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The Complete Computer Monitor Buying Guide

Computer monitor buying guide

If you use a computer, chances are pretty good that you’re using a computer monitor of some sort (unless you’re reading this from a neural link computing future, of course). And you may have not given that monitor much thought, other than the size of the monitor.

For the casual user that’s absolutely fine! But for a more, ahem, discerning user, there may be more specific requirements and features that you need in order to help you do what you do. Picking the best computer monitor for your use can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be a horrible experience.

There are so many monitors on the market these days with a ton of flashy buzzwords and (possibly) extraneous features. Picking the best computer monitor for video editing, gaming, photo editing, or other aspects of a content creator’s workflow can be quite overwhelming.

This is what we’re going to walk you through in this guide. We’re going to explain what these monitor features are, why you may/may not need certain features, and how to select the best computer monitor for your needs.

External monitor setup with a laptop
External monitor setup with a laptop

What are these computer monitor specifications and what do they mean?

When looking for the right computer monitor for certain uses, there are often specific features that you’ll need to pay attention to. Which features those are will vary depending on for what you plan on using the monitor.

Some of this may not be new to you, but for a lot of people looking for a the right computer monitor for them these specs and terms are likely completely unknown. Sometimes it can feel like an entirely different tech world.

If you want to skip past the intro to these features and specifications, feel free to do so. For the rest of you, however, let’s take a look at what you’ll need to know.

Monitor size

The first feature that most people look at when buying a computer monitor is the monitor size. The larger the monitor, the easier to see smaller text or details. These days, the average monitor size for general use is around 23″ or 24″ in a standard 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio.

Larger monitors around the 27″ size are much more affordable and common now, and often also pack 1440p or 4K displays. Larger monitors are definitely a great choice if you’re planning on running these higher resolution displays, as smaller text and operating system interfaces are easier to see on a larger display than a normal 24″ class display.

With ultrawide displays, you may see larger sizes such as 34″ or 37″ models. Samsung even makes a 49″ ultra ultrawide curved gaming monitor, and it’s quite the sight to behold.  While they sound huge, vertically they’re usually the same as their 24″ or 27″ widescreen counterparts.

Monitor resolution

After monitor size, most people look at the monitor resolution. Resolution refers to the amount of individual pixels that make up the display. The standard resolution for most displays is 1920 pixels wide by 1080 pixels tall (written as 1920 x 1080). This is often shorthanded to 1080p, as referring to only the vertical dimension is easier and accurately conveys what you’re intending (the “p” refers to progressive scan, and isn’t really necessary to know as it’s not really relevant these days).

Digital video monitor resolution
Some of the more common digital video monitor resolution. Source: Wikimedia Commons

While 1080p is by far the most commonly found resolution and even recently was considered the pinnacle of mainstream display technology, it’s the baseline minimum you should ever buy. While technically 720p can be referred to as “HD”, it’s the low resolution TV version of HD. 1080p is referred to as “full HD”, and is the desired HD standard resolution. In other words, don’t go below 1080p.

With an increase in processor (or CPU) and graphics card (or GPU) power comes the capacity and desire to run higher resolutions. A very popular gaming resolution with current hardware is 2560×1440. This is the sweet spot between 1080p and 4K in terms of gaming performance, and gives more desktop space in Windows. 1440p is also sometimes listed as “quad HD”, as it is four times the resolution of a 720p “HD” display, or also described as WQHD (wide quad HD). Now we’re seeing how this stuff can get a bit confusing, right? Honestly, you can ignore everything but the actual number designations for the most part.

1440p is a popular resolution because it’s more than 1080p, but modern video cards can push modern video games at high frame rates. Higher resolution means better looking games, and higher frame rates means smoother looking games. Getting both of these is the best compromise we have currently until graphics cards can push 4K games the same way.

Speaking of 4K, let’s talk about that. 4K is a weird descriptor for the 3840×2160 resolution. It’s four times the total pixel count of a 1080p display, and actually indicates the horizontal pixel count, not the vertical count. While it could be described as 2160p, it’s rarely actually listed this way, as 4K is the marketing buzzword that caught on. It can also be listed as UHD (ultra HD), which you can see on a lot of display marketing along the 4K moniker.

4K is far more popular with TVs than computer monitors at this point, but it’s a growing choice with the increased power in modern CPUs and GPUs. While it’s not an optimal (or terribly affordable) gaming option, it’s increasingly used for video and photo editing as well as general and professional use. You get a lot more work space on a 4K display and true 4K media looks amazing.

Ultrawide monitors have extra horizontal resolution because they’re, well, ultra wide screens, as opposed to wide screens. The aspect ratio is usually listed as 21:9 whereas a widescreen is 16:9. This means instead of a 1920×1080 resolution, a 1080p ultrawide is 2560×1080, and a 1440p ultrawide is 3440×1440. But more on ultrawides and aspect ratios later.

There are other resolutions that some monitors do take advantage of. Dell has some 1920×1200 displays as a step between 1080p and 1440p displays, and some budget laptops have 1380×768 displays (stay away from these, by the way, they’re a pain to work in!).

Overall, as long as you’re at 1080p or above you’re good to go, unless you actually need the higher resolution for practical purposes. High resolution monitors do come with a price increase, so if you don’t need it don’t buy it.

Aspect ratio

We touched on this briefly above, but now we can get a bit more involved. Aspect ratio is basically describing the height and width proportions of the display in relation to each other.

Quick intro to how aspect ratios are described. Aspect ratio is usually written like “16:9”, where the first number is the number of equal horizontal parts to the number of equal vertical parts.

Let’s say a display had an aspect ratio of 1:1. It would be perfectly square, whereas 2:1 would be twice as wide as it is tall. It doesn’t describe the actual size, just the relation of width to height. Anyways, back to the actual ratio talk.

Film aspect ratios
Film aspect ratios. Source: Wikimedia commons

For example: old-school TVs and monitors like the big heavy CRT square displays were a four parts wide by three parts high, or 4:3 (or about 1.3:1). When you rented or bought a movie in “widescreen”, it was usually at 1.85:1 or 2.39:1, and resulted in huge black bars above and below the image (also called letterboxing) due to how they had to fit in a more square TV.

As more and more content became available in a widescreen format, 16:9 ratio became the widespread standard for HDTV, non-HD digital TV stations, and DVDs. This has been the case ever since, with the majority of monitors and TVs for decades now.

16:9 is more of a compromise between the previous standard of 4:3 and wider cinematic ratios. There’s still letterboxing with the wider 1.85:1 or 2.39:1 cinematic content (these are cinema/movie theater aspect ratios), but most content for home consumption is shot and/or formatted for 16:9.

As a side note, if you have a smartphone from the past few years you may have an extra tall 9:18 (or 18:9 when held sideways) display like on the Samsung Galaxy S8/S9 and many others. As a result, a growing number of YouTubers like Jonathan Morrison, Linus Tech Tips, and MKBHD are shooting in this 18:9 (or 2:1) ratio.

Back on track, however. Pretty much every screen you look at these days (other than your phone) is 16:9, without a doubt. But with the advent of ultrawide displays we are seeing 21:9 as a very common computer monitor aspect ratio. 21:9 isn’t technically mathematically accurate, but it’s close enough to give a reasonable analogous value to 16:9.

What this extra sideways ratio gets you is more pixels and more workspace. We’ll cover that more shortly.

Widescreen monitors vs ultrawide monitors

As we mentioned, widescreen monitors are the usual 16:9 aspect ratio displays, just like your modern HDTV, laptop, and desktop monitors.

Over the past several years, ultrawide monitors with a 21:9 aspect ratio have become more and more popular. The reason for the popularity of ultrawide monitors is because they give you more workspace than a traditional 16:9 widescreen monitor.

As dual (or more) monitor setups have become much more commonplace at home and at work, a single ultrawide that can take the place of two widescreen displays have seen a rise in popularity as an alternative. This is often seen as a more elegant and streamlined way of expanding your desktop, with a few benefits.

The best part of a single ultrawide setup is that you don’t have a physical boundary between your two monitors. For some people, even slim bezels (the borders around the panel itself) separating the desktop images can be distracting. You can put two applications up side by side without really losing much viewable space on each.

You could have a web browser on one side, and Netflix on the other, Excel and Word up simultaneously, or many other combinations. It’s also helpful for video editing, allowing you to stretch your timeline much wider than on a widescreen display.

There’s also a benefit for gaming. You can’t necessarily game on a dual monitor setup and use both monitors without those bezels getting in the way. For shooters this is even worse, as your crosshair would be split directly down the middle by the bezels. This would basically make the game unplayable.

An ultrawide eliminates this physical barrier, however, some people still enjoy having physical spaces for app windows. It’s easy enough to move an app from one screen to another with the Windows and shift keys along with the left or right arrow key. It will neatly move the whole window, whether maximized or not, whereas with an ultrawide you can only snap to left or right with Win+arrow keys, or manually position the app.

There’s another physical trait that accompanies most ultrawide monitors, and that’s the fact that the majority of the ultrawide monitors on the market is that they’re actually curved displays, not flat and straight like any other monitor or TV you may see.

The left and right edges are further away from your eyes by quite a bit more than a standard 16:9 display. Curving the monitor brings those edges closer, and therefore makes it easier to see.

Curved monitors also create a bit more immersion, as they literally wrap around the viewer. With such a wide display, a user will end up turning their head more to look at the far edges of the display and the curve helps make this feel more natural, and take up a bit more of your viewing angles.

There are a few ultrawide monitors that are not curved, but have fallen out of favor by most people due to the allure of these curved displays. There are also curved standard 16:9 displays, but this is usually a bit of a gimmick and the curve doesn’t translate well to these displays.

The choice between standard widescreen monitors and newer ultrawide monitors is entirely a personal one. If you feel that your 16:9 displays are getting the job done (especially with a 1440p or 4K monitor), stick with it. If you want to spread out and get some more room (or consolidate a dual monitor setup), check one out. You can’t go wrong either way.

Computer monitor panel types (TN, VA and IPS panels)

We’ve come a long way from the days of big, bulky, heavy CRT monitors and live in the age of sleek, svelte, and sexy flat panel displays. No longer do our desks buckle under the weight of one somewhat large display, for which our desks are infinitely grateful, no doubt.

With the introduction of flat displays, we saw a few types of monitors and TVs. Most of these are either LCD (liquid crystal display), with some in the past being plasma displays. Plasma displays were more popular in TVs back in the early 2000s, and have since been supplanted by LCDs in various forms.

So what is the monitor panel? The panel is the part of the monitor that actually displays the content. It’s the thin assembly of pixels and backlight that lights up so we can see what our computer is doing. It’s the actual display component of the display.

LCDs panels then were augmented with LED backlights, being known cleverly as LED LCD displays, or just LED displays. And within these LCDs are different types of the panel technology.

TN panels

TN (Twisted Nematic) panels are the most inexpensive and least accurate displays. Most monitors you’ve ever looked at probably have a TN panel. They’re extremely fast at redrawing, but they have the most amount of color-based weaknesses, with poor viewing angles and color depth, as they can only reproduce 6-bit colors, dithering up to a fake pseudo 8-bit depth.

If you don’t care about color accuracy, just need something for browsing online or playing some games and want to spend not much at all, a TN panel is passable. Perhaps even better (for the cost) if you’re playing twitch-response games at high refresh rates.

VA panels

Next we have VA panels. VA (Vertical Alignment) displays are the next step up from TN panels. They have true 8-bit color reproduction, wider viewing angles, and higher accuracy than TN panels.

The refresh and response rates are slower than TN and IPS panels, and even will introduce more input lag. If you’re playing fast paced games, these won’t be the best option for you.

You will get a higher contrast ratio with a VA panel, so watching content can definitely look great. That is, so long as you don’t sit off-angle. Color shifting on VA panels is particularly bad, and you’ll see uneven color and brightness on the display as you move left to right, or even up and down off of the center viewing axis.

If you’re watching a bunch of videos or playing slower games directly in front of the display, perhaps a VA panel can get the job done for you. But there are definitely a large number of concessions you’ll make by picking a VA panel

IPS panels

Finally we have IPS (In-Plane Switching) panels. IPS panels are easily the highest quality LCD panels available in terms of how good the display looks. IPS panels have the highest color accuracy making them excellent for photo and video editing, graphic design, and any other color-sensitive tasks.

They also have the widest viewing angles of all the panel types, up to 178 degrees of sweet spot. You will notice that the blacks shift a bit with a slight purple hue when at the edge of that range, but you do have to really push that angle game to see the shifts.

Unfortunately, IPS panels do have slower response and refresh times, making them less of an ideal choice for fast paced gaming, but IPS panels are constantly getting faster, and some are definitely viable for gaming if you put enough money out for one. VA panels are still slower on average, so an IPS monitor is better for gaming.

You may see that there are different versions of IPS, such as H-IPS, e-IPS, S-IPS, and P-IPS. This doesn’t really matter that much, other than the fact that most e-IPS panels can only display a 6-bit color depth, so avoid these if you’re doing color-critical work.

You’ll also find proprietary versions of IPS displays, such as Super PLS from Samsung, and AHVA from AU Optronics (a popular panel manufacturer that sources panels to desktop monitor and laptop manufacturers). Despite similarity to the VA panel moniker, it’s really an IPS-style panel technology.

OLED panels

We’re now starting to see OLED panels in TVs, and wow, do they look great. OLED is also what you see on a lot of high end flagship smartphones, such as the Galaxy S8/S9/S10, iPhone XS/XS Max, and many more.

OLEDs can actually turn individual pixels off, creating true blacks, as there is no backlight being pushed through a “black” pixel. This delivers extremely “inky” blacks and great contrast ratios, and can get pretty bright.

Unfortunately, OLED panels are still pretty expensive, and haven’t really made it into any computer monitors, with the exception of the Dell UP3017Q, which has since been discontinued. Asus also has plans to release the ProArt PQ22UC, a 21.6″ 4K UHD HDR OLED monitor (wow, the acronyms!).

OLED panels also suffer from screen burn-in. This is what occurs when the same graphic elements stay on screen long enough to so that it imprints, or “burns in” that element due to the pixels being on for so long without changing.

Currently we don’t really have good, viable OLED tech for computer monitors. IPS is the best we have until OLEDs get figured out, so don’t burn your time trying to find one at this point.

That said, during CES 2019 we’ve seen some OLED monitors being demo’d and announced (such as this massive Alienware monitor), so perhaps these issues have been worked out (or will be soon, perhaps).

So what display panel type should you get? Basically, it breaks down to this:

  • If you need color accuracy, get an IPS panel.
  • If you need super speed for gaming and/or don’t need color accuracy or anything fancy at all, get a TN panel.
  • VA panels are pretty much lost between the two, and aren’t necessarily great at either gaming nor graphic design.
  • OLED panels aren’t a viable option yet, so skip it for now, but keep an eye out in the years to come.

Refresh rate

Refresh rate is frequently one of the more marketed specs or features of modern computer monitors, as high refresh rate monitors are more popular than ever. This popularity is due to the explosion in the gaming market combined with more powerful GPUs capable of driving high frame rates along with a huge decrease in the price of high refresh rate panels.

Refresh rate is measured in hertz (Hz), which is a measurement of cycles per second. This is the same hertz as in megahertz (MHz) or gigahertz (GHz), which are millions or billions of cycles per second.

But what exactly is refresh rate and how does it tie in to gaming performance? Simply put, refresh rate is how quickly the panel as a whole can redraw a new image to the screen. Think of it as a frames per second measurement of what the panel hardware is physically capable of drawing.

The majority of computer monitors and laptop displays you’ve encountered are all 60Hz displays. This has been a standard refresh rate in North America for quite a long time. This means that the monitor can redraw an image 60 times per second. If you’re watching a 24fps movie or YouTube video, this means that for each frame of the video, the monitor will redraw the same frame between 2 and 3 times before the video moves to the next frame. 30fps video will have each frame drawn twice before the next frame is drawn.

Way back in the day before current displays and GPUs were as powerful as they are now, the ideal FPS for games was 30fps or higher. Nowdays with current generation game consoles and PC gaming, the target is 60fps as a minimum for smooth, lag and jitter-free gameplay. Esports titles can easily double or triple those frame rates as well.

But there’s a problem when you start exceeding 60fps on a 60hz display. If you’re playing Rocket League at 120fps, your screen can only update itself fast enough to catch half of the frames the game draws. This can produce tiny gaps in the animations. You’re rarely going to notice this if you aren’t looking for it, but for fast paced esports titles like CS:GO and Call of Duty it means you’re going to miss crucial details in the gameplay.

If your game’s frames per second aren’t an even multiple of 60hz, the panel isn’t able to redraw whole frames before the frame switches. This means you get each refresh of the panel as a blend of two (or more) frames of the game.

This results in “tearing”, where the image looks like it’s literally being torn during motion. Vertical sync is a helpful in-game option to help limit the game to 60fps, but can create stutter and lag if your machine can’t push 60fps constantly. You also rob yourself of performance if your game is pushing more than 60fps, losing potential smoothness in gameplay.

Enter high refresh rate monitors, usually in the 144Hz area. You’ll also see 120Hz (like my current laptop) or 240hz, along with some other variants, but the sweet spot and popular spec target is 144Hz. If your game can push higher frame rates, your monitor can refresh more closely aligned to those rates, and produce less torn and jittery video.

For first-person shooters and other fast paced games, this means you see your opponents’ movements more accurately, resulting in better chances to be shooting where your opponent actually is according to the server, and not receiving outdated information because of a slow refresh rate.

It’s not only gamers who get the benefits, however. Higher refresh rate also helps smooth things out in general computer use as well. On a high refresh rate display, everything from mouse movements to scrolling through web pages to watching high frame rate YouTube videos and Twitch game streaming can be improved (provided they record/stream in over 60fps, of course). The higher refresh rate contributes to a better looking image during these tasks.

High frame rate monitors mean that your daily computer use feels nicer, is easier on the eyes, and just generally looks better. Gaming is faster, more accurate, and fun. If you’re not much of a gamer and you don’t notice the visual difference, you won’t get much out of it. But for a lot of people, a 144Hz high frame rate display is definitely better than the traditional standard of 60fps.

Variable refresh rate (G-SYNC and FreeSync)

As mentioned above, having GPU output at frame rates that can’t match up with the monitor’s refresh rate can create visual flaws, such as tearing and other issues. What if there was a way of getting the monitor to adapt to what the GPU is outputting?

Enter variable refresh rate, or VRR. Basically, the GPU outputs a certain frame rate, communicates this to the monitor, and the monitor syncs up its refresh rate down to the GPU’s frames per second. This reduces the skipped or blended frames, and ensures a one-to-one matching of frame rate and refresh rate.

This can contribute to insanely smooth gameplay at higher frame rates, and will smooth out a lot of tearing and jitter. Unfortunately, it does contribute a small amount to input lag, but usually it’s marginal.

Both AMD and Nvidia offer their own versions of VRR. AMD’s version is called FreeSync, and is the more available of the two. AMD doesn’t charge a licensing fee to use the technology, so monitor manufacturers can add the feature without extra cost on top of the new hardware itself.

On Team Green’s side, Nvidia offers G-SYNC. Unfortunately, there is a hefty licensing fee for manufacturers to add the G-SYNC module to their displays, so G-SYNC-enabled monitors can often cost up to $100-200 more than FreeSync-equipped or non-VRR monitors.

With the majority of gamers running Nvidia GPUs, this is definitely a bit of a letdown, and honestly isn’t worth the extra cost at this time for almost all users.

While writing this article, however, something big has changed. Previously, we ended that paragraph with “The likelihood of this changing any time soon is pretty minimal, seeing as Nvidia knows they have a stranglehold on the high end gaming market.” Turns out we should have waited a bit.

During their announcements at 2019 CES, Nvidia announced that with a future driver update, non-G-Sync monitors can work with Nvidia GPUs. Yes, this means the lower cost FreeSync monitors that don’t have the G-Sync module.

Nvidia G-Sync-compatible Freesync monitors
Nvidia G-Sync-compatible Freesync monitors. Source: Nvidia

Nvidia has so far tested about 400 VRR monitors, and has validated 12 as “G-Sync Compatible” as of writing this. These monitors will automatically engage VRR without manual intervention. Non-validated monitors will still technically work, however will require manual enabling of G-Sync.

Non-validated monitors, at this point, do experience some issues, such as visible ghosting of the image, or even worse, blanking of the entire image for a fraction of a second. This may improve as time goes on, but at least as of this moment, it’s definitely not a guaranteed thing by any means.

While FreeSync is free, we’d venture an opinion at this point that until the next generation of AMD Navi GPUs come out, it’s not worth buying current AMD Polaris-based GPUs just to use VRR (and yes, the newly announced Radeon 7 is still Polaris, sadly). Now that FreeSync monitors can possibly work well with GeForce GPUs, it does open up a good amount of options for GeForce owners; it’s good news all around.

Response time

While it sounds very similar to refresh rate, monitor response time is a bit different. Whereas refresh rate is the speed at which the whole panel redraws the image, response time is the speed at which the actual pixels can change from fully on or lit up (white) to completely off (black).

The main difference here is that we’re looking at how fast those pixels can react to the changes demanded by the panel. When a panel redraws the image, it triggers each pixel to either stay the same, or change to a new color and brightness value. The faster this is, the more crisp the images become.

The main issue that occurs with a less than desirable response time is “ghosting”. Ghosting is exactly what it sounds like: When a character moves on screen, for example, a slower response rate will result in the pixels not changing fast enough, creating an overlaid duplicate copy lagging behind. This is essentially creating a “ghost” of the character, making it blurry and, well, ghost-like.

This is a big issue when playing fast-paced games like first person shooters or racing games. Opponents down field may appear slightly larger than their hitboxes actually are, causing missed shots. Race course elements may not look accurately detailed when screaming down the track.

Overall, while this clearly has a bit of a gameplay effect on first person shooters and other quick reaction games, in general the main detractor is that it just looks bad. If your GPU is driving high frame rates into a high refresh rate monitor and the response time is not great, the ghosting is going to be magnified and create a pretty poor gaming experience.

A good desirable response time would be one millisecond gray to gray response time. This is the target goal for a “gaming monitor”. Gray to gray refers to going from a gray color to fully off, and then back to gray.

Gray is used as the starting/ending state because it’s actually a more complex color state for pixels because it’s firing all three colors of the pixel at medium brightness with the backlight at full intensity.

You will see some monitors state that they have 1ms or 2ms response times, but may measure white to white, or some other weird way of getting a 1ms response time in a way that actually doesn’t check out to be as fast as a 1ms gray to gray measurement.

Response time may be getting a bit too far into the weeds as far as monitor specs, but for gamers (and maybe even video editors/color graders) you’ll want the fastest gray to gray response time possible.

