Planning Never Ends
Your channel is live. You created great content. You have views. Your audience is engaged. It’s all smooth sailing, right? Hopefully, yes, but as the saying goes, “You have to inspect what you expect.” Look to see whether your audience
» Watches your videos all the way to the end
» Stays on your channel and views more content
» Comments and provides creative suggestions
» Shares your work on social media
» Includes your videos in their playlists
“Well, how do I do all that?” you may ask. Fear not: You can find the answers to all these questions (and to a few others) when we help you explore YouTube Ana- lytics in Chapter 11.
The YouTube world constantly changes, with new channels, new content, new personalities, and new trends. Your channel makes you part of this world, and you’re responsible for adapting to changes in order to stay relevant. Pay attention to what your viewers are telling you, and feed it into your ongoing planning process.
IN THIS CHAPTER
» Choosing the right camera
» Keeping your camera on the straight and narrow
» Seeing your way with light
» Getting the sound just right
Acquiring the Tools
of the Trade
et’s face it: Making video is easier now than it has ever been, and that trend is growing. Cameras, editing software, and computers that can edit video are now relatively cheap and available, which means that, after following a few
best practices, almost anyone can make a decent YouTube video with equipment they may already own. This chapter looks at a few of those best practices and helps you make a decision about price versus quality by examining the advantages of new camera and recording formats. To close out the chapter, we also take a look at the production tools you need in order to produce great video for YouTube.
Checking Out Your Camera Options
Let’s get the good news out of the way right off the bat: There’s a good chance that you already own a high-definition (HD) camera. Video cameras are everywhere. According to the Pew Research Center, as of June 2019, 81 percent of American adults own smartphones. Most modern smartphones have an HD camera, as do most modern laptops and all-in-one desktop computers. But just because access to cameras is easy doesn’t mean that choosing the right camera is simple. Quality varies widely, and some tools and techniques can help even a basic camera shoot
good video. We talk about several types of cameras specifically, but you have to take a few (mostly universal) features into account when shopping for cameras. For the most part, we talk about these three types of cameras:
» DSLR: DSLRs have exploded in popularity in recent years. DSLRs have tradition- ally been used for still photography, but they now all include an array of video
features and settings. You can capture great-quality video and easily stay under a $1,000 budget for your camera gear.
» Camera phone: We use the term camera phone as a catchall term for a camera built into a mobile device. (So don’t write in to tell us that your tablet
isn’t a phone — we’re well aware of that fact.) When we say camera phone, you should see in your mind “a camera that is built into your iPhone or Android or Kindle or whatever.” Camera phones have come pretty far, with resolutions, frame rates, and features that can rival their more dedicated counterparts.
When the moment comes to capture the footage of one of your dogs sitting on your other dog and howling the tune to “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” the best camera is the one in your pocket that you can start shooting with immediately.
» Point-and-shoot: These compact, easy-to-use little cameras aren’t to be messed with. Sure, they lack the bells and whistles that come with their bigger
DSLR-siblings, but they are extremely capable and aff Plus, they’re
easy to use and quite portable, making them helpful in a pinch.
Working through the (camera) basics
Before getting into a detailed discussion of the pros and cons of the different camera types out there, we want to talk a bit about a few features and elements that all cameras share. That way, we can get some terminology out of the way that may prove helpful when you’re comparing cameras:
» The sensor: The heart of any digital video camera is its sensor. The larger the sensor, the better the image quality. That’s because a larger sensor has larger
pixels, which capture more light, resulting in higher image quality. Currently, a “big” sensor is a full-frame sensor measuring in at 36 x 24mm, the same size as a 35mm fi negative.
When people talk about megapixels, that’s something of a red herring.
A 10-megapixel camera with a larger sensor can likely capture better-looking video than a 12-megapixel camera with a smaller sensor. Though this description can be confusing and technical, the important thing to note
is that a larger sensor is generally better.
» The lens: The pros will tell you that it’s all about the glass. The lens in a camera
is a huge factor in image quality, and it’s a factor that can be diffi to under-
stand. The most important feature of any lens is its aperture capability. The aperture of a lens controls how much light enters the camera body and hits the sensor. Basically, along with shutter speed (how long the image is exposed) and ISO (the sensor’s sensitivity to light), this is the control that makes the picture brighter or darker.
The aperture is also called the f-stop (or t-stop, on cinema lenses), and
aperture ranges are denoted as f1.4–f32 or similar language.
The most popular look on YouTube now is an f-stop of 5.6. It draws the viewers’ attention to the foreground, keeping it in sharp focus while leaving the background soft.
