Beginner YouTube equipment 2021: what you REALLY need
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Written by: Dexxter ClarkWhat equipment do you REALLY need to start a YouTube channel?
You don’t need an expensive camera for example … surprising, ey?
In this article I’ll dive into software and hardware equipment for beginners you ABSOLUTELY need that you can find on Amazon.
Most people seem to think that you need a lot of (expensive) equipment to start.
That is not the case.
In fact, I think that you already own most equipment.
Let’s take a look at the bare minimum, before I dive into the specific hardware and software upgrades to make things even more professional.
Basic equipmentThis basic equipment is enough to start a YouTube channel and make the first 50 videos.
The first thing that comes to mind is probably: the camera.
A lot of people seem to think that you need a big expensive camera to get started on YouTube.
You can start with what you already have: your phone or webcam.
Phones are capable of capturing beautiful pictures and movies in decent resolutions.
Not having a big camera is not an excuse.
Some of the biggest YouTube channels started on their phone (including myself).
You need a proper computer that can handle video editing software.
Computers of the last 10 years are capable to run video editing software.
But fast modern computers are just quicker in handling the video editing task.
In my article about the best computer for YouTubers I’ll dive into the specs of new computers for YouTube script writing, creating thumbnails, video editing and streaming.
In order to cut up footage and place it in the right order you need video editing software.
Apple and Microsoft have basic video editing software in their operating systems that you can use for free: Windows Movie Maker and iMovie.
Also the basic version of Davinci Resolve for Windows and Mac is free.
Place to shoot
A lot of creators film at home: a corner in their bedroom, from the couch, the garage or their game room.
Just anything that looks a little bit presentable will do.
I have compiled a complete ist with recommended YouTube equipment on this web page on this site.
HardwareIf you make more and more videos, better equipment could help you to make videos faster with higher quality.
So, what can you upgrade when you have the basic equipment?
First upgrade: tripodIf you want to upgrade your equipment, the first thing you can buy is a stand for your phone, so you can film yourself and not having to hold the camera.
If you buy a solid tripod, you can also use it for bigger cameras.
The Gorilla Pods by Jobi (Amazon) are pretty popular and have grips for phones too (like this one on Amazon).
The Gorilla Pods are tripods-on-steroids, because they have flexible “legs” and you can therefore use them on the most weird uneven surfaces.
If you want, you can even attach them to a lamp post.
But leveling a camera on a Gorilla Pod can take a couple of minutes, because you need to adjust all three legs.
A fast and easy solution is the Switch Pod (Amazon) , an invention by YouTuber Pat Flynn.
The Switch Pod has metal legs, and is easy to setup within a second.
It is also a handy tripod to vlog with.
Other known brands are Manfrotto, Hama and DJI.
Second upgrade: lightsThe best thing you can do for your video in terms of image quality is proper lights.
Cameras need a lot of light to prevent “noise” in the image, especially with small sensors in mobile phones “noise” is a common issue.
Proper lighting will even beat the expensive camera when it comes to image quality.
You can go for the cheap option and go to your local DIY store and buy directional lights (directional lights as opposed to diffused lights).
Directional light is a light source that comes from one direction, which gives sharp shadows in your face from your nose or even worse: the wrinkles on your forehead.
Diffused lights are designed to give no sharp shadows.
You probably have seen these lights in a photo studio: they have an umbrella.
Those umbrellas turn directional light into diffused light.
Led panels and soft boxes
There are also led panels and soft boxes.
Both serve the same purpose: diffuse the light.
If you want to go the DIY route, you can cover directional lights with a matt fabric (or paper).
Make sure that those lights not become too hot, because you will burn the fabric that covers it.
A start set of 3 soft boxes (including stands and lightbulbs) is around $100 (Amazon).
Three lights is the most ideal solution.
One main light (also called key light), one fill light, and one background light or upper light.
Lightning theory is interesting but beyond the scope of this article, but I can give you one tip:
important is to use one main light to represent the sun and the rest to “fill” in the dark spots (like wrinkles).
A lot of people seem to think that the “beauty ring” is the only way to go for YouTube.
