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In this step-by-step guide, we’ll teach you everything you need to know about how to start a YouTube channel, including the audio and video equipment you’ll need to start filming. After you’re up and running, we’ll offer tips on how to improve your production quality through audio and video editing, set design, and key lighting.
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Snowball iCE plug-and-play USB microphone
So, you’ve decided you want to start your own YouTube channel. But what kind of videos do you want to make? While the most popular video categories include vlogging, product reviews, tutorials, musical performances and creative talents, the variety of videos on YouTube is almost endless.
The answer is simple—make the kind of videos you would want to watch yourself. You’ll have a much easier time building a community by being true to yourself and creating authentic content, as opposed to trying to create content you think people will like.
Even though YouTube has a huge audience of viewers, it’s important to find your own niche to stand out from the 400-plus hours of video uploaded to the platform every minute. Start by asking yourself these simple questions:
Spend some time identifying these things and try to find a way to combine these various aspects that make yourself uniquely you.
One of the most exciting parts about creating a YouTube channel is carving your own path—but there’s nothing wrong with learning from those who came before you.
Visit your favorite channels and rewatch videos in your watch history and take note of which users are being boosted on the top page of YouTube. Study their content with a critical eye and take notes on what you like and what you don’t like.
For example, maybe you love the topics they cover, but something irks you about their presentation style. Maybe you love their sense of humor and magnetic personality, but the production quality isn’t up to par.
Often, the best way to find your voice is to emulate your favorite qualities of the creators that inspire you, while consciously excluding or improving upon the aspects you don’t like as much.
Before you can begin uploading videos, you need to set up your channel. Start by creating an account, choosing a channel name, uploading a channel image and writing a description. If you’re not sure what you want your channel name to be, it’s okay—this can be changed later. The important step is getting your channel up and running.
It’s great to have a plan for your channel, but it’s also important to leave room for discovery along the way. You will rapidly learn a lot through the process of uploading videos and getting feedback, but you won’t be able to make progress without starting.
While the task may seem daunting and there is hard work involved, it’s actually pretty simple. And keep in mind that even the top YouTubers started out the same way—with zero views, zero subscribers, and one video.
Yeti X professional USB microphone
Now that you have a good idea of what kind of content you'll be creating, the next things to consider are the technical aspects of how to capture your videos with good production quality. While you may be able to simply record videos with your smartphone, most of the top YouTubers have a dedicated recording setup.
If you want your content to stand out from the pack, you’ll probably want to invest in a few audio and video essentials so you can have more control over the way your video looks and sounds.
It may sound counterintuitive, but the first and most important aspect of your technical setup is actually your choice of microphone. Don’t worry; we’ll talk about cameras and video software in a minute. After all, your voice is your strongest asset when it comes to communicating your message to your audience, and if your message isn’t coming through loud and clear, you risk losing a lot of potential viewers.
There’s nothing worse than a great-looking video with weak sound, distorted audio, or distracting background noise. But what kind of microphone should you get? There are many ways to categorize microphones into types. XLR or USB? Dynamic or condenser? Cardioid or omnidirectional? We’re here to demystify the jargon.
Yeti Nano premium USB microphone
So what’s the difference between USB and XLR microphones?
USB microphones like Yeti Nano plug directly into your computer without the need for any additional equipment. This makes them a great choice for people without prior audio experience because you can simply connect the microphone and you're ready to go. USB microphones feature hassle-free level control and headphone monitoring directly from the mic itself.
XLR microphones like Ember can be connected to external audio processors to further refine the sound before hitting your recorder, but they require a dedicated audio interface to connect to your computer. There can also be a bit of a learning curve with the additional gear and setup required. To record using an XLR microphone, you'll need to plug the mic into an audio interface and connect the interface to your computer using a USB or Thunderbolt cable.
If you're still not sure which mic to choose, check out our blog on the Best Microphones for YouTube.
Compass premium microphone boom arm and S3 shockmount
Beyond microphones, there's a whole playground worth of audio gear and accessories that make it easier to achieve a professional sound. Unless you want to hold your microphone while recording, you’ll need a microphone stand. Most USB mics come with a built-in desktop microphone stand, like Yeti. This makes it easy to place the microphone on your desk 6 to 12 inches away from your mouth with minimal setup.
If you don’t have a desktop stand, you could go for a microphone boom arm, such as Compass. A boom arm allows you to quickly swivel the microphone in and out of position, similar to a traditional radio broadcaster.
A shockmount like Radius III can be used to prevent the microphone from picking up unwanted vibrations from things like footsteps and traffic. You can also avoid popping sounds from “P” and “B” consonants by using a pop filter like The Pop. If you want to shape your vocal recording on the way into your computer, you can use an XLR microphone with outboard signal processors such as compressors and equalizers. Learn more about how to improve the sound of your videos with EQ and compression in this article.
A Logitech C922 webcam, a Blue Yeti USB microphone and an LED ring light make the perfect combo for shooting YouTube videos.
Moving on to non-audio related accessories, the first obvious decision is to choose a camera. The easiest way to get started is to select a high-quality webcam.
Cameras such as Logitech Brio Ultra deliver crisp and detailed video in full 1080p or even 4K resolution. You can use the camera’s autofocus feature to ensure a sharp and balanced picture during various levels of ambient light, no matter how close you get to the camera.
DSLR, or digital single-lens reflex cameras offer a bit more flexibility over webcams, but tend to be more expensive complicated to use. One significant advantage of the DSLR camera is that it offers a shallow depth of field, which means while subjects in the foreground are in sharp focus, the background is out-of-focus. This is a highly desired effect in the pro video world and DLSR cameras make it attainable on a bedroom-sized budget.