Try to use lenses that have a fi f-stop, not a variable f-stop. Such lenses often are of a much higher quality — with a price tag that refl cts that fact. A Canon 50mm 1.8 is a great starter lens and usually costs around $100.
» Resolution and format: The YouTube player supports 4K video, and you really should have an HD camera to take advantage of that support. Most
modern cameras are capable of shooting full 1080p HD (1920 x 1080 resolu- tion) and higher (many are capable of 4K), and that is what you should look for. Some cameras have variable frame rates, but as long as they can shoot the standard rates — such as 24p, 30p, and 60i — you should be able to fi something you like. Look for all these numbers in the specs when shopping for cameras.
The numbers in front of the letters indicate how many fi per second are shown. As for the P, it stands for progressive, where the video image is drawn progressively, line after line. In 30p, to take one example, one whole frame is typically shown every 1 30 of a second. The I stands for interlaced, meaning the odd or even rows in the picture show every 1 60 of a second; 60i is typically used for sports or fast-paced videos because it results in less of a fl feel; 30p is often perceived as higher quality for less action-based footage because its resolution brings with it a clearer image; 24p is the frame rate of fi — but getting that “fi look” also depends on lighting and composition.
Many of the latest-and-greatest DSLRs can shoot in the format 4K (4K is short
for 4,000-pixel resolution), which is a much higher resolution than 1080p
- Though footage shot in 4K is beautiful, many cameras that shoot 4K tend to be expensive. The reality of shooting video for YouTube is that 4K resolu- tion is often overkill. The site can display 4K, but the vast majority of views are on computer screens or mobile devices incapable of displaying 4K or 8K content.
» Codecs: Most cameras compress the captured video to save space on whatever recording media you’re using. The compression software the
camera uses is a codec. In the past, diff codecs could result in wildly variable performance when the time came to edit. Often, footage would need to be transcoded to a diff format in order for the editing suite to understand it. Thanks to improvements in editing software and hardware, transcoding is largely a thing of the past. All the major editing packages these days can handle just about any codec you care to throw at them. Just be sure to record in the highest-quality codec for your device — which generally means the least-compressed video.
» Monitoring: You need to be able to see your video as you shoot it. Most modern cameras have an LCD screen for monitoring video. Usually, manufac-
turers talk about these screens in terms of pixels. When choosing a camera, make sure you can tell whether the image is in focus from the view on the LCD. Built-in focus assist options also help when using a smaller LCD. If you cannot tell whether an image is in focus, you may need an external HD monitor, or you may want to add an electronic viewfi (EVF) from a third party for monitoring.
» Zoom: To zoom is to change the focal length of the lens to make it seem as though the camera is closer to its subject. Though zoom is a somewhat
familiar concept, one important fact to remember about it is the diff
between optical and digital zoom:
- Optical zoom is the actual telephoto eff produced by the physical change
in the focal length of the lens, and it’s the only zoom you would ever want
to use. It allows you to zoom in on the subject with no signifi ant degrada- tion of picture quality.
- Digital zoom is usually a very high, seemingly impressive number, but it’s a feature to Digital zoom doesn’t actually change the optics of the
camera; it simply scales the image up, which produces a lot of static in the picture. Stated simply, it does nothing but make your footage look bad.
» Memory cards: It is important that you have the right memory card for your
camera. Most cameras take one of two types (or both): Secure Digital High
Capacity (SDHC or SD, the more common title) and Compact Flash (CF). Both are excellent. They’re relatively cheap, reliable, and ubiquitous. You can buy them just about everywhere.
When it comes to memory, our recommendation is to choose your camera fi — that decision often determines what kind of memory card you need to purchase. When purchasing a memory card, either SD or CF, choose one that can read and write data as quickly as your camera can. An example
of write speed is 1000x: This means that the card reads and writes at approximately 150 megabytes per second.
» Image stabilization: Higher-quality cameras and lenses often off image stabilization, a feature that does just what it says — it stabilizes images. One
hallmark of footage from people who are new to videography is shaky footage. Image stabilization can help with this problem, and it comes in a couple of diff fl
- Optical image stabilization: This type of correction features gyroscopes and moving elements inside the lens When the camera shakes, the lens
detects the movement, and the lens elements roll with the punches, so to speak. The lens parts move to correct for the motion, and the sensor captures a stable image.
Internal gyroscopes can be noisy, so be sure to use an off a audio recording device when using optical image stabilization. (An internal camera mic is sure to pick up the noisy gyroscope sounds.)
