Full Equipment Guide for YouTube Blog — Vlogging Setup For 2018
You are ready to vlog. Even if you don’t have any followers yet, everything you need to get started is already in your pocket. But if you want to impress and make your home-made videos look like a professional has been laboring over them, keep reading.
In this article, we will share the insider secrets to great videos. We’ll uncover the equipment big name vloggers use to make their videos cutting edge, and how you can use the exact same techniques to make a lasting impression. If you think vlogging is all about having a phone and blabbing away, think again.
The best way to stand out and catch someone’s attention is by getting the right details right. And those details come from having the right equipment for the job. Follow us in this article to find your way to professional-looking videos that bring out the vlogging celebrity that is already inside of you.
Camera or Smartphone?
First, let’s have a look at the most important piece of equipment to start vlogging: the camera. For most beginning vloggers, the camera on your phone can be a great place to start. Especially if you’ve got a newer smartphone, such as an iPhone or a Samsung, the camera will deliver a good video quality right off the bet. This way, you don’t need any extra investment to start vlogging and you can get a feel for finding your voice and get your first followers without investing a lot of money.
Using a beginner’s camera has its drawbacks, of course. Soon enough, you’ll run into limitations when it comes to shooting high quality and in special circumstances. A camera phone is a great place to start, but no place to linger.
Invest in a DSLR Camera
As soon as you can, invest in a DSLR camera. These are the golden standard for vloggers and other professionals who work with video on a daily basis. Most of the equipment we’ll be discussing below is made to work with DSLR cameras. They will upgrade the quality of your videos instantly, and give them a professional feel from the get-go. The moment you get a DSLR camera, your vlogging career has officially begun.
The most popular choices for a first DSLR camera are the Canon Rebel T3i or the Nikon D3200. The internet is full of fans of either Canon or Nikon, but the Canon offers a flip-out screen that helps you shoot better videos when you’re facing the camera.
If you’re just starting out, don’t worry about investing in a high-end camera right away. The most important part of your vlog will be the content, and your smartphone delivers a video quality that gets your message across. Before you invest in a camera, there are all sorts of tricks you can do that will improve the quality of your videos and give them a polished, professional look, without splurging to buy a brand-new camera. Most of those are listed below, so let’s have a look at the other equipment vloggers can use.
A tripod is basically a stand for your camera. Using a tripod makes sure that all your video material is consistent and doesn’t move; a clear giveaway of an amateur vlogger. Steady images are more pleasant to watch and quickly give your videos a more professional feel.
There are essentially three different kinds of tripods. First is the classic tripod. This big piece of equipment will easily place your camera at eye level and is used by all sorts of professionals, ranging from news reporters to full-time vloggers. Second is the mini tripod, which is essentially a smaller version of the classical tripod. This mini tripod is placed on another object to get a steady image. Finally, there is the flexible tripod. These have bendable legs and can be hung or wrapped around an object to give you a wide variety of options.
What kind of tripod you need, depends on the type of videos you’re planning to record and the vlog you plan to do. If you’re mostly sitting at your desk, a mini tripod will give you a consistent background and placement. You can even mark the specific spots on the desk where the legs of the tripod stand, so you have a consistent image every time you start recording.
You can find a good mini tripod for under $50. The most popular tripod for vloggers is the Gorilla Tripod. This nifty gadget comes with fully bendable legs that you can wrap around objects, or can be made steady on any uneven surface.
For vloggers who spend a lot of time outside and can justify a larger tripod, Manfrotto can help you out. They make a very robust tripod that will last you decades and is used by professionals all over the world.
For beginning vloggers, the sound quality of your video could be more important than your video quality. Sounds odd? Maybe, but consider this: your smartphone delivers a video quality that allows everyone to see what you’re doing, but if nobody can hear what you have to say, they’ll still stop watching.
For a clear picture of how much of a difference a microphone makes, have a look at this video. Before the microphone is plugged in, you can hear what is being said, but you also pick up on the wind and a road that is nearby.
Compare that with the sound quality forty seconds later, when the microphone is plugged in. The sound is crisp and focused on what is being said, and all the distracting sounds that make the video feel cheaper are gone. People are used to crisp, focused sound, and anything less than that will make the video feel cheap.
Once you’re ready to level up your sound quality, you could invest in a shotgun microphone. Many of these microphones can be clipped to your camera as an accessory and plugged into the 3.5mm audio jack. The favorite shotgun microphone among vloggers is the Rode VideoMic Pro+, which costs around $300.