One of the disadvantages of DSLR cameras is that its audio capabilities leave a lot to be desired. Most DSLR cameras suffer from poor onboard mics and lack features like manual audio gain or XLR for connecting external mics. If you want to go this route, we recommend capturing your audio separately through a recording interface and synchronizing the video and audio files afterwards to ensure top audio quality.
Before you upload your first episode, you’re going to need some video editing software to complete your work. From quick camera cuts and titles to slick animation and snazzy transitions, there are a variety of free and easy options to choose from, like DaVinci Resolve, VideoPad, and Logitech Capture.
If you need more advanced editing features, you may want to consider checking out a premium video editing application such as Avid Media Composer or Adobe Premiere Pro, which offer a variety of related software with different payment plans. Mac users also have the option of iMovie, a free solution that makes it easy to start creating videos. And when you’re ready to take it to the next level, you can upgrade to Apple Final Cut Pro X, an industry-leading video editor that can also open files started in iMovie.
Yeti X professional USB microphone
Once you have a few episodes under your belt, you should start to notice a lot of things you like about your videos. It’s also a good idea to take notes on what you can improve for your channel.
Is your message coming across loud and clear, or is it lacking focus due to poorly planned scripts or distracting audio and video issues? Do your videos attract viewers by their sheer brilliance, or are they a bit on the dull side? In this next section, we’ll share a few tips to improve your video content through better storytelling and enhanced production quality.
You’d have to look very hard to find a television and movie studio that begins rolling film without a proper script. Following their example and preparing a script for your videos will help you create professional content that stands out.
Start with an outline of topics you’re going to cover in a particular video, and then write compelling dialogue that gets your message across in a clear and entertaining way. Play to your strengths by emphasizing your natural onscreen talents, whether that's a quick wit, dry humor, poetic language or impassioned delivery. Write down what you plan to say and practice reciting in a mirror to deliver with greater confidence.
KRNFX performing with Yeti X USB microphone
As you gain experience, you may begin to notice some things that detract from the overall quality of your videos. If your video suffers from poor sound, you may need to experiment with mic placement. If your voice sounds too boomy or distorted, try moving the mic farther away. Likewise, if your voice sounds quiet and distant, with lots of background noise, try backing off the mic a bit. A good rule of thumb is to start with the mic 6 to 12 inches away and adjust while wearing headphones to find the optimal placement.
You can also add a little excitement to your videos by using sound effects or music beds. You can find a variety of free sound effects at freesound.org, and royalty-free music is available through the YouTube Audio Library. Bring your music and/or sound effects into separate audio tracks in your video editor so you can adjust their levels to blend in without overpowering your voice.
Another way to take your production quality to the next level is by focusing on set design. Imagine how unprofessional it would be to film in front of your messy bed or glaring window reflections. Think about what you want your background to look like.
Do you have an interesting wall full of posters? Perhaps a bookshelf full of literature, movies or records? Maybe a beautifully woven tapestry? What about a green screen that lets you appear to be on the moon or in the mouth of a volcano? The answer is completely up to you—just consider whether your chosen background enhances or detracts from your desired aesthetic.
You can take advantage of natural sunlight by orienting your set so you’re facing the light without the source being in the frame. This may take a little creative thinking and flexibility, but your main goal should be to achieve a balanced and even illumination.
If you want greater control over your video lighting, you may want to invest in dedicated lighting fixtures. You can find a variety of affordable starter kits online, ranging from standard fixtures with umbrellas or softboxes to LED panels on tripods. Some bundles also include a green screen for chroma key replacement.
Marques Brownlee showcasing Blue Yeti USB microphone on his YouTube channel
By this point, you’ve probably picked up some equipment and spent a good deal of time and energy creating your first series of videos, and you might be wondering how you can get a return on your investment.
Well, we have good news for you—more people are earning a significant income from YouTube now than ever before. The number of YouTubers earning five- and six-figure earnings recently increased by 50% and 40% respectively, with the top ten earning 42% more money overall.
If you want to join the growing group of content creators earning a living from their channels, you’ll need to become a YouTube Partner. YouTube shares advertising revenue with its Partner-creators based on their popularity and total views. You'll need to reach a few channel milestones to become a Partner, such as 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 public watch hours.
Another way to earn money from YouTube is from private sponsorships. Companies will often pay YouTubers to endorse or feature a product on their channel. In fact, Blue proudly helps YouTubers like Rhett & Link bring their dreams to life through sponsorship.
Learn how to use the YouTube algorithm to your advantage
To grow your channel with more views and subscriptions, you need to create engaging content, but you also need to understand how to make YouTube’s ranking algorithm work for you.
YouTube CPO Neal Mohan points out that 70% of content watched is recommended to viewers by the algorithm, which is good at predicting what people want to see. Videos that meet certain criteria can be promoted to the "Suggested" and "Featured" sections of the website, while others that do not are left to toil in obscurity.
Understanding how to use the YouTube algorithm to your advantage can make a huge difference, so here are a few tips. Create custom thumbnails that help new viewers discover your videos, and do your best to persuade viewers who stumble upon your channel to watch your video all the way to end and hit the subscribe button.
YouTube is not only the second-most-visited website in the world but also the second-largest search engine. This means you can attract more viewers to your videos by utilizing SEO, or search engine optimization.
There are powerful tools available to help you identify keywords and phrases that have a large amount of traffic searching for them. Understanding how to use SEO for YouTube can make or break a channel that’s on the verge of reaching the big time.