- Digital image stabilization: This correction uses various software algorithms to reduce the impact of shaky hands on your Unfortunately, some of
the tricks it comes up with aren’t that aesthetically pleasing. For example, the most common way digital image stabilization corrects an issue is by removing the edges of the frame. More often than not, you end up with a degraded image that’s just not worth keeping. Yes, you may be able to correct in post-production, but your best bet is to collect the highest- quality image while recording in the fi
» Manual controls: An important feature to look for in a camera is easily
accessible manual controls. Though at fi you’ll probably want the camera to
manage most aspects of image capture for you, as your skills as a videogra- pher develop, you’ll inevitably want to take control of the camera’s controls. The manual controls have to be easily accessible — ideally assignable to physical buttons on the outside of the camera. These physical buttons allow you to change settings quickly, which can be important when you’re trying to capture a moment. Controls that are buried deep in the camera’s settings menus aren’t truly useful.
Looking at DSLRs
DSLR stands for digital single-lens reflex, but its initials aren’t the key concept to understand here. The big reason that DSLRs are massively popular these days is that they can produce great image quality for a relatively low price; the many happy DSLR owners out there probably don’t know — and don’t care — what the initials stand for.
As with any camera, the DSLR has both upsides and downsides. The upsides are
» The big picture: By a large margin, the most important advantage that the
DSLR aff a fi is its large sensor. Some DSLRs even have a sensor
that’s roughly the same area as a traditional frame of 35mm fi — these are full-frame sensors. Without getting too technical, the larger the sensor, the better the image quality. Also, the large sensor, when combined with the right lens settings, produces a shallow depth of fi which is desirable if you want your video to have that sheen of professionalism. This depth-of-fi eff is, put simply, the phenomenon in which the subject of the video is in focus, but the background is out of focus, which makes the subject feel separate from the background. This out-of-focus background — called bokeh by all the arty fi school types — is an important trick to have in your repertoire.
» The lenses: Another useful feature of the DSLR is its interchangeable lenses. A DSLR allows the operator to choose the type of lens that’s required for the
shot. Some lenses are better for action shots, and some lenses are helpful in low light; macro lenses shoot subjects in extreme close-up, and zoom lenses allow you to capture distant subjects. This sort of fl which is crucial in higher-end fi can greatly improve your videos’ visual quality. A nice bonus is that each manufacturer has a standard lens mount that most of its cameras use. For example, if you start with an entry-level Canon camera and obtain several lenses for it, those lenses should also fi the fancier Canon camera if and when you decide to upgrade.
» Continuous autofocus: More and more DSLRs are capable of automatically focusing while recording video. This feature is extremely helpful if your subject
is moving frequently throughout the frame. Some are even equipped with face-tracking, which allows the camera to keep constant focus on your subject’s face. This feature isn’t without its problems, though: If your subject is moving too quickly or if the space is too dark, your camera may have a
diffi time adjusting its focus.
» Manual settings: Most serious videographers will tell you that capturing the best image requires understanding and using the camera’s manual settings
and setting characteristics such as ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. We don’t get into explaining all the details of how to use a camera in this chapter. The important point here is that even entry-level DSLRs have robust manual controls that are usually easy to use and understand. Advanced videographers want
to make changes to these settings quickly and easily, and most DSLRs have dedicated buttons on the camera body to change each of these settings quickly.
As proof that not everything is hunky-dory in DSLR-ville, check out these things that folks love to hate about DSLRs:
» The sound: Though this situation is slowly changing, DSLRs have traditionally been reviled for their inability to capture sound well. Audio is extremely
important to making a watchable video, so this is kind of a big deal. We will say up front that no DSLR on the market today has an acceptable built-in microphone. We believe that you should not use the built-in mic on the camera when you can avoid it — we recommend that you buy more stuff to accompany your camera. You can fi a couple of ways around this problem.
- An external microphone: This is the simplest solution to the DSLR audio Most DSLRs have a connection that allows the user to plug in a
separate microphone. Because this audio problem is widespread in the DSLR market, quite a few options are available that are designed to work specifi with DSLRs. You have many choices in this space, but we fi
one solution to be the Rode VideoMic Pro; it has an excellent cost-to-value
- An external audio recorder: Even with an external microphone, many DSLRs still don’t have a helpful way to monitor the audio you’re This is
a very big deal. If you don’t know what the audio sounds like as you’re recording the footage, you can quickly ruin the shoot and waste a lot of time and resources. A number of digital recorders on the market are designed for this very purpose. These recorders come in a wide variety of price points, but they do confer a lot of advantages. Going down the list, they off balanced inputs (eliminating hiss and hum noises), phantom power for professional mics (using the audio cable to power the mike instead of batteries), more control of audio levels, and compressors and limiters for keeping levels from clipping (exceeding what your device can capture). We recommend the Sennheiser MKH416.