A ring light or beauty ring is a ring of light around the lens of the camera.
A beauty ring also diffuses light.
Done in the right way it can give a glamorous and personal effect.
Done in the wrong way (like 99% of the YouTubers do) it gives a harsh, flat, raw and impersonal image.
For the beginner: stick to the soft boxes, led panels or umbrella.
Third upgrade: cameraAfter your light and camera stand upgrade, you might think of buying a be a proper vlog camera.
I say “proper” as opposed to a camera with a tiny image sensor like the one in your phone.
A bigger sensor means less noise in the image because it has a larger sensor surface to capture more light at once.
This way you can also increase shutter speed of the camera which enables the optical “bokey” effect, or you can capture razor sharp images of fast pace action (instead of being blurry).
A perfect vlogging camera is a so called “system camera”.
These have the electronics of the big DSLR cameras (Digital Single Lens Reflex), but do not have the mechanical moving parts to move away the mirror to take a picture.
This makes them lighter (ideal for vlogging because you have to hold the camera).
Flip screen + mic
A proper vlog camera has a flip screen so you can see yourself.
A good vlog camera has also an external microphone connection (a lot of creators and manufacturers seem to forget that option).
You need a microphone connection to connect an external microphone to give you better sound quality.
A good starting point for a system camera $1000 with the lens, like the Canon EOS M6 (Amazon).
This camera is also usable for streaming as an insanely good “webcam”.
First learn to operate a “cheap” camera (shutter speed, aperture, ISO etc.) before you buy one of 2000 Dollar.
If you don’t have the knowledge to take good pictures with a cheap camera, the big one doesn’t give you any advantage over the cheap one.
Digital photography theory is beyond the scope of this article.
I’ve written a buying guide for cameras for YouTube.
The article goes into detail about the most important features for a YouTube (vlogging) camera, because it’s a bit different than your regular film or photography camera.
Fourth upgrade: microphoneA fourth upgrade could be a proper microphone to improve audio quality.
In fact, most viewers a much more susceptive to leave a video because of bad audio quality than bad video quality.
Most cameras have a tiny microphone built in.
Build-in microphones are too small to give proper sound.
Build-in microphones also pick up a lot of surrounding noise, which is distracting if you are talking to the camera in the middle of a busy street.
The more noise you can filter out by using a directional microphone, the more your viewer can actually understand what you are saying.
This is why an external microphone connection on your camera is important.
An external microphone can be a boom microphone, a dead cat or a lavalier microphone.
Personally I prefer the lavalier microphone.
You can get a proper lavalier microphone for less than $100,-, like the Rode Smartlav+ (Amazon), wich is meant for phones, but with a TRRS adapter (Amazon) you can also use it with a camera.
The sound quality of this microphone is amazing.
If you choose a lavalier microphone, make sure it does not use batteries.
Batteries die eventually.
Do you know how you find out that they died?
During editing, after you’ve shot everything on location!
The same thing goes for batteries in other external microphones.
I have no problem with the old-fashioned wire.
If you don’t have a microphone connection and want to improve the audio quality, choose a handheld audio recorder like the Tascam DR07 (Amazon).
Working with an external audio recorder is tedious, because you need to hit record on two devices (your camera and the recorder).
In the edit you also have to search the right audio clips to the right video clips and synchronize them every single time.
That maybe doable if you do one shot which contain multiple takes, but if you do a single videoclip per take, with 50 takes, you have 50 audio clips to search, combine and synchronize.
That is time consuming.
Synchronizing audio clips is not worth the extra hour in the video edit for me.
Fifth upgrade: backgroundFind a good spot in your house (or at work) that looks a presentable.
You can dress it up with plants, pictures and shelves.
A combination with colored LED lights can work magic.
Look at sets that big YouTubers use.
Mostly it’s very simple.
Sixth upgrade: Stream deckIf you want to stream on YouTube, you probably know that you can switch scenes (another camera, screen capture etc) and play sound effects for example.
You can do that within your streaming software.
But it is quite annoying when another application (like a game) is open and you to switch back constantly to your streaming software.
