affordable alternatives to professional video gear include inexpensive substitutes, as well as versatile products like gimbals and monopods. Read on for a look at some of the affordable products we suggest that will prove invaluable in your video production.
No matter how low-budget your production, a motorized gimbal is highly recommended, because gimbals are too good not to use. With a gimbal, even a beginner can achieve smooth, cinematic, professional-looking footage. A gimbal is also so versatile that you can get away with using it as your sole camera support, and every shot will be stabilized by built-in motors. Gimbals also open up the opportunity to get into tight spaces, because they’re so compact.
Another key item for the low-budget shooter is a monopod, especially the type with fold-out feet on the bottom, and monopods mix well with gimbals. A gimbal and a monopod together can provide alternatives to Steadicam systems, shoulder rigs, tripods, and jibs.
With a gimbal you can walk, run, or climb, use it upside-down for ground-sweeping shots, and hold it out of the window of a moving car—and your results will all be stabilized. With a monopod, you can provide stationary support for your camera as well as push in on a subject on the fly. And when you combine a gimbal and a monopod, you can use the two as a stabilized jib.
Gimbals can be found fairly affordably. Some new ones, like the DJI RSC 2, are a worthy mid-range investment, while some models that are about a year or two old, such as the Zhiyun-Tech WEEBILL-S, are highly discounted from what they cost when they were first released.
Take a look also at the dual hand support for your gimbal, from Axler. It lets you operate the gimbal with two hands while balancing it from your chest, and the whole time it’s secured around your shoulders and waist, taking weight off key muscle groups and letting you shoot without getting as tired. Combined with your gimbal, this dual hand support replaces the need for a shoulder rig.
Another useful item to consider for your gimbal is the Ulanzi Triple Cold Shoe Bracket. This small metal bracket attaches to the bottom of your gimbal and allows you to mount your lights and mics all around the gimbal.
Popular monopod examples include the robust Manfrotto XPRO models, iFootage Cobra monopods, and options from Sirui. The Steadicam Air 25 is also an interesting monopod, because it offers push-pedal, gas-lift height adjustment for fast-paced scenes, such as at live events. You might also want to check out the Manfrotto FAST GimBoom, which isn’t a monopod but rather a dedicated jib-like extension for gimbals, but you can attach a robust mini tripod on the bottom of it and somewhat turn it into a monopod.
And here are a few items that are truly affordable alternatives: A skate dolly with a push handle or various other types available at B&H—you can mount your camera or gimbal right on top and roll it in straight or curved paths. They’re ideal for tabletop use, but the one with the extendable push handle can also be used on the ground for shots from low angles. Also check out the FocusShifters or Fingazooms for adjusting focus and zoom. If you can get away with using them instead of a follow focus, they may be just right for your production. We also carry actual follow focus systems that are affordable, like the Mini Follow Focus from Tilta, and the FocusONE from edelkrone, both of which have some pretty good reviews.
For your monitoring needs, FeelWorld offers some popular affordable options, like the F5 Pro 5.5" 4K Touchscreen Monitor. And for lighting, the Luxli Viola² is a great and versatile option. It isn’t necessarily a low-cost item, but it provides you with selectable colors, special effects, and 150 digital gels. With this one light, your final footage can look like it had many different types of lighting fixtures used in the production.
For audio capture, Zoom systems are often the go-to option, and they have several low-cost offerings, like the H1n recorder with built-in mics, or the F1-LP or F1-SP recorders, which come with a lavalier or shotgun mic, respectively.
Lastly, JOBY offers mini tripods that can be wrapped around tree branches and other objects to let you get the shot from interesting angles and locations. A good example is the GorillaPod 3K, which can hold your camera, light, or mic pretty much anywhere you need it to. You may also want to check out other mini tripods, which can be used to place your camera on surfaces such as tabletops and staircases.
Using affordable alternatives also opens the door to a lot of positive energy, as you and your team look for creative ways to get the shot. Have you used any of this alternative gear to create videos? Tell us about your experience in the Comments section, below.