For everyone else, a low response time is desirable, but you can get away with 3-5ms. Anything slower than 6ms isn’t the best for gaming, and less than 10ms will just look soft and difficult on the eyes.

Input lag

So, we’ve looked at how often the screen redraws with refresh rate, and how fast each of those pixels can change with response time, but what about how quickly the monitor can react to an instruction to perform that change?

For that, we need to look at input lag. Another complicated specification for monitors, and one that doesn’t necessarily impact the majority of users, much like color accuracy, input lag is how long it takes for the display panel to change after the computer says to make the change.

If you don’t do any serious level of gaming, you probably don’t care about this spec. You may notice egregiously slow input lag on very low end panels, but you may not need anything more than bare minimum acceptable lag times.

So what are the ideal ranges of input lag times?

  • The best monitors have an input lag time of less than 7ms (or 1 frame lag at 144hz refresh rate). If you’re a pro gamer, you’ll be aiming for this level of performance.
  • From about 7 to about 14ms, you’re looking at between one and two frames at 144hz, and will be fine for casual gaming, but fast paced gamers may suffer.
  • Anything over 14ms isn’t suitable for high end gaming, but still acceptable to casual gaming up to probably about 20ms.
  • Anything over 20ms and you’ll start to notice visible lag other visual problems when gaming, and most likely even in general desktop use.

The short version here is that, in general, the less input lag you have, the better the monitor will react to what your GPU is telling it to do. You may not need to get the fastest possible lag times, but you’ll want something within a reasonable range, preferably below 15ms even for general use.

Brightness

Most people are pretty familiar with adjusting their monitor’s brightness and contrast, and there’s not really much to them. In addition to making sure the image looks balanced, it also helps with the ability for the panel to create a bright and vivid image in multiple environments.

Ideally, your monitor should be able to increase up to around 300 to 350 cd/m2, or “candelas per square meter”. This is also referred to as “nits”. Basically, it’s a measurement of brightness, so you’ll ideally want to find something over 300 nits if you value a bright display, especially for use in a room with lots of natural light.

Some displays may be measured in lumens, however this is usually reserved more for projectors. The two are vastly different scales of measurement though. One nit is about 3.426 ANSI lumens, so keep that in mind if something measures in lumens and not nits.

Contrast

Computer monitor contrast ratios describe the difference between the panel’s full white “whiteness” and the monitor’s full black “blackness”.

The higher the contrast ratio, the more individual levels there are that exist between full white and full black. This means that a high contrast monitor can display more “dynamic range” in an image. This means more details in dark shadows and bright highlights.

Most monitors claim to have a ratio of 1000:1, and a majority of newer IPS/AHVA/PLS monitors can range up to 1500:1, yet another indicator of IPS panels looking better than their TN or VA counterparts.

The problem with contrast ratios is that there are no standardized measurement systems for measuring contrast, so one manufacturer’s specs can’t specifically be identical to another’s. But typically, just like brightness, you’ll want to find something with a fairly high contrast ratio–just don’t always trust the manufacturer’s numbers to always be what you may expect.

Viewing angles

All flat panel displays look the best when you’re viewing the display directly in front looking square at the display. As you move side to side or up and down from that center position, you’ll notice the panel shift in brightness, contrast, and color accuracy.

The maximum amount you can move from that center before the image looks less than ideal is what is referred to as viewing angles. IPS panels typically have the best viewing angles, as mentioned previously, up to around 178 degrees of off-axis viewing.

Some TN and VA panels will have better than average angles, but IPS definitely rules the roost in this area. But how big of a deal is this feature to most users?

To be honest, not nearly as much as most of these other features we’re looking at. Most people are the only person using the computer at a time, and don’t frequently have other users crowding around your display.

If you’re a creative working in fields like photography, video editing, graphic design, or even running a recording studio you may have people huddling around your monitor looking at your work and increased viewing angles can definitely help here.

More importantly, if you’re working with color-sensitive content creation, you’ll want to ensure that you have the largest “sweet spot” for viewing as possible. You don’t want to make a color choice, move your chair a bit, slouch or sit up, and notice a color shift.

Again, as with brightness and contrast (and most other features here), you’ll want the widest viewing angles possible, but it’s probably not going to be a deal breaker for most people if it’s a bit less than the absolute best.

HDR

High dynamic range, or HDR, is a growing feature in HDTVs and computer monitors. While HDR TVs are more and more popular and popular with consumers, it’s lagging behind in adoption in the PC space.

Basically, HDR is a way of displaying an image that has a wider range of color and brightness information than your usual display is capable of. HDR content contains more levels of brightness than SDR content.

Part of the way HDR works is by reproducing brighter highlights and darker shadows, and having just one global backlight can’t do this, so HDR displays utilize what are called lighting zones.

Each zone in a panel can be lit independently. The more zones you have, the more finite control over the backlighting the monitor can have. Think of it as resolution for the backlight–the higher, the better.

This means that one particular frame can have some zones dimmed to create deep inky dark shadows and still have very bright highlights in a sky or other light source with those lighting zones cranked to full brightness.

Because HDR capable monitors need to have a much higher overall brightness level, your normal brightness goal of 300-350 nits doesn’t cut it. The ideal baseline would be a 1000 nit brightness rating.

Not all HDR monitors can get up to the ideal target brightness of 1000 nits, however. There hasn’t been much in the way of standards to ensure that “HDR-capable” displays are actually decent HDR monitors.

VESA did just recently release the DisplayHDR standard with three certification levels: DisplayHDR 400, 600, and 1000. There are other HDR standards that you’ll see in TVs, such as HDR 10, HDR 10+, and Dolby Vision. Unfortunately, with PC monitors, only HDR 10 was supported until DisplayHDR was announced.

So all that said, what does HDR actually do? Here’s a good analogy for you. Think of when you’re taking a photo of someone indoors, and there’s a window behind them. Your eyes can see both the person and the scene outside your window just fine.

However, when you take this photo, either the person is the right exposure and brightness and the window is blown out (over exposed), or the window is exposed properly and the person is way under exposed and looks like a silhouette.

This is because your eyes have a drastically larger dynamic range than cameras do. Computational photography assistance (the software in modern smartphones that seem to work magic, such as the Google Pixel Night Sight mode) and HDR modes aside, cameras (and therefore recorded content) can’t capture the same range of brightness that our eyeballs can.

Thankfully, camera technology is at a point now where HDR video capabilities are not only in pro-level cameras, but also making its way into consumer models, such as the Panasonic GH5.

Because of this, HDR content is popping up more and more places, many series’ on Netflix are HDR, along with other streaming content and Bluray discs. PC game developers are also introducing HDR support into major AAA titles, but as with many other display technology, PC-based HDR is definitely far behind the adoption rate of consumer televisions.

Long story short here, do you need HDR support on your computer monitor? No, probably not. Will that be the case for a long while? Again, probably not. Can it help make your games and HDR videos look better? Yes.

If you’re really into cool looking visuals, go for it. If you’re going to be creating HDR content, you’ll definitely need at least one HDR display. The hardware is getting better, and thankfully so is Windows and game support.

Color accuracy and monitor calibration

This is possibly one of the more complicated areas of monitors to get in to, and we’ll only touch on it briefly for that reason. But in general, people want their monitor to be able to display the correct colors of what they’re looking at. The more accurate a monitor’s colors, the better the experience.

Color spaces

A color space is a method of defining a standard of a set of colors. This color space will say a specific shade of a color is actually that specific shade, and ensures that the software instruction to display that color is interpreted accurately by the software that does the display and the hardware that outputs that display decision.

sRGB color gamut
sRGB color gamut. Source: Wikimedia commons

Monitors, depending on the panel quality, are capable of displaying some percentage of that color space. The more of that percentage it can display the more accurate the monitor. A monitor’s specs will list things like “93% sRGB, 70% Adobe RGB”, indicating how much of those colors it can accurately reproduce.

The sRGB color space is the de facto standard of almost all computer systems and software, as well as the web and web browsers. Most people will want to stick with this color space as it’s the most difficult to catastrophically get wrong.

Adobe RGB has a wider gamut of colors, meaning there’s more space between each specific shade than sRGB. This is typically used with high quality CMYK printing, and isn’t often used by most people.

If you use Adobe RGB and deliver for the web and other consumer devices, you’ll need to convert your Adobe RGB files back to sRGB, so it’s a bit of a hassle unless you really know what you’re doing.

Professional creation displays will also have Rec 709 and DCI-P3. Rec 2020 is on the horizon, but not terribly common yet. These are color spaces used in broadcast television and cinema, and aren’t necessarily used unless you’re working in these industries.

Color calibration

Color spaces may define the set of colors, but they don’t guarantee that, for example, red equals red. For that, you need to calibrate the monitor in some way.

The most common measurement of calibration accuracy would be the Delta E value. This is found on color calibration results, and is an indicator of how accurate the monitor is within those color spaces. The ideal measurement would be a Delta E of 2 or less.

Some monitors do ship with “factory calibration”, meaning the manufacturer performed a calibration process on the monitor to ensure that the specific panel on your monitor on your desk is calibrated to show the correct colors.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jim-makos/34778049966
X-Rite i1Display Pro color calibration tool. Credit: Jim Makos, Flickr

Most monitors do not get this treatment, however, as it does add cost to the monitor. You would want to use a colorimeter (or calibration device) to calibrate the monitor for accuracy, such as the popular X-Rite i1Display Pro or the Datacolor SpyderX Elite. Even some factory calibrations aren’t the best, and will need further calibration.

Between getting a high color space coverage and either excellent factory calibration or doing it yourself with a colorimeter, you can easily get most above-average monitors to be highly accurate.

Inputs and monitor I/O

Inputs are often overlooked on computer monitors, and in general aren’t terribly exciting. There are a few things to keep in mind, however.

USB ports

Quickly, let’s mention some non-video inputs. Many monitors have a built in USB hub. You can connect the monitor with a USB cable to your computer, and then have extra ports on the monitor. This removes the need to have a separate hub on your desk, or reach back behind your computer.

Most of the time these are USB 2.0 ports, however many now have USB 3.0 or even USB 3.1 gen 2 USB-C ports. Thunderbolt 3-capable USB-C ports are found on some monitors more and more, which is a boon to ultrabook, Macbook, and other users who rely on USB type C ports to chain together their peripherals and even charge their laptops.

Not all of these USB ports (not counting Thunderbolt) are powered ports, and may not be able to provide juice to certain USB devices, so keep that in mind if you plug a device in and it isn’t working as expected.

Audio and speakers

Many monitors also have built in speakers. Almost always, these are not great speakers, but it means that they can receive audio via HDMI ports, or an audio cable. Some even have a headphone out port. In general, however, monitor audio features are almost always not worth worrying about.

Video inputs

Speaking of HDMI ports, the main ports to be concerned with are these video connections. Most monitors now have multiple HDMI or DisplayPort connections, being the most common ports on computer monitors at the time. USB-C ports are finding their way onto monitors more and more as well, which is again useful to users with laptops wanting a second (or third) monitor for their laptop.

But not all HDMI or DisplayPort ports are equal. As the standards evolve and improve, more features, resolution, and bandwidth are available.

You may need specific port versions based on what you’re wanting to do. Most people won’t need to really memorize these feature sets, but it’s good information to have on hand if you’re trying to push a ton of pixels at high frame rates.

  • HDMI 1.4
    • Introduced May 2009
    • Most common version in consumer devices
    • Up to 4K at 30hz resolution support
    • Adds audio return between devices such as a TV and home theater receiver, eliminating the need for a separate cable
  • HDMI 2.0
    • Introduced September 2013
    • Expands 4K resolution up to 60hz
    • Support for 21:9 aspect ratio (ultrawide displays)
    • Supports up to 32 audio channels, allowing for Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and other multichannel audio formats
    • Updates HDCP copy-protection to HDCP 2.2
  • HDMI 2.0a
    • Introduced April 2015
    • Adds support for HDR10 and Dolby Vision HDR standards
  • HDMI 2.0b
    • Introduced March 2016
    • Adds Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG) to HDR capabilities for 4K Ultra HD broadcasting
  • HDMI 2.1
    • Introduced early 2017, implemented November 2017
    • Only started shipping in products in 2018 in limited scale
    • Supports up to 10K at 120hz (yes, you read that right, 10K!!)
    • Wide color gamut (BT2020) support for 10, 12, and 16 bit color depths
    • Supports variable refresh rate (G-SYNC/FreeSync)
    • Can support any future HDR standards on top of currently supported formants

DisplayPort is similar to HDMI, in that it’s a more modern port. It also has little teeth that click into the port and has a release button to prevent it from being accidentally yanked out.

DisplayPort version 1.1 came out mid-2006, with 1.2 at the end of 2009. DisplayPort 1.3 was late 2014 and added 4K/8K support and also supports HDMI 2.0 features.

In March 2016 we saw DisplayPort 1.4, and is now the current standard. It added HDR10 support, new stream compression, and support for Rec 2020 color format. It can handle up to 8K/60hz, or 4K/120hz.

While a new DisplayPort version was scheduled for 2017, we didn’t see one. The upcoming version, whenever we see it, should offer uncompressed 4:4:4 video depth and up to 200Hz 4K support.

I know that these do get a bit crazy and most users won’t ever need to know this. If you buy a high end monitor, however, you’ll want to know this information at least at a broad overview level.

Thankfully, if you’re buying a 4K display, the ports will obviously be the right ones. If it’s a high bit depth monitor, the ports will be capable of carrying the bandwidth. You just need to verify that your GPU ports can match (or exceed) the monitor ports.

Monitor articulation

Another quite unsexy feature is monitor articulation, or the range of physical positioning available. Many inexpensive monitors will allow you to tilt the monitor up or down slightly, and some not even at all. But thankfully more monitors come with better options.

In addition to tilting the monitor up or down, a lot of monitor stands allow for adjusting the height of the monitor itself, allowing you to position the display in the appropriate ergonomically friendly manner for your desk setup. This is a huge benefit for almost all users.

Many monitors also allow horizontal rotation up to 90 degrees. This allows you to rotate the monitor into a portrait orientation, displaying the monitor in a tall column. Portrait mode is extremely useful for writers, coders and developers, and other users who need to read long web pages or documents.

You’ll also want a stand that is sturdy and doesn’t shake or wobble easily especially if you’re using a lighter weight desk. Larger (and therefore heavier) monitors will benefit from a good heavy duty stand and solid articulation to create a stable work environment.

VESA mounting

Dual monitor setup on VESA mount arms in a portrait and landscape configuration
Dual monitor setup on VESA mount arms in a portrait and landscape configuration

What if the stand that came with your monitor doesn’t put it where you need it? What if it doesn’t allow for portrait orientation rotation? Or maybe you want a cool “floating” monitor setup. How can you replace the included stand on your monitor? If your monitor has VESA mounts, you have great options!

VESA is a standards organization that helps ensure that companies stick to agreed-upon standards, and in addition to things like standardizing HDMI and DisplayPort (as well as the HDR standards previously mentioned), they also helped create a uniform mounting solution, referred to as a VESA mount.

VESA mounts are essentially four screw holes on the back of the monitor (or under the removable included stand, if it’s removable) that will allow you to put your monitor on a third party stand or monitor support arm.

There are two common mounting sizes for PC monitors, being 75mm by 75mm and 100mm by 100mm. There are other larger sizes (and some smaller), but those are usually reserved for flat panel TVs and other much larger displays.

Most monitors have at least the 100×100 mounts, and sometimes have the 75×75 as well. The majority of third party stands and monitor mounting arms have mounting plates that either have both sizes, or one plate for each size.

The common use of these mounts are for doing away with the included stand and putting the monitor on a mounting arm to help reduce desk clutter and provide more flexibility in positioning.

You can really elevate your desk setup to new heights by getting a good monitor mounting arm. There are even two, three, or four monitor mounting solutions, so no matter how you want your desk setup arranged there are many options. Just make sure your new monitor has support for VESA mounting.

Computer monitor use cases – Monitors for specific tasks

Phew. We’ve covered a ton of features and specs about computer monitors, and touched on certain features for certain use cases.

But now we finally can put all that new knowledge to good use and discuss what “kinds” of monitors there are, and what makes a good monitor for your specific needs based on for what you would want to use it.

General use/professional use computer monitors

Multi-monitor setup for coding and development
Multi-monitor setup for coding and development

General use (or basic home/office/professional use) monitors are basically what I referenced in the first paragraphs of this post. These are what litter your office’s cubicles and sit on the family computer desk.

For web browsing, productivity, casual gaming, and non-color-sensitive needs, monitor choice is primarily driven by size and cost, not necessarily in that order. The driving decision here is usually “How big of a monitor can I buy for the least amount of money?”

These don’t need to be super accurate, they just need to look reasonably acceptable and don’t need any crazy features. This is the predominant sort of monitor on the market, as well as what is usually purchased by most users.

For general office work or web browsing (or even very casual gaming), you won’t need to worry about monitor refresh rate, response time, input lag, or HDR. While most of these features are inconsequential for basic monitors, here’s what you’ll most likely be looking for at a minimum:

  • Resolution: 1080p at a minimum of course, anything higher would be if you know you need extra workspace.
  • Size: probably 23″ or 24″ at the minimum, but you may want something larger, especially if you’re insistent on a 4K display–start at 27″ if you’re going 4K.
  • Panel type: Most inexpensive monitors are TN or VA. If you know you want to spend the money on a high quality monitor, an IPS panel definitely can’t hurt, but isn’t critical for casual use.
  • Color accuracy: If you aren’t doing color-critical work, anything that’s not terrible out of the box will work. Preferably with a Delta E of 5 to 7 or lower.
  • Aspect ratio: 16:9 is definitely the majority of monitors, but if you want more space, go with an ultrawide (21:9 etc), especially if you are contemplating a dual monitor setup–a single ultrawide can take the place of two monitors

Video editing/photo editing/color grading computer monitors

Multi-monitor setup for video editing
Multi-monitor setup for video editing

For content creators, color and accuracy is key. What you create on your system needs to translate properly to whatever your destination medium or target is. If you’re editing colors, these need to be correct.

You don’t want to adjust skin tones on a person on your monitor only to find out that everywhere else they have a pink or orange cast to the subject in the photo or video. If your monitor is too dim, it may look properly exposed on your display but way too bright everywhere else.

A good video/photo editing monitor will have an accurate color profile, wide coverage of the various color gamuts, and enough brightness to cover a decently representative dynamic range of darks and lights.

  • Size: 24″ would be the common minimum, 27″ or larger would be preferable
  • Resolution: Again, 1080p minimum, but depending on what you work on, 1440p or 4K could be useful. 4K video editing obviously benefits from a 4K monitor to verify the final product, and photo editing can make use of extra pixels to see fine details better.
  • Aspect ratio: Video editing on an ultrawide monitor is amazing thanks to more space for your timeline, tools, and playback screens. You don’t need one, but once you try you might not want to go back to a 16:9 display.
  • Panel type: IPS all the way. You’ll love the more accurate panel and better brightness and contrast.
  • Brightness/contrast: The brighter the better, at least 300-350 nits. The more contrast the better.
  • HDR: Don’t really need this unless you’re creating HDR content. Needless to say, crucial if you are, however.
  • Viewing angles: The wider the better. You won’t want to have your colors shift just because you tilt in your chair or sit slightly off-axis.
  • Color accuracy: You’ll want a monitor that (preferably) ships from the factory calibrated to Delta E of 2 or less. Even if it doesn’t ship this low, many monitors can be calibrated with a colorimeter down to this range. You’ll also want something that covers at least 97% of sRGB. If you work in graphic design you’ll want the same coverage in Adobe RGB.

Response time and input lag don’t necessarily matter for editing and design. They do help improve the “feel” of the monitor, so to speak, but they won’t typically impact your work. Variable refresh rate won’t have any impact with editing unless you’re also doing heavy gaming.

Gaming computer monitors

You might think that a gaming monitor doesn’t need to be fancy, but in this day and age, gaming is a huge industry and comes with some fairly hefty technical demands for that competitive advantage in gaming.

Competitive gaming–often referred to as esports–is very frequently built around fast-paced games requiring lightning reflexes. These sort of “twitch-reflex games” are enhanced by monitors that can refresh and redraw the image more quickly, allowing you to see, react, and respond to in-game actions as fast as possible.

While color accuracy is helpful, it’s not necessarily critical to gaming, so this is often the first feature to cut out when on a budget. Higher than average brightness is definitely useful so you can avoid people hiding in the shadows waiting to frag unsuspecting users with their display settings too dark.

  • Size: As usual, the bigger the better, within reason. For a regular 16:9 widescreen, a 27″ is a good sweet spot. If you’re looking at an ultrawide, the 34″ range is a reasonable size.
  • Resolution: 1080p is perfectly acceptable for gaming, especially if frame rates are crucial for you. You’ll get much higher frame rates at 1080p than 1440p, and especially 4K. But if you have the CPU and GPU horsepower to push it, a 1440p monitor is the new baseline for high end gaming monitors.
  • Aspect ratio: While most gaming monitors are still 16:9, ultrawides are becoming more and more popular for gaming due to the wider field of view. Seeing more of the battlefield is a strong advantage afforded by an ultrawide monitor, but pushing more pixels will reduce frame rate. Also, not all games support ultrawide resolutions, so do the research on your game(s) of choice.
  • Panel type: TN panels are definitely the fastest with quick refresh rates and response times. IPS panels are catching up very quickly and look much better. VA panels are bringing up the rear on the speed front. If you can pull the cash for a fast IPS panel, do it. If not, or you need blistering speeds, stick with a high quality TN panel.
  • Refresh rate: High refresh rate monitors make games look silky smooth if you’re pushing the matching frame rates. Look for at least a 120Hz panel, preferably a 144Hz if possible. You can find as 240Hz panels, but they’re fairly expensive, and mostly on TN panels with lower visual quality.
  • Variable refresh rate: VRR panels aren’t mandatory, but they can help provide smoother gaming performance, especially where frame rates fluctuate wildly. This is definitely an evolving area in gaming monitors, and the prices, availability, and quality will keep getting better. Since Nvidia can now work on FreeSync panels, this option has been blown wide open with new viable choices.
  • Response time: For competitive gaming or fast-paced games, you’ll want something around 1-2ms gray to gray (g2g) response times. Casual gaming can be okay up to 5ms, but anything more than that will impact gameplay.
  • Input lag: For fast games and competitive play, you’ll want 7ms or less input lag. More casual play can get away with up to 14ms, and more than that will impact gameplay.
  • Brightness/contrast: You’ll want a monitor that can get bright enough to accurately reproduce shadow details without losing contrast. The brighter the better, with a target of 300-350 nits.
  • HDR: Gaming in HDR isn’t quite evolved yet, as not all games support it. Those that do will take a performance hit, and may not look better enough to warrant that hit. For serious gaming, it’s not necessary at this point, but will most likely change in the near future.
  • Color accuracy: Not mission critical, you’ll just want something with reasonably decent colors/calibration out of the box. Delta E of 5 or less should get the job done without jumping up the cost too much.

