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While many internet video platforms seem to come and go, YouTube has been a titan of user-generated video content since 2005. Over 80% of Americans between the ages of 15-25 use YouTube, and those users watch an average of 11 minutes of YouTube videos every day.
Part of the beauty of YouTube is that anyone can create a channel around their interests and passions. From food reviews to makeup tutorials to gaming channels, YouTube has a diverse audience that you can tap into. But first, you need the right tools. While it's possible to start a YouTube channel with video and audio captured on your phone, dedicated audio and visual equipment can help your content get more views and subscribers.
If you’re just starting out with your YouTube channel, you probably have a few questions. Here are some quick answers to questions that we’ve seen dozens of times.
To start a YouTube channel, you need one or more cameras, a microphone, some sort of lighting rig, tripods for the cameras, and video editing software. Depending on your microphone, you might need a microphone stand and an audio interface for your computer. A USB microphone won’t require an audio interface, and a lavalier microphone is an example of a microphone that wouldn’t need a stand.
If you don’t have a traditional DSLR camera, you might be able to use your phone or webcam to capture video. However, if you use your phone, you’ll probably need some sort of stand or other way to stabilize your phone. Believe us, you don’t want your phone to flop over halfway through a great video take because you tried to prop it up against a stack of books.
A USB webcam is a better option over a smartphone or integrated webcam for a few reasons. Firstly, modern USB webcams like the Logitech StreamCam offer significantly higher video quality than built-in webcams. Webcams also make it easy to monitor your appearance and framing while filming by yourself, which can be difficult when using a DSLR camera or the rear camera on your smartphone. Plus, they plug straight into any free USB port and come with adjustable mounts, so you don’t need to worry about gravity ruining your take!
To start a vlog, you’ll need the same equipment you need to start any YouTube channel: a camera, a microphone, lighting and some video capture or editing software. Vloggers can often get away with using only a single camera, trained on them, which makes webcams like the Logitech BRIO a great solution. Pair that with a Yeti and a nice ring light, and you’re in business!
Logitech webcams are an easy and affordable way to capture high-quality video for YouTube.
It shouldn’t be surprising that video quality is the most important part of a YouTube video. But you don’t need to invest $500 or more on a DSLR camera to capture professional-looking video.
With up to 1080p resolution at 60 frames per second (FPS), the Logitech StreamCam is a favorite YouTube camera. It competes with video quality from a DSLR camera, and the high frame rate ensures that it captures movement smoothly and naturally. It also has a few nice features that you won’t find in any DSLR camera, like face-based autofocus, smart auto-framing that keeps you centered in the screen, a vertical video option and auto-exposure so you’ll always be well-lit.
Speaking of resolution that can compete with a DSLR camera, the Logitech BRIO can record or stream in 4k Ultra HD at 30fps or match the StreamCam with 1080p resolution at 60fps. Viewers probably won’t even know that you were using a webcam! The BRIO also has auto-focus, auto-exposure, 5x digital zoom and a custom carrying case so you can film YouTube videos on the go.
The Logitech C920 is a high-quality webcam that won’t break the bank. It’s $79.99 and captures 1080p resolution at 30fps, which matches the resolution of the StreamCam with a slightly reduced—but still smooth—framerate. Like the Logitech StreamCam and BRIO, the C920 has a stellar autofocus and tons of mounting options so you can set your camera at an angle that works for you, whether it’s sitting securely on the top of your monitor or attached to a tripod.
A lot of YouTubers think that they need to invest in a DSLR video camera for YouTube to capture quality video. And a DSLR camera is certainly an investment. An entry-level DSLR camera can cost anywhere from $350-$800 new, with costs only increasing from there.
DSLR cameras are also a little more difficult to use if you’re filming your videos by yourself. Most don’t have an especially trustworthy auto-focus, and manually focusing on yourself can be difficult. Many people also find that DSLR cameras have a pretty steep learning curve—in addition to manually setting the focus, you have to manually adjust the exposure, f-stop (depth of field) and more.
The biggest benefit of a DSLR camera over a webcam is that you don’t need to have a computer near you to use a DSLR camera. Depending on your workflow, that could make it easier to record on location.
“Why do I need to invest in a camera when I have a high-quality camera on my iPhone?” It’s a question we hear a lot—after all, smartphone cameras keep getting better and better.
A lot of YouTubers use their phones to film at least some of their content. But there are a few downsides to using your phone as the only camera for your YouTube channel. For starters, the front-facing camera on smartphones still doesn’t compare to the rear-facing camera on most models. And using the rear camera can feel like a bit of a gamble while you’re filming, as you can’t easily monitor yourself while filming.
Smartphone cameras will also need a separate mount to attach to a tripod or other secure surface. Many people make the mistake of propping up their camera phone with a stack of books or something similar, only to have the phone flop over halfway through filming.
Finally, there’s the issue of getting footage from your camera phone to your computer so you can edit it. This seems like it should be as simple as emailing it to yourself, but your video file size is likely too large to email.
You’ll have to figure out something like airdrop (which isn’t an option on PC), upload your video to Dropbox or plug your phone into your computer and dig through all of your photos and videos. Believe us when we say that it’s a pain to dig through all those unnamed files!
