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What Equipment and Software do I Need?

Charlotte Ashlock Posted by Charlotte Ashlock, Executive Editor, Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.

Charlotte Ashlock is a crazy idealist trying to make the world a better place! 

What Equipment and Software do I Need?

A Change Agent's Guide to Youtube: An Online Learning Experience

At VidCon, I attended a workshop on cinematography that included professional film producers as well as Youtube channel producers. These people were clearly connoisseurs of excellent equipment, but they weren’t snobs about it. They encouraged people to start producing videos even if all they had was their laptop’s inbuilt webcam and a copy of iMovie or Windows Movie Maker.

1. The important thing is to start creating.

Figure out whether you like it first, before you start investing money in expensive equipment. You don’t need to pay a professional cinematographer a billion dollars to start producing video that connects with your audience. You can sit down in front of your laptop…. and just start doing it!

Of course, over time, as your channel catches on, you can gradually upgrade to more expensive equipment. When you go back to the first video a Youtube Star ever uploaded, it’s usually obviously filmed with pretty primitive equipment. There’s no shame in that. Remember one of the tips for success was “make mistakes.” Over time, when you’ve learned what does and doesn’t work, you can start investing more money, or more time.

When you do decide to upgrade your equipment (I personally am still using the beginner's classic tools: iMovie and webcam) here is some advice from the pros.

2. Camera tips

  • Get the cheapest possible Canon camera, then spend ALL your money on lenses. This is the best bang for your buck and gives you the most flexibility.
  • A great affordable Canon Camera lens is a 30 mm sigma lens.
  • If you have a little camera that jitters when you hold it, put it on your tripod, then carry around your tripod. Even if the tripod is not planted on the ground, it will provide some mass and stability that keeps the camera from jittering with your hand.

3. Sound tip

  • An affordable diaphragm mic is a good choice for sound if you have a limited amount of money to invest.

4. Software tips

  • It’s an easy transition from iMovie to Final Cut if you’re ready to upgrade! Final Cut and iMovie are similar interfaces, but Final Cut has more capability.
  • Final Cut Pro and Final Cut 7 are both excellent software packages.
  • Magicbullet is a plugin for Final Cut that helps you get your colors right tips from
  • This piece of software is like “photoshop for moving images.” It used to cost money, but now it’s free.
  • The Internet will give lessons on how to do ANYTHING... you just have to figure out what advice is good and what is bad.

5. Lighting & special effects tips

  • If the sun is ruining your shot, put the sun behind your subject, someone dramatically backlit always looks cool. Or you can put your subject in the shade.
  • A way to get fancy lighting on the cheap is to cover Home Depot lights with color correction gels.
  • The person who does your special effects can almost be like the invisible character of your show.

6. Humorous tip

And to close with, here’s a piece of hilarious cinematography advice I heard: “Do not let guys edit your videos if you're a girl. They will zoom on wrong things.”

But Again! Equipment doesn't really matter!!!

Watch this video to hear Hank Green, organizer of VidCon, screaming, "I don't CARE what kind of camera you have! I don't CARE what kind of equipment you have! I don't CARE what kind of software you have!" He then proceeds to give advice on all the stuff that actually does matter. Listen. It's good advice!!!

See the extra resources on the Vlogbrothers Channel

Related Links

1. Why should change agents have video blogs?

2. How can I use YouTube to sell books?

3. What does YouTube culture look like?

4. How can I succeed on YouTube?

5. How can I use YouTube to promote a cause?

6. What equipment and software do I need?

7. What is transmedia?