The Default Microphone VS a Shotgun
The difference between the default microphone on your camera and a shotgun camera is that the latter will focus on what’s directly in front of it while ignoring all other sounds. The result is a more focused audio quality that makes what you’re saying crystal clear. Studio microphone is another option for your desk. For example, the Blue Yeti microphone, which looks like an old-timey sports reporter’s microphone. This microphone is less versatile than the shotgun microphone, but a great option when you’re recording your videos indoors.
Alternatively, there is a wide range of lavalier microphones available. These are microphones that you clip on your clothes anywhere near your mouth like shown in the video above. Especially when you’re outside, this will both improve your sound quality and keep your hands free. Those microphones will last you for all the beginning stages of your vlog. If you don’t like the microphone showing, there are several techniques to hide a lavalier microphone and still benefit from the improved sound quality.
The same way crisp audio gives a remarkably professional impression, lighting can convey a professional video quality in an instant. If you’ve ever wondered why you can’t quite copy other vloggers’ great video quality, lighting is probably the answer.
Professional photography lighting kits are widely available and will cost you at least $90. These bigger kits are perfect for home studios and indoor recording but can be quite a hassle to set up and carry around. For a demonstration of the difference between using a light kit and not, check out this video:
A more compact (and slightly cheaper) option is a ring light. This is just one light that stands behind the camera and offers a soft white glow. This light is perfect for beauty and fashion. You may recognize the reflection of the ring in your eyes from other beauty vloggers. To see the ring light in action, this video shows you the before and after of a ring light. Notice how the focus changes to really bring out the vlogger. There is a brightness that is lacking without the light setup.
If you’re on a budget and still want to make the most out of your lighting, there are some other options. Just like with the microphone, you can find lighting kits as camera accessories that clip on and give you an instant solution, such as the Neewer ring light that clips on top of your DSLR camera.
An even cheaper alternative could be to use existing lights you have at home and making sure you’re using the three-point set up that professionals use to improve their lighting. This will improve your videos compared to not considering lighting at all, but doesn’t replace the more professional sets. A video explaining more about the three-point setup and how to get great lighting without breaking the bank can be found here.
Adjusting the background is one more thing that can create a distinguished professional look. And once you start thinking about the background, there is almost no end to worrying about it. The easiest ways to counter this background problem is by using a green screen or a blank white screen.
Now, the green screen you may already know from behind-the-scenes pictures from movies and TV shows. Green screens are perfect to change the background into anything you when you’re editing your video. The bright green color is chosen because it is the easiest to ‘filter out’ and replace. In earlier days, people would use blue screens, but that becomes a problem the moment you’re wearing anything blue (or even have clear blue eyes).
If you want to have a dynamic background without having to be in just the right place all the time, a green screen is a great solution. If you’re looking for a crisp, professional look, consider a white screen instead.
Using a white screen for your background gives a professional, almost corporate, look, and has the advantage that the viewer will be very focused on the topic at hand. By focusing a single light on the person talking and letting that light fall on the white screen, you get an extremely focused look that captures attention right where it belongs.
For vloggers who plan to take a lot of videos outside of their house, a camera stick and/or stabilizer can be a great investment. You can get a high-end selfie stick for less than $17, such as the Fugetek FT-568, which can hold either your smartphone or your DSLR camera. This is the perfect piece of equipment for the vlogger who spends a lot of time on camera and outside.
For ‘outside’ vloggers who plan to spend less time on camera and more time behind it, a stabilizer will instantly upgrade your video quality to professional standards. Normally, when you move with a camera in your hand, the video isn’t smooth. You can tell when someone takes a step, swings the camera a little faster than you anticipated, or takes some tries to get the angle right.
A stabilizer ensures a smooth watching experience for your videos. When you use a stabilizer while walking and filming, this piece of equipment will steady the shot for you, taking out all the rough edges you’d otherwise see in the video. This allows you to take professional-looking shots and give your viewers a smooth experience that will wow them.
Types of Stabilizer
The entry-level stabilizer is a pistol grip. This accessory for your DSLR camera helps you stabilize your footage by giving you a better grip but still allows for a natural movement because the camera is right there with your hand. The pistol grip helps you get a better grip but doesn’t actively stabilize your camera.
A next step up is a stabilizing gimbal, which keeps your camera focused when you move. This will greatly enhance how smooth your moving videos look and give you an instant professional feel. This video review does a great job showing you the difference between using a gimbal and not using a stabilizer. The gimbal being used is the Zhiyun Z1 Smooth C, which is a basic gimbal made to work with smartphones.
