With 77% of Americans under the age of 35 watching YouTube regularly and over 2 billion monthly users globally, it’s no wonder people are flocking to become full-time content creators. In fact, YouTube generates over $5 billion per year in ad revenue and they’re anxious to share some of it — but the only way to get your piece is to start your own channel. Think about it: the number of channels making over $10k per year grows at a steady rate of 50% year over year.
That could be YOU!
What are you waiting for? If your answer is “a good idea”, you might want to rethink your approach. The best way to break into YouTube (or Twitch, or any other video service), is to just start creating content. Your first videos (or streams) will probably suck, and that’s okay! The more videos you upload, the better your chances of growing an audience for your channel. An upload you may think is stupid might become someone else’s favorite video on YouTube.
Maybe you’ll start a new viral trend. Who knows!
How do you get started? Well, you need the right equipment! Sure, an iPhone could get the job done, but a phone is not a good long-term solution. The illusion of professional video production requires, at the very least: good lighting, clear audio, and a good camera. Let’s take a look at what gear you’ll need to turn your dream of becoming a YouTube creator into reality.
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Before you buy anything, you’ll need to decide on the format of your channel. Is it going to be a vlog? Are you going to be doing a lot of editing? Will your content be scripted or conversational? Will you need to incorporate live gaming footage? These will all be serious determining factors, so you should give it some real thought.
No matter which format you choose, you will definitely, at the very least, want a camera that can capture video at 1080p. Not being able to produce videos in proper HD will undoubtably hold your channel back. No one wants to watch videos filmed on your 2007 Blackberry, trust me.
Let’s take a look at a few good options to get your career off the ground.
Best Entry-Level Camera
The easiest way to break into content creation is with a nice DSLR. Canon makes deciding which one an easy choice by pricing the feature-rich T7 at only $450. You can use this bad boy as a webcam, or on location anywhere with its high-capacity battery and swapable SD storage. It has audio-in features, making syncing external audio a breeze.
Best For Vloggers
The Sony ZV-1 is the perfect mix between the quality of a DSLR and the portability of an iPhone. It’s compact and lightweight enough to be taken anywhere, which is great because the SV-1 performs remarkably well in all light and weather conditions. It also has decent built-in mic, which you can use in combination with a lapel mic for perfect on-site sound.
Best For Filmmakers
It might be expensive, but damn — the XA11 is one heck of a versatile workhorse. You can do anything with this thing, and they will undoubtably perform flawlessly for years and years. They’re not just for filmmaking either, popular streamers like PewDiePie also use one. The term “industry standard” is synonymous with the XA11, and using one you’ll quickly see why. For sound it has 2 XLR inputs built-in, so you won’t need to worry about capturing audio on an external device.
Best For Streamers
Are you looking to create content just for Twitch? This is your camera. The C920 is used by basically every Twitch streamer, and not just because they’re affordable — but because they also work great. This one is fully plug-and-play, no setup is required.
The second most important part of creating content people want to watch is having crystal clear audio in your videos. Great sound will separate the amateurs from the professionals, and it will give your final product a more professional feel.
Different styles of video content require different approaches to capturing sound. What works for vlogging and streaming might not work for short films or comedy sketches. If you’re sticking to more of a sit-and-chat style, check out our article on podcasts for a complete overview of how to capture impeccable studio sound.
HOWEVER, if you’re thinking of creating content with higher production value (i.e. with scripts, multiple locations, and a lot of editing), there are a few extra steps involved. Most importantly: do you want to record sound directly to the camera, which is easy but more limited? Or do you want a separate device capturing the sound, which is more complicated but allows for much more flexibility?
Most cameras have mic inputs for custom on-camera sound, but not all, so make sure you’ve sorted out your camera before you make the next step to sound..
Here’s what I’m thinking:
Lapel mics are the small clip microphones that people use on television and movies, and they work like magic. Instantly remove background noise and make your audio easier to deal with just by slapping one of these bad boys on whoever is talking. If everyone on set wears a lapel mic and you can simultaneously capture the ambient audio of the scene, you’ll have perfect sound every time. This dual mic set from Slint won’t let you down!
When two wired mics won’t cut it anymore, it might be time to upgrade to a wireless system. This set from HUUSMOT will get the job done much better than other wireless setups in this price range, and it comes with attachments for your DSLR or whatever camera rig you’re using. These bad boys range up to 300 feet, so they’ll work in any filming scenario.