Final thoughts

Clean single widescreen monitor setup
Clean single widescreen monitor setup

I know that it can sometimes feel overwhelming when choosing the right computer monitor for your needs, but it doesn’t have to be. Hopefully at this point we’ve given you all the help you may need to make the right choice.

Whether it’s gaming, video editing, or anything in between, there’s a multitude of great computer monitors available for you. It’s just a matter of knowing what you need and finding the best feature set for your specific needs.

Do you have any questions regarding anything we’ve covered? Anything we’ve missed? Are there any use cases for a monitor that you feel we haven’t necessarily covered? Please feel free to leave a comment below and we’ll do our best to answer your questions!

How to start a vlog: The ultimate guide

How to start a vlog: The Ultimate Guide

YouTube is now bigger than ever. The platform reaches more 18-34 and 18-49 year-olds than any cable network in the U.S., and one of the more popular genres of videos is, of course, vlogging.  As more and more people watch more and more channels and creators, it’s natural to think “Hey, this looks really fun! I want to make a vlog channel!” And while vlogging is, on the surface, pretty straightforward, there are definitely some things that some people don’t know. In this article, we’ll walk you through how to start a vlog. Front to back, soup to nuts, to the window, to the wall. Overall, it’s as easy or complex as you make it, and we’ll break it all down for you.

What is a vlog?

I know that if you’re reading this article, you probably already know what a vlog is, but we’ll cover it anyway. A vlog, simply put, is a combination of video blog. A blog is a combination of web log. A web log is defined as “a website on which one person or group puts new information regularly, often every day”. So through the shortening of a shortening term, basically a vlog is a video series that is updated frequently.

There are no real rules as to what a vlog needs to be about, so you can really cover anything you want. There are tech vloggers, photo/video vloggers, beauty vloggers, lifestyle vloggers, comedy vloggers, you name it. The list is basically endless, but these cover some of the more popular vlog genres out there.

The important part of a vlog, however, is to tell a story. Your story. Whether that is the step by step motions through your day or picking out a three-act narrative (Act 1: Setup – Act 2: Conflict – Act 3: Resolution) like Casey Neistat ascribes to, the key is to provide something useful and engaging to your viewers. If you can bring someone along and make them feel connected to you and your story, you’re on the right path.

Vlogging style

The short version is that a vlog is a series of videos that document an ongoing story of sorts. A person’s life, a long project, a particular topic. What you decide to build your vlog around is entirely your choice, but it’s basically a way to bring your viewers along for whatever ride you’re embarking on.

Vlogging is typically more rough, not so polished, and is a bit more intimate than, say, a scripted or more formal video. You’re talking with your audience, not at them. There’s less emphasis on video/audio quality than a typical well-produced video segment, but that’s primarily due to the run-and-gun nature of a lot of vloggers. Some people use a lot of cinematic b-roll to break up their a-roll dialog, whereas others will stick more to the a-roll and more topical b-roll.

But this is definitely changing, with people like Peter McKinnon and Casey Neistat going hard on that sweet, sweet cinematic b-roll as a regular part of their vlogs. This means that more and more vloggers, in general, are seeing this and feeling like this is where their own content needs to go. It’s a great exercise in filmmaking, but it’s not necessarily critical for a good vlog.

Anyone who sticks with vlogging for a good period of time will end up developing their own style and feel after a while. When starting out it may be useful to try and imitate some things you like from the vloggers you look up to, but only as a learning tool, or training wheels while you find your own voice. Don’t stress about it, just make your content.

Vlog vs blog

This one’s pretty simple. If a vlog is a “video blog”, and a blog is, well, a blog, the difference is that one is video and one isn’t. In my opinion, a vlog can be classified more as entertainment, whereas a blog is more informational these days. This is definitely not any sort of hard and fast rule, but it’s been my observation over the years. Yes, there can be informational videos out there (and there are a LOT), but vlogs tend to aim for bringing the viewer along for the ride, not necessarily teaching them how to do something in detail.

The other aspect of this question of “vlog vs blog” is: Which one should I do? And the answer is: Why not both?

Think about it this way. If you blog, you can definitely vlog about your blogs. Even if it’s just making recap videos, it’s possible. This may be tricky depending on what you blog about, but if it can tie in or be a companion piece, it’s not a bad idea.

The vlog will funnel traffic to the blog, and vice versa. If you vlog you might as well make a blog post about the vlog. You can elaborate on things that were missed, make a tangential blog post relating to a brief mention or after-vlog thought. Or you could just make a transcription of the video into a blog post.

You don’t need to blog if you vlog or vlog if you blog, but they definitely don’t hurt each other and will likely complement the other.

Why should I vlog?

Easy. Because you have something to share with the world. Or because you want to get your personal message out there. Or because you want to hold yourself accountable to something. Or because you’re bored and have a ton of free time.

Take your pick. These (and more) are all valid answers. But really, when it comes down to it, you should vlog if you want to vlog. If you find yourself thinking “Hey, these experiences are really cool, maybe someone else will feel the same way!”, there’s your answer.

This is especially true for content creators who already put out regular non-vlog content. Vlogging is a great way to connect with your audience, bring them along through your struggles and success, and form a stronger connection with your viewers. Whether it’s travel vlogs for gigs, behind the scenes (or BTS) vlogs to pull back the curtain on your main content, or just random occurrences that you think your fans will enjoy, it’s more content at (hopefully) lower effort/time levels than your main content.

For those who don’t necessarily have an established audience, don’t worry about it. A vlog is a great way to document your growth as a content creator. It will also give you much-needed practice in front of and behind the camera, as well as in post-production. Who knows, maybe one of your vlogs will gain serious traction for one reason or another, and that can help push your main content.

Committing to a vlog is also useful because of the first word in this sentence: Committing. If you have a vlog that you’re dedicated to maintaining, it will help hold you accountable. It will guarantee that you have something to create.

And creating is key. Not enough other stuff going on to make a vlog interesting? Find something to fulfill that need! Go on an adventure. Make a new friend. Try that new restaurant across town that your friend said you absolutely needed to try. Start work on a piece of content you’ve been meaning to start for months but just haven’t yet.

All of this will help your creative endeavors on both the vlog and main content side of things (if that’s how you roll, of course). But overall, even if you just want to vlog and nothing else, it will give you something to work toward. Making things is amazing.

Why shouldn’t I vlog?

I want to say that there are literally no good reasons not to vlog, but that’s a pretty foolish stance to take, in reality. Even if you think it would be a lot of fun, some things will just make it not practical.

How many other projects do you have going on? If you’re swamped with work, family, more work, and on and on, would you have time to vlog? Maybe filming the vlog, yes. But will you really have time to sit down and edit? While, again, I want to say that this is most likely not the case and you can power through it, I know that’s not always realistic.

Are you thinking that you should vlog, but just really don’t like the idea of it? This is a definite answer then. If you don’t like it, don’t do it. There’s nothing wrong with knowing that it could help your main gig, and just hate the concept of having to vlog despite that knowledge. Even if you forced yourself to do it, your content will definitely come off as not genuine to your viewers. This would be a net loss for your time and productivity, so might as well skip it.

Really though, there aren’t many reasons to not vlog other than literally having zero time or just not liking the idea. So other than that, don’t let anything stop you. Especially gear, but more on that later.

What can I vlog about?

How to start a vlog - iPhone vloggerThere aren’t really a fully defined group of vlog topics or methods, but that’s sort of the beauty of a vlog. They aren’t typically bound by a bunch of rules or limitations. But there’s definitely some that are more common than others that you may or may not be familiar with.

And yes, some people will call nearly any video on YouTube with a person just talking in it a vlog, but for the sake of this article, we’re going to be somewhat specific. This (definitely not comprehensive) list won’t include straight-up educational/tutorial content, your typical “scripted” content, gamer channels, and some other niches that are sometimes referred to as vlogs.

Lifestyle vlog

Lifestyle vlog (and subsequently a lifestyle blog) is a fairly catch-all genre of vlogging. Basically, a lifestyle vlog is an amalgamation of multiple specific niches that may make up a person’s core interests. There could be a mix of fashion, beauty, life hacks, getting organized, photography, you name it.

A lifestyle vlog is really just one person documenting his or her day/week with whatever ideas or projects or errands happen to come across their schedule for that day. There’s no specific format or niche to reign in the content, which is both a good and bad thing.

You can vlog about pretty much anything you want, but that also means that you can easily create a fairly random series of videos which may eventually alienate your viewers who subscribed for what you had initially provided. But usually, as long as you’re staying true to who you are, this doesn’t present too much of a problem.

Overall, the ability to weave your vlog content through many different niches and genres makes this a very popular vlog style, and will probably be the easiest way to ensure you have as much potential content available as possible.

Fashion vlog

The fashion vlog is pretty straightforward, as it’s about fashion. Whether it’s about what you’ve purchased personally or things you’ve seen elsewhere, it’s still about fashion. Unless a vlogger is approaching this niche as a career (or advanced hobby), most of the time this is rolled into lifestyle vlogs.

Beauty vlog

Beauty vlogs are, again, often one more facet of a lifestyle vlog, but as a standalone video niche, they’re also pretty popular. You’ll usually find a combination of reviews of various beauty products as well as tutorials on how to apply certain techniques. Many vloggers have started by filming beauty tutorials and have moved up from there into general vlogging or other more varied content.

Travel vlog

If you are fortunate enough to travel frequently to some fun locales, you may find yourself vlogging during your trips. Travel vlogs are a great way to share your experiences with others, communicating the exciting parts of your trips better than just photos. Travel vlogs definitely do require a good amount of travel, of course, but if it’s part of your job to go places anyway, might as well take advantage of the trip!

Unfortunately, constant vacationing or travel isn’t in the cards for the majority of us, so this sort of vlog typically is a “special vlog” that occurs within one’s usual vlog series.

Behind the scenes (BTS) vlog

Behind the scenes vlogs aren’t usually a vlog niche on its own, but occasionally can be. If a vlogger’s main channel is more produced content, often they will create a second channel and post vlog content here, mostly behind the scenes vlogs that accompany the main channel content. Philip DeFranco is a great example of this, where they use the Philly D channel as a BTS platform (although this is now augmented with a lot of their Rogue Rocket test content for new in-development shows).

This is a great way of pulling back the curtain for your viewers and letting them see how you create your content, showing more of the inner workings and goings-on that come about to make the content that viewers have come to enjoy. BTS vlogs are a great way to connect more with your viewers and document your process at the same time.

Photography/videography/cinematography vlog

How to start a vlog - photographer vloggingIf you are a photographer (or videographer/cinematographer), vlogging about the process of your photography is almost a behind the scenes vlog itself. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be a “second channel” thing, in reality. There are many photographers out there who vlog regularly about their photography, creative process, gear, techniques, and more. Think of this as more of a “photographer’s lifestyle vlog.”

Review and unboxing vlog

Here’s another one that can be as broad or specific as you want it to be. Buy something you like? Unbox and review it! Order something out of curiosity? Bring your viewers on the journey!

YouTube is now one of the first places people look for reviews on products, so this is a pretty popular vlog niche regardless of what you’re actually reviewing. Some people will review anything and everything, others will stick to a certain category–toys, makeup, tech, food, etc.

This is also another category that can be rolled up into another more targeted vlog style, such as lifestyle, photo, tech, or others. I don’t necessarily feel that a review channel is the same as a vlog, but vlogging can definitely include a good number of review videos. If that makes sense.

News (tech/pop culture/gossip) vlog

Vlogs can sometimes cross defining lines of genre, and this is a great example of that. Vlogging about news stories in a variety of topics and categories has proven popular, and there seems to be a new resurgence in topical news shows coming out on YouTube these days.

News/gossip vlogs can be as professional and polished as the general news channel The Philip DeFranco Show or the tech news show Front Page Tech (FTP? Professional? Hah! Nah, jk there, Jern!). They can also be as raw as sitting in front of your webcam and ranting about some dumb stuff that just grinds your gears for five minutes.

While, yes, this does somewhat stretch my definition of “vlogging”, it also technically fits. And if you have opinions about a niche you are passionate about, it could be a great way of getting your ideas out there or informing people about something that they may not have otherwise learned about.

Vlogging equipment

The great part about vlogging is that you don’t necessarily have to focus on gear nearly as much as you would for another type of video series. People do come to expect a certain level of quality from YouTube these days, but will be more forgiving of less than stellar lighting and audio from a vlog.

This is usually because vlogs are very much an on-the-go style of storytelling. You’re out and about running errands, going to gigs, or buzzing around the house completing projects. You can’t always bring around a giant camera, tripod, and lighting, so there’s a trade-off there.

But that’s a good thing, really. The less the gear gets in your way, the more likely you are to just make something fun. And making something fun is what vlogging is about, right?

That said, you still need some gear, so let’s run down what you need, as well as some fun extras.  And since we’re gear nerds here, we’re about to get into it pretty deep so let’s go!

Choosing the best vlogging camera for you

This is easily the first thing most people think of buying when starting a vlog, for obvious reasons. There are a few different types of cameras that can be useful for vlogging, and some features you may want, don’t need, and will absolutely require.

Flip-out screen

The easiest, best vlogging cameras have a flip-out screen. This is preferably a screen that flips out to the side of the camera, and not above or below the camera body. You’ll want this side flip action so that you can still see yourself when you’re either mounted on a tripod (which blocks the flip-down screens) or have a mic or light mounted on top (blocking the flip up screens).

You will be setting up your framing and exposure using this screen, so you’ll definitely need to see it. You can get away with a top or bottom flip screen, but it will limit some of your flexibility down the road.

Ideally, this screen is also a good touchscreen so you can change your settings without needing to get up and go around to the back of the camera, so keep that in mind as well.

Note: You’ll notice some vloggers using cameras that don’t have a flip-out screen, but instead mount a monitor atop the camera. This is usually done because that camera is so good that adding the extra weight and size of an external monitor is worth the tradeoff for the quality that camera offers. For beginners, I wouldn’t advise going this route, but if you absolutely have to, it’s an option.

Autofocus

Since most vlogs are one-person affairs where you’re running and gunning sometimes, you’ll want a camera with the best autofocus, or AF, you can find. Almost nothing is worse than getting a great take and realizing that the focus was blown the whole time.

Having a consistent, quick, and accurate autofocus system will be crucial to reduce retakes, editing, and generally ensuring quality visual quality.

Typically, Canon’s Dual Pixel Auto Focus (DPAF) is the best available these days. Sony’s new cameras do have great phase detection AF, and the GH5 is an improvement over the GH4, but still is behind the other flagships.

Microphone input/headphone output

There is one constant truth with cameras: Most mics on any camera, regardless of the quality of the camera, are less than stellar. They’ll get the job done for emergencies, a scratch audio track for syncing footage, or safe, consistent environments, but you’re going to need more for your A-roll footage, for sure.

A mic input on your camera is a mandatory requirement, in my book. Whether it’s a hot shoe-mounted shotgun mic, or a lavalier mic clipped onto your shirt, even a $20 Amazon mic will be often better than your camera’s mic. Again, we’ll get into these options later.

Headphone outputs are also useful, but less required for vlogging. They’re helpful when you’re shooting video and you need to monitor the audio levels as you’re shooting. This will pretty much guarantee that you aren’t filming yourself, and more likely an event or something. If you’re filming someone else, acting like a “film crew”, you’ll want it; otherwise, it’s not a deal breaker for single person vlogs.

Hotshoe mount

A hot shoe is the weird metal bracket thingy on top of most cameras. Initially developed as a way of attaching a flash for a photo camera and syncing the triggering and duration of the flash.

These days, especially in the world of DSLR video and whatnot, there are tons of items that will mount on a hot shoe. Most of these don’t have any actual connectivity to the camera, but make use of the mount as a way of just attaching something to a camera for portability (hot shoe mounts that don’t have the metal contacts to electronically interact with another hot shoe device are called cold shoe mounts, just FYI!).

Microphones and lights are the most common devices for video that will slide into a hot shoe, as well as wireless mic receivers, audio preamps, bubble levels, and other random things.

Basically, if you want to mount a shotgun mic or a video light to your camera and not require two hands involved, you’ll want a hot shoe mount on your camera.

Tripod mount

Honestly, almost every camera and camera-related device has a tripod mount on the bottom of it, so not really sure why I’m writing this. But just in case, double check!

Clean HDMI out

Not everyone needs this feature, depending on what you’re specifically using your camera for, but it’s important enough to warrant covering it.

Many cameras have an HDMI or mini HDMI output. Not all of them are what is known as a “clean output”. A clean output is one that doesn’t have all the camera graphics on it, like on the back of your camera screen. No shutter speed, ISO, focus brackets, exposure guide, nothing from the overlay is on the output.

The idea behind having a clean HDMI out is that you can connect it to a capture device for direct recording to a computer or some other recorder. This is especially useful for streaming video because the video needs to go from the camera to the computer, which pushes the stream out to the internet. If your output had all the overlay, the footage is basically useless.

Having this clean output is not just for streamers, however. Some YouTubers like to shoot with their camera connected to their computer via a capture device, and the footage is recorded directly onto their computer, eliminating the task of transferring footage from the SD card as well as just eliminating the risk of a failed SD card losing footage. In all honesty, this practice isn’t terribly common but can be useful

Most vloggers will never use the clean output for their purposes, but if you want to do live streams to YouTube and Facebook, you’ll find it necessary at that point.

Best vlogging cameras

Different vloggers will have different needs and preferences for which camera they want to vlog with. Some want something light and small, others need blazing fast autofocus, cinematic image quality and a ton of features.

Basically, there are a lot of options out there, and it’s just a matter of determining what you need, and what you want to spend. So we’ll go through some of the main groups of options and break it all down.

Smartphones

Fortunately, you probably already have a great camera on your smartphone!

If you have any of the current flagship phones (flagships are the high end, main phones from manufacturers) such as the Samsung Galaxy S8/S9, Apple iPhone, or Google Pixel 2/2XL, you’ve got an excellent camera, both front and back.

You will run into some issues using your phone, however. Most likely, you’ll want to use your rear camera as it’s usually quite better than the front. This presents a problem for seeing what you’re shooting, so you may end up botching some a-roll shots due to poor framing. But with some practice, you can get pretty good with it. Thankfully, the front camera on most flagship smartphones are super solid and work out quite well for your a-roll.

The upside to using your phone is that you already own it, you’re familiar with it, and the barrier to entry is pretty much nonexistent. There are also a wide variety of accessories out there to help you shoot better mobile video, and we’ll cover that shortly.

Best DSLRs for vlogging

It’s pretty easy to say that today’s amateur cinematography scene is mostly due to the advent of DSLRs that suddenly had video capabilities. The Canon 5DmkII started the arms race in affordable high-quality video, and no one saw it coming until Vincent Laforet’s stunning short film Reverie. Since then, the DSLR form factor is still a strong combatant despite mirrorless and smartphones catching up in the quality department much more quickly than any of us would have guessed at the beginning of this new phase in creator empowerment.

If you’re looking for the best image quality, auto-focus, and overall flexibility, a DSLR will be your best bet. If you’re a baller like Casey Neistat and don’t mind carrying around a giant camera on a Gorillapod, why not, right?

Even before getting to full-frame DSLRs, the sensors are much larger and have better auto-focus mechanisms than most other cameras thanks to the larger housings (this is quickly changing with the modern crop of mirrorless cameras, however). Unfortunately, this does lead to much heavier cameras, and the lenses are also larger and heavier than their mirrorless counterparts.

High video quality–along with a ton of features–will usually be the reasons for choosing a DSLR over a mirrorless system, so be prepared to carry around the extra weight if that’s your priority.

Canon 1DX Mark II
Canon EOS-1DX Mark II DSLR Camera (Body Only)

Going hard right off the bat here with Canon’s full-frame, action sports professional behemoth that is the 1DXmkII. Don’t worry, it’s not just you–this camera is a seriously overkill beast for vlogging. This is a serious professional’s professional DSLR for photo and video. And it’s definitely not a “best vlogging camera”.

The 1DXmkII, most noticeably, doesn’t have a fully-articulated flip out screen. Not even a flip-up screen. Or that horrid Sony flip-but-stay-in-place top-down waist-level viewfinder impersonation thing. There’s just the traditional old-school fixed display on the back. Makes vlogging pretty difficult and either you’re shooting blind or you’re adding an external monitor atop an already nearly 3.5lbs (more with a lens) body.

But if you’re brave enough (and baller enough) to work around that glaring issue (and extreme price), what you get is some of the best image quality available in the space. 4k up to 60 fps, 1080p up to 120 fps, and 61 focus points of glorious Dual DIGIC 6+ powered dual-pixel autofocus, including great face tracking.

Yes, this camera is insanely expensive for vlogging. But if you’ve got the means (and the need, let’s be serious) and the arm strength, you can join the Overkill Brigade with the likes of Casey Neistat, Peter McKinnon, and a ton of other “high end” vloggers. Just know what you’re getting yourself into beforehand.

Buy the Canon EOS-1DX Mark II DSLR Camera (Body Only) here
Canon 6D Mark II
Canon EOS 6D Mark II (Body Only) image attachment (large)

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s check out the 6DmkII, the newer–and much smaller and more affordable–baby brother to the 1DXmkII. This camera has the much needed fully articulated screen that the 1D line lacks and automatically jumps this camera into a realistic option for many more people because of it.

Just like the 1DXmkII, the 6DmkII has amazing autofocus thanks to the DIGIC 7 processor, getting that dual pixel autofocus, great color science, and has wifi built in (the 1DXmkII requires an add-on), and is about half the weight as its big brother as well.

The one downside to this camera is the lack of 4k and high frame rates. The 6DmkII caps out at 1080p at 60fps; the only 4K option is an internal 4K timelapse mode. There is also no option for 120fps, which may be a dealbreaker for some vloggers and filmmakers. That said, there’s a lot you can do with 60fps, and if you need more slowness, there’s always Twixtor or some other form of optical flow processing like in Davinci Resolve clip properties.

You’ll find that the 6D Mark II is one of the best vlogging cameras that YouTubers use. If you’re already in the Canon ecosystem and want a high-end video camera that doesn’t cost the equivalent of an older used car, the 6D Mark II is an excellent choice for a premium, modern DSLR vlogging camera with a flip screen.