This is where the Elgato Stream Deck is your biggest friend (Amazon).
This device has fysical buttons you can press, so you don`t have to go back to your streaming software.
SoftwareWhat software do you need for your YouTube channel?
Video editingFree software like Windows Movie Maker and iMovie are great to start with.
One step up are the more advanced video editing software packages like Adobe Premiere, Apple Final Cut Pro, Sony Vegas and Davinci Resolve.
Getting to know video editing software takes time.
I suggest you choose a free software package (or start with a trial version) and follow some YouTube tutorials to master the software.
I like Premiere, I used version 5 and 6 in my early editing years.
Years later we used Premiere at our local television station.
Adobe Premiere has a logic workflow as you would expect from video editing software.
The software integrates perfectly with other Adobe software.
However time-saving background rendering like in Final Cut Pro or Davinci Resolve is not a thing in Premiere.
You can transcode media with Media Encoder, but that works only for source footage, not for transitions and layers.
It also requires a manual input from the user.
This might be normal in 2010, but not in 2021, we’ve moved on.
The biggest downside to Adobe Premiere is the subscription model, which makes the competition (with the same amount of features) pay for itself in one year!
Premiere is good, but not that good that it justifies the stupendously high price tag.
This is the main reason why I’m not using Premiere.
I currently use Final Cut Pro X, which I intensely hate because of all the bugs and crashes on a daily basis.
Apple has done little to nothing to address that over the years.
If I got a Euro for every crash of Final Cut, I could make a living of that alone.
It’s even worse than the word processor of the competition… and that’s tough one to beat!
Final Cut forces an illogic workflow on you, which is (compared to other software) pretty dominant and “bossy”.
You are not in control, the software is, and Apple does everything in its power to annoy the crap out of you.
Apple claims it’s professional software, but they clearly never used it themselves.
After years of using Final Cut X, it still does stuff for me I didn’t ask for, correcting it is incredibly time consuming.
It adds easily one or two hours to every edit I do.
I once started using Final Cut Pro 7 and I loved it to bits, even more than Premiere.
Regretfully the software didn’t support newer video formats, so I needed to switch.
A decision I regret till this day.
There is gonna be bright day in my future that I switch to other software!
I’m looking forward to that moment.
The only thing I like about Final Cut Pro X (and the reason for not switching yet) is the background rendering and on-the-fly video conversion.
Importing “exotic” video formats is easy in Final Cut Pro X.
In Premiere you have to convert the videos first before you can use them, that is annoying.
In Final Cut Pro you can already start editing and Final Cut converts the videos in the background.
I heard that Final Cut Pro X is optimized for Apple hardware and blows Premiere out of the water when it comes to rendering.
Yes, 90 days
I’ve heard good stories about Davinci Resolve.
Davinci has a free and paid version.
The free version is complete and feature packed.
The paid version is reasonably priced at €300,-.
Compared to Premiere, that’s a steal.
I tried different versions of the software over the years because I want to switch to Resolve, but I keep having problems with it.
On both my Macs it keeps crashing at the startup screen and on my Windows computer the GUI is sluggish and unresponsive.
My new Windows computer with a heavy i9 processor, 32GB of RAM and a beefy GPU handles Resolve like a dream.
I like the workflow and the way things are solved.
Something that Final Cut engineers could take some notes from.
From different rendering tests around the internet, it seems that Davinci Resolve renders even faster than Final Cut (which is optimized for Apple computers).
I love to switch, but I need to be able to run it.
I suggest you download the free version first and see if you can run it on your computer before you buy it.
Yes, unlimited free version
StreamingIf you like to do live streams, you can take a look at OBS studio.
OBS stands for Open Broadcaster Software.
OBS is free and supports different operating systems (Windows, Mac and Linux).
The software is not very user friendly, but it does the job and it does it well.
Besides, free is never too expensive.
Here you can find a complete list with recommended YouTube equipment.
Want free YouTube tips and tricks?
Check out the YouTube channel for this website. (opens YouTube in new tab)
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Content creator / YouTuber
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