Yeti X delivers great sound for YouTube videos with plug-and-play ease of use.
High-quality video will draw viewers to your channel, but if your audio isn’t up to par, those viewers aren’t going to stick around for very long. In case you missed our article about the best microphones for YouTube, we’ve put together a little list of what we think are the best microphone options on the market.
Yeti X is an easy-to-use, versatile USB microphone for YouTube that plugs directly into your computer so you can capture clear audio without the hassle of working with an external audio interface. It features four microphone patterns that capture focused sound thanks to the four condenser capsules inside.
With Yeti X, you have an easily accessible gain control, mute button, headphone input and monitor blend, which keeps you in total control of your sound. You also get real-time LED metering—a visual cue of your volume levels—so you can see if you’re too loud or too quiet while recording. That’s a lot less stressful than finding out your levels weren’t quite right in post-production, when it’s too late to fix those issues easily.
Yeti X also comes with a suite of audio tools and vocal effects called Blue VO!CE, which both beginners and audio pros love.
The Yeti USB microphone has been an industry standard for YouTubers for over 10 years, and for good reason. Like Yeti X, it features four microphone patterns to help you capture sound the way you want—cardioid for focused audio from a single source, stereo for a wider range of sound, omnidirectional to capture the entire space around you, and bidirectional for one-on-one, in-person interviews. Its base is compact but sturdy, which puts it in that sweet spot of being easy to stow away when it’s not in use and robust enough that you won’t worry about it falling off the desk with a gentle bump. Plus, it looks sleek and modern, so you won’t be embarrassed about it being in your videos.
If you want high-quality audio but don’t have a high-quality budget, Snowball iCE is a great option. Like Yeti and Yeti X, it’s a plug-and-play USB microphone. But Snowball iCE is even more compact than either Yeti. It still has that super-clear audio thanks to its cardioid pattern, which makes it ideal for vlogging or any other videos where you only have to capture audio from a single source.
If you already have (or prefer to use) an audio interface like the Focusrite Scarlett series, XLR microphones will work great with your setup.
Spark SL is a large-diaphragm studio condenser microphone that offers transparent sound with a few extra features, like a high-pass filter that will automatically remove lower frequencies such as planes flying overhead or a city bus roaring past your apartment. And it’s not just great for vocals—Spark SL is excellent for recording guitars, pianos, amplifiers and more.
LED ring lights are a great solution for getting good lighting on a budget.
After obtaining a quality camera and solid microphone, it’s time to think about lighting. Lighting can seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. There are plenty of easy, affordable lighting options out there for YouTubers like you.
The ring light is having a moment. A ring light is exactly what it sounds like—it’s an outline of a circle (a ring) that illuminates your face and body evenly and clearly. You can find ring lights in various sizes with different kinds of mounts. You can even find ring lights that attach to your webcam, which is a big space saver and an easy lighting solution for vlogging, makeup tutorials and more.
You can even find ring lights that come with different color inserts and polarizing filters. After all, not everyone has the exact same lighting needs, and these filters can help you shape your lighting around the needs of your skin tone or environment.
If you have to light a larger set, or are more comfortable with an entire lighting system, lighting kits are easy to find. We recommend the three-point lighting system, which uses a key light to one side of the camera, a fill light on the opposite side of the key light and a rim light to illuminate you from behind.
Now that you have the hardware down, it’s time for the software. There are two types of software YouTubers often use—video editing software (which almost all of them use) and live streaming software (which some use and some don’t).
Once you’ve captured your audio and video, you need to edit it! We’ve put together a list of our favorite video editing software, but the important thing is to find a software that’s in your budget, reliable and has the features you need. Some of the most popular software options include:
Live streaming used to be a niche space, but now everyone from gamers to guitar podcasters are using live streaming to connect with fans in real time. You do have to be verified on YouTube to go live, so make sure you follow the steps for YouTube verification.
Here are a few great live streaming software options for YouTubers:
Depending on your YouTube equipment setup, you may need to invest in a few additional accessories to create your videos.
Tripods aren’t just for DSLR cameras. Even if you’re using a webcam or your phone, you might find that a tripod will make it easier to stage your videos the way you want. There are a few different types of tripods out there, including everything from your basic tripod to specialty tripods that can be adjusted to get overhead shots, which can be a fun addition to your videos.
Whether you’re using a USB microphone like Yeti X or an XLR microphone like Spark SL, a microphone stand or boom arm like Compass can free up desk space and improve your overall audio. How can this improve your audio? If a microphone is on your desk, it’s more likely to get bumped or pick up any sound that travels through the desk and into the microphone (like if you slam your hands on the desk in excitement after making a bit point). A microphone stand or boom arm with a shockmount will keep the microphone stable, so you won’t pick up those unwanted noises.
Starting a YouTube channel is going to involve an investment. But getting a quality webcam, USB microphone and lighting solution doesn’t have to be prohibitively expensive. If you’re just starting out, find equipment that can grow with you. Most importantly, have fun! And if you want more tips on getting started on YouTube, we have a guide for that.