Buy the Canon EOS 6D Mark II here
Canon 80D
Canon EOS 80D (Body Only)

The next model down from the previous two is the Canon 80D. This is the latest entry in their high-end prosumer line of cameras, although this series has changed considerably over the decades. This is usually the upper ceiling of where the average person will end up, and they present a great value for the money.

The 80D is a crop sensor camera, using the smaller APS-C sensor size as opposed to the “full frame” sensor used on the 1D, 5D, and 6D lines. For photography, this larger sensor makes a huge difference. However with video, thanks to the physics of it all, it actually works out quite well to work with a crop sensor.

The camera is powered by the DIGIC 6 processor and has the same great dual-pixel autofocus as the prior two cameras. It will also accept EF-S lenses due to the 1.6x crop factor on the sensor, which the previous cameras won’t do. This means you can opt for some more affordable lenses where you need to go for the big boys frequently on the full frame cameras.

But you still get 1080p footage at 60fps, the fully articulated screen, built-in wifi, and a slightly lighter body than the 6DmkII thanks to the composite body construction instead of the heavier but more durable magnesium alloy body of the 1D and 6D lines.

Overall, other than feeling a bit cheaper, smaller, and less “pro” in general, the camera is still excellent and makes a great vlogging camera. Very similar image quality and features all for almost half the price of the 6DmkII, you sure can’t beat that.

Buy the Canon EOS 80D (Body Only) here
Canon SL2
Canon EOS Rebel SL2

But what if you need something smaller, cheaper, and still works with your existing collection of Canon lenses you have for a photography-focused, for example? Well, then the Canon SL2 is for you. It’s basically the 80D but shaved down physically in pretty much every way.

In fact, the SL2 looks like mirrorless camera bodies because of how tiny it is. The prism hump is still atop the body, so it’s definitely a DSLR, but how they got all those components crammed in there is a miracle in my book.

The SL2’s 22.3 x 14.9mm sensor size is basically the same as the 80D’s 22.5 x 15mm, the difference being literally negligible. The SL2 has the newer DIGIC 7 processor, same resolution, better ISO range, wifi, and video modes (you’re still capped at 1080p 60fps at 60Mbps).

The differences are where you really start seeing the lower price range show its weaknesses. Yes, basically the same sensor, but a mere 9 AF points as compared to the 45 in the 80D and 6DmkII. The viewfinder is also only 95% coverage, but for vlogging, this doesn’t matter, just photography.

The battery is also a major weakness (relatively speaking), using the smaller LP-E17 batteries instead of the LP-E6N packs that can offer up to twice the battery life even in the larger cameras.

But let us not forget: Where the 80D halved the cost of the 6DmkII, the SL2 more than halves the cost of the 80D. At a much smaller and easily carried form factor, no less.

If budget and/or space are an issue, you can pick up an SL2 for super cheap and be able to get rather great video footage at a fraction of the cost of the flagship cameras. It’s not the best option for everyone, but it’s the best option for someone!

Buy the Canon EOS Rebel SL2 here

Best mirrorless, Micro Four Thirds, and small form factor cameras for vlogging

In the mid- to late-2000s, manufacturers were releasing smaller cameras that eliminated the mirror and prism mechanism that made traditional DSLRs as big as they are. These mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras (or, MILCs) were able to shrink down to a size that was unheard of while maintaining the majority of quality that DSLRs are capable of.

While the Epson RD-1 was the first mirrorless in 2004 followed by the Leica M in the same year, the mirrorless train really left the station first in 2008 when Panasonic and Olympus launched the Micro Four Thirds system.

Soon, all the major manufacturers had started developing and releasing their own mirrorless mounts and sensors. While these standards weren’t natively compatible, they all featured shorter lens flange distances and sensors about 40-50% smaller than your traditional DSLR. Because of these features, it’s easy to adapt most other lens mounts to a mirrorless body giving you a ridiculously huge selection of technically usable lenses.

Thanks to the small size and flexibility of these cameras, they make excellent vlogging cameras while delivering outstanding quality to rival most DSLRs. Mirrorless cameras are able to shoot in live view without the drawbacks of working around a prism and mirror configuration and have much better electronic viewfinders (EVFs) than they ever have before.

Of course, because of their smaller physical size and shorter flange distances, the sensors are often much smaller than even an APS-C sensor found in a crop sensor body DSLR. Usually, logic dictates that the smaller the sensor, the smaller the pixels, and the lower the quality (hence why everyone is all up on the “full frame” DSLR hype train–totally awesome for photos, but not a requirement in video). Mirrorless sensors can often be more prone to rolling shutter effect as well, although some are much better than others at mitigating this problem.

Current smaller sensors are insanely good though, and can very much rival the larger sensors in quality. APS-C and Super 35 sensor sizes will get stunning video without needing the extra cost of a traditional full-frame sensor (yes, I know technically Super 35 is a “full frame” sensor, but for the sake of argument, we’ll just stick with “full frame=DSLR 35mm equivalent” as our point of reference).

Sony Alpha a7 III
Sony a7 III

The Sony a7 III is the hottest camera of 2018, hands down. It’s been perpetually sold out for quite a while now and for good reason. It’s the current king of mirrorless cameras, as it pairs 4k footage with great phase detection autofocus thanks to its massive 693 focus points, as well as a host of other great features.

The 4k is capped at 30fps but does shoot 1080p at 120fps. But it does come with S-Log2 and S-Log3 for some great flat shooting profiles. Combined with in-body sensor-shift image stabilization, this makes for one very powerful video camera.

Side note for those who may be interested: The a7 III offers another picture profile called Hybrid Log Gamma, or HLG. When used in place of SLog or some other picture profile, this setting will actually allow you to capture HDR-ready footage, making use of a wider dynamic range and will be displayed on HDR devices properly. Definitely could have some fun with this, but may take a while to get used to–not to mention not even close to everyone has an HDR monitor or phone to watch on.

You’ll find all the normal new features in the a7 III, such as wireless, clean HDMI out, and even USB 3.1 Gen 1 instead of older USB 2.0. But you won’t be getting a fully articulated screen, as this camera still has the typical Sony tilt-up screen.

If you’re looking for a lighter version of the 6DmkII, the Sony a7 III will be the one to buy.

Buy the Sony a7 III here
Canon M50
Canon EOS M50 Mirrorless Camera Kit w/EF-M15-45mm

We’ve previously included the Canon M50 as one of the best cameras available for streaming to Facebook Live or YouTube Live, but the real reason this camera is so popular is that it’s nearly a perfect vlogging camera.  It’s tiny, super affordable, and has Canon’s killer autofocus–most of the time. Arguably, this is one of the best vlogging cameras with a flip screen.

Yes, this was Canon’s first affordable camera in these ranges that support 4K, however, to do so, you lose the dual-pixel autofocus that makes recent Canon cameras so great for vlogging (and everything else).  You also won’t get anything higher than 24fps in 4K, so no silky b-roll in UHD with this lil guy.

But, you do get 1080p at up to 60fps, and if you really need 120fps it’s available at 720p.  But even after all of those caveats, this is quickly becoming a go-to vlogging camera because of great color science (as expected from Canon), a proper flip-out screen, 1080p 60fps (better than nothing), and a great small form factor–and the matching price tag.

Buy the Canon M50 here
Panasonic GH5 / Panasonic GH5S

Panasonic LUMIX GH5Panasonic LUMIX GH5s

For the sake of brevity, we’ll be discussing these two cameras together. The GH5 and GH5S are very identical cameras in some ways, but there are definitely reasons for picking up the newer GH5S depending on your needs.

Let’s talk 4K first. Both cameras shoot standard 3840 x 2160 4K at 60fps, but the GH5S can shoot at the cinematic standard DCI resolution of 4096 x 2160 at 60fps whereas the GH5 caps out at 24p. This sort of only matters if you plan on shooting content that belongs on a movie theater screen, long story short.

Sadly, there is no native 1080p 120fps here, with both cameras handling up to 60fps in this resolution. But there is a major benefit to this camera in something other than pixel resolution. Both of these cameras can record and/or output 4:2:2 10-bit color in supported resolutions/framerates.

What this means is better color depth and sensitivity. Where some cameras’ footage may break down when you start correcting or grading aggressively, 4:2:2 has more data to work with than 4:2:0 8-bit color and will allow for more cinematic grades and more creative pushing of your footage.

Both cameras do offer VLog flat profiles, however, it’s only shipping as a default profile on the GH5S–you’ll need to upload the profile to the GH5 yourself. But it’s there, and it works great, especially when paired with shooting in 422.

Granted, if you don’t do much color grading at higher technical levels, this doesn’t matter as much. But it will definitely help your final output even if you don’t take full advantage of the grading leeway. Whether it’s worth losing 120fps or killer autofocus like on the a7 III and especially Canon cameras, that’s up to you.

Back on the high frame rate topic, however, you still have the ability to shoot higher frame rates using Variable Frame Rate options, netting up to 180fps on the GH5 and 240 on the GH5S (going over 200 will result in some crop and more loss of quality, as a heads-up), both in 1080p. Both can go up to 60fps in 4K. VFR will usually result in a hit in bitrate quality of your video, and also will not record audio, so it’s not usually a good default option but it’s there when you need it.

On the subject of autofocus, the GH5/GH5S autofocus is, well, decent. Definitely better than the GH4, but nowhere near the Canon system. But at least you do get a fully articulated screen this time around, another feature added on after the lack of it on the GH4.

The GH5S has massively improved low light performance and is one of the key features that make this camera a worthy alternative to the GH5. But one feature that the GH5S lacks that the GH5 is known for is in-body image stabilization. Unfortunately, this is one of the bigger knocks against the camera for handheld vloggers. Seeing as this was a camera geared more toward serious filmmakers, it’s understandable why it’s removed–pros like to control everything, and image stabilization is better done by gimbals or rigs rather than a floating sensor that may damage your careful framing of a shot. Makes sense, but good to know for vloggers.

Overall, if handheld 1080p footage is your bread and butter, the GH5 makes a great choice. If you need better low light performance, DCI format, phantom power for mics, and don’t mind losing in-body image stabilization, the GH5S is quickly becoming a very powerful filmmaking tool.

Buy the Panasonic LUMIX GH5 here
Buy the Panasonic LUMIX GH5s here

Sony RX100 VI / Sony RX100 VA

Sony RX100 VISony RX100 VA

In my opinion, the world of compact cameras (if not just all cameras in general) can get a bit overwhelming and overly iterative with the number of models available. The RX100 line is no exception. We received two very odd updates to the line around the middle of the year, and I’m not sure as to why these choices were made.

A quick note about the name. The V in VA or VI is basically “mark five”. So the VI is “mark six”, whereas the VA is “mark five A”. I know, it’s confusing at first, but hey, Sony loves their weird monikers!

That said, these are great little compact photo and video cameras and are easily carried around without needing a ton of extra weight or space. The RX100 VA is an update of the RX100 V in almost every way, mostly bringing processor and small updates carried over from the RX100 VI.

The current versions of the RX100 line all shoot 4k up to 30fps and 1080p up to 120fps. As far as video formats go, they get the job done for non-pro needs, as expected.

The RX100 VI upgraded the focal length from 24-70mm to 24-200mm, which also brings the aperture from f/1.8-2.8 to f/2.8-4.5. Losing on low light options, but gaining almost 5x the zoom.

The VI also has a touchscreen display and now shoots SLog-3 and HLG if you want to play with HDR video.

The VA, however, has the normal 24-70mm zoom lens, the wider aperture, no touchscreen, and no HLG or SLog3, and instead is basically just a more powerful, updated version of the RX100 V.

The one glaring issue with the RX100 line (currently) is that not only they don’t have a headphone port for monitoring audio, they also don’t have a mic port. This is a problem for a lot of vloggers, but not a deal breaker if you don’t mind recording audio on an external recorder (more on that later).

All in all, the RX100 line is a very capable series of cameras. There isn’t a lot differentiating them from one another, and most will have all the features you need, like a flip-up screen, decent low light performance, optical image stabilization, and a small form factor you can take with you anywhere. You can’t go wrong with any of them if this is your desired type of camera.

Buy the Sony RX100 VI here
Buy the Sony RX100 VA here

Panasonic GX8
Panasonic LUMIX GX8

If you can’t spring for a GH5/GH5S at the moment but would like something reasonably similar for a fair price, the GX8 will get the job done. Yes, it’s an older camera and the GX9 has come out February 2018, but the GX9 (for some unknown reason) ditched the fully articulating screen and opted for a tilt screen. Not even one that tilts up 180 degrees.

For that reason, the GX9 gets skipped in this article (as do others like the Sony a6500 and more) as there isn’t anything particularly special about it that outweighs this missing feature.

So with that, we have the GX8. This series has been a pretty reputable lower cost line of cameras for a while and has been many vloggers’ first camera. In-body image stabilization, a fully articulated screen, 4K up to 30fps and 1080p up to 60fps make for a great reasonably portable camera at an affordable price.

Thankfully, the budget-priced GX8 won’t leave you high and dry when it’s time to upgrade, and it gets you started in the larger world of the Micro Four Thirds ecosystem. When it’s time to upgrade from the GX8 (or any other of these LUMIX cameras) to a GH5 or other MFT body, your lenses move with you.

Overall, the GX8 is a perfectly acceptable intro to the Panasonic line of cameras. Not the best of features, but definitely not the worst, and can be had for a very respectable price.

Buy the Panasonic GX8 here

Best action cameras for vlogging

This is a segment of the camera market that once flourished vigorously almost out of nowhere but now has somewhat faded into utility status. Action cameras–tiny little squares that mount on to almost anything with the right gear–are very useful for some tasks but can be outperformed by other cameras for the more pedestrian shots.

But that’s not to say you shouldn’t count out using one if you need the small size and flexibility that an action camera can provide. They’re everywhere for a reason, after all.

Most action camera manufacturers have multiple cameras in their lineups, but for the sake of simplicity, we’ll just cover the two popular flagship devices at this time. Both have great cameras at lower price points, but these will be the latest and greatest available at the time of writing this guide.

GoPro Hero 6 Black
GoPro HERO6 Black

The GoPro is the granddaddy of action cameras. People don’t say “Hey, hand me that action camera!”, they say “We should probably use a GoPro for this shot,” even if they don’t own an actual GoPro brand action camera.

The benefits of a GoPro is that they’re tiny, have very few settings to fiddle with, have a wide field of view, and can shoot 4k footage if needed. You can get a mount to put one on almost anything, as well as underwater housings and more.

If you don’t feel like using your phone but also don’t want to lug around a full camera, throw a GoPro on a small tripod. You’ve got a full rig that fits in your pocket.

The GoPro Hero 6 Black can shoot up to 4k 60fps, 1440p at 120fps, and a smooth 240fps at 1080p. It’s waterproof up to 33 feet, has the obligatory wifi and Bluetooth control, and the same dead simple functionality that the line has come to embody.

Buy the GoPro HERO6 Black here
YI 4K+ Action Camera
YI 4K+ Sports and Action Camera

YI has been making affordable GoPro alternatives for a while now, and have really been stepping up the features for the price. Can’t drop the full cost of a Hero 6 Black? You have a great option with YI.

The 4K+ has pretty much the same shooting options as the GoPro, with 4K up to 60fps, however, the only thing faster at full HD is 1080p 120fps, and you won’t get 240fps until you get down to 720p or lower. Not a deal breaker, but for the price it makes sense.

You can also live stream to a number of platforms with the 4K+, which is a pretty great feature. Technically the GoPro supports it, but not many services, and I’ve seen that the Hero 6 doesn’t even support as many as the old Hero 4 did. Documentation is a bit sketchy on this, but from what I’ve been able to determine, the 4K+ is a better live streaming option, if that’s your game.

Buy the YI 4K+ Sports and Action Camera here

Best lights for vlogging

Unlike a full-blown video production, vlogging doesn’t always need extra lighting. If you’re doing a majority of your vlogging in a room without window light or at night, then you’ll need at least a small light or two. Otherwise, you can use diffuse window light or shoot outside. A lot of vloggers’ content is out of the house anyway, so you may not need lights as much as you might think.

That’s not to say that you will never need lights. And if we can be honest for a moment, we love lights, so we’re going to talk about them at length as they are often not understood properly by new video creators.

Until recently (ish), there have been two main types of lights you might see when looking for the right ones for you. There are the traditional softboxes, usually packed with inexpensive CFL bulbs on the low end of the price spectrum and high-end, high output bulb monoblocks on the expensive side.

Nowadays there are also LED light panels, again ranging from very affordable to very not affordable. These LED panels are the new hotness, although not literally. While traditional professional softboxes and monoblocks get real toasty, LED panels stay very manageable and don’t heat up your space as much. They’re also much smaller than even the smaller softboxes and are very popular in smaller shooting spaces as such.

We’ve previously covered techniques of proper lighting in our post about building a better video, so be sure to check that out for some visual guides.

Viltrox L132T

Viltrox L132T

This is one of my personal favorite lights. The Viltrox L132T is a lightweight LED light with full control over brightness and color temperature, covering from 3300K to 5500K. Featuring up to 835 lux brightness and as good as 95 Color Rendering Index (CRI, or how accurately the light emitted allows the colors it illuminates to be viewed), this light packs a massive punch.

The front panel looks like one smooth sheet of plastic, and even when cranked up to full power you don’t really see any hotspots from the LEDs underneath. The light is soft and even (provided it’s close enough to your subject–you know, laws of lighting physics and all that) and will work perfectly either mounted on top of your camera or on a light stand.

The back panel has a power switch, an AC port, a battery socket for standard Sony NP-F batteries, your LED display showing power, battery, and color temperature, along with the knob to control the two settings.

I personally like this light because it’s wider than most small video lights while not being awkwardly tall and throwing your camera off balance. This exaggerated “widescreen” format means that it can easily cover a subject with (what I feel is) better lighting falloff on the sides of that subject. Basically, I feel it gives better wraparound with softer shadows as it falls off.

Because of the size and form factor, you can easily slap this on top of your camera and hand hold the rig without any issues. Lots of output, a bit of heft, and not much of a weird center of gravity makes it a great unique choice. Of course, you can always throw it on a light stand or get a clamp mount if you so desire.

We’ve been using and abusing this light for quite some time now, and it shows no signs of giving up. We think that, for the money, this is one of the best lights you can buy in this size. Viltrox also makes other similar lights in slightly different form factors, such as the more square L116T. In general, we can’t recommend these lights enough, they deserve a spot in your kit.

Buy the Viltrox L132T (with battery/charger) here

Neewer CN-160

Neewer CN-160

The Neewer CN-216 is the quintessential video LED light that most people go for first. It’s cheap, small, bright, and fairly flexible. There are several lights in this series with differing numbers of LEDs on the board, so some will be brighter than others.

These older style of video lights are pretty basic in function. On/off, brightness dial, and usually a snap-on diffusion filter as well as what is essentially a snap-on CTO (color temperature orange) filter. Using this 3300K filter will allow you to match the look of interior yellow lights, whereas using the regular diffuser (or none) will run at 5600K for daylight balance.

Most of these style lights will either run on AA batteries or a Sony NP-F battery, and the Neewers typically do both. Hence the flexibility. NP-F died? Slap in some AA batteries and you’re good to go.

I find that these lights don’t create the most flattering light, but they’re fairly small and very portable. They do make nice hair lights or background lights when thrown on a stand. And if one breaks, it’s incredibly cheap to replace.

Buy the Neewer CN-160 here

GVM 627S series

GVM 672S

Moving on up in size we get to these LED panels from GVM. They have a few different sizes and kits, but all are pretty much the same deal. These are not lights to mount on your camera but instead are more studio lights.

GVM 520LS
GVM 520LS

All three models have high CRI of around 96-97 or higher along with full control over power and color temp from 2300K to 6800K. They do come with white diffuser panels, although the larger models come with multiple layers to get even softer light.

The main difference between the three lights is the size of the panels and the number of LEDs on each panel.  Thankfully, the model number of each light indicates the number of LEDs on the panel–the 672S has 672 LED beads, whereas the 480LS has 480.  Super simple.

Also, as long as you’re buying a GVM light panel in this series with an S or LS model number, this indicates that they can be linked together in a master/slave configuration.  You can connect multiple panels together and control them all at once, or in groups.  There are 12 individual channels, and each channel can support up to 10 lights to be controlled in that group. This is extremely helpful for studio lighting setups or controlling lights that are mounted out of reach.

They either ship with or have optional barn doors (depending on model/kit) so you can help shape the light and control spill where necessary. And interestingly enough, you can slave them together to make studio lighting adjustment super easy.

GVM 480LS
GVM 480LS

What they don’t come with, however, are light stands, so you will need to get one separately (unless you buy the full multi-light kits). We have some good suggestions down below as well.

Like I said before, these aren’t lights to sit on top of your camera, so they aren’t the best run-and-gun vlog lighting setup. But if you do a ton of stuff around the house or studio and don’t have room for a big Aputure dome, these will get you great results easily.

Buy the GVM 672S here
Buy the GVM 520LS here
Buy the GVM 480LS here

Aputure Lightstorm COB 120Dii

Aputure Lightstorm COB 120Dii

Speaking of Aputure, we might as well cover the big daddy of YouTuber lighting, the Aputure 120Dii. This is a monobloc light, meaning that the power source and the bulb are in the same piece of hardware (opposed to a head and pack light, where the power is generated in a pack on the ground with a cable running to just the bulb mount on a stand). And this is definitely a beast of a light.

The 120Dii is an LED light, yes, but closer in form to a professional photography or other commercially used constant light packs. The lighting quality is highly accurate and very consistent while allowing for compatibility standard lighting modifiers through a Bowens mount (Bowens mount is an industry standard mount that many manufacturers support).

Aputure Light Dome 35" octobox
Aputure Light Dome 35″ octobox

Speaking of modifiers, the modifier that makes this light so special is the Aputure Light Dome, which is a large and deep octagonal softbox. The light produced is smooth, gentle, and very controllable. It’s the go-to YouTuber lighting setup for a reason, and it’s because of the look gained with this light and the softbox.

The downside is, of course, the price. The light kit alone (not including the softbox) is about ten times the cost of a GVM 480LS. The quality is well over that ratio of course, but the cost can be a bit prohibitive if you rarely use it, or are just starting out.

You will also need to buy a light stand, however with this size of a rig you’ll want to opt for a heftier C-stand as opposed to a normal tripod-style stand.

That said, if you have the money and space, the Aputure 120Dii and the Light Dome make a formidable lighting rig for a variety of uses.

Buy the Aputure Lightstorm COB 120Dii here
Buy the Aputure Light Dome 35″ octobox here

FalconEyes SO-28TD

Falcon Eyes SO-28TD

I like this light a lot. It’s what I would consider a combination of the quality of the smaller Viltrox along with the size of the GVM panels. It’s a very portable, lightweight, simple light panel that just looks good.

