As we navigate the murky waters of managing work, play, and life in general at home, people are relying on streaming video to stay connected. Increasingly, brands are leaning in to live video to keep their business humming and team informed (including us), and we’ve heard lots of questions about how they should budget for quality live stream equipment.
We’ve put together a quick gear guide summarizing the best equipment for live streaming based on three different budgets: Up to a grand, $10,000, or more than $10,000. Each section covers cameras, lighting, and audio, along with more tips and advice to get you started.
Entry-level live streaming gear
This budget is for: A one-person operation or small team that’s learning how to live stream, and want to get a feel for the nature of working with live video. Your budget is pretty small (or non-existent!), requiring using free or low-cost tools and tech.
If you’re looking to keep things cost-effective, chances are you have your camera and audio gear already in your pocket. Most smartphones have 12-megapixel cameras, which is plenty for some live stream dabbling. And with the Vimeo mobile app, you can go live to multiple social platforms in just a few taps.
Got some spending wiggle room? Mevo makes solid entry-level live streaming cameras. Their latest, the Mevo Start ($399), is slated to ship at the end of the month. Alternatively, the Mevo Plus ($399) is a longtime contender in the live streaming space, and with the same price point, won’t break the bank.
Yet again, your phone is a solid choice for exploring live streaming without spending cash. You can give your phone audio a quick boost with these tips to help you capture beautiful audio straight from your phone.
For more professional-grade quality gear, our team recommends:
The best and most cost-effective light source is conveniently located 93.629 million miles away. With the right positioning, the Sun can bring natural, beautiful light to your subjects. Just make sure you keep the Sun shining on your talent. While it may seem like having the Sun beaming down makes for a beautiful backdrop, it’ll just drown out your subject.
You can also snag a light bounce or reflector (as little as $10), which helps fill in shadows to create more even lighting, for as little at ten bucks. We’ve got a Vimeo Video School post to help you master a bounce, too.
If you want to spend a little more on indoor lighting, the Aputure MC ($90) is a mini LED light that goes anywhere and packs a powerful punch with its robust mobile app to tweak your lighting just so. Need more guidance? Vimeo Video School has got you covered with tips for indoor and outdoor lighting.
Intermediate live streaming gear
This budget is for: Folks who work in small to mid-sized businesses or nonprofits with dedicated resources to live streaming. Ideal if you’re committed to regular streaming, and have access to some tech-savvy staff members who may already have A/V equipment (or the budget to rent or buy some).
When you’re ready to bring professional-grade quality to your live streams, but don’t want to drop several thousands of dollars on equipment, the Canon XA15 ($1,800) and XF100 ($1,500) are a good starting point. If you want to nudge up to the higher end of this budget, our live production team recommends the Sony PXW Z90 ($2,600).
Working with Mother Nature’s bounty of light is all well and good, but when you’re ready to take your streaming to new heights, light kits are a great first step into production-quality lighting. To start, try out Neewer’s ring light kits ($19-$110), which are great for smaller teams (or teams of 1!) that want to create catching illumination for their on-screen talent.
You can add a more polished look with a three-point light kit, which offers more customization to fill in shadows and balance your subject with back and fill lighting. Our production team recommends the GVM 560AS LED 3-panel kit ($297).
Professional-grade live streaming equipment
This budget is for: Those who work for a larger business, brand, or organization that’s ready to pull out all the stops. Perfect for if you plan to fully integrate live video into your corporate communications and marketing stack, and have a dedicated team to help (or a budget to outsource accordingly).
Our live production team recommends a few cameras for this tier, all under the Sony brand, including the PMW 300 ($7,500)or PXW X320 ($9,000) — which technically share the same guts of a camera, but in different forms — and Sony FS5 ($4,250).
Looking for more recommendations from our live production team? Learn what’s in their travel-friendly encoding kit.
When you invest in professional-grade cameras, you’ll want to do the same for your audio. Shure SM7B ($399) is a high-quality vocal microphone that we rely on for some of our live streams. In fact, you can see (and hear) them in action in our Working Lunch episodes.
If you’re juggling multiple mics and want to truly tailor the audio, the RodeCaster Pro audio mixer ($599) is a great investment. While it’s marketed for podcast production, there’s no reason you can’t use it for your live streams, too.
We recommend the Aputure 300dii ($1,100) accompanied by a mini dome diffuser ($129), creating a powerful yet lightweight, err, light, that fits in nearly any space. (Especially handy now that many of us are cozied up at home in closer quarters.)
Of course, there’s much more than just equipment that goes into a successful live stream. You’ll want to budget for support, specific features, and a solid platform, too. Give our Live Streaming Budgeting Guide a read to learn what factors, features, and gear you need to consider to build the right budget for your brand or business.