Recording the audio externally does mean that you have to synchronize the footage and the audio recording in editing, which introduces more work and an opportunity for problems to arise. Just because you’re using an external audio recorder doesn’t mean you should turn off the in-camera audio recording. You’ll want audio from both devices captured for refer- ence when syncing in post-production.
» Manual settings: Extensive manual controls can be both a blessing and a curse. The best part about shooting manually is the amount of control you
have over the quality of light in every shot. You can choose how bright you want the shot to feel based on the emotion of the scene, whereas if you use an automatic setting, you may lose some of the mood you could have created with your lighting setup. The sheer number of settings and the fi gradations of adjustment can be overwhelming to an inexperienced user. Though DSLRs generally have a full automatic mode that allows you to point-and-shoot quickly, we recommend working in the manual controls and maintaining control over the quality of each shot, even if it takes more time.
» Record time limitations: One long-standing complaint about DSLRs is that almost all of them have some kind of record-time limitation. Admittedly,
popular cameras like the Panasonic GH4 or the Sony a7s iii have no duration limits, but in some cases, a camera can shoot only 29 minutes of continuous video.
Before planning a long video, make sure your channel is verifi . (See Chapter 2 for how to verify your channel.) Unverifi channels are capped at 15-minute maximum uploads. Neither does YouTube allow uploads over 12 hours long.
» Manual zoom only: The only way to zoom on most DSLRs is to manually adjust the zoom ring on the lens barrel. This can cause a number of problems
while shooting video. Touching the lens will more than likely produce a shaky image — it takes a steady hand to make a smooth manual zoom. If you’re planning to do lots of zoom shots, a DSLR may not be the right choice for you.
» The expensive aftermarket: A lot of the issues we’ve described with DSLRs
do have solutions, but you have to pay a pretty penny for them — or try to
build them yourself.
If you’re a YouTube video creator just starting out, a DSLR may be just the ticket for you. If you have no experience with video production or photography, be patient — the DSLR has a learning curve. The inexperienced creator often can use a simple point-and-shoot or webcam to get started. If you do have experience creating video and you’re making content that requires the best image quality for your buck, a DSLR is the way to go.
Several manufacturers are in the DSLR market, including Canon, Sony, Nikon, and Panasonic. Though all these companies make good DSLRs for still images, we generally recommend the Canon DSLRs for shooting video. In our estimation, they offer good features for the price. Start by looking at some entries in the Canon line:
» Canon EOS 5D Mark IV: Though this option is a bit pricey, around $3,300 for the camera without a lens, it’s a truly excellent camera choice for shooting
video. The 5D Mark IV has made huge improvements to its video capture capabilities, and its full 35mm sensor gives you the ability to capture beautiful video. As with any DSLR, you need to have at least an external microphone and maybe even an external audio recorder; but as far as image quality goes, the 5D is hard to beat. The latest Canon DSLR cameras have done a lot to improve the onboard audio capture quality.
» Canon EOS 90D: Much more aff than the 5D, the SL3 is widely
available for around $1,200, and it delivers excellent image quality. It features
a somewhat smaller sensor than the full-frame 5D, but it’s still extremely capable.
Settling for smartphones
We won’t argue that the camera on your phone should be your primary camera. Though they are quickly improving, smartphones aren’t the best video cameras; they can be difficult to stabilize, and the footage files they produce can often be difficult to work with. Still, sometimes in the heat of an amazing moment unfold- ing in front of you, the best camera is the one in your pocket. It may not have much in the way of manual control, and it may not produce the most beautiful image, but in a lot of cases, being quick on the draw is more important.
The specs for smartphone cameras are a moving target. Smartphone manufactur- ers are constantly trying to outdo each other by packing more powerful cameras into phones. We don’t make a specific recommendation, but we know that pretty much any high-end or flagship smartphone has a camera that can shoot excep- tional HD video.
In many ways, choosing the camera that works for you is a matter of personal taste. If you’re just getting into videography, you should watch a lot of videos. Find the stuff you like on YouTube, and then find out how those videos were made. The beauty of YouTube and social media is that the barrier is much lower for reaching out to creators. Find creators that make stuff you think looks good, and then ask them nicely how they shot it. Though you may not get a response from a creator with millions of subscribers, smaller creators are often happy to help out. Give it a try.