If you’re looking for a good travel light, you can’t go wrong with this one. Often referred to as a “flapjack” light, it has basically the same features as the Viltrox and GVM as far as a battery or AC power. It has the smooth diffuse light of the Viltrox, however, it does miss some extra diffusion or spill control that you can get with the GVM.

And even with the SO-28TD being the smallest and most affordable in the FalconEyes line, it’s still over twice the cost of the GVM. And again, doesn’t include a light stand in the single light kit, but you can get away with lighter stands with these lights.

But it does offer a CRI of 95, color temps between 3200-5600K, and has some pretty consistent light output. If you don’t want the bare LEDs of a GVM panel and need just a bigger version of the L132T, this is your next light.

Buy the Falcon Eyes SO-28TD here

Aputure AL-M9

Aputure AL-M9 Amaran LED Mini Light

Back to Aputure, although this is quite literally the exact opposite of the 120D/Light Dome combo. The AL-M9 is a small, pocket-sized light that you can take anywhere with you, you know, just in case.

This is definitely a no-frills light. On/off, brightness up/down, has 95 CRI, charges an internal battery via USB, and has a removable hot shoe mount.

Yep… That’s it.

Seriously though, this is a pretty great utility light. You won’t use it for everything. It’s not flattering at all. There are only 9 LEDs all spaced out, so as a key light it will create multiple tiny shadows depending on how it’s used.

But if you need a good small fill, or an accent fill, hair light, background light, just something because it’s better than the nothing that’s there already, it could possibly save your shot.

We feel it’s a bit overpriced for the light you get, but for the quality and form factor, it’s not a bad deal.

Buy the Aputure AL-M9 Amaran LED Mini Light here

Aputure AL-MX

Aputure AL-MXThis guide was almost posted without this light, as it’s literally brand new. Aputure has released a massively updated version of the AL-M9, called the AL-MX. It’s roughly three times the cost of the AL-M9 but packs some hugely beneficial upgrades.

First, let’s look at the LED array. The AL-MX has upgraded from the paltry 9 LEDs on the AL-M9 on up to a massive 128 bi-color LEDs, all crammed together nice and tight. This leads to a nearly 3x performance increase from 900 lux at 0.3m away up to 2400 lux at the same distance. At the one-meter range that has increased from 80 lux to 200 lux. This means that this light now puts out a serious amount of light in nearly the same form factor.

This is also most likely the cause for the large red heat sink fins on the back, which basically doubles the thickness of the unit over its predecessor. But thankfully this time around there’s a built-in tripod mount, so no more messing around with that mounting bracket.

We also see that the diffusion plastic is spaced further out from the LED array which should help smooth out the light and won’t cause multiple shadows like on the AL-M9. We now also have the ability to control not just brightness but color temperature as well thanks to those bi-color LEDs.

Yes, this light is triple the cost of the original, but if you need more quality–and more quantity–of light in the same compact form factor, this thing is a for sure winner!

Buy the Aputure AL-MX here

Audio

Contrary to what you may think, audio is actually more important to video than the video part. If your audio is annoyingly bad, people will often click away regardless of how interested they were in the subject of the video.

And believe it or not, quality microphones that will get the job done can absolutely be had on the cheap. Granted, you still do get what you pay for, but the barrier to entry for quality audio is way low at this point, and no matter what type of mic you need or want, you can find a suitable mic for a wallet-friendly price.

Again, we’ve previously covered the topic of audio in our building a better video article, which goes more in depth on things such as gain control, different types of mics, proximity effects, etc, so be sure to check that out for some practical advice.

Which mic is best for vlogging?

It really depends on what you’re going to be doing. If you know you’re going to be doing a ton of “talking head” sort of videos, just you and a (possibly mostly locked down) camera, you can go with an inexpensive lav mic. If you’re going to be doing a bunch of running and gunning, out in public with multiple people, a shotgun mic may be your best bet. Honestly, both are inexpensive enough you can get away with picking up one of each.

Best shotgun microphones for vlogging

Really, you’re looking at two different types of mics for most vloggers. The easiest of which is a shotgun mic. The shotgun mic is designed to pick up audio directly in front of it while rejecting audio from the sides and rear, using most often a hypercardioid or supercardioid pickup pattern.

Shotgun mics are better at distances than traditional handheld mics because of this pickup pattern, and will effectively amplify whatever it’s pointing at quite easily. It’s great for situations where you’re not the only one talking to the camera, or you need to capture the audio of whatever you’re shooting.

Rode Videomic Pro+

Rode Videomic Pro+ On-Camera Shotgun Condenser MicrophoneRode is a very well known microphone manufacturer, and to be honest, you’ll be seeing them quite a bit in this guide. Their Videomic line has been popular for many years now, and their current flagship is the Videomic Pro+.

The Videomic Pro+ brings a lot of improvements to the table. It’s much smaller than the previous Videomic and Videomic Pro, has a redesigned Rycote Lyra shock mount that uses rubberized plastic instead of basically rubber bands. No longer using a 9-volt battery, this mic comes with a rechargeable battery and can also use two AA batteries if that one dies in the field.

On the back, you’ll find all the features, including a power button, power light, 70 or 100hz high pass filter (a high pass filter begins to roll off frequencies below a certain cutoff to help reduce offensive low noises like traffic or low rumblings), and a three-stage gain setting. There is also a “safety track” recorded simultaneously with the main volume track, so that if your main audio track clips and is unusable you have a backup. You know, for safety.

The Pro+ also has a removable cable, and possibly the best feature of all: automatic power-on when the mic is plugged into the camera! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to shoot video and then realized that the mic wasn’t on. This new feature needs to be on more mics, in my book.

The Videomic Pro+ isn’t the cheapest out there, but it’s definitely one of the more feature-packed mics in the competition.

Buy the Rode Videomic Pro+ here
Takstar SGC-598
TAKSTAR SGC-598

This mic has gained massive popularity thanks to various tech YouTubers spotlighting the mic as a viable competitor to the Rode mics. The Takstar SGC-598 is essentially a clone of the original Rode Videomic in almost every way.

Just like the Rode Videomic, it’s a larger mic on a rubber band-style shock mount and no removable cable. There’s a non-adjustable 200hz high pass filter, a +10db boost to compensate for weaker camera preamps, and a power switch. Just like the original Videomic, not many frills, but the important stuff is there.

The real value to this mic is the price and the audio quality. The Takstar is is less than half the cost of the original Videomic, and the audio quality is at least as good. Some tests even show the Takstar outperforming the Videomic Pro Plus, depending on what the situation is.

Seriously, this is a really great mic in general, and for the price it’s unbeatable. If you don’t need adjustable high pass filters, don’t have an extremely weak preamp on your camera and don’t need a tiny mic this is one of the best values you’ll find for any vlogger or video creator. Pick up a dead cat windscreen for outdoors work (the mic cover that’s all fluffy, not just foam) and you’ve got a really great vlogging mic.

Buy the TAKSTAR SGC-598 here
Rode VideoMicro
Rode VideoMicro

The VideoMicro is a small form factor shotgun mic that pairs well with smaller DSLRs or mirrorless cameras, as well as smartphones in a grip or mount. There are no controls or features but does come with a dead cat windscreen, lightweight Rycote Lyra shock mount, and a removable audio cable.

This mic is perfect for lightweight vlogging cameras and captures very clean audio with decent lows and present highs. True to the name VideoMicro, the mic is light enough to fit on any sort of rig with which you may be vlogging.

Buy the Rode VideoMicro here
Boya BY-MM1
BOYA BY-MM1 Video Microphone

If you like the form factor of the VideoMicro but want to save a bit of cash, popular Chinese manufacturer Boya has a great clone called the BY-MM1.

The build is very close to the VideoMicro, but does show a bit of a lower quality build, but comes with a dead cat windscreen and a removable audio cable thankfully. The shock mount is also very similarly designed.

This is a very well reviewed mic and the audio quality is extremely comparable to the VideoMicro, allowing you to put that savings toward another accessory if you need to.

Buy the BOYA BY-MM1 here
Rode VideoMic Me
Rode VideoMic Me

Working down to the smallest Rode VideoMic, we have the VideoMic Me. This is specifically designed for smartphones, so if you vlog with your phone a lot and don’t want to use some sort of grip, mount, or cage this is a perfect mic for you.

The VideoMic Me has a smaller diaphragm than the other mics, but still captures good clean, balanced audio. Like the others, it comes with a dead cat windscreen and fits most smartphones.

It’s a bit pricey for a smartphone-only mic in my book, but if this is your primary vlogging device it’s a definite buy.

Buy the Rode VideoMic Me here
Rode NTG2
Rode NTG2

I know, I know, yet another Rode mic. But they’re popular for a reason–for the money, they often provide the best performance and have a great track record. In this spot, we’re looking at a good midrange pro shotgun mic, the NTG2.

Rode’s pro shotgun mics range anywhere from the low $200s to $1000 for a broadcast quality shotgun mic. The NTG2 is a bit below the halfway mark between these and offers some serious silky audio. You could always go up or down in price depending on your budget, but we’ll look at this one as a good average.

This line of mics are all XLR mics that use phantom power–power from your audio interface or mic preamp–however some can use an internal battery if you don’t have phantom power available.

This means that you’ll need to use that battery or a phantom power adapter/preamp in order to connect to your camera, but it’s well worth the extra effort. You’ll also need to adapt the normal XLR connector to the appropriate 3.5mm jack to connect to your phone.

Again, this isn’t necessarily a run-and-gun vlogging mic, but if you do a lot of home or studio vlogging you really can’t beat this mic. These will last you for years, as long as you don’t abuse it terribly.

You will want to get a good mic stand and perhaps a boom arm, and you can use either a dead cat or a blimp for wind diffusion.

Yes, this isn’t a cheap mic, but for a home studio, it’s a solid investment in your production quality. It’s a tool that will follow you through your career for years to come and will not let you down.

Buy the Rode NTG2 here
Audio-Technica ATR-6550
Audio-Technica ATR-6550

Audio-Technica makes great audio equipment, and are well known for their mics and headphones for professional audio applications. Their ATR-6550 is their low-cost option for video content creators.

The mic has a normal and tele pickup pattern, which is useful for various setups. The mic has a permanently attached cable that ends in a 3.5mm TRS plug, so it will need an adapter to a TRRS plug if you want to use it with your phone. It does use a battery for power, and usually comes with a foam windscreen, handle/boom mount, and a hot shoe mount.

If you shoot with DSLRs and DSLMs primarily and don’t need the flexibility of going into a mixer board or audio interface, this is a great mic for the money.

Buy the Audio-Technica ATR-6550 here
VidPro XM-55
Vidpro XM-55 13-Piece Shotgun Condenser Microphone Kit

But what if you want a full studio build-out and are on an extreme budget? Enter the VidPro XM-55. This is another 10″ class shotgun mic like the Rode and Audio-Technica models, but at a fraction of the cost. Usually, these are sold in full kits with every accessory you could ever need.

You’ll get both foam and dead cat windscreens, shock mount, regular clip mount, hot shoe mount, handle, XLR cable, XLR to 3.5mm adapter, carrying case, literally everything you need other than a stand and boom arm.

The frequency range is a bit limited at 100hz-16khz, so don’t expect deep lows or airy highs, nor will you get a high pass filter (with a bottom end of 100hz that doesn’t necessarily matter, however).

It’s not the best mic, technically, but it’s insanely affordable and if you’re just starting out or need an inexpensive backup mic you can’t necessarily go wrong.

Buy the Vidpro XM-55 here

Best lavalier microphones for vlogging

Lavalier mics (or lapel mics, as some call them) are almost the direct opposite of a shotgun mic. They’re designed usually with an omnidirectional pickup pattern, which allows the mic to pick up sound from all directions, regardless of how it’s angled or pointed.

Because of this, lav mics aren’t really able to be pointed at one source instead of another and instead work by placing in close proximity to their subject (such as, on one’s lapel, get it?). By getting a mic closer to the subject, you can turn down the gain (or volume, basically) of the mic until you hear the intended subject clearly, and other further noises are reduced dramatically if not entirely.

Lav mics in most “professional” environments are usually wireless, with the mic connected via a cable to a belt pack that transmits the signal wirelessly to a receiver; however good packs can run a prohibitively high price to anyone who doesn’t use it for their job.

Thankfully wired lav mics are very inexpensive, and work extremely well. And if you absolutely need a wireless setup, there are more and more “less expensive” models coming out these days and it’s actually pretty practical to save up for a good wireless lav mic pack once you need one.

Rode smartLav+
Rode smartLav+ Lavalier Microphone for iPhone and Smartphones

Yep, back to Rode mics! The smartLav+ is their wired lavalier mic that is geared specifically to smartphone users. The mic cable ends in a 3.5mm TRRS plug (TRRS has three bands, TRS has two) that is compatible with “iOS devices and select Android devices”, but does come with a TRRS to TRS adapter for use with cameras.

The smartLav+ has a decent frequency range of 60hz-18khz, so you will get good lows and some air to the highs, and is, in general, a very reliable mic. It’s not the cheapest lav out there, but it’s definitely a popular choice especially among smartphone users.

Buy the Rode smartLav+ Lavalier Microphone here
Rode RodeLink FM Wireless Filmmaker System
Rode RodeLink FM Wireless Filmmaker System

After using a wired lav mic for a while, you may get irritated with having a leash, however long it may end up being. Upgrading to a wireless mic system is a very freeing experience and will allow you to roam around your set without tripping and causing damage to your mic, camera, or both.

The RodeLink Wireless Filmmaker system is not a cheap option, but unfortunately, good wireless transmitters rarely are. Rode has an analog FM transmitter set as well as a slightly more expensive digital version.

That subject is a very nuanced one, so we’re not going to go into it now. Digital packs have increased in quality and pro musicians are now finally comfortable with them, but both do present their own pros and cons.

The RodeLink kits come with a transmitter belt pack and a receiver that mounts on a hot shoe. There is a removable lav mic that plugs into the belt pack with a 3.5mm plug, which is a key feature for a wireless lav kit.

You don’t want a permanently connected mic cable that you can’t replace separately from the pack because the cable will break before the pack. Guaranteed. The mic is cheaply replaced, the pack isn’t.

You’ll get a range of up to 100 meters, they pair up with one-touch pairing, and can run off of battery or USB power. Again, it’s not cheap, but just like the NTG-2, it’s a seriously great investment in your video production and, believe it or not, it’s more affordable than most of the competition for this quality.

Buy the Rode RodeLink FM Wireless Filmmaker System here
Movo WMIC70 UHF system
Movo WMIC70 UHF Lavalier Microphone System

Movo makes some great affordable options for filmmakers and YouTubers, and the WMIC70 is no exception. This kit is squarely in the middle of their wireless mic range, and we think is a good middle ground for price to performance.

The WMIC70 is less than half the cost of the Rode kit while offering the same range and basic functionality. The mic is removable, the receiver is mountable to cameras, and the kit comes with the adapter cables you need to go to either a camera or a mixer board using XLR.

The frequency response on the included mic is pretty respectable at 35hz-18khz, the packs run on two AA batteries, and you can add on extra packs or buy multi-mic kits if you need several people mic’d up at once.

If you’re on a budget, the Movo kits offer a great price to performance benefit and will be a great improvement over a wired lav mic any day.

Buy the Movo WMIC70 UHF Lavalier Microphone System here
Boya BY-M1

BOYA BY-M1 Lavalier Microphone

The Boya BY-M1 is probably one of the most popular budget lavalier mics out there and with great reason. This mic has great audio quality, has a nice long cable, is extremely affordable, and is one of our favorite lav mics.

The mic has a frequency response of 65hz-18k. Not the best, not the worst. It will capture enough low frequencies to give you a good solid tone, but won’t be overly bassy while still getting some good air in the highs.

It works with both smartphones and DSLRs and other cameras using a 3.5mm TRRS connector at the end of a 20′ cable. It does require a battery for use with devices other than smartphones, and this LR44 button cell battery is included along with a 3.5mm to 1/4″ adapter for connecting to audio mixers and audio interfaces.

The Boya BY-M1 is a no-brainer purchase. It’s insanely affordable and sounds great. Even if you have a wireless system, having one or two of these in your gear kit is a great idea as a backup or second mic if needed. The cable is definitely a bit long for a run-and-gun vlogger, but that’s nothing that some Velcro ties can’t fix. All in all, we can’t suggest them enough.

Buy the BOYA BY-M1 Lavalier Microphone here

Gimbals, tripods and other support devices

Hand-holding a camera directly is often not the best option for getting smooth, stable, and usable footage. In general, the heavier the camera rig the smoother the footage. This is thanks to the fact that the physics of a heavier rig counteract the natural instability of your arm, and let’s face it, your arm is anything but stable in most situations.

Best tripods for vlogging

How to start a vlog - iphoneographyIn order to add weight to a camera (especially a smaller mirrorless or smartphone), it’s easy to slap some sort of tripod or mount to your camera. This also helps you set up your camera somewhere so you don’t need to hand-hold, which obviously is the best way to eliminate camera shake.

For DSLRs and larger mirrorless, you’ll want either a full-size tripod or equivalent. For smartphones and lightweight mirrorless cameras you can get away with smaller tripods if you really need to, but still, you want to keep in mind the “weight = stability” aspect.

With higher-end tripods, you’ll notice that often the head (the part the camera goes on and moves around) and the legs (the support portion of a tripod) are sold separately. Most pros have their choice of legs and the head they like to pair with it, depending on weight or use.

While there are multiple kinds of tripod heads, video production usually involves a fluid drag head. Fluid drag heads are best for video, as the movement mechanisms utilize an oil substance to provide resistance and drag which cause the movement of the head to be smooth. These do tend to cost more than ball heads (usually used in photography, and involve no smoothing resistance in the ball joint), but are absolutely necessary for smooth pans and tilts.

Here we’ll look at some kits that include both the head and legs together to keep things as simple as possible. Tripods can get shockingly expensive, but they’re a crucial part of video production if you aren’t handholding, so buying a good one is a must.

JOBY GorillaPod
JOBY GorillaPod 3K kit

What self-respecting guide about vlogging wouldn’t mention the JOBY GorillaPod?? This is arguably the most popular tripod around, and it’s thanks to the widespread adoption by vloggers.

The GorillaPod is a flexible, moldable tabletop tripod. Its name comes from the fact that, like a gorilla, it can grip and hang onto anything. Initially developed for mounting a camera in a tree, pole, or other sorts of items, it has become mainstream due to its bendable shape that makes for a great handheld camera mount.

There are multiple models depending on how heavy of a camera you need to support, with the GorillaPod 3K being their most popular model with support of up to 6.6lbs, or 3kg. There are also 1K and 5K models along with a few other specialty versions.

GorillaPods are easily the most portable and lightweight tripods around and are perfect for vlogging, whether handheld or tabletop. This is a no-brainer option for anyone who is doing more than just studio vlogging.

Buy the JOBY GorillaPod 3K kit here
Buy the JOBY GorillaPod 5K kit here
Buy the JOBY GorillaPod 1K kit here

Manfrotto MVK502AM-1
Manfrotto MVK502AM-1 Fluid Head and Aluminum Tripod Kit

Manfrotto is one of the longstanding (hah! Get it?) camera accessory manufacturers that people swear by. Their tripods and heads are go-to’s for enthusiasts and pros alike. While they have a ton of different types of legs and heads, we feel that the MVK502AM-1 is a great combination of stability and performance for a reasonable price.

First of all, no, this is not a carbon fiber tripod. Aluminum tripods are a bit heavier but much cheaper for similar stability and weight limits.

The benefit of this set starts with the twin-pole legs. Twin- or tri-pole legs are better with heavier payloads and can provide increased stability.

Second is the 502 series head. The 502 is a very popular fluid drag head that provides great stability with very smooth pans and tilts. Unlike lower quality fluid heads, the 502 doesn’t get stuck produce uneven jittery movements. Look at most enthusiast video creators and they’ll likely have this video head.

For a 15lbs payload or lighter, this kit is a great buy for the money. Yes, it’s probably more money than you’d thought you’d spend on a tripod, but it’s one that will do you well for a very long time to come.

Buy the Manfrotto MVK502AM-1 Fluid Head and Aluminum Tripod Kit here
Neewer Professional 61″ Tripod with Fluid Head
Neewer Professional 61 inch Fluid Head Tripod Kit

Neewer has a few different tripods and heads, but the one we’re looking at here is the 61″ professional tripod. It looks very similar to the Manfrotto but uses a tri-pole leg design.

The Neewer 61″ fluid kit can support up to 26lbs camera payload, oddly enough more than their “upgraded heavy duty” tripod. We attribute this to the bulkier fluid head on this version as opposed to the lighter 502-style head on the upgraded version.

As with any other “budget” fluid head, it won’t be as perfect as a higher end model. Quality control is more inconsistent with cheaper budget heads, however, most are pretty reliable in general.

Really, what you get with this kit is a decent set of sticks (legs) and a decent fluid head for less than the cost of just a good fluid head. This is a great choice if you need something for occasional use, a somewhat light camera rig, or as a backup/B-camera tripod. It’s a great choice for an affordable tripod that will take a good amount of wear and tear for years.

Buy the Neewer Professional 61 inch Fluid Head Tripod Kit here
Manfrotto Befree Live Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod
Manfrotto Befree Live Carbon Fiber Video Tripod Kit with Fluid Head

Most tripods are pretty bulky, especially the two above. For those who need a tripod that’s a bit more portable for frequent trips, a travel tripod is the way to go.

Manfrotto’s Befree Live Carbon Fiber tripod is only three pounds and collapses down to a very stowable size that can be put into a larger bag, or strapped to the outside of a camera bag.

The legs are of the twist-lock variety, the center column raises and lowers, and the head is a compact fluid head with a single collapsible pan arm.

Just like the previous Manfrotto, it’s not the cheapest. But lighter, smaller tripods tend to lose stability and reliability and this one will definitely hold up under pressure.

Buy the Manfrotto Befree Live Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod here
Miliboo MUFA Professional Aluminum Travel Tripod with Fluid Head
Miliboo MUFA Professional Aluminum Travel Tripod with Fluid Head

The Miliboo MUFA Pro tripod kit is a much less expensive alternative to the Manfrottos of the world. Again, the quality of the fluid head is probably less assured in the quality department but provides a very affordable option for a small lightweight tripod.

Even though it’s a bit heavier, being an aluminum build, you definitely can’t get a good carbon fiber rig at this price. Everything folds up nice and compact and has a solid quick release plate.

Again, the reviews do paint a picture of some inconsistencies in QA, but for the price, we feel it’s worth the risk of making use of the return policy. This is definitely a worthy choice for an affordable travel tripod.

