In preparation for one of my gigs this weekend, I purchased some affordable video equipment to make filming HD video on the D7000 more comfortable (and more capable in low light and noisy conditions). I was able to pick up almost all of my items from Amazon.com at an amazing price (just shy of 200 bucks for everything purchased online) aside from the Manfrotto tripod, which I picked up at Best Buy (at a discounted rate as well).
Planted videotaping: The Manfrotto 7301YB-BB tripod provides stability without compromising portability, as it folds into an element not taller than 18 inches. It is fairly lightweight as well, but it is sturdy enough to support equipment up to about 7lbs (which is perfect for my application.) The tripod easily supports my D7000 with the 18-105mm lens mounted on the X-Grip. Stability doesn’t become an issue even when I mount the video light and the shotgun mic. I do wish the tripod came with a ballhead instead of a 3-way head, as fluidity becomes an issue when I don’t have all the heavy equipment on it.
Grip and portability: Opteka’s XL X-Grip is an amazing bargain for what it provides. Holding a DSLR in a snapshot position to record HD video at lengthy periods is a surefire way of suffering a hand cramp. The X-Grip gives the user a another method of holding the camera (similar to the upper grip on a traditional prosumer video camera). This proves to be useful when holding your camera with all the equipment during downtime, and when recording video at a height near your waist (skateboarding videos for example). The X-Grip comes with a hotshoe in case you want to mount an auxiliary device (in my case, I modified the rig to have three hotshoes, two of which are being used by the shotgun mic and video light).
Audio and lighting: I’ve decided to give Audio Technica’s ATR-6550 shotgun mic a try for this event. From the test videos I’ve recorded, it doesn’t look like it will disappoint. I purchased a mono-to-stereo jack to balance the sound between left and right (without it, your sound will be played through your left speaker unless you correct it in post). The audio is crisp and clear, without any audible white noise. I’m excited to test out the ambient noise cancellation to see if it can properly separate the noise from the intended audio. For lighting, I’ve equipped Sima’s SL-20X LED video light. The light is SUPER bright, so if you intend on videotaping interviews with this light, buy a softbox. With the softbox, the light is much more even (and much more pleasant, according to my friend, whom I’ve interviewed with the equipment in the video below). One caveat– the battery life is short. After 50 minutes, this thing dies according to my rundown test. Bring the charger, or an external power source (AA batteries are out of the question, the light uses a Li-Ion battery pack).
Battery life and memory space: I’m bummed that there aren’t any third party batteries I can try that is out for the D7000 yet, so I had to pick up Nikon’s EN-EL15. I also picked up an extra 32gb Class 10 SDHC card. DO NOT get a Patriot brand SDHC card unless you intend on using the warranty on it (I’ve killed two already). My latest one failed after a month of use (usually pass the 13gb mark). I’ve had no problems with Kingston or Sandisk Class 10 SDHC cards. Choose wisely!
When everything is mounted together, the rig looks pretty sweet. Aside from looking cool, it is functional. I don’t think I could hold the D7000 with the light and mic attached to it without the X-Grip, lol.