Video On The Cheap

This is home camcorder footage of FLASHGUNS performing Ro Shambo live in Manchester as part of In The City, 6 October 2008. I shot it on a very cheap Canon camcorder – the current equivalent, the  Canon MD25 is a widescreen mini-DV camera with a reasonable lens
that currently costs less than £130. I edited the footage on my ancient Powerbook G4 using iMovie – an app that’s been bundled free with Apple computers for years. Incidentally, the older version (iMovie 06)  is much better for editing than the more recent iMovie 08. If you happen to own that, Apple will let you ‘downgrade’ to the superior iMovie 06 here.

Now that YouTube has upgraded its player to widescreen – with the option of watching in higher quality – you can get surprisingly good results very cheaply – check out the actual  YouTube page hosting this video. The point is that with an original performance is as electrifying as this, even wobbly low light footage can be made into something reasonably watchable at very low cost.  Imagine what you could do with two camcorders, proper stage lighting and a bit of time !

Samsung VP-HMX10/XEU at Amazon

High definition camcorders are getting cheaper and more widespread, so you may be able to borrow one off a friend or relative. These shoot at 1280 x 720 pixels and the  good news for Mac owners is that iMovie 06 and 08 can both handle HD footage. The bad news is that high definition video files guzzle disc space and need a lot of processor power to edit – working in HDV will slow you right down compared to  standard DV. You may notice a big difference once you’ve uploaded the results to YouTube… there again, you may not.

Songwriter Kit Ashton also uses iMovie – but by heading in the opposite direction and embracing lo-fi footage he eliminated shooting costs completely. “A few months ago I had the crazy idea of making a music video entirely of mobile phone clips…” he writes. “So I got fans and friends to film random stuff at my gigs, bluetooth it all to me, and then  mashed it up in iMovie myself – this is the somewhat trippy result…”

This is Kit’s single I Kicked It Down  – currently available on iTunes. “It was mixed by Brit award winning producer Mike Crossey (Arctic Monkeys, Zutons, Foals etc)” he says. “Buy it for me will ya??” Here’s the link if you want to oblige:

Kit Ashton - I Kicked It Down - Single - I Kicked It Down

Tom Robinson

London-based broadcaster & songwriter, born 1950. His best known songs are 2-4-6-8 Motorway, Glad To Be Gay and War Baby; he has also co-written songs with Peter Gabriel, Elton John, Dan Hartman and Manu Katché. Read More...


  1. Hi Tom !

    2007 Bore Place Stand & Deliver Graduate here !

    Completely agree with you. I have almost no training in video and was able to produce a promo video for my friends in the group ‘Pugwash’ which has had over 8,000 youtube views.

    It has even been watched by the guys who recorded the original of this song (The Idle Race) and of course Jeff Lynne.

    this is it:

    I used 2 basic digital camcorders. One is 9 years old at this stage, the other is 5 years old. Not the latest in technology at all. Edited on my MacBookPro using a simple version of iMovie (probably ’06 because i could never get my head arond ’07)

    Using similar technology I was able to record my first “proper” gig here in Dublin and put a clip up on youtube:

    using a single camera (held by a friend who did it in exchange for a pint!) edited on my MacBookPro

    ‘Libraries gave us power…’

    ‘Cameras gave us power…’

    best wishes from Dublin

    Peter aka ‘iMADEtheBBC’

  2. Tom

    Blimey video – and YouTube – have come a long way since 2008. iMovie 11 is now a brilliant upgrade for knocking out great-looking promo clips dead cheap’n’easy.

    Even last year’s iPhone 4 shoots in 720p HD that’s way better than the Flashguns footage above and Final Cut Pro X is an affordable option for anyone that wants to do serious pro editing.

    My top 2012 budget camera tip is the Canon SX220 HS which you can now get for an unbelievable £170 on Amazon.

    Canon SX200 HS

    It shoots full 1080p HD at 30fps, has a brilliant wide-angle lens, and looks like a little cheap stills camera. No jobsworth is going to stop you shooting pro quality footage pretty much anywhere you want – it’ll just look like you’re taking snapshots. This little camera is one of the best purchases I ever made…

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