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4 Tools Under $500 to Enhance Production Value

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The business of video gear is a massive industry these days. Video professionals have endless options and can go nuts with the amount of gear marketed and available to us. While it’s easy to spend money on these items, some things are just unnecessary and end up collecting dust in your gear bag. We like to go by the “less is more” rule, and that has made our work easier on set. With that in mind, I want to share some of the tools that we’ve used to enhance our production value on each video project. The best part is that these items are all under the $500 price point.

FreshBooks for Preproduction

There are numerous articles out there that focus on production tools and gear used on set. Don’t worry, we’ll get to some of those, but I wanted to share a useful software that’s a great business tool across the board. FreshBooks technically markets its software as a cloud accounting system. It’s an absolute gem of a tool for any business when it comes to things like invoicing, expenses, accounting reports, and more. However, Fresh- Books is also an outstanding app for creating estimates, proposals, and RFPs (Figure 1, below).

Figure 1. FreshBooks

The FreshBooks proposal tool allows you to add essential items like a scope of work, project overviews, estimates, and discounts. It also allows for tracking estimates, converting estimates into invoices, client acceptance, and electronic signatures. Everything is one place, and it is a secure system for clients to use. It has a clean, professional look, and you can create templates with your company logo and branding. This tool’s ease of use has allowed us to focus more on what we love, which is creating video. FreshBooks starts its monthly pricing at $15 a month and offers 30-day free trials.

Westcott Basics 5-in-1 Sunlight Reflector

This piece of gear is one of the most valuable purchases I have made with production equipment. The 50" model, priced at $60 at B&H, it is an essential part of our video tool kit (Figure 2, below).

Figure 2. Westcott Basics 5-in-1 Sunlight Reflector

In addition to being a significant light source that you can use to reflect light, it has come in handy in so many other ways. First, the Westcott works like traditional reflectors as a way of bouncing light with white, silver, and gold hues. That makes it compatible in both indoor and outdoor situations with all kinds of lighting options (LED, natural, and tungsten). However, its benefits don’t stop there.

By removing the covers shown in Figure 2, you can convert this reflector to a one-stop diffusion panel. Pair it with a C-Stand or two, and you can create a quick silk for subjects that are under the harsh outdoor midday sun.

Finally, the reflector includes a black cover that works as a flag or way to block light from unwanted sources. Again, pairing this with a C-Stand can allow you to create specific lighting environments when shooting inside or out.

Since this product is light in weight, it’s become an essential part of our kit when traveling by airplane. It has all of the benefits mentioned above and is so soft that the padding of the product acts as a cushion and can protect other gear in your travel cases. It’s so light that you can add two or three of these to your bag and not worry about exceeding airlines’ checked baggage weight limits with your luggage.

Magic Bullet Cosmo II

The Magic Bullet Cosmo II is by far one of my favorite tools to share with others. Cosmo is a plugin that gives you the ability to quickly balance skin tones, reduce wrinkles, and remove skin blemishes to make your talent look their best

I was pessimistic about this product until I started to use it. We all do production things in our videos that only our crew may notice. However, after we started using Cosmo, clients could not stop raving about how good they look in videos.

It’s fast, easy to use, and it works with programs like Adobe After Effects and Premiere Pro and Apple Final Cut Pro. It is what I like to call a light filter, meaning that you only need to add a small amount of this effect to any video. It doesn’t take much, yet it makes your subjects look more flattering and offers easy cosmetic cleanup (Figure 3, below).

Figure 3. Magic Bullet Cosmo II

Cosmo works best when good lighting practices are applied to your subject during a video. It adds that extra something to your video and enhances the overall production value. Cosmo is available for $99.

Vimeo Video Review

Vimeo has so many powerful options as a video platform that I thought it was important to spotlight one of them. Vimeo’s video review tools have given us a great way to collaborate with clients during the editing process. I’ve tried lots of other collaboration tools, but Vimeo has a secure system that our clients have enjoyed and been impressed with.

Once you have a video uploaded to Vimeo, you can share a link with clients or other collaborators to view that video. Reviewers can then click directly on any frame to leave a time-coded note. It works on both mobile and desktop systems.

These timecoded notes are then sent to the video editor and can be turned into to-do lists for the revision stage. Everything is in one place, and the edits can be checked off on the Vimeo Review page as they’re made. Clients and team members can track progress, which saves you time and makes things visible to everyone (Figure 4, below).

Figure 4. Vimeo Video Review

One suggestion I’ll make is that you ask your main point of contact on the video to notify you when all notes have been added. It makes it more streamlined when going through and making the edits. Also, my work has moved faster when reviewers have made their notes in one, or a few, viewing sessions versus making them across a wide range of time.

Vimeo offers different levels of paid plans, but the video review tools are available with the Vimeo Pro Plan, which sells for $20/month, coming in safely under our $500 limit at $440/year.

All of these items have helped us enhance production value across the different phases of a video project. Larger clients look at the whole package, and it’s important to remember that as you’re building a video project from start to finish.

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