With my YouTube Channels, social media profiles, and online courses, I’ve made around 200 videos over the last 12 months.
And in this post, I’m going to talk about the equipment and tools I use, along with alternatives to suit every budget.
A big part of my process recently has been to make it as easy as possible to start shooting a video; I have put my DSLR camera and lavalier mic away for the time being.
And because of this, along with speeding up the post-production process, I’ve brought down the time it takes to create a video for my English learners (from the initial idea to the uploaded video and post) from around 6-8 hours to about 1-2 hours.
So, with that in mind, let’s look at what you’ll need to create videos, what I use, and the alternatives out there. And we’ll start with something you’ll definitely need if you are going to feature yourself in your videos: a camera.
Most people already have a perfectly fine camera for shooting high quality video: a smartphone.
Using Your Smartphone
The benefits of using a smartphone are plentiful: you always have it with you, the quality is great (newer models), you can easily share video straight from your camera, and there are several apps that you can use on your phone.
If you do use your phone, then there are a couple of things you need to think about:
– how to improve the audio
– how to stabilize the camera
I have found that the iPhone earphones improve the audio quality (there is a mic on there), but there other options like this lavalier mic (cheaper options are available).
For some of my short and more relaxed videos, I just hold it up and shoot. But in most cases, you’ll need to think about where you can put it to get the shot you want. I’ve been using this tripod with my phone, and it’s a lot of fun as well as being functional. Alternatively, you can use a regular tripod with an adapter, or get a desk tripod if you are shooting from your desk.
If you are just starting out and have a smaller budget, and already have a smartphone, this might be the best camera option for you.
I’ve been using my webcam for the majority of my videos recently.
The reason for this is because it’s the easiest way to start shooting; it’s always there just sitting on top of my computer at an angle that I like (it means I don’t have to tidy my room before recording!).
The quality isn’t quite as good as a smartphone (not with the webcam I have), but with a few tweaks, the videos look good – a big part of video quality from my experience is how you export your video (more on that later).
The most expensive option is a DSLR camera. This is the camera I used when I first starting making videos (note: I have the t3i). Personally, I found it too much work setting things up and shooting this way, especially because I had to put everything away after recording. For me, it just created too much friction.
However, the video quality is amazing, especially if you get a good lens. Just like the smartphone and the webcam, you will need an external microphone as the sound quality is poor when using DSLRs.
I may go back to using this camera for future videos, but for now, my smartphone and webcam are perfect, and allow me to get more videos uploaded.
Whatever camera option you go for, you’ll need an external microphone. Sound quality is important, and you just can’t get high quality sound from a camera/webcam/smartphone alone.
Shotgun Mics (DSLR)
One option that came up during my research for an external microphone was a shotgun mic (it sits on top of your camera), and this option from Rode is a popular choice.
I know other teachers who use a shotgun mic, and it will give you great audio if you have the budget for it.
Lavalier Mics (DSRL + Smartphone + Computer)
An alternative is to get a lavalier mic (this clips onto your top). You can connect it to your computer, an external recorder, or directly to your camera.
I used to use a lav mic connected to this external recorder, and then I synced the audio to the video during post-production. Things can get really expensive here (especially with wireless systems), so getting a $25-40 mic that connects directly to your camera is something you may want to start with.
And as I mentioned earlier, if you are using your smartphone, there are lavalier mics available for this too.
Desktop Mics (Mainly for Webcam Recordings)
As I’m using my webcam at my computer, I now use my desktop microphone.
I’ve had the Audio-Technica ATR2100 for a few years now and I still love it. The only drawback is that you need to be physically close to your desk, or wherever your mic is, when recording video. My stand-up desk helps me stay close enough to my microphone when I record.
If you’re not going to create videos with your face in them, – for example, a presentation style video using power point – then a desk microphone might be your best option.
As you can see, there are many audio options available, and what microphone you get will largely be influenced by the camera you have and the type of videos you want to film.
Photographers and video makers constantly talk about the importance of lighting.
Shooting outdoors usually offers great lighting for your videos, but background noise and the weather can cause problems.
Therefore, you will most likely prefer to shoot indoors. If you’re in a well-lit room, then this won’t be as much as an issue. However, even if you have great natural light indoors, you may want to shoot video at night where everyday lights won’t suffice.
I decided to buy the Cowboy Studios kit, which is a bargain for what you get. There are DIY options for $10-20, but I decided that spending an extra $30 or so was worth it.
When I film, I place two lights either side of my desk, and because I’m far away from the back wall, I don’t need a back light. If you are filming against a wall, you can use the third light just behind you to eliminate shadows.
Post Production and Presentation Style Videos
Let’s talk about editing now as this is a big part of creating videos.
I use ScreenFlow and can’t recommend it enough. You can record your screen or from your webcam, it has everything you need for editing videos, and then you can export a video directly to Facebook, YouTube etc. It’s for Mac only, but I hear that Camtasia is a good alternative for PC users.
Alternatively, the free video editing software that comes with Macs and PCs is getting better and better. I’ve also played around with iMovie on the iPhone, and there is quite a lot you can do with this app.
Earlier on in the post I talked about how you export videos is important for video quality; if your software allows, bump up the bitrate. I export mine at 10,000 – 20,000; the file sizes are bigger, but the quality on YouTube and elsewhere is much better.
One more thing that you might consider getting is presentation software, preferably something that allows you to record presentations and export them as a movie file. Keynote (Mac) and Power Point have these features. If your software doesn’t, you can get around this is by using screen capturing software like ScreenFlow.
So, What Tools Do/Will You Use?
There are other things that you might need (animated intros, music files, extra gear), but the above will suffice in most situations.
No matter what you use, content is still the most important thing. But with the cost of creating videos decreasing, the barrier to creating something that looks and sounds good has been blown away over the past few years.
What equipment and tools do/will you use to create videos?
Leave your answers below (and please feel free to link to your videos)!