YouTube is the 2nd most popular website in the world. The video sharing platform has over 2 billion active users, while roughly 3 billion people watch at least one video per month. The top YouTubers – content creators that post videos to the platform – earn millions of dollars every year. So if you weren’t already wondering how to start a YouTube channel, maybe you should.
The best thing about YouTube is that anyone can upload content, for free. If you’ve never made a video other than on your smartphone, don’t worry. When it comes to YouTube content, creativity trumps quality. You’re making a vlog, not arthouse cinema.
Most of the popular (and highest-earning) YouTubers are not professional filmmakers. Their content is popular because it’s highly original and engaging. On a platform that has 500 hours of content uploaded every minute, the biggest challenge is standing out.
If you want to know how to start a YouTube channel, the first thing you should learn is what gear you’ll need. While there are plenty of poor quality videos that have gone viral, they’re typically one hit wonders. YouTube channels with a large subscriber base, i.e. a recurring audience, output stable, high resolution videos with great sound and lighting. Once you’re equipped with the right gear, you can too.
To help you learn how to start a YouTube channel, below we’ve listed the gear essentials you’ll need to make great-looking videos. Just don’t forget who helped you get started once you’re rich and famous.
A camera is the most essential piece of equipment you’ll need. While you may prefer to use your smartphone, using a DSLR or mirrorless camera is recommended. Smartphone cameras record videos that look great on a phone. However, they lose resolution when played on a larger screen. You’ll also need a smartphone gimbal to ensure stable video.
DSLR and mirrorless cameras use larger sensors that allow them to capture vividly detailed photos and videos. They also have stronger autofocus capabilities, and most have built-in image stabilization. It’s still recommended that you use a gimbal or tripod, yet depending on the camera, you may be able to get by without one.
We recently posted about the best vlogging cameras that were released in 2020. The list includes the Sony ZV-1, a camera that was specifically designed for vloggers. However, all the cameras in the list are great for vlogging because they are powerful, portable, and easy to use.
When deciding on a camera, remember, you don’t necessarily need the most expensive or high functioning model. A powerful camera is useless to you if you don’t know how to use it. Focus on finding a camera that you’re comfortable using. Ideally, it should also have a flip out screen.
If you don’t want to purchase or carry around multiple lenses, consider a fixed lens system. There are several point & shoot cameras that are great for vlogging, including the Sony ZV-1 or the Canon G7X Mark II. If you want to shoot aerial footage, the DJI Mini 2 is a great drone for beginners. Similarly, if you plan to record underwater or in extreme conditions, an action camera like the GoPro Hero9 or the Ricoh WG-60 will serve you well.
Gimbal or Tripod
If you’ve ever seen the film Cloverfield, you’ll understand why using a gimbal or tripod is important. Shaky videos are physically hard to watch. While ‘shaky-cam’ can be employed as an artistic effect, more often than not it’s disorienting and irritating. It’s more likely to repel viewers from your channel than attract them.
While most modern cameras have built-in image stabilization, using a tripod is the best way to ensure your video will be stable. 3 Legged Thing’s Punks Anarchy Brian travel tripod is a good quality system that won’t break your budget. If you’re using a Sony ZV-1, the Sony GP-VPT2BT is a Bluetooth grip and mini tripod designed to work with the vlogging camera. It’s great if you plan to walk while talking directly into the camera.
A gimbal will also allow you to move your camera while recording and still capture smooth, stable video. If you’re using a smartphone, the Rode Vlogger Kit (for iOS, USB-C, or 3.5mm mobile devices) is a good option. Meanwhile the Zhiyun Crane 2 and the DJI Ronin-S gimbals work well with many DSLR and mirrorless cameras, including the Canon EOS Rebel T7i and the Canon EOS M50 Mark II.
As vlogging has increased in popularity, camera manufacturers have made an effort to improve the microphones built-in to their cameras. For example, the three-capsule microphone built into the Sony ZV-1 is remarkably good. The camera also comes with a wind screen to help the microphone work better outdoors. However, you’ll always get better quality audio using an external microphone.
Many vloggers use a hot shoe or on-camera microphone, i.e. a microphone that mounts on top of their camera. These microphones are typically directional, meaning they are designed to record sound coming from the direction it’s pointed in, instead of all ambient sound. This makes it ideal for videos where the subject is speaking into the camera. The Rode VideoMic Pro+ is a popular model.
Lavalier microphones are also a good option. Also called lapel or clip-on microphones, they are designed to be worn by your subject, close enough to their mouth to capture their voice. Check out the video below by Rode which includes some great tips on getting started with a lavalier microphone.
Rode has multiple lavalier microphones that are great for vlogging, including the Wireless Go which allows you to wirelessly record sound directly into your camera, smartphone, or computer.
If you don’t mind your microphone being in frame, the Blue Yeti USB microphone offers great value. You can get the microphone with an arm stand, pop filter, and shock mount for $164.99. The microphone will need to be close to you or your subject’s face, but it records broadcast-quality audio directly into your computer. You could use it just as successfully to record a podcast, a medium many successful YouTubers have subsequently pursued.
The most commonly used lighting setup for videos and photography is three-point lighting. It involves using three different types of light – key light, fill light, and back light.
Key light shines directly on your subject and is the principal source of light in your frame. Fill light also shines on the subject, but from the side and at a lower angle. Fill light should be softer than your key light, and serves to even out the lighting so there are no shadows. The back light shines on your subject from behind, highlighting them with a rim of light. Together, the lights ensure your subject is adequately illuminated, while everything else in frame is bathed in natural-looking light. The Westcott 403 uLite 3-light kit is an affordable bundle that will allow you to use a three-point setup.
You don’t necessarily need a three-point setup to light your video. However, understanding how different types of light impact your video will help you achieve the look you want.
LED ring lights are a popular accessory when it comes to YouTube video lighting. They are mostly used as a key light for beauty vlogs, or any video where the subject is speaking directly into the camera. The circular shape reduces shadow and casts a bright, even light on your subject. They also add a pleasing circle of light to your subject’s eyes.
Westcott’s 18-inch bi-color LED ring light comes with batteries and a stand, and can be mounted with a smartphone, DSLR, or mirrorless camera (up to 10lbs). It’s affordably priced at $199.90.
Hopefully you now have a good idea of how to start a YouTube channel. We’ve touched on some of the gear you’ll need to get started, but when it comes to YouTube, creativity is the best tool at your disposal.