A shotgun boom mic like the Rode VideoMic will make a huge difference in the outcome of your sound. Use it in combination with some lapel mics and you’ll have the best sound achievable with consumer products, it’s that’s simple. The only catch is learning how to mix it properly, which can take a while to get good at. Maybe it’s best get a professional on your team. If all of that is too confusing, you can also use this on it’s own if you’re just doing person to camera interviews. I think it sounds really good for that.
Portable Recording Interface
The H4n is a one-stop shop for all your audio needs. It does everything, and it does it all very, very well. Easily capture sound with its brilliant built-in stereo mics, or use one of its phantom-powered XLR inputs for any mic you want. You can also use all four tracks at once! Then, while you’re out in the field, you can mix right on the device, albeit pretty rough mixes. The H4n also doubles as an audio interface, so it’s useful for streamers and podcasters as well, and the preamps sound awesome.
When you’re doing camera work, lighting is a crucial step in the process. Whether you’re on set or on location, it’s important to balance the lighting correctly in order to get the best quality picture. Outdoor lighting during the daytime requires less artificial light, but indoor and nighttime shots will undoubtedly need additional light sources to make the image pop.
Luckily there are options for every budget and style, so make sure you don’t overlook the importance of good lights!
Best For Vloggers
You’re going to need good lighting or your footage is going to look terrible. Every single profitable streamer and YouTuber will almost certainly use additional lighting on their shoots. This 18″ LED circle light is great because it will also act as a camera tripod, keeping all your gear in one spot and your camera steady. This light is best for streamers and vloggers, and it comes with a couple light filters to help you find your own signature look.
Best For Filmmakers
When you’re ready to get into some serious camera work, these bi-color LED softboxes from NEEWER will do everything you need for less than $150. The fabric works beautifully to diffuse the light, and the brightness dimmer and temperature switch allow for a full range of color options. Each light has a sturdy stand, and it all comes with a carrying case. There are really no competing lights in this price range, this is it! The rest are terrible.
Now that we have sound and video taken care of, there are a few more things you need to think about when it comes to production. Do you plan on having a stable camera (on a stand), or will you have a considerable amount of movement in your shots and require a stabilizer? Will you have a set, or will you be shooting in many different locations? Let’s go over some last-minute accessories you might have not thought about.
This smooth-gliding heavyweight camera tripod by MACTREM will stand the test of time (pun intended). Don’t waste your time on cheap, lightweight tripods that you’ll eventually have to throw away. This bad boy can hold up to 33lbs comfortably and still have maximum maneuverability. You’ll thank me when your shots come out undeniably stable.
A gimbal is sort of like a gyroscopic stand for your camera. You strap your camera on and it will stay level no matter how much you move (within reason, of course). This technology was formerly reserved for wealthy cinematographers, but now you can get great results from consumer gimbals like the FeiyuTech AK200C. It has a choreography setting that allows you to program synchronized movements that make shots even more engaging. One caveat is it only works on cameras that weigh less than 3lbs.
A green screen can enable you to do all sorts of cool stuff with your content. A green screen essentially allows you to “key out” (remove) your background, allowing you to customize everything about your set if you want. They’re a great addition to all vloggers and video content creators, especially those who want to take their content to the next level digitally. This EMART 10″ by 12″ green screen backdrop should help make your dreams a reality.
Video editing software will be, without question, the most complicated part of all of this. It’ll also be the most taxing program your computer will ever run. All of them require a lot of memory and hard drive space, and can be very complicated to use at first. The software itself is very expensive — except for iMovie, of course.
If you have an iPhone, you can mess around with the iMovie app and learn a lot of video editing basics. Once you’ve got a good feel for cutting up footage, it’s time to take it to the next level.
You’re not going to get much better than Adobe Premier. It’s probably in your best interest to buy it now before the price goes up again. Learn how to use this software so always know, as it has quickly solidified itself as the industry standard. Premier makes it easy to do anything with your footage, including incorporating green screens. For only $21/month, it’s easy to justify in your workflow. If you’re savvy, you can arrange it to only pay for the months you plan on using it.
If you can’t justify paying for a program like Premiere Pro, a program far too technical for you to ever use all the features, maybe starting with Premiere Elements is a better fit for you. It has a lot of features seen in Premiere Pro, but none of the more technical effects or editing tools. This version also has Photoshop Elements bundled together with it, making it an easy choice for someone who’s also trying to incorporate some Photoshop tricks with their content.