You’ve discovered YouTube. Maybe you watched it daily and shared funny videos of cats dressed as dogs with your friends… or perhaps you’ve made a few low-key uploads. They might have been holiday videos, or footage to share with family.
But now it’s dawned on you. It’s possible to start your own YouTube channel (essentially a TV station) right now using your phone, tablet, or PC. But what else do you need?
Start With a Phone or Webcam, Then Evolve
It doesn’t matter whether you’re making reaction videos or reviewing products. You might have found another great video genre to try. Whatever the case, all you really need to start a YouTube channel is a Google account and a camera capable of recording video.
This might be an old handheld video camera, your laptop or PC’s webcam, or the camera on your phone. Whatever the case, this is the basic requirement. Point the video at the subject (probably you), press record, and start talking. This is why YouTube is a vlogger’s dream: it’s so easy to record thoughts and push them out to the world!
But you might want more than this; your viewers might want more. After all, while the camera and YouTube account are all you need to get started, there are other things you’ll need to start a YouTube channel that can attract and keep new viewers.
You Need a Camera
Yeah, you knew this already. But which camera should you use? Could it be the webcam on your laptop? Perhaps your smartphone… or it could be the old camcorder that has a sync cable to your PC. Either way, it needs to be able to record a video in reasonable quality (beyond 2015 anything less than 720p isn’t a good look).
While you could splash out on a brand new dedicated video camera or DSLR, this would be unwise. Starting a new venture or project like a YouTube channel should be done as cheaply as possible. You can upgrade to high-quality hardware once you’ve found your place online.
On the off chance that you’re prepared to sink some funds into this project, however, a DSLR like the Nikon D3400 is a good choice (although if you can get hold of the older D3200 model, that’s also fine).
You’ll notice the link above is body only. This is because you don’t need the standard packaged lens kit. For close intimate-to-camera shots, however, you’ll need to consider a suitable lens. This should be one with a low f-number, in order to deliver the sort of out-of-focus background that looks good on YouTube. For instance, if you bought the above camera, then you’d be looking for a lens like the Nikkor lens for Nikon compatible cameras.
The important thing to do here is research the best camera for your budget, and buy the equipment as and when you need it. Don’t be restricted by price, either. There is a huge market in used cameras and lenses that you can call on. If your channel is going to be a vlog, check out our guide to the best vlogging cameras.
You Need a Tripod
It goes without saying that for best results, a camera needs a tripod. Fortunately, these need not cost too much. Preferably, you’ll have one already, but if not, see below. Meanwhile, if you’re recording with your smartphone or some other compact device (like a GoPro) you may prefer to employ an ultra-portable tripod suited to smaller cameras.
But do you really need a tripod at all?
Many YouTubers — if they’re not using a webcam with its own little stand or housing — simply pile up some books. Sitting a camera on top of other household objects isn’t ideal, but it can serve its purpose when you’re starting out. If all else fails, and you’re using your phone camera, a DIY smartphone stand can work. Or you could buy a smartphone tripod for under $10.
For those of you planning the full camera and tripod set up, you need to be looking for something reasonably heavy. It certainly shouldn’t be lighter than your camera, otherwise the pairing will be top-heavy, leading to accidents. You should be able to find something suitable for around $50.
You Need a Good Microphone
This is where things can get tricky. In short, microphones are not cheap. Funnily enough, they’re also not that common around the home. Starting a YouTube channel without a microphone will mean utilizing the built-in mic on your smartphone, tablet, webcam, and video camera. This might work out alright… or it might not. Your only option is to try the device out, and see how your voice sounds.
If you want to buy a microphone, think about where you want to mount it.
Camera mounted so it picks up your voice and everything behind you:
On your desktop so it picks up mostly you, as long as it is placed at the right angle:
Clipped to your tie so most of the audio captured will be just your voice:
Once you’ve decided what is best for your YouTube channel — a tie-clip mic might be useless for running around outdoors — it’s time to look at the options.
At worst, you should be able to tidy poor audio up with a sound editor. At best, you’ll decide to seek out a decent microphone. If your budget is tight, why not ask a friend?
You May Need a Video Game Capture Solution
Now, this is a niche option, but if you’re planning to build a YouTube channel about video game walkthroughs or reviews, you’ll probably need a way to record your exploits within the games. You have three choices:
- Point your camera at the monitor/TV — Unfortunately, this isn’t a great option, and will result in your gaming channel not being taken seriously.
- Stick to Android gaming — Modern Android devices that are Play Games compatible can record your video game exploits, complete with your face and commentary if desired. These can then be instantly uploaded to YouTube.
- Video capture device — Older consoles will require you to employ a video capture device for recording or streaming footage. These typically sit between the HDMI cable and the monitor.
Fortunately, current generation computer platforms and consoles make the need for a separate video capture device for your games pointless. Windows 10 and Xbox One are capable of recording video games natively. In that same vein, you may want to also think about what you’ll need to produce a professional livestream.
You May Need a Green Screen for Chromakey
Do you need to create the impression of a space-like environment for your vlog? Or do you just want to obscure the fact that your YouTube channel is being recorded next to your mom and dad’s bins? The answer could be a green or blue screen. Unfortunately, these can cost around $50, so a cheaper solution might be required.
So, consider tracking down old sheets or curtains, or even card in a suitable shade of green. In most cases, you won’t need anything like this, but it can be useful.
You Need Video and Audio Editing Tools
As well as physical hardware, you’ll need some software to start your YouTube channel.
Most obvious is a video editor. So many editing tools are available, for Windows, as well as for Linux, and for macOS. Check those links for the best options. However, you might not even need a third party tool. YouTube itself has a great video editor built in, which you should certainly take a look at.
Meanwhile, if you want to add some studio-like polish to your fledgling YouTube channel, why not take a look at Showbox.com? This is a great online tool that lets you create stylish videos with slick presentation. We tried Showbox out in 2016 and found the results were very impressive. It’s currently in beta, and at the time of writing, it’s free to use.
There’s one other type of software you might need: an audio editor. While your video editor might have the necessary tidy up tools built in, this isn’t a feature you’ll find in all video editing suites. We suggest checking out a tool like Audacity, which is great for tidying up audio. If this doesn’t suit, don’t worry: alternatives are available!
Breaking Out Into a Real Studio
By now you should everything you need for a new YouTube channel. You might even have started breaking out from the confines of just a few views, and have commenters demanding more from you. So what can you do?
Well, the smart options would be to take what you’ve got so far, upgrade a few items, and move into a dedicated space. It doesn’t have to be a custom-built studio or rented space — it might be a corner of a room or a shed. All you need is for the space to be permanently devoted to making videos.
Our guide to building a low-cost YouTube studio should put you in the right direction.
Still Reading? Go Launch Your YouTube Channel!
By this point, you should have realized that everything you need to start your YouTube channel is either already in your possession, or is otherwise completely affordable. In fact, there’s really no point in you still reading this. It’s time to move: hit record, create your new video, and upload it to YouTube!
Have you found a great piece of hardware that has helped your YouTube channel? What equipment do you use? If you simply have a webcam yet thousands of subscribers, what’s your secret? Tell us in the comments!