Buy the Miliboo MUFA Professional Aluminum Travel Tripod with Fluid Head here
Coman KX3232 Monopod with Q5 Fluid Head
Coman KX3232 Monopod with Q5 Fluid Head

Sometimes a tripod is a bit overkill, or you need some mobility while retaining stability. A monopod is a great way of ensuring that you can get a solid shot while not carrying a large, awkward tripod. The Coman KX3232 is a pretty rugged kit that comes with a usable fluid head.

The KX3232 can reach up to 73″ and supports a 13lbs camera rig. It also comes with a mini tripod foot that will allow for some extra stability and camera moves without slipping around.

Monopods can be used for both stability by resting on the ground as well as collapsed and used as a handheld mount, as the added weight will give you more camera stability.

They’re more useful than some people give them credit for, but many video creators never leave without one. The KX3232 is a pretty reliable piece of gear that we have no issues recommending.

Buy the Coman KX3232 Monopod with Q5 Fluid Head here

Best gimbals for vlogging

Three-axis gimbals are the new fun toy on the scene, finally becoming affordable for anyone to buy. No longer solely for filmmakers of a decently large enough budget, you can get a gimbal for any camera from a GoPro on up to cinema cameras.

A gimbal will stabilize your camera by using motors to adjust the positioning and movement of your camera. Once the camera is balanced properly, the motors constantly analyze the movement of the device and maintain position or assist in panning.

Some gimbals have deep integration into your camera and allow you to control functions from the gimbal controls itself, others are much more simple, and some in between. With these integrations, not all gimbals support all devices, so keep that in mind.

While a gimbal is an amazing device, it’s not always the best option for all scenarios, especially running and gunning or trying to be subtle. They can get excellent smooth footage, but do require a bit of a learning curve and practice. For some situations, you may want a gimbal, and others just slap a Gorillapod on your camera.

DJI Ronin S
DJI Ronin-S Handheld 3-Axis Gimbal Stabilizer

DJI’s newest DSLR gimbal, the Ronin S, has been taking the video world by storm since it came out in 2018. A massively improved iteration after the Ronin M, the Ronin S has adopted the current design trend of a single handle design with the three-axis gimbal mechanism up top.

The motors on the Ronin S are very strong and can support cameras as large as the 1DmkII or the C200, which is pretty unbelievable with a one-handed device. The design has also finally been refined to not block the rear screen of your camera so you can actually see what you’re shooting without needing a flip-out screen.

The gimbal has deep integration with a variety of cameras, allowing you to control camera functions and even focus from the gimbal controls. It doesn’t work with all cameras at this point, but it’s still a very new gimbal.

The verdict at the time of writing this is that the Ronin S has dethroned the Zhiyun Crane 2 as the current king of DSLR gimbals, but as the Crane 2 has been out for a while I’m sure they’re working on something to hit back and try to take that spot again.

At this point, we can wholeheartedly recommend the DJI Ronin S as the current best camera gimbal available, as it’s so much better than anything else out there even close to the price.

The Crane 2 is close, but the odd motor shake issue that occasionally occurs is a major factor in not getting our recommendation in light of the Ronin S’s release.  It will remain our recommendation until the highly anticipated Zhiyun Crane 3 is released and can be evaluated.

Buy the DJI Ronin S here
Zhiyun Smooth 4
Zhiyun Smooth 4 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer

In the world of smartphone gimbals, we love the Zhiyun Smooth 4. It’s a deeply featured gimbal with great stabilization and ease of use.

The Smooth 4 can work with pretty much any phone, and we’ve used it with up to the S8 Plus and the iPhone 8 Plus without any balancing issues. Moving up to the Note 9 may be a stretch–it’ll work, but probably won’t balance entirely neutral unless you add some counterweight.

The battery life is great, and charges over USB-C (Thank you!!) and also offers pass-through charging to your phone. This will require a right-angle cable to plug into your phone, and depending on the size of your phone may cause balancing issues that would reduce battery life due to motor struggle.

The controls are one of the stars of this device. First, you’ll find a big focus wheel for either manually focusing your shot or zooming, depending on which modifier you have engaged. The zoom is a bit stepped on Android but works well on iOS. Focus pulling works quite well on both, depending on the Android being used (no issues on my S8+).

The rest of the controls are very user-friendly and offer direct access to the gimbal features quite easily. There is no joystick for smooth panning and tilting, but it’s hardly missed thanks to the direct control modifiers and the overall responsiveness of the gimbal.

The app, ZY Play, is alright, it gets somewhat frequent updates and has a ton of features. Unfortunately the controls on the gimbal itself only work through the Zhiyun app at the time of writing, but hopefully, that will change as SDKs get sent out to software developers. We’re personally hoping that it will start working with Filmic Pro soon, which currently only supports the DJI Osmo. As of September 10th, Filmic Pro now supports the Smooth 4!  Finally!

Back on target, however, the Smooth 4 is, we believe, the best smartphone gimbal on the market at this moment. The app works better with iOS, but if you’re using another app like Filmic Pro, Open Camera, or others, you can’t go wrong with the Zhiyun Smooth 4.

Buy the Zhiyun Smooth 4 here
DJI Osmo Mobile 2
DJI osmo Mobile 2 Handheld Smartphone Gimbal

While we prefer the Smooth 4, the DJI Osmo Mobile 2 is a very, very close runner-up. Depending on your use case, you may even feel it’s a better option.

Both are around the same cost, and the stabilization on the Osmo 2 is not lacking at all. There aren’t as many physical controls as the Smooth 4, but there is a joystick for controlled pans and tilts, however, doesn’t have a focus/zoom wheel.

The standout of the Osmo Mobile 2 is the app. There’s a level of polish and completeness that isn’t available on the Zhiyun app, and it performs equally on iOS and Android.

Even further than that is the integration with Filmic Pro, probably the best video app available on iOS and Android. At this point, no other hardware has been added into the Filmic Pro app, and hopefully this changes. But for now, if you live and die by the Filmic Pro app and absolutely need that control, perhaps the Osmo Mobile 2 is the choice for you. As mentioned above, Filmic Pro support is no longer a sole reason to buy this gimbal, making the case for the Osmo Mobile 2 a bit more difficult against the more affordable Zhiyun Smooth 4.

Buy the DJI Osmo Mobile 2 here

Best light stands for vlogging

This is arguably the least exciting type of gear you’ll be looking into, as there’s generally not too much involved with a light stand or other support gear. It’s essential though, as you absolutely need to have your lights mounted to something, or get your microphone close to you just out of frame.

We won’t spend too much time on this, but let’s cover some absolute basic options so you can get started.

Avenger A2030DKIT C-Stand with Grip Kit
Avenger A2030DKIT C-Stand with Grip Kit

If you have a heavy light, flag, or other item and you absolutely, positively need it to stay put safely, the C-stand is the industry standard. These things are beefy and take a beating, and their unique triple leg “turtle” base ensures that they stay upright under situations where a normal inexpensive light stand would fail.

The Avenger stands are some of the more popular equipment out there, and most pro photo and video studios will have these lying around in spades. Yes, they’re a bit pricey, but I know that any Avenger gear I have will last years.

While you can definitely mount heavy lights on these stands, they also can be used for mounting reflectors, flags/gobos, and even sound-dampening carpets along the crossbar. These are one of those items that you buy once and don’t need to replace for years unless there’s a catastrophic disaster.

Buy the Avenger A2030DKIT C-Stand with Grip Kit here
Neewer Pro C-Stand with Grip Kit
Neewer Pro C-Stand with Grip Kit

If there’s a major manufacturer making something for photo/video, chances are Neewer has a more inexpensive version of it. Their take on the venerable C-stand has been a boon to many growing creators, offering stability at substantial savings.

If you’re just starting to build out your production kit and need better stands but don’t quite have the budget for the Avenger gear, the Neewer Pro stands are a great option, getting you two stands for just over the price of one of the Avengers.

Buy the Neewer Pro C-Stand with Grip Kit here
Impact Heavy-Duty Air-Cushioned Light Stand
Impact Heavy-Duty Air-Cushioned Light Stand

Impact has a long track record for quality support gear for photo, video, sound, and more. I’ve been using Impact stands in audio and photo/video for as long as I can remember, and they just always get the job done.

Their heavy-duty stand is great for a studio. It is not a “portable” stand by any means. I have two in my 4-stand carry bag, and while I have no issues carrying that bag around, they do add a bit of weight. But they’re worth the extra heft because they’re reliable for a great price.

These stands are fairly rigid and rarely go anywhere. But the best part is the air-cushioning in the center column. If somehow a knob comes loose, I know it won’t come crashing down on itself, transmitting that violent shock to the light mounted on top. You’d be surprised at how often an assistant loosens a knob during breakdown and isn’t expecting a stand to come rapidly sliding down with the weight of a light on top of it. Thanks, air cushioning!

Overall, they’re not the cheapest. They’re not the strongest. They’re not the most portable, nor the most abuse-proof. But for a studio or a dedicated light stand gear bag, these are some pretty great stands.

Buy the Impact Heavy-Duty Air-Cushioned Light Stand here
Manfrotto 5001B 74-Inch Nano Stand
Manfrotto 5001B 74-Inch Nano Stand

The Manfrotto 5001B, on the other hand, is exactly the opposite of the Impact stand (and C-stands, of course). This thing is tiny! It’s also super solid, which is definitely a must.

The 5001B is a 74″ stand that collapses down to just under 19″. Insane, right? This is the perfect light stand to take when you don’t think you’ll need a light stand, don’t have room for one, but know that you’ll still probably end up needing one. I hope that made sense.

Yes, the stand costs the same as the full-size Impact stand above. Yes, the weight limit is about 3.3lbs, so it’s a bit limited, but I wouldn’t expect anything different.

In addition to the sheer portability of this stand, the other great use is as a background light when you need to keep something low to the ground. The light has great use cases not only on the go, but in the studio as well, and you’ll see these in photo studios everywhere. It’s a solid small stand and is worth the purchase for those who need to frequently travel lightly.

Buy the Manfrotto 5001B 74-Inch Nano Stand here
Neewer 75″ Light Stand
Neewer 75" Light Stand

Finally, we have the light duty Neewer stands. These are basic stands that are geared toward a payload of 13.6lbs or less. If you need an inexpensive stand just to get started and can’t afford anything more, they’ll work.

Let’s be honest here, these are anything but the most stable stands out there. They work but don’t expect them to withstand regular abuse or to not waver when raised up. These are similar to the stands they include in their square two softbox kit, but use knobs instead of the clips to maintain elevation.

Once you get these stands to about 5.5-6 feet in the air you’ll notice they do wobble more than I would like. Understandable, they’re very inexpensive and use thinner columns than other stands listed here. But for sub-$20 per stand, they’ll get you started.

Don’t use them outside in the wind, don’t load them with a heavy light, make use of sandbags to keep them in place, and you should be good to grab a few of these for your first light stands if you want to keep the spending to a minimum.

Just know that if you buy these, you will be buying better ones later.

Buy the Neewer 75″ Light Stand here

Best video editing software for vlogging (the professional/popular standards)

After you’ve shot your raw video, you usually need to then put it all together, edit out the parts you aren’t keeping, clean it up, and get it ready for upload. For that, you need some video editing software.

There are a ton of options out there on every platform, and there is really no “right choice” as it very much comes down to personal preference.  Our particular favorite happens to be the free Davinci Resolve (more details below, but that’s not to say it’s far and away better than, say, Premiere Pro.

On Windows, you can use the free Windows Movie Maker (version depends on which version of Windows you have), and Macs have iMovie included, both of which will get the job done.

There are a metric ton of mobile editing apps, and to be honest, they’re a bit hit or miss. There’s Adobe Premiere Clip (Adobe’s new Project Rush is due out very soon!), as well as FilmoraGo, KineMaster, and many others.

I wouldn’t advise using one of these unless you’re away from a computer and really need to get something posted. It’s just much easier to use a desktop app. But I get it. If you don’t have a desktop/laptop (or yours can’t process video playback too well), mobile video editor apps will allow you to get your videos edited and exported for upload.

Final Cut Pro X

Final Cut Pro X

If you’re on a Mac, you may naturally gravitate to Apple’s Final Cut Pro X. This is a professional (non-linear editor) and is very popular because of its ability to work with large files quite quickly, whereas others may stutter during timeline scrubbing, playback, editing, and exporting.

Even on the old Mac Pro, Final Cut can scream through media, and has a pro-level assortment of features. It’s quite different from other apps in some ways, but it’s been reworked so that if you graduated from iMovie, it will feel very familiar.

Download Final Cut Pro X here

 

Adobe Premiere Pro

Adobe Premiere Pro

The de facto video editor of choice across both Windows and Mac would be Adobe Premiere Pro. One of the industry standards, Premiere Pro is a professional NLE that can handle anything you throw at it.

As part of the Adobe Creative Cloud suite, the app is available in various plans and bundles to which you can subscribe. And if you want to work with motion graphics (complex titles, effects, etc), you’ll also want After Effects to go along with Premiere Pro.

There are a huge amount of free and paid resources out there for Premiere Pro and After Effects in the form of templates, motion graphics presets, title presets. If you can’t find something out there for free, you can hire people to make assets from places like Fiverr, or buy templates from Envato’s marketplace. Creative Cloud subscriptions also come with access to their library of assets as well.

Download Adobe Premiere Pro here

 

Avid Media Composer

Avid Media Composer

Not often an NLE thought of amongst casual video editors, Media Composer is an industry standard. Avid Media Composer was the editing suite in most studios and had a strong dominance in Hollywood. They then bought Digidesign, the developers of the venerable ProTools studio recording software, and they had both audio and video locked up tight.

Media Composer is mostly found in production houses and other professional environments and hasn’t really become terribly dominant in the home/consumer space, where Premiere Pro, Sony Vegas, Corel VideoStudio, Pinnacle Studio, CyberLink PowerDirector and others have traditionally thrived.

Download Avid Media Composer here

 

Best video editing software alternatives for vlogging (strong options against the popular choices)

Video editing software can definitely get a bit pricey, going up to $50/month USD for the full Creative Cloud subscription suite, $299 for Final Cut Pro X, and even Media Composer adopting a subscription model starting at $19.99/month. If you can’t swing any of these, you do have other options. We previously covered these next two apps in our guide to Creative Cloud alternatives, and I like both quite a bit.

Blackmagic Design Davinci Resolve

Davinci Resolve

My first experience with Davinci Resolve was for color grading a final edit exported out of Premiere, and then round-tripping the graded results back into Premiere. There was no editing functionality at that time. Fast forward a few years, and now Davinci Resolve is a full-featured NLE that can stand toe to toe with Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro,

There are modules for media management, editing, color grading, audio mixing, and delivery of your final product (exporting). In the new version 15, it now has their motion graphics application, Fusion, built in. This allows you to take a clip from your timeline and directly work on graphics, titles, and compositing without leaving the application. This is a huge timesaver for titling and clever edits and other tricks.

And one of the best parts about Davinci Resolve is that it’s free. There is a studio version if you need higher end professional features (like certain 4k features and noise reduction in the Color tab), but instead of costing thousands like when I used it last, it’s now a mere $300.

All this adds up to a very powerful, professional editing and grading suite that either costs nothing or not much at all, depending on your needs. I’ve recently moved back to Davinci Resolve as my main editor of choice, as for my needs the editing features have me covered and I don’t need to round-trip anything from one app to another for complex grading.

You definitely can’t go wrong with giving Davinci Resolve a try, however, note that with older graphics cards you may not be able to run the app due to CUDA version requirements. Anything from the past few years should be good, and even the Intel integrated graphics as far back as the 5500HD should allow it to launch (it just won’t perform too well on that one).

Download Blackmagic Design Davinci Resolve here

 

HitFilm Express

HitFilm Express

When I initially canceled my Premiere Pro subscription because I wasn’t using it for a long while, I ended up looking for an editor I could use for just random little projects. HitFilm is the one that I found at that time and ended up working in for a while.

Like Davinci Resolve, HitFilm is a full-fledged NLE, as well as a motion graphics/compositing suite all in one package. You can edit and make your complex graphics without ever leaving the app. It’s free for the base version, and the paid version offers many more features–again, like Davinci Resolve.

I don’t feel that HitFilm feels as “professional” as Davinci Resolve or Premiere Pro, but it’s still extremely powerful. The editor is polished and works well, albeit in the free version it lacks some of the niche tools that users from other platforms may sorely miss.

HitFilm has a fairly quick learning curve to get up and running, and everything mostly makes sense. It runs decently on lower power hardware and will give you a great environment in which to edit your vlogs.

If you’re looking for something a bit less intimidating than any of the flagship NLEs, HitFilm is a great choice and will serve you well for a long while.

Download HitFilm Express here

 

Which video editing software is best for vlogging?

All of them, really. Personally, I’m a huge fan of Davinci Resolve because the free version is probably the most powerful and flexible of the bunch, and the upgrade path to the Studio version is ridiculously cheap now.

That said, I also do really love the Adobe Creative Cloud software, Premiere Pro and After Effects make a great team, and Media Encoder is way more useful than most people give it credit.

If you’re just starting out, it doesn’t really matter. Go with the cheaper option–if you stop vlogging or creating videos, no sense in continuing to pay for something you don’t use.

Also, if you have friends who vlog or otherwise edit video and you like their workflow and style, look into what they use and get their advice. Having a support network of experienced peers to help is also a great thing to lean on.

But if I were pressed for an answer for someone looking to start on the cheap, but was serious about continuing video production work, I would suggest Davinci Resolve because of the price, or Adobe Premiere Pro for the vast amount of resources that exist for the platform, such as templates for both Premiere Pro and After Effects.

Vlog editing and pacing

Just shooting footage isn’t enough for a compelling vlog. Your editing needs to tell a story in a way that keeps the viewer enthralled and not bored. This is predominantly a combination of content and pacing and does have a bit of a learning curve.

Typically, a vlog is somewhat quick in pace. Trying to keep the flow smooth without a bunch of dead air, so to speak, is critical to ensuring that the viewer won’t be bored and click out of the video.

When you’re learning how to vlog, you may not have much of a game plan while shooting, or may not know how what you shoot translates to in the edit. But worry not, it’s definitely a learnable skill.

You’ll also want to start thinking about “shooting for the edit”. This means that when you shoot b-roll you’re already planning out ways that this will be cut together in the vlog. Sequencing transitions with certain camera movements in and out of a clip, getting alternate a-roll takes depending on certain editorial choices you may need to decide further down the line, ensuring that you have all the coverage for your planned edit. It’s definitely not second nature to start, but you’ll get there.

You’ll find that you end up using much less of your b-roll than you think, and when you film 5+ seconds of something it may end up only being used for 2 seconds or less. Cutting together the b-roll in a tight fashion, along with editing the dialog to be concise, is what will help give a sort of snap to your videos. We often think of some sequence of cuts as a percussive feel, especially when cutting to the beat of the music in your vlog.

Overall, you want to tell the best story you can in the most smooth and concise manner possible. Editing to music will help with that, but again, it may take a bit of practice before you start getting it down quickly. In general, focus on your narrative and then start tightening up the flow from there.

Upload schedule and video length

With the way the YouTube algorithm has been working (or not working, depending on who you ask), this is a bit of a murky subject, however, a few basic truths have come to be widely accepted as requirements for your upload schedule and length of your videos.

Now, of course, any and all of this information is subject to change with or without anyone knowing it, so this is just based on knowledge at the time of writing this.

What is the best length for a vlog video?

Many have found that the algorithm favors videos at least 10 minutes in length, as these tend to get fed to other users in the Recommended feeds more often. This is usually because it will keep users on the site longer, and contribute to higher watch time for channels. It also helps retention because it’s not too terribly long, and is easily digestible. As a result, creators have noticed that their Adsense revenue does a bit better after that 10-minute mark. That’s the short version.

You can definitely upload longer videos into the 20-30 minute and higher range, and this will absolutely help your watch time. It may also hurt your watch time ratio, as people bail halfway through a video. But if you have a particularly dense or involved topic, 20-30 minute videos often can’t be avoided, and shouldn’t be looked at as terrible. They’re just not typically conducive to a vlog format.

If you aren’t sticking to a real-time sort of daily vlog format you could possibly break your longer 20-30+ content into multiple uploads. Do a part 1, part 2, so on and so forth. You’ve already shot and edited the video, might as well break it into multiple parts and get more uploads out of it.

If you aren’t sure whether you’re going to do this or not, you can always shoot alternate dialog takes to use whether you end up doing a one-shot video or multipart upload. If you get to what might be a stopping point, just make a quick comment saying that you’ll pick up in part 2 or something, and that’s now squared away in case you make that choice in the edit. Magic!

That said, I’ve been noticing a bit of a shift in video durations recently. Many creators are opting to forego the 10-minute mark and instead are hitting around the 6-8 minute range. While this may technically harm your Adsense revenue (theoretically, who knows in actuality as this stuff is all super secret over at YouTube), it naturally lends itself to a higher viewer watch retention rate.

Watch retention rate is the amount of the video that users stick around to watch, as opposed to bailing early. If someone watches 100% of your video, that is 100% watch retention. If someone bails halfway, that will hurt your watch retention rate. Average the two out and you have a 75% watch time retention rate.

This retention score is now one of the major metrics that has been contributing to YouTube placing videos in the Recommended or Up Next locations, as they want to push videos that are very likely to keep the user engaged as long as possible. If you get someone sticking around for 5 minutes out of a 7-minute video, it’s a much higher retention than 5 minutes out of a 10-minute video. As opposed to dragging out a video for the magic 10-minute mark, more and more creators are not worrying about this and posting shorter videos when it makes sense to do so.

What is the best upload schedule for a vlog?

As far as how often to upload, well, this is pretty easy, relatively speaking. Upload. Every. Day. Or, that’s what would technically be the best, according to many YouTubers. But that’s pretty difficult for the majority of people.

Thankfully, you don’t really need to upload every day. As long as you’re being consistent at least one to two days a week, you should be alright. No, you won’t get the same sort of video momentum as if you uploaded every day, but saving your sanity is a decent exchange for that in my book.

Really, the answer should be: upload as often as you can, as consistently as you can, for (maybe) at least 10-minute videos (but maybe a bit less), but not too much longer than 20-30 minutes (if the content is really needing it).

Make money vlogging?

So far, we haven’t really touched the subject of how to make money vlogging, and that’s for a very specific reason. If making money is the singular goal you have while setting out to make a vlog, it’s almost guaranteed not to work.

Everyone wants to be a YouTube vlogger

I’m sure you’re aware that YouTube vloggers are everywhere. You’ve probably gone out to some place or event in your town and you’ve seen the typical YouTube vlogger out and about, talking to their camera, or getting some sweet b-roll. I’m sure you’ve seen it multiple times.

