Allow me to tell you a true story. About 15 minutes ago, a woman called who had just paid me $147 to take my online photography classes and forgot her password to login. I asked the nice lady how she had heard about my site (I always ask my students that). The answer? She watched one of my Youtube videos that I produced years ago and which still gets hundreds of views per month. This kind of thing happens to me every day. Youtube is such an engaging platform because people can see and hear you. Producing videos is one of the best ways to drive business to your site.
I personally believe that we are about to see a significant change in Youtube. People are used to accepting cruddy video quality, terrible audio, long intro music and graphics, etc. I think users are demanding better quality, and if you want your videos to still be driving business to your site in three years–you need to produce quality content.
You can dump tens of thousands of dollars into a video system. I have, and now I’ve paired my video system down to only the gear I need and which will produce the absolute highest possible quality. I break down my gear recommendations into packages below so you can find something that will fit your budget.
Bare Bones Video Setup for Internet Marketers – About $40
Video Camera – Use your smart phone. Nope, not kidding. If you have an iPhone or an Android phone made in the last few years, they actually do really nice video. I often reach for my iPhone when I want to record a quick video without messing with gear (here’s an example of that). Most cell phones record 1080p video, and that’s as high a resolution as you will get on another camera anyway. If you don’t have a smart phone, you can also use a good web cam.
Microphone – Audio Technica ATR 3350. You’ll be very pleasantly surprised when you hear the audio quality that this mic picks up. It’s an excellent mic that you can clip on your shirt and run the cord to your smart phone or computer input. It will plug right in the headphone jack on your phone or the mic input on your computer. The only complaint I have about this device is that it has no lights telling you if the battery is low, but at least the batteries last for a LONG time on this mic. For $30, this product is highly recommended for improving the quality of your videos.
Lighting – Cheap CFL daylight balanced bulb in an even cheaper desk lamp. This works perfectly for recording videos at your desk or in a small room. You simply turn the light on and point it at a wall. The wall will spread out the light source making it softer, and will put nice even light on you while you’re doing a webinar or recording a video at your computer. It’s cheap and works exceptionally well. I even have this set up at my home for when we do Skype calls with family.
Video Editing – Use iMovie if you have a Mac or Windows Movie Maker if you use Windows. If all else fails, use the video editor on Youtube. If you are on the mac and can use iMovie, you’ll probably be really happy with it. I have never been pleased with Windows Movie Maker, but if your video is very simple it might work okay for you.
Intermediate Video Setup for Internet Marketers – About $750
Good video is made up of three components: A stable tripod, crystal clear audio, and nice even light. Notice I didn’t say anything about video codecs or sophisticated camera moves. This setup is what I recommend Internet Marketers use if you want to dominate Youtube without the cost of a complicated professional setup.
Video Camera – Canon Vixia R42. You can either waste the next four hours researching cameras online, your you can trust me that this camera will capture crystal clear 1080p video and has wifi (although limited) built in. For $450, this is an excellent choice.
Wireless Mic – Canon DM-100 directional shotgun mic. This is a tough choice. This mic will do very well for capturing much better sound than the built-in mic on the camera, but at $190 I’d almost like to see you step up and get the Sony UWP mic from the pro package, or else save your money and get the Audio Technica mic from the Bare Bones package. There is no clear winner here.
Tripod – Amazon Basics Tripod. This tripod isn’t fancy and will probably break after a few years of use, but it will hold the camera much more solidly than you could hold it handheld and will do the job. For $25, you can’t complain. The reason I recommend this tripod is that it can go up to 60″ (for international folks that’s 152 centimeters). The height of the tripod is essential so that you can get it up to eye level. When the tripod is too low, you get a very unflattering angle that will make it look like you have a quadruple chin and enormous nostrils.
Lighting – Cowboy Studio Video Light Kit. I am picky about the lighting in my videos. It is amazing how a very simple softbox and light can make really amateur video look really professional. If you use a good solid tripod, have good audio and take lighting into account, your video will look 10x better than what people are used to seeing on Youtube. I have used this recommended light kit for over 2 years and even though I have poured thousands into my video setups trying new things, I have never felt the need to pay more for the expensive video lights. These work great.