For a bigger camera, you’ll need a bigger stabilizer. The Zhiyun that made a great basic gimbal for smartphones also has a model for DSLR cameras; the Crane 2. Other brands offer gimbal stabilizers for DSLR cameras, too, but there isn’t such a thing as a basic model. All these stabilizers will cost at least $350. Most stabilizers are a lot bigger than the smartphone models, but the Zhiyun Crane we mentioned is a more compact model.
As a final product to consider among the stabilizers, is a desktop camera skater dolly. This rollerblade for cameras will allow you to create smoothly moving videos in an indoor setting and is available for under $30.
You may have heard of teleprompters from the political world, but many vloggers also use a teleprompter as part of their vlogging equipment. If being an articulate and smooth talker is important for your videos, a teleprompter might help you do just that.
If you have an Android phone, you can start off by using the Selvi app. This free app will install a teleprompter right on your phone. For a slightly more professional option that will work on your DSLR camera, smartphone or tablet, have a look at the Glide Gear TMP100. This is an entry-level model that works with a variety of cameras and doesn’t break the bank. Although it is still a substantial investment, using a teleprompter will make shooting videos much faster and more professional.
If you’re looking for a teleprompter that goes beyond just using an app or doesn’t require $200 in cash, you can build your own for about $10. This video gives an excellent introduction to how to build your own teleprompter. Note how the specifics of the teleprompter depend on your camera. After you’ve built the teleprompter, you can use a free app, such as the Selvi app for Android, or the dv Prompter app for iOS devices to scroll the text on your glass screen.
An on-camera monitor is another accessory for your camera. As the name implies, this is a monitor that you clip into your camera, although most models can be used with more flexibility than the little monitor that comes with your camera. Aside from the flexibility, an on-camera monitor can also help you with the positioning of a shot, give you instant feedback on your frame, and when you opt for a monitor/recorder combination, offer you imaging features your camera may not have.
These monitors are mostly available in 5” or 7” sizes, and although they come with a lot of extra functions that are useful to studio professionals, most vloggers have other concerns. Extra features make the on-camera monitor heavier, so when you’re moving with your camera a lot, it’s a good idea to keep the fancy features to a minimum. Basic on-camera monitors will cost a little under $200.
When it comes to picking a computer that allows you to edit your videos, nothing beats a desktop computer that is specifically made and used for video editing. While laptops will always be less powerful, you might still want to buy one for portability reasons, or because you don’t plan to use your laptop exclusively for video editing.
The best laptop you can buy for video editing will be a MacBook Pro. These are the models you’ll see in the professionals’ toolkit and are the most powerful option available for normal consumers. They’re also priced at a premium, starting at around $1,200.
Whether you’re willing to spend that much on a laptop or trying to find a Windows laptop that packs enough punch, make sure your new computer has the following:
- A lot of storage – video takes up a ton of storage space. Even if you use external hard disks to store away a lot of your old projects, you’ll always end up filling more of your disk space than you anticipated, so make sure you start off with plenty. If you can, aim for 800GB or higher.
- An SSD hard drive – there are two types of hard drive; SSD and HDD. While SSD is more expensive, it’s also a lot faster, which is crucial for video editing.
- A robust processor – the processor is the hardware that does the actual computing when you’re working on your laptop or desktop. As a rule of thumb, select the highest available Intel i5 processor you can find.
- An abundance of RAM – this is where your computer stores your temporary work files; a lot of your computer’s working speed is determined here. Get at least 4GB of RAM, but aim for 8GB.
- A decent graphics card – the graphics card isn’t as important a part as you might think for video editing, but still plays a significant role. For your best options, get an NVIDIA or AMD Graphics card.
SD cards are the storage flash cards that go in your camera and initially store the video. Because video takes up so much data, it is smart to get SD cards with a high capacity (128GB and up). Check with your specific camera what the requirements for SD cards are, what size you need, and make sure the SD cards support high definition video recording if you plan to do so as well.
External Hard Drives
Because video will quickly fill up your computer’s hard disk, an external hard drive is a necessity for anyone dealing with video. Today’s hard drives easily fit in a laptop bag and give you a lot of extra space just devoted to storing video. Make sure you get a hard drive that has a capacity of at least 1TB. If you’re planning to edit video from your external hard drive, make sure it supports a transfer speed of at least 106MB/s.
Drones have slowly made their way into everyday life, and this is even more true for bloggers. Now that the ability to shoot video from above is available to anyone, it can be crucial equipment for your vlog, too. If you’re covering events, geographical locations, or anything like it, a drone can really provide an exceptional experience.