Those are your competition. All around the world, not just in your hometown. Think about just how many vloggers on YouTube that actually works out to be.

We’re not pointing this out to discourage you, please don’t get us wrong! It’s just the fact that YouTubers, in general, don’t automatically start raking in the thousands, hundreds, or even tens of dollars for a very long time. It’s a realistic point of view that all YouTubers and vloggers should be aware of.

Don’t do it just for the money

You’ll need to put in a ton of work, passion, sweat, and effort into your channel in order to start making any reasonable amount of money, so know that going in. Do it for the love of the game, not for the paycheck. The paycheck may follow, it may not. But if you’re having fun making cool stuff, does the paycheck necessarily matter?

That said, let’s say that your passion leads to a growing audience. You will eventually be able to join the YouTube Partner Program once you cross 1000 subscribers and 4000 watch hours in the previous 12 months. Now you can enable Adsense monetization on your videos. You will not make large amounts of money from this unless your videos are cracking a million views per video.

Affiliate links

Your better bet is to utilize affiliate marketing links in your video description. These can be to Amazon, B&H Photo, iTunes (just kidding, Apple axed this program during the research and writing of this post), or any other company/program that offers affiliate links in your particular video topics.

If you highlight a product or item in your video, you can always post an affiliate link in the description. This is a fairly common practice among vloggers, and your viewers usually won’t have an issue with this. Just be wise about your implementation and you should have any issues.

For example, we utilize affiliate links to support the site and be able to bring new content and do more reviews.  We typically try not to use these links for products we don’t believe in, as to ensure that we’re not putting out bad information.

 

Sponsors

Eventually, as your audience builds and your authority online grows, you may attract companies that want to sponsor your videos. While this may be very exciting when it first occurs, you should approach this very cautiously.

Once you start accepting sponsors for your videos, you quickly change your perception to your viewers. If you’re accepting literally any sponsor that approaches you, you may be alienating your viewers and coming off as a shill.

Viewers understand that creators need to pay the bills, but there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about it, and using sponsors that aren’t related to your videos or your life make it clear that you care more about money than your viewers. This is a quick way to lose subscribers and authenticity.

General guidelines

You do need to follow certain disclosure and ethics rules around affiliate links, sponsorships, and other forms of income, but it’s not difficult and doesn’t really impact your ability to earn. You just want to always be honest and upfront to your viewers.

Accept pertinent sponsors, don’t affiliate link things that don’t matter, and don’t forget that your audience watches you because you provide value to them. Reread that last part, and keep it burned into your brain.

Always do your best to maintain transparency with your viewers if you are monetizing certain aspects of your vlog. If something feels shady, probably shouldn’t go through with it. If you need to clarify things, err on the side of caution. Provide value to your audience and they will return that value by way of utilizing your links and sponsors.

Vlogging tips

Now that we’ve covered most of the technical components of vlogging, let’s go over some tips to get you off and running!

  • It may sound odd coming after that last bit, but don’t let the technical parts get in the way of telling your story. If all you have is your phone, use it. Vlogging is usually a forgiving genre of content, as long as your story is entertaining.
  • Story, story, story! You may not immediately think so, but the best vlogs follow the traditional narrative mechanics, such as setup/conflict/resolution, or even the story circle. Find your narrative in the daily or weekly activities and tell it.
  • It’s difficult to talk to a camera when you first start. Especially in public with random people all around you, possibly judging you. The key is to not talk to your camera, but your audience through the camera! You’re talking to the viewers on YouTube directly, not a hunk of glass and metal.
  • Content is king. If you have a great story to tell, people will enjoy it. That said, some people say…
  • Personality over content. Vlog audiences are usually more interested in the person doing the thing rather than the thing the person is doing. Vloggers are the attraction, not the events. That said, I don’t always believe in this and instead feel that…
  • Personality is half of content! Let’s be honest, even if someone you really like has a vlog, how often are you going to watch if there’s nothing going on except incessant ramblings? You need both halves to create a great vlog. Show your personality while doing entertaining things.
  • Look at your daily routine to find ideas to work into your vlog. Things that are already part of your schedule or are schedule-adjacent are easiest to lock down in a vlog.
  • Look at your commute to see what sort of locations you can shoot content in. Do you walk to work? Bike? Boosted board? Drive? What stops can you throw in to shoot, or quick little fun bits can you include in your videos?
  • Is your day job one that you can shoot during? If you’re an office worker or retail employee, probably not, and likely will land you in trouble–especially if you work in a secure environment. But if you’re more of a freelancer or participate in what is now being referred to as the “gig economy”, you can get away with quick bits here and there.
  • Vlogs often will require planning and effort. Not always, but don’t lose sight of the fact that you will have to work at putting together a fun vlog.
  • Collaborate with other local vloggers! If you don’t have friends who vlog, find other vloggers in the area and make some new friends! If your friends vlog, orchestrate collabs with them. Make sure that for the content they provide you on your channel, you’re reciprocating content for their channel.
  • Use Twitter and Instagram to find other vloggers and YouTubers! Don’t fangirl/fanboy out on them, of course, but start following people in your area you look to as inspiration or entertainment and join in their conversations. Again, not annoyingly so, but just as one person connecting with another person.
  • If you’re going out and doing something (especially if you plan on vlogging it already), announce it on Twitter. If you’ve picked up some new vlogging followers, you may be able to get a good crew out for a fun evening, benefitting everyone’s channel. If not, your followers may see something that interests them and they’ll look out for it on your upcoming vlog.
  • Last of all, don’t run yourself into the ground. Don’t do more than you can handle, and start off slowly if you need to. Burnout is a real, serious problem with YouTubers and vloggers, so don’t set some outrageous goal and beat yourself up if you can’t meet that goal. Don’t say “I’m going to start vlogging every day! And also teach myself how to edit at the same time! And also post every day!” There’s no way this can end well.

Final thoughts

Vlogging is a fun way of telling your own story in a freeform manner. It opens up a world of possibilities that aren’t available with typical video content creation. It’s not for everyone, but anyone can definitely do it. Whether you’re doing daily vlogs, weekly vlogs, or something like a behind the scenes vlog for a main channel you have the opportunity to share your story in a very personal and intimate setting that you can’t get from typical polished scripted or “main channel” videos.

As you go off and start your new vlog, just remember that you’re telling your story, connecting with your followers, and bringing them along with your journey. Keep them entertained and they’ll stay for the ride.

If you have any questions or comments about anything we’ve covered, please leave a comment down below and we’ll do our best to answer them for you!

Get better sound in your videos with studio monitors

Get better sound in your videos with studio monitors

Audio is arguably the most important part of video creation. Yes, you can have spot-on exposure and lighting, but if your audio is sub-par, it can not only come off as amateurish but also be downright annoying. Even if your source recording is good, how do you know what post-production correction and enhancements need to be done, and to what extent? If you’re editing on a laptop or low quality computer speakers, well, you’re most likely working off of an imperfect reference point. But with studio monitors, all those issues slip away.

What are studio monitors?

In short, studio monitors are speakers that don’t lie or hide things in a mix or edit. Studio monitors–also known as reference monitors–are what is referred to as “flat”. This description is indicative of the visualized frequency response of the speaker. What this really means is that it treats all frequencies–whether high or low or in between–with relative indifference. All the frequencies have roughly the same volume, which in turn represents them all evenly.

This behavior is in direct contrast to most home entertainment or consumer use speakers. Your general consumer stereo/hi-fi/whatever equipment is directly built to enhance the music played through it. This means, usually, that there are more present bass and airy highs than what was actually in the original recording. Simply put, home theater and consumer audio gear are meant to put emphasis on audio elements that will make things sound better to you.

Why do I need studio monitors for content creation?

Studio monitors may not make you as cool as this dude, but your videos will be!

So studio monitors don’t hype up certain frequency bands. But why is this necessary? Well, in a content creation aspect, your goal is to make your product the best it possibly can on as many of your potential audience’s devices as you can.

Part of this is not just the creative aspect of your audio mix (bringing vocals just a bit more out front at the right point, nudging the bassline up during the chorus, or dropping the rhythm guitars just a tiny amount to give the solo more room), but the technical aspect of how your mix sounds on your listeners’ devices.

With the output being a flat reproduction of the input, it gives you a good representation–or reference–to the original recording. It also means that you will be creating audio with a neutral reference point, relatively speaking. Your bass won’t be too much and distort your audience’s earbuds, but you’ll also be pumping enough low end to drive a good set of over-the-ear headphones.

Really, the studio monitors’ job is to provide you with an accurate representation of the audio your mics captured, and then edit or mix that audio in a manner that will sound good across all sorts of devices. Earbuds, home hi-fi setups, TVs with mediocre built-in speakers, your smartphone speaker, your car stereo, and so forth.

The studio monitors are a middle point between the great and not-so-great, yet still letting you accurately hear all of the frequencies that you need to work with.

If you’re mixing music or editing videos on a bad (as in highly inaccurate) set of computer speakers, it may sound completely anemic on anything even a bit better quality. And remember: more than anything else in content creation, audio is absolutely crucial.

What to look for when buying studio monitors

There are a few things to keep in mind when searching for a new set of studio monitors. Most are fairly straightforward, but there will be some new elements that can influence your choice for a new pair of studio monitors.

Price

This is one of the straightforward ones. Your budget will, of course, be different than the next person’s budget, but keep in mind there are a few broad categories of prices.

Just for the sake of consistency and simplicity, we’ll base these groupings off of the popular speaker size of a 5″ driver.  The example studio monitors referenced, however, will cover all sizes to provide a good look at what you have available as you scale up either your budget or desired speaker size.

Also, the majority of studio monitors are sold individually, however, there are often a “single” and “pair” SKU in many stores.  Most of these will be single speakers referenced for simplicity and even comparison.

Around $100 per speaker (or $200 a pair) or less

This is the bottom rung, where most speakers will be 4″ drivers or less, with maybe a handful of 5″ options. You won’t get much for your money here, and most of the time I’ll advise against buying in this category.

If you absolutely need something in this price range, tread carefully, as you won’t get much low end (think nothing below 60Hz at best), and the volume won’t be enough for mid- to large-size rooms. You’ll also notice that there are more “per-pair” models in this price range than in the next few.

What you’ll also notice is that I’m not listing any examples in this category.  Honestly, for any audio work that even matters a little bit, there’s nothing in this category worth spending money on, in my opinion.  Save your cash for the next group, at least.

Around $150-$200 per speaker

You’ll start seeing that this price range is the start of some quality speakers. Many of the most popular lower priced studio monitors come in this range, such as the Yamaha HS5, JBL 305P MKII, KRK ROKIT 5 G3, and Tannoy Reveal 502, which happens to be my personal favorite studio monitor at this price range.

You’ll start to get some reasonable low end, but nothing that will thump your chest. Nowadays, you can occasionally find a 6″ or 6.5″ driver at the top end of this price range though, so that’s definitely an upgrade if you have the space for it.

Best studio monitors for $150-$200 per speaker:

Around $250-$400 per speaker

Here’s where you start getting into some really nice, yet still affordable studio monitors. Higher end brands like Focal, Genelec, and Dynaudio start popping up with 5″ drivers, while the brands that thrive in the lower price group have larger 6″, 6.5″, 7″ and 8″ drivers in this category. There are even a few dual driver cabinets to be had in this group as well.

Best studio monitors for $250-$400 per speaker:

Around $450 to $800 per speaker

This is right where you’ll find both larger and higher-end studio monitors.  These are geared toward more critical, clinical audio work, such as higher-end home studios, project studios, smaller pro studios, and people with a ton of money for hobbies.  A lot of this group also have offerings in the previous ones, but this is where the “serious monitors” start to reside.  Basically, if you make your living on critical audio work, you’ll eventually get to this price range.

Best studio monitors for $450-$800 per speaker:

More than $800 per speaker

For the sake of brevity, we’ll just say that everything else is getting grouped together. Yes, there are definitely plenty of $700-1000 speakers, but then again there’s plenty that are all the way up to over $10,000 per speaker. We’re not going there.

Instead, we’ll just say that if you’re making serious money on your content, and it’s very audio-centric to where you need highly accurate and responsive speakers that can put out the volume to fill up a large space, this is where you’ll most likely be looking. High-end JBLs, Genelecs, ATC, Neumann, Focal, Avantone, Blue Sky speakers are what you’ll find. They’re nice, but they’re not what we’re all about here today.

Size

When we talk studio monitor size, we’re not just talking about the physical size of the cabinets, but the driver sizes. The average bedroom recording studio has 5″ drivers. There’s just usually not much more room for anything larger in a small space, and not just physically.

You need to look at the room in which these speakers will reside. Is it a large open floorplan, or a small spare bedroom? Will you have clients over sitting on the couch across the room or everyone tight up at the desk?

Larger speakers take up more desk space, of course, but they can also overpower a small enclosed room, creating detrimental bass frequencies that will just ruin your accuracy. Same as a small speaker can’t generate the volume to get a room sounding the way it should. Smaller drivers also won’t reproduce as many low frequencies, so keep that in mind.

Basically, if you’re in a bedroom situation, 5″ is the sweet spot. If you’re in a garage-sized space, start looking at 6″ to 8″ drivers.

Frequency range

Frequency range represents what the speaker is able to physically push out of the driver and tweeter. Usually something like 43Hz-24kHz (hertz and kilohertz, respectively), this tells you how low a frequency the speaker can make, and how high a frequency it can produce.

In the lower price ranges, you’ll notice that the low-end frequencies are not covered as much as on more expensive (and larger) speakers. With 5″ studio monitors and smaller, you’ll rarely get down to the low 40Hz range, with most at the high 40’s or 50’s. There are exceptions, but typically if you want thumping bass you’re looking at minimum 6″ drivers.

Depending on what you’re doing, you may not need the super low frequencies. If you make metal, hip-hop, EDM, you’ll want that low frequency. If all you do is spoken word, well, it’s not that as crucial to have it.

It will still help to have the most range possible, because you will have a better, more accurate representation of your final product, allowing you to identify problem areas, such as flubby bass or annoying highs.

Port location

A large portion of speaker cabinets work on the foundation of having a bass port. It’s basically a hole in the enclosure where bass frequencies get ejected so that they don’t build up in the case and get out of control. This port is usually either on the front or the back of the speakers.

This is important when you’re working in smaller spaces, or need to have your speakers within at least a foot from the wall. If you put rear-ported studio monitors next to the wall, it will start to cause odd behaviors in the low frequencies. Those frequencies will build up, reflect back at you in odd ways, and basically alter what your ears are hearing. This will give you a bad representation of what it actually sounds like elsewhere.

If you’re in a bedroom, stick with front-ported speakers. If you get your mix position off of the wall (which is usually how recording studios do it), it doesn’t matter nearly as much.

Inputs

Odds are, if you’re looking at studio monitors, you already have an audio interface of some sort. These interfaces usually have several types of outputs that you would need to be able to connect to your monitors.

The best input on a monitor is a balanced XLR input, which has the lowest noise and best signal. Your interface may have balanced XLR outputs or balanced 1/4″ TRS outputs (you can get balanced 1/4″ TRS to balanced XLR cables). This is definitely the best way to connect your monitors to your interface.

If you have a lower end interface you might only have unbalanced 1/4″ TRS outputs, but most monitors have a combination of balanced XLR, balanced and unbalanced 1/4″ inputs, and sometimes RCA inputs. Some, like the Tannoy Reveal 502, also have a 3.5mm TRS AUX input for use with a phone or other device without needing an audio interface.

Overall quality and detail in reproduction

Obviously, you want speakers that sound good. For mixing, recording, and other content creation you want a set of monitors that will accurately represent your final product.

All speakers will sound different compared to another, and they will sound better or worse to different people. The key is to find a set of speakers that have the physical features you need, and then audition them for as much time as possible in a good space.

Personally, I have not really liked how the KRK ROKIT 5 sounds to me. But there are a ton of people who swear by them. The Yamaha HS5 has some very upfront mids to my ear. Not a bad thing, but for tasks other than straight up audio mixing, maybe not the best. Some people find the Tannoy Reveal 502 to be too “round”, and they like the slight mid boost of the HS5, yet these are the studio monitors that I picked as my favorites.

Thankfully it’s all very subjective, and the key is to find what works for you, and what sounds good to you with music and content you’re already intimately familiar with.

Places like Guitar Center and Sweetwater have pro audio rooms (hopefully) where you can audition several sets of monitors and get a good feel for what they do. Be sure to try and use source material that is similar to what you will be working on, and listen at multiple volume levels. Don’t just crank them up–some of your best critical listening comes at a lower than average volume level.

Studio monitor accessories

Once you’ve picked out your monitors, there are a few other things that you should definitely consider buying. The first and cheapest would be a set of acoustic isolation pads.

Isolation pads are foam pads that go on top of your desk, and the studio monitor sits on top of the pad. While, yes, they do help raise the speakers closer to ear level (usually the proper positioning for monitors), the real purpose is to decouple the vibrations of the speaker cabinet from your desk.

This eliminates any weird buzzing or other effects caused by the speaker vibrating the surface on which it sits, and results in a cleaner sound. Not to mention cuts down on sound pollution coming through the speaker, to the desk, and down the desk legs into the floor. This is a real problem when you share a house with other people or have to work on projects while others are sleeping.

Auralex Acoustics MoPAD acoustic isolation pads are what I picked up, and do an excellent job. Unfortunately, they seem to be ridiculously expensive at this point, so take a look at some of the other options for studio monitor isolation pads available.

There are also desktop isolation stands that look a bit more premium and offer more adjustability, but you’ll definitely pay more for those. One example would be the IsoAcoustics ISO-L8R155 Acoustic Isolation Stands.  These do an amazing job of decoupling your speaker from the desk surface and clean up the low end of your speaker output.  I’ve been contemplating picking up a pair eventually, as I keep reading consistently positive reviews, and they may really help tighten up the bass frequencies in my small room.

The third common solution here would be a set of completely independent floor stands, such as the Ultimate Support JS-MS70 JamStands. It looks like a lot of these available all share very suspiciously similar design, so I’m sure many of these will be pretty identical. But I have always had trust in Ultimate Support equipment since I was a kid because of my dad’s reliance on their PA speaker stands, so I’ll link those up here.

For best results, you can place these stands in the optimal positioning off of your desk, and then set your monitors on isolation pads or isolation stands on the speaker stands.

Other than this, however, there’s really not much else you’d need other than a decent quality speaker cable, and really anything name-brand will do. I picked up a pair of Hosa cables, and they’re solid and get the job done.

Studio monitor setup

Now that you’ve got your studio monitors and whatever stands or pads you opted for, time to set them up. First things first, read the manuals that came with your monitors for how they’re designed to be spaced and oriented.

The majority of monitors are made to be sat vertically and will specifically tell you not to lay them horizontally. Usually, the instructions also say that the tweeters should be at ear level, and this shouldn’t be too difficult to achieve with your pads or stands. Again though, check the manual for specifics.

The one golden rule with studio monitors, however, relates to the spacing between the two speakers, and between each of those speakers and your head, or what is often referred to as your “listening position”.

Listening position is the location in your room where you will be sitting when working on critical audio tasks. Basically, your ears should stay within a certain area in relation to the speakers for the best accuracy.

Your two speakers and your listening position should be forming an equilateral triangle. The distance between the left and right speaker should be the same as the distance between the left speaker and your left ear, and between the right speaker and your right ear.

No matter what studio monitors you end up buying, this rule is almost always part of accurate listening. If you were to lean too far forward, backward, or to either side, you would notice that the tonality and/or balance of the speakers will change.

Because of this, you’ll want to determine your studio monitor listening position first. Evaluate how you sit at your desk, where your body and head are positioned when working and then work backward to find where your speakers should be located.

From here, we can get into the actual positioning of your studio monitors. At this point, you can now figure out whether there’s room on your desk for the monitors on isolation pads, or if they need to be placed further out on separate speaker stands.

You may also notice that, if you don’t want separate stands, you may need a larger desk for your studio monitors, especially if you have an ultrawide or dual display setup. There are a lot of studio-friendly desks out there, and I’ve previously written a guide on buying a home recording studio desk on a budget that you may want to take a look at.

Since the KRKs are front-ported, you can get away with them this close to the wall. Although it’s still better to move them out further.

Lastly, look at how far the speakers are from the wall, as this is pretty important for proper bass response. This is super critical, especially for rear-ported studio monitors. It still matters for front-ported speakers, but arguably less so.

You can then angle them in the correct position, as some speakers are designed for a certain angle. Some monitors work best when facing directly forward, not aimed directly at your head, but exactly parallel to either side of you. Others are meant to be aimed directly at your head in your listening position. As usual, check the manual for the correct positioning for your studio monitors.

Now that the speakers have been physically set up in your space, you just need to get the volumes set evenly to make sure your left/right balance is even. Unlike a usual set of computer speakers, each speaker has its own volume control, and these need to be matched.

If you (for some reason) have a decibel meter, time to break this out. If not, you can download one from your smartphone’s app store; be sure to get one that has been tested and validated for your specific phone model so that you know the readouts are accurate.

Get some pink noise audio files and mute one of your speakers. Play the file, with your meter (or phone) in your listening position, making note of the dB it’s reading. Mute that speaker, unmute the other, and see if this one matches. If not, correct one of the two. Rinse, repeat until both speakers are the same loudness.

There are similar processes for calibrating your monitors to certain standards for loudness, but this isn’t always necessary. It helps and is definitely worth looking into, but for now, we’ll just skip over that.

Learning your new studio monitors

Now that you’ve set up and configured your studio monitors, it’s time to start working, right? Wrong. I mean, well, you could just jump into working on production content, but you might be doing yourself a disservice.

Whenever you start working with new speakers, there’s a break-in period for your ears and break. You need to listen to a LOT of content on the speakers that are similar to what you create in order to learn how content is supposed to sound on your speakers.

Listen to a lot of music on your new speakers. A LOT of music. Music that you are very familiar with, and know how it sounds on your old speakers, or in your car. Listen to it both casually and critically.

Make note of how the top end sounds, or how subtle the bass punchiness is. But just listen to music or analogous content to that which you’ll be working on. This is an absolute must so that you know how your mixes or videos will translate on other systems.

Alternate between listening to other content and content you’ve already produced to see how they differ from your old speaker setup. You may notice that the low end is lacking, or is too wubby at certain frequencies. Maybe your old speakers misrepresented the mids and your content is a bit scooped in that range. This is how you’ll start learning to adapt your ears and brain from the old speakers to the new.

After a while, the new speakers will sound more familiar, and you’ll start picking things out that catch your ear as unique and new.  Or maybe even revealing flaws in your own work that you didn’t notice before. Start working on less critical projects until you start feeling confident on the new setup.

