Five Hundred Buck Multimedia Studio


  • What you need to create quality multimedia content for the Web
  • What you need to create a multimedia studio
  • Specific equipment recommendations to create your studio for less than $500

You can build a multimedia production studio for less than $500. That’s right. Everything you need to make great web video and audio podcasts for less than a weekend away.

The cost of media equipment has plummeted. Today you can buy an HD video camera for less than two hundred dollars. And you can pick up a professional standard digital audio recorder for even less.

And as cameras and audio recorders have become cheaper, they’ve also become easier to use. And there’s even more good news. They produce better quality recordings.

With the cost of equipment as it is, we now live in an era where anyone can build their own TV or radio production studio. Or in today’s language, a multimedia studio.

However, as equipment becomes accessible, be careful not to get carried away.

Many novices assume they simply have to point their camera or wave their microphone around like a magic wand and presto, they’ll have great content.

Great content depends less on what equipment you use than it does on your brain and the level of discipline you develop with your media skills.

What do I mean?

Your brain and discipline are critical to how good your content is. I say this because I don’t want you to think that spending 500 bucks on Amazon to buy this cheap but reliable equipment instantly means you can make great multimedia content overnight. Here are two reasons why.

Podcast Studio EquipmentFirst, your story and how you plan it is the most important part of making multimedia. Millions of boring videos are stored on YouTube that no-one ever looks at. Many have been shot on expensive cameras.

Usually, they are boring because the novice who spent their weekend gleefully waving their camera in the air had no story to tell. And they did no visual planning. And they forgot to think of their audience.

They may have used high grade cameras and expensive editing software. But expensive or fancy equipment does not make great video. The editorial decisions you make in terms of narrative, visual storytelling along with how you plan your production are what make great video.

Second, it’s not the equipment you use as much as how you use it that gets great technical results. Anyone can use cheap equipment. But can they use it well?

Below you’ll find my recommendations on how you can create a multimedia studio for less than $500.

I recommend mostly domestic equipment so you can get started for next to nothing.

I’ve researched and listed the cheapest gear you can buy that still delivers good results for web media. This is not professional television gear but easily good enough to create great web content for your intranet or internet.

This list should help you convince your boss to back your efforts up with cash if you’re shooting cheap and cheerful video for learning or internal communication.
It should help your budget if you’re planning to add video to your business website to attract more customers.

If you use this equipment well, you will get great results for web video. If you don’t follow the production disciplines that you can learn on my workshops and in my webinars, your video will look like it has been shot on a cheap camera.

People who don’t know how to shoot video for the Web or record audio for podcasts can make even the best quality equipment appear domestic grade.

So, you can create great looking video and compelling audio using the following equipment in my $500 Studio. But only if you plan your content following multimedia principles. And only if you follow disciplined production techniques.

The Five Hundred Buck Studio.

So, I’ve made my caveats on great video. Get these things right and you can now splash some cash and be confident that these economical pieces of equipment will help you create great multimedia.

This studio will give you everything you need to create great video and audio podcasts. This list assumes you already have a computer and know how to use pictures to tell stories and the dynamics of audio to create great podcasts.


I recommend the Aiptek GVS 1080. Approx $150. This camera is the cheapest camera you can buy that has an external microphone socket. Remember, only amateurs use the microphones built into domestic cameras. And audio is too important for you to waste on a camera without a microphone.


Your tripod is your number one secret weapon to avoiding the label of amateur. Always shoot with a tripod. I don’t recommend any particular brand. But when you hunt for one, it needs to have two things. First, a spirit level so you can be sure your camera is level. Second a fluid head so you can easily move the camera when it’s mounted on your tripod. You can find a tripod with these features for $50 to $70.


I recommend you buy the Azden ECZ 990 supercardioid microphone. It is a condenser microphone which means you also need to have two aaa batteries. (One battery to run the microphone and a second as your back-up) This microphone is the cheapest shotgun and will cost you approx $55. It plugs straight into the Aiptek. A shotgun microphone is highly directional. So when you point it at the object or person you are recording, they will be louder than the surrounding noise.

Digital Audio Recorder.

To record on the spot interviews for your audio podcasts, capture atmosphere and sound effects, you’ll need a digital audio recorder. The Zoom H2 is perfect and costs about $150. It has excellent built in microphones. However, if you want to use an external microphone, you can plug your Azden ECZ 990.
The Azden shotgun is not the perfect choice for interviews. But we’re talking about a multimedia production studio here that you can build for less than $500so it’s a good second choice. What’s good about this microphone is that you can adjust it to act as a normal omni-directional microphone or a shotgun microphone.

Your Video editing Software.

I yawn when I hear debates over which editing program is better than the other. It’s like the people who argue a BMW is better than a Mercedes. Both cars are great. You choose based on preference.

So you need to choose an editing package that suits your work style. And budget. If you want to go cheap, I recommend MovieMaker. It enables you to bolt together pictures and it comes free with Windows. (For Windows 7 it’s a free download.) And it takes less than half an hour to learn.

The limitation with MovieMaker is that if your video is poor quality, you can’t do much to fix the picture up like you can in more expensive editing packages. Nor you can you layer multiple audio or video.

But you shot great video, right? You’ve followed the principles we teach in my workshops. This means you will have saved the time that novices need waste having correct their images in fancy editing software packages.

When you have good quality video, you can do great things with MovieMaker.

If you have a Mac, the editing software package iMovie will work great for you. It has a few more features than MovieMaker. But it’s still very basic, easy to operate and produces great results.

You can buy video editing packages for less than $100 these days. Some come as cheap as $49. I’m agnostic when it comes to which one you should use. But I am clear about one thing. Don’t get hung up in the conversations among technical nerds who say MovieMaker or iMovie is not up to standard.

It’s not your editing software that makes you good video and watchable. It’s your story, how you shoot it and the decisions you make when bolting it all together.
The higher end packages are great when you get more sophisticated and start layering audio and visual effects.

The budget

So I’ve run through everything you need to build your own multimedia production studio. Remember it’s not the equipment you use that makes a great video for the Web. It’s how you use it. Let’s do a cost summary.

  • Aiptek Video Camera – $150
  • SD Card for video camera – $10
  • Tripod – $70
  • Azden Shotgun Microphone – $55
  • Zoom H2 Audio Recorder – $150
  • SD card for Zoom recorder – $10
  • Video Editing Software – Free for Windows $50 for Mac
  • Audacity Audio Editing software – Free download

Learn the Skills

Want to learn the disciplines I talk about in this article? I’m running a number of public multimedia workshops that anyone can sign up to.

For Workplace Learning Practitioners …

If you’re a learning practitioner, I have collaborated with the American Society for Training & Development to offer an ASTD Certificate program on “Multimedia for Instructional Designers”. This is a hands-on workshop that gives you and overview of how create multimedia content including video, podcasts and text content. CLICK HERE for more details.

For Small & Mid-Size Businesses …

If you’re a small business owner, I have collaborated with Vision Strategy & Marketing, a firm in Annapolis, to deliver a series of video marketing workshops. This includes the added value of two free webinars and our guarantee you’ll leave with the skills to create video. CLICK HERE to check the workshop out at

For Mid to Large Size Organizations …

I also run workshops for teams who want to learn professional multimedia skills.  I do these through my Washington DC Based firm, Jonathan Halls & Associates.  We’ve delivered two-day and three-day workshops to government departments, retail and media companies including nationally recognized brands.  Drop us a line if you’d like information on how we can transform traditional communicators into multimedia communicators.

Filed Under: MediaOnline VideoPodcastingUncategorized

RSSComments (0)

Trackback URL

Comments are closed.