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Bit of a broad question here, but I'll try to be as specific as possible.

Basically there are a group of us talking about doing a round-table chat-show style webcast. Cracked.com's After Hours show is an example of the kind of thing I'm talking about (quite different in terms of content, but a similar physical setup in terms of there being 4 people sat around a table).

We're on a super low budget (read: almost no budget at all), as this is more of a proof-of-concept than anything more than that. I may be back here again if we decide that it's entertaining enough to be worth pursuing, but that's not just yet.

We have access to quite a broad range of cheapo cameras, between phones that can record in 1080P and compact cameras that can do decent-ish video. What we don't have is any specialist audio recording equipment (nothing beyond built-in mics in cameras), or any lighting equipment. We also have a small bit of experience between us in editing/post-production, and access to at least some level of editing software on semi-decent hardware.

My question is this: say you were going to spend $100 to make the proof-of-concept just a little but more professional, what would you do? Or $200? I know we'll be a long, long way from a professional feel, but just to take the edge off the amateur-ness.

I feel that sound quality is going to be a bigger issue than camera quality (visuals are mostly to have problems caused by bad lighting, given that this will be recorded in a kitchen or living room somewhere). I've heard mention of a pressure zone microphone being a good way of recording a group of people sat around a table? Good ones seem to go for $150ish, I'm sure a second hand one can be had for less than this. Not sure what we'd actually record onto to - is straight to a PC line-in port a viable option?

I know there's no "correct" answer to this, but I'm curious to see if anyone has any feelings on what can be done with almost no money at all, to improve on the base-line of 3 or 4 cameras on tripods around the table, with sound from built in mics.

(Or indeed any must-read articles on any of this - obviously I'm googling around as well as posting here, but if anyone has anything in particular they feel I should read then post away).

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Instead of plugging a mic into a PC line-in, you could try looking at a USB microphone. –  Friend Of George Jan 24 '12 at 21:17
    
That's a good one FOG! No need of preamps and it will sound much better than any mic straight to the pc mic input. The PZM could turn somewhat nasty if the surrounding is noisy, so if you live in a busy street also consider an omni mic hanging from above (try first with the pzm and return it if it doesn't work as you want). I just saw a CAD running for $80 and a MXL for about $100. In this case I would pretty much spend most of the money in lighting so you get an even color temperature in almost all cameras. Good luck –  cbarg Jan 27 '12 at 5:01
    
Thanks for the comments guys. I'll definitely be looking into those suggestions! I realise it was a pretty vague question so I appreciate you giving an answer a go. I'll be back when I have some more specific issues to add! Thanks again! –  Diarmuid Ó Muirgheasa Jan 31 '12 at 20:39

2 Answers 2

The "correct" answer is: Use the money on audio.

This is the consensus in the low budget filmmaking community. If you only have one thing you can spend money on, use it on a sound engineer (or better mikes).

Video quality usually matters less then good audio quality, nearly no matter the production. If you've got good audio, people will almost alway forgive bad video (of course depending on the topic at hand).

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Well first thing is that $100 or even $200 isn't going to get you very far. Any single ideal component for this kind of thing costs well over $100 and most of them cost over $200. That said, if you already have multiple camera angles to be able to cut between, the best bang for your buck will definitely be audio if you are using on-camera mics.

On camera mics have a reputation for being poor. Even the built in microphones in most $2k+ professional cameras are not considered ideal. Conveniently, the biggest bang for the buck also happens to be the cheapest item you could get. A microphone. Ideally for something like this, you'd want to individually mic each speaker with a lapel or a countryman, but seeing as those are around $200 and more than $200 each (respectively) for decent quality, your best bet is probably to go with a cheap omnidirectional condenser mic (studio mic) that you can put in the center of the table and use for everyone.

As one major caveat, note that this will not work well unless your recording environment is relatively quiet as it will also pick up any background noise very clearly.

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