As an alternative, you can use the drone to be your personal cameraman. This way, you get the benefits of having a stabilizer or a tripod, while also being more flexible in your camera angles. There are even some drones that will automatically follow you, so you can walk and talk without needing anything other than the fully charged drone.
Although many drones will offer video shooting capacities to some degree, there is one brand that really focuses on using drones for shooting videos. The DJI Phantom Quadcopter is the main model for professional-looking videos. Their latest model, the Phantom 4 Pro, can be your own helicopter for high-quality shots. It’s available for $1,499 or you can have a look at their slimmed-down model Mavic Pro for $999.
Once you get working with a DSLR camera, you will need to consider different types of lenses, too. Having a better lens will considerably upgrade your video quality, and using the right lens in the right situation will make all the difference in the world.
Now, even if you’re not all that familiar with cameras and lenses, but you still want to use the best lenses for your situation, there are a few lenses you need to know about. Which lens is best will depend on your situation and your plans, but there are some standard lenses every vlogger should know about.
The first is a 50mm fixed prime lens. Each brand of DSLR camera comes with their own version of this lens, but they’ll all have one. This lens cannot be zoomed in or out but offers superior quality compared to the default lens that would come with your camera. The 50mm works great in low light situations, has a much better image than the default lens and costs only slightly more when you decide never to get the default lens with your camera. It is perfect for vloggers who stay indoors or spend most of their time behind the camera.
A popular lens you might have seen other vloggers use is ultra-wide angle lens, which lets a lot more of the background into the frame. This is for vloggers who are showing their audience what’s going on around them. It has a great balance of showing your surroundings, while also bringing you sharply into view.
If you want the wide lens effect, but keep the focus on yourself, you’ll want an ultrafast, wide-angle 16mm prime lens. It blurs the background, while still showing a wide angle, and keeps focused on you. This one also works at low light, but it’s hardly a lens for beginners. Not only will the price tag scare off anyone just starting out, most brands don’t come image stabilized, which will make the video a bit shakier.
To see different lenses in action, this video shows the effects of trying four different lenses.
Neutral density filters, or ND filters for short, reduce the intensity of light that comes into your lens without changing the color. If that sounds complicated, think of it like this: the filter keeps everything out of your video or picture that takes away from the crispness of your image. Those things can be UV rays, atmospheric haze, or even moisture that’s hanging in the air.
By using an ND filter, you ensure a crisp image that is focused on what you intend to capture. For a very clear demonstration of what ND filters do, watch this video of a before and after of a variable ND filter. To the layman’s eye, the initial video isn’t bad. It’s focused well enough, and you can see clearly. After the filter is put on, you get an immediate sense of professionalism. Those differences are what convey a great video quality in people’s minds. Because people are used to watching professionally shot videos on TV and in movies, they respond better to your videos when they’re the same standard.
Adding music to your videos can make them a lot livelier. But you can’t just add any music track to your video and get away with it. In the past, many vloggers have gotten in trouble for allegedly ‘stealing’ popular music and using it in their videos.
If you want to legally use music in your videos, there are two options. One is to obtain a license for every song you plan to use. This is tedious work and can get expensive, too. The other option is to use royalty free music in your YouTube videos. This is music that still needs a license, but it’s much cheaper and a lot less complicated since you’ll only need one license to access a library of music.
Two of such libraries are epidemicsound.com and Bass Rebels. Bass Rebels offers a free library that you can use, as long as you follow their attribution guidelines. The Swedish company behind Epidemic Sounds will charge you a monthly fee but are geared towards vloggers with their YouTube subscription (starting at $15 a month). Their service is being used by over 150,000 vloggers already, so you won’t be the only vlogger browsing their library.
Vlogging Setup For 2018 by Joe Knows Best
Make sure you invest in the vlogging equipment that fits your own vlog. Not all the equipment is needed for every kind of vlog; so investing in a professional studio lighting kit when you do all your dirt bike videos in the woods is a straight waste of money, and nobody needs a drone to do a killer lipstick tutorial.
At the same time, it has never been cheaper and easier to get a professional look at your videos on a budget. The DIY teleprompter we mentioned doesn’t cost you more than the average craft, and by using the three-point lighting principles, you can start using the lights you’ve got around the house in the best way possible.
As your vlog grows, so will your toolkit, and it’s fun to save up for your next upgrade. But as you stand at the beginning of your vlogging journey, never let your questions about equipment get in the way of delivering great content.
Did you find this post useful or have any ideas for vlogging equipment? Comment below.