Webcam – Logitech C920. This is an inexpensive $70 webcam that captures very high quality sound and video. It works on the PC as well as the Mac. There is a C930 available as well that PC users could consider if you want to pay more, but it doesn’t work reliably on all Macs even with the Camera Settings app installed.
If you are doing videos at a computer, I recommend you use the mic and Zoom h6 that I recommend. You can plug that Zoom h6 straight into your computer via USB and make that awesome mic be the mic for your webcam.
Professional Video Setup for Internet Marketers – About $3,000
If you are ready to get serious about online video and you want to produce something truly professional, this is the setup for you. With this gear you can guarantee that you are equipped to make videos of a quality that your competition on Youtube cannot touch. I’m extremely picky about image quality because of my experience in photography, and this is the best setup I have found.
Video Cameras – Canon Vixia HF G20. I would actually recommend buying two of these video cameras. That will allow you to set them both up to record you so you can switch camera angles in the video. The Vixia G20 is undoubtedly the best camera out there in the $1,000 price range. The lens is sharp, the autofocus is fantastic, and you have all the controls you need to adjust pretty much anything you could want. Do not waste the next four hours researching other cameras–I promise you’ll end up choosing this one anyway.
Wireless Mic – Sony UWP V1. This is the mic I use in most of my video tutorials. The fact that it is wireless makes your videos look professional. The audio quality is excellent and unlike cheaper wireless mics that are plagued with interference, I have never had any trouble with interference on this mic. You want clean audio in your videos, and this is the solution for it. Honestly, if you can’t afford the Vixia HF G20 recommended above, I would recommend choosing a cheaper camera from the options below and getting this mic. Audio quality is worth its weight in gold.
This wireless system comes with a lapel mic (the kind that you attach the transmitter to the back of your belt and then run a wire under your shirt and attach the mic to the top of your shirt), as well as the receiver that has a simple 3.5mm cable so you can plug the mic straight into the camera for simple audio input. If you want to get fancy you could plug this wireless mic into the Zoom h6, but I usually don’t do that for my videos because it takes too much time and added stuff to hook up.
Video Editing – Adobe Premiere Creative Cloud. This is the video editing software I use daily and recommend. It is full-featured and powerful but also expensive.
Tripods – You can read my tripod recommendations on my other site which is dedicated to photography. You’ll need a tripod and a head for video. On that page you’ll see my recommendations for ballheads, but that is more for still photography. For video, you’ll want a head like this one.
Lighting – ePhoto Three Light Kit. I am picky about the lighting in my videos. It is amazing how a very simple softbox and light can make really amateur video look really professional. If you use a good solid tripod, have good audio and take lighting into account, your video will look 10x better than what people are used to seeing on Youtube. I have used this recommended light kit for over 2 years and even though I have poured thousands into my video setups trying new things, I have never felt the need to pay more for the expensive video lights. These work great.
Webcam – Logitech C930 if you use Windows or the Logitech C920 if you use a Mac. I know your computer probably has a webcam built in, but the quality of the built in webcams is horrendous. These webcams are fantastic. I wish the Logitech C930 worked well on Macs, but although some people have got it to work, it is unreliable and didn’t work for me even after downloading the Camera Settings app to hopefully fix it. If you’re on a Mac, I recommend the C920 which does very good audio and video as well.
If you are doing videos at a computer, I recommend you use the mic and Zoom h6 that I recommend on the podcasting setup page. You can plug that Zoom h6 straight into your computer via USB and make that awesome mic be the mic for your webcam.
Video Player – LeadPlayer. I use Leadplayer to deliver videos to my paying customers. When someone takes online courses on my other sites, I host the videos on Youtube as unlisted videos so nobody else can watch the course without paying, then I use Leadplayer to put a custom player on the video so my viewers see my branding instead of the Youtube branding. Works like a charm. If you are ready to move beyond Leadplayer, another option for hosted video is Wistia.
Screen Recording – Camtasia if you’re on a PC, or Screenflow if you use a mac. Camtasia and Screenflow are amazing screen recording programs that allow you to quickly record your screen for doing tutorials on the computer. It even has a video editor built in that allows you to zoom in to different parts of the screen, show your key strokes for keyboard shortcuts, etc. It’s amazing and worth the price if you do a lot of screen recordings. I actually prefer Screenflow, but Camtasia is just about as good if you’re on a PC.