Final thoughts

Studio monitors will absolutely make any audio-based projects better. With a true, accurate representation of your original audio, you can dial in your final corrections and enhancements in a way that you know will be reliable on a multitude of devices.

After getting over the learning curve of the new speakers you’ll find that your audio-related tasks will be much easier, and will translate to other devices much more seamlessly. You don’t need to break the bank to get started with accurate studio monitors that will help you elevate your video and audio projects.

But what about you? Do you use studio monitors for video editing and other projects? If so, what do you have on your desk and why? Leave a comment below and let us know!

Tannoy Reveal 502 studio monitors review

A few years ago I decided I was going to start working on more music at home, and found myself in the market for a set of small studio monitors. I needed more flexibility than my 2.1 Logitech computer speakers and felt the need to upgrade. Even though I was very familiar with how my existing speakers sounded in my space, I definitely needed more accuracy for mixing. After a decent amount of research, I had narrowed the choices down to a group including my eventual pick, the Tannoy Reveal 502.

What is the Tannoy Reveal 502?

The Tannoy Reveal 502 is an active powered studio monitor geared towards small recording studios and home recording enthusiasts.  The 502 is the 5″ speaker size in the new lineup, and hits the sweet spot for bedroom recording setups and other small spaces on a budget.

Tannoy, however, isn’t new, and the company has been around for decades. While they produce a lot of commercial and home theater speakers, their main claim to fame is the coaxial driver design, or, a speaker within a speaker.

The original Tannoy Reveal was released in 1999 in both active (self-powered) and passive (requiring a separate power amp) versions, and quickly became rather popular with home recording studios. You could pick up a pair for around $900, and this was way cheap for this quality at the time.

In 2014, the Reveal 502 was released, and is the middle child of the British company’s latest (and currently only) line of studio reference monitors. Again, targeting the home recording studios at around $400 for the pair, the goal was once more an affordable monitor that gets the job done.

The Reveal 502 is the 5″ version of this line of studio monitors, bracketed by the 8″ Reveal 802 and the 4″ Reveal 402 on either side of the lineup.

Tannoy Reveal 502 key specs

All three sizes have the same design and I/O, so there’s feature parity across the line. You’ll find an XLR balanced input, 1/4″ TRS unbalanced input, volume, neutral/hi-cut/hi-boost switch, aux input/setting section, power, and a removable two-prong power cable on the back.

Around the front is a 1″ soft dome tweeter, a 5″ driver, and a bass port at the bottom of the cabinet (I’ll get into this more later). There are no screens in front of the driver and tweeter, however Tannoy does claim that the tweeter dome is “poke-resistant”, so, well, there’s that.

The frequency response on the 502 is one of the main features I was looking for, covering from a fairly low 49 Hz up to 43 kHz (again, more on this later). The built-in power amp is 75 watts, with 50 watts to the driver and 25 watts to the tweeter, with the crossover placed at 2.3 kHz.

All in all, it’s a pretty minimal and sleek cabinet, and will look right at home in pretty much any setup. I’m definitely a fan of the aesthetic of the Tannoy Reveal lineup.

 REVEAL 502REVEAL 802REVEAL 402
General
Frequency Response49 Hz -43 kHz42 Hz - 43 kHz56 Hz -48 kHz
Max SPL108 dB114 dB101 dB
Membrane Sizes
LF/Mid Range5" (130 mm)8" (200 mm)4” (100 mm)
HF1" Soft Dome (25 mm)1" Soft Dome (25 mm)¾" Soft Dome (19 mm)
Bi-amp Output Power, RMS
Power Output75 Watts100 Watts50 Watts
LF/Mid Range50 Watts75 Watts25 Watts
HF25 Watts25 Watts25 Watts
THD< 0.7 %< 0.4 %< 0.9 %
Input Types and Impedances
BalancedXLR, 20 kOhmXLR, 20 kOhmXLR, 20 kOhm
Unbalanced¼" Jack, 10 kOhm¼" Jack, 10 kOhm¼" Jack, 10 kOhm
AUX LinkMini Jack, 10 kOhmMini Jack, 10 kOhmMini Jack, 10 kOhm
AUX Link OutputMini JackMini JackMini Jack
EQ Options
HF EQ Settings-1.5 dB HF Cut / Neutral / +1.5 dB HF Boost-1.5 dB HF Cut / Neutral / +1.5 dB HF Boost-1.5 dB HF Cut / Neutral / +1.5 dB HF Boost
Crossover Frequency2.3 kHz1.8 kHz2.8 kHz
Low Frequency AlignmentOptimized Front PortOptimized Front PortOptimized Front Port
Cabinet Dimensions
HxWxD, inches11.8 x 7.2 x 9.415.4 x 10.0 x 11.89.5 x 5.8 x 8.4
HxWxD, mm300 x 184 x 238390 x 254 x 300240 x 147 x 212

Factors in choosing the right studio monitors for me

There were a few key features I was factoring in when looking to buy a set of affordable studio monitors (in no particular order):

Price

I definitely didn’t want to spend a ton on monitors, as I wasn’t necessarily making money off of them at the time. Even though this was somewhat technically a “band expense”, it was also largely just for my own hobbies. I was looking for something around the $200 per speaker price point.

Size

When I bought these, I was in a small room in a shared house, and only had my Ikea Linnmon desk, which was just large enough for my 23″ display and some reasonably sized speakers. Technically, I did have room for 8″ speaker cabinets, but in that size room the 8″ drivers would have been massively overkill, and I would have had a bass problem. I settled on 5″ studio monitors for size and price reasons.

Frequency response

Most of my bands and projects (as well as personal music tastes) have leaned at least partly to the rock/metal genres. My primary instrument in bands has been bass. As a result, I need to have a set of speakers that will go as low as possible.

True, you may not necessarily hear the tone of bass frequencies as low as 49 Hz, but the vibrations will still be there. If mixed improperly, bad bass in this lower range can cause really bad warbling or rumbling, ruining an otherwise great mix. Being able to properly gauge the bass and kick drum is critical to tight low end in a mix, and makes a huge difference. And that’s not even getting into synths or subkicks. But yeah, having as much low end represented as possible at my price point and size limits was definitely a major factor.

Port location

Reveal 502 front: 1" soft dome tweeter, 5" driver, bass port (top to bottom)

As previously mentioned, I was in a small room when I was looking for my studio monitors. And I had a feeling that most anywhere else I would have ended up in would be the same situation. Small rooms means not much space to move the speakers out from the walls, and this is usually very critical in accurate bass response in your recording/mixing space.

To combat the fact that these speakers would most likely be within a foot from the wall, I decided on finding a set of monitors that had the bass ports on the front. With studio monitors that have bass ports in the back, these have concentrated bass frequencies slamming against the wall and create weird bass buildups or false emphasis in whatever frequency range that ends up being affected in your room.

Moving the ports to the front means that the bass frequencies have room to breathe, so to speak. They don’t hit the wall and start building up in resonant frequencies and negatively affect your mix. Or, at least not as much. Small rooms still are the suck for bass frequency issues.

Inputs (to an extent)

Reveal 502 rear: Unbalanced 1/4" TRS input, balanced XLR input, aux input/position switch/link output, hi cut/boost switch, volume, power, voltage switch, power cord (top to bottom)

My current (aging) audio interface has two balanced 1/4″ TRS outputs for studio monitors. Whatever interface I upgrade to will have at least those, if not balanced XLR outputs. Preferably I wanted a set of speakers with balanced XLR inputs, and get the appropriate balanced 1/4″ TRS to XLR speaker cables for now.

Eventually I may just need XLR to XLR balanced cables after a future upgrade, depending on my next interface. And if I absolutely have to use an unbalanced input, I wanted that flexibility too, so having both inputs was helpful to me, but not a dealbreaker.

 

Overall quality and detail in reproduction

Obviously you want speakers that sound good. For mixing, recording, and other content creation you want a set of monitors that will accurately represent your final product.

I wanted a pair of studio monitors that had good detail across the board, and fairly tight, focused low end. Basically, I wanted something that was of course flat, but also not too bright or pokey while not masking or hiding flaws.

In reality, the trifecta of key features I was looking for were the price, frequency response, quality. These were really the main driving forces behind my choice, and everything else were secondary factors.

Selecting my favorite studio monitors

After doing some research, I had narrowed down the choices to around five choices. I then set upon auditioning these monitors, and ended up with a final choice.

Presonus Eris E5 and KRK ROKIT 5 G3

So let’s start with the immediate disqualifications of the PreSonus and KRKs. Both are front-ported, have all the I/O, and are really affordable. The Presonus Eris E5 has a less than desirable 53Hz-22kHz frequency response, while the KRK ROKIT 5 G3 is better at 45Hz-35kHz. The Eris E5 didn’t sound bad, just not great, even for the price.

I’ll be honest, I’ve never liked KRKs. Especially the older generations. To me, the 5″ variants are just really muddy in the low end, and the mids/highs can be grating to my ears (the larger ones definitely are a welcomed improvement. But even after giving the benefit of the doubt, I nixed them pretty quick.

JBL LSR305 305P MKII

Next was the JBL LSR305 (these have since been replaced by the JBL 305P MkII). These have been insanely popular with home recording studios for a while, and for a good reason. They have all the required goodies, and a frequency range of 43hz-24kHz. Unfortunately the LSR305 is a rear-ported speaker, so that was working against it.

During the audition, I did like them a lot, but the high end just didn’t seem to be represented as well as I’d like. The 6″ and 8″ were just unfairly better, but as even the 6″ was out of my price range at the time, leaving only the 5″ version wasn’t an immediate choice for me that day.

Tannoy Reveal 502

I really wanted to like the Tannoy Reveal 502, but didn’t think I would, just based on the raging popularity of the JBLs and Yamahas. Despite a much wider range of 49Hz-43kHz, I had my doubts. But at first listen, I was definitely liking what I heard. Compared to the KRK, the bass was tight, albeit not overly thumping. Next to the LSR305, the highs were crisp and well defined, but definitively smooth. Definitely a close frontrunner so far.

Yamaha HS5

Last was the Yamaha HS5. The bass was focused, despite the frequency range of 54Hz-30kHz. The JBLs were punchier, and the Tannoys were a bit more round. The highs on the HS5 were clear, but a bit sharp to me, but not as airy as the Tannoys. I expected this.

I also unfortunately expected the mids to be super prominent, because the HS series is very much influenced by Yamaha’s classic studio monitors, the NS10. The NS10 is known for having a very brutally unforgiving midrange, punishing every tiny midrange mixing mistake. The HS5s aren’t nearly that bad, but the profile is still there, and I just didn’t like how they sounded.

Add to that the fact that the HS5 is a rear-ported speaker, which I knew could be an issue in my small room.

The final three

With my final selection down to the Tannoys, JBLs, and Yamahas, there were a few key points. The HS5s didn’t have the low end roundness, and were not pleasant in the mids. The JBLs had great low end and were actually really nice. But the Tannoys kept pulling me back to them.

The Reveal 502 isn’t the cheapest 5″ monitor out there, but compared to some of the nicer “high end” manufacturers, they definitely compete with those companies’ “affordable” offerings. The highs were unexpectedly detailed and crisp, yet pleasantly smooth. They don’t have the thump that the JBLs had, but they didn’t have a lot in the first place.

Honestly, no 5″ speaker thumps. The difference between the 5″ and even 6″ speakers is remarkable in the low end department, never mind moving up to the 8″ drivers. But the extended higher frequencies in the Reveal 502 help give more clarity in that area of the mix, revealing noise or sizzle where you may not hear it with other speakers. That said, it’s somewhat easy to put too much airiness in a mix with these speakers, because it sounds so damn good.

And all three final choices had excellent stereo width, and the soundstages were all very detailed and spatial. I didn’t feel that any of the speakers at all were smushing the instruments together, and could very accurately produce a good stereo image with plenty of definition in the soundstage.

The winner: Tannoy Reveal 502

Despite my preconceptions with the popularity of the JBL and Yamaha speakers, I ended up being really surprised by the Tannoy Reveal 502 studio monitors. They sound excellent in pretty much any room I’ve had them in thanks to the front bass port, and I’ve found that they’re a very well-rounded speaker.

I have them on my main PC desk, which means they get used for everything. Recording/mixing, video editing, watching videos, and even some gaming. Because of their flexibility and full frequency range, they’ve done the job for pretty much everything I’ve thrown at it.

What I’ve noticed with the Tannoy Reveal 502 is that, despite not having the thump that comes with a 6″ or larger driver, they do an excellent job of representing the whole image of the audio playing through them.  They have plenty of low end to enable accurate tracking and mixing of bass, kick drum, and metal guitar without hyping anything, and things just sit really well in that register.  The mids are articulate and will absolutely punish bad mixing, but not nearly to the scale of the HS5 (or especially the NS10).  And the top end is incredible.  The Reveal 502 makes excellent use of the extended higher frequency range and everything just sounds very airy but in an honest way.  Put too much EQ on cymbals and you’ll realize it.  Sibilance is easily identified and helps you EQ your voiceover tracks with ease.

I’m also not saying that the other studio monitors in this article are bad. They’re really not! They all have found popularity with lots of different engineers and home studios, and can definitely do you right. For my personal tastes, I happened to like the Reveal 502 the most, but just like music itself, it’s all subjective to a point.

Not purely perfect

There are, however, two things I want to point out as a possible negative for the Reveal 502, and possibly the rest of the Reveal line.  In early runs of the speakers, there were issues where a slight electronic hum or buzz could be heard from the speaker.  Not all speakers did this, and it was to varying degrees.

Subsequent runs seem to have eliminated this issue, or at least mitigated it to a non-issue.  The speaker I have on my right side has a tiny, nearly inaudible hum, which I can hear if there’s no music playing and my air conditioner/heater in the house is off.  I can only really hear it if I lean in a bit, and I almost always forget that it’s there.  I’ve tested on different AC power outlets and circuits, used surge filters, and nothing seems to remove it, so I’m guessing it’s a lingering remnant from the more annoying buzz issue.

The other thing I noticed (which may actually be tied into the first issue) is that both speakers do not output the exact same loudness at the same volume knob positions.  The difference is one or two clicks on the knob, and isn’t a huge deal once you calibrate the two together.  But I’ve also seen this variance from other studio monitors that are sold individually, so I’m not terribly broken up over this.

Even after noticing these two “issues”, I still decided to keep the monitors, as they have never actually impacted any of my projects.  Just know that going into these speakers (or any others, really), you may have some manufacturing tolerance issues to keep in mind.  The audio quality is well worth it in my book.

Tannoy Reveal 502 as a studio monitor for content creators

A lot of my references in this article have been based around audio production and engineering, especially as that’s what I’ve been using them for the most (other than just listening to music).  But what about for other creative tasks, how do they stack up for a wide variety of content creation?

I can’t suggest the Reveal 502 enough as a studio reference monitor for any sort of content creator. They’re highly detailed, easily listened to for hours on end before reaching a point of listening fatigue, and still sound enough like consumer speakers while totally not sounding like consumer speakers.  They’re great for entertainment and creation, and do so with minimal drawbacks on either side.

This speaker is just very honest and truthful in a way that I feel really helps with content creation. As a studio monitor for video editing, I think these are some of the best out there in the price range.

Final thoughts

As I said before, speakers are fairly subjective. The Tannoy Reveal 502 isn’t the most popular out there, as it lives perpetually in the shadow of the of the JBL LS305 (now the JBL 305P MKII), the Yamaha HS5, and KRK ROKIT 5 G3. But don’t let that misguide your choices, give it an honest chance.

Now that I’ve had the Reveal 502s on my desk for a few years, I can’t say enough great things about them. I still love listening to music on them, in addition to mixing and other content creation tasks.

While I don’t do much desktop gaming these days, they’ve always felt right at home there as well. As an all-around set of studio monitors, aside from the lack of thumping bass that my old 2.1 computer speakers offered, they never leave me desiring more. The clarity and quality is definitely worth the trade.

But enough about me, I’d like to hear your thoughts on the matter. Do you use studio monitors for video editing and content creation? If so, what do you have on your desk and why? Leave a comment below and let us know!

How to pick the best teleprompter for more professional videos

How to pick the best teleprompter for more professional videos

If you shoot videos with a script, I’m sure you have run into the issue of trying to read that script off of a laptop, phone, or printed notes.  You may have realized that it’s pretty much the exact opposite of a fluid process. There’s a better way to go about this, and despite everyone knowing what a teleprompter is, very few people think of implementing one. Making more professional videos with the use of a prompter is much easier–and cheaper–than you may think!

What is a teleprompter?

While most people know what a teleprompter does in a broad sense, the actual “how it works” may not be too clear to some. Basically, it’s a method of allowing on-camera talent to read a script while maintaining eye contact with the audience (the camera).

The short, short version is this: There’s a display facing upward toward a piece of beam splitting glass mounted at about a 45 degree angle. The glass reflects the display out toward the talent, showing them the script. Behind that piece of glass is the camera, filming through the glass. Because the glass is beam splitting glass, the reflection does not appear on the glass and the camera doesn’t see anything other than the set in front of it.  It’s essentially a one-way mirror, basically.

This allows the camera to an unimpeded view of the set, while still allowing the talent to keep looking right at the camera, instead of needing to glance off-axis at cue cards or a separate display.

Why should I use a teleprompter?

Whether you have your laptop set up below the camera, on the desk in frame, or phone in hand, it’s going to involve some clear visual cues that you’re trying to read your script. While it’s not a deal breaker, you’ll definitely find yourself making quite a bit more jump cuts in the edit process. Ultimately, this will lead to more time spent filming and editing. Time that you could be using for, well, literally anything else.

Using a teleprompter for YouTube may seem overkill at first, but think about it. Your script will be immediately in front of you, allowing you to still read all of your well-written dialogue and not needing to break eye contact with your camera. Faster filming sessions, faster editing, faster turnaround time on videos. Adding to those, you will find that you have a much better connection with your audience because you won’t be constantly looking away or jump cutting as much.

So maybe a better question would be “Why shouldn’t I use a prompter?” If you just can’t do the scripted thing, or your content isn’t necessarily conducive to everything being scripted out, you probably don’t need one. If you only vlog, then yeah, probably not needed at all.

But if you put out educational/informational content, especially on the tech side of things, having a teleprompter and the teleprompter app of your choice can definitely save a lot of time, effort, and possible frustration during video production.

So with that said, let’s get on with the show and take a look at a handful of teleprompters that you could use in your video production.

Tips for picking out a teleprompter

There are a lot of variables that could possibly involved when you start looking into buying a teleprompter. Budget, gear, and space all play a part in your decision making, but here’s some basic starting points to keep in mind.

  • What camera do you currently have? Are you shooting with DSLRs or mirrorless cameras, or currently smartphone-only? Depending on the camera size, you may need a smaller or less expensive teleprompter than if you are shooting with a RED or C300.  Lens choice is also a factor to consider, as mounting space may come into play.
  • How big is your planned shooting space? How far away will your camera and teleprompter going to be? Teleprompters usually have a listed maximum readability range, so keep that in mind.
  • What do you intend to use as the source for the teleprompter? Do you have a smartphone you plan on using, or are you going to set up an iPad teleprompter (or other tablet)? A larger source means you can have it further away and still read the copy, but also means you’ll need a larger teleprompter.
  • After looking at what you have now, what camera and space are you planning on upgrading to in the near future? If you have no intentions of moving away to a larger camera or a bigger shooting space, you don’t necessarily have to look into future-proofing and buying for later. You can save some cash this way, but if you end up upgrading anyway, you may have to buy twice.

Teleprompters with built-in displays

Traditionally, teleprompters have been large bulky devices attached to studio cameras, where the built-in display is mounted to the frame containing the beam splitting glass with both covered by a hood to block light from the reflected image. This is still the design of the majority of prompters today, whether looking at professional studio-level prompters or small DSLR teleprompters.

Today, these displays are flat panel displays connected to a PC or Mac. A screen-reversing app would then be used on the computer, along with the actual functionality of scrolling the prompter copy. These are great if you have a dedicated set and are using larger cameras in a more permanent setup, as they run on AC power and need to be tethered to the machine providing the copy.

Telmax G2 17″ Teleprompter

Telmax’s G2-17 is a self-contained setup that works with most cameras and tripods, and includes a sled system that allows for precise positioning of the camera lens behind the beamsplitter glass. It is a bit heavy at around 20 pounds, but that does include a plastic shroud instead of a fabric one found on most lower cost units. The mirror angle is adjustable, and Telmax states that the effective viewing range is between a few inches and 22 feet. They also include their ZaPrompt Pro software for Mac and PC to handle the dual-screen reversing tasks.

Buy the Telmax G2 17″ Teleprompter here

I’m only including this one built-in display model in this post. There are a lot of them out there, most way more expensive than this one. But, to be honest, the majority of people reading this will not be looking for something like this, due to an increased cost and the pure physical space required for a larger unit and dedicated PC to run it. So with that, we move on to the next–and most recent–type of teleprompter.

Smartphone or tablet teleprompters

Yes, yes, the smartphone has yet another category of equipment designed for it. But this is actually really useful for a lot of video creators. There are multitude of options out there for small prompter setups that use your smartphone or a tablet instead of the built-in display of the expensive professional teleprompters.

Smartphone teleprompters are built around the same physical concept as the built-in display units, with a beam splitter reflecting the image while the camera shoots through it. Usually, in this case, that camera is a DSLR, small cine video recorder, or other sort of camcorder-ish device. There’s a hood, sometimes a rail mount, and everything you’d need to attach your existing camera to the prompter. Sometimes even they come with a mount for another smartphone as the recording device instead of a normal video camera.

So basically, you have yourself a full-fledged teleprompter for a fraction of what you’d pay for a fully integrated setup. But these are typically smaller devices than the built-in display models, and the copy being read is often smaller as well. Those of us with vision issues will need to get these closer than we’d probably want to admit. But you can get some larger units that support large tablets, or you could always use a small flat panel display with some instead.

Glide Gear TMP 50 Adjustable Smartphone Mini Teleprompter

This is probably one of the more popular smartphone teleprompters floating around out there. Glide Gear makes some pretty great photo and video equipment at some decent prices (I personally own the Glide Gear DNA 1000 video stabilizer and–while it’s not the easiest to balance–the build quality is definitely decent at the price).

The TMP 50 will support smartphones or mini tablets up to 7 x 6 inches, and mounts on pretty much any tripod. This unit does come with the shroud and a carrying bag, and you can use either a DSLR, camcorder, or another smartphone as your recording device without any issues. You will want to be careful of sticking longer lenses on DSLRs with this system though, as you may run out of room on the built-in camera “rail”, which may necessitate a second tripod.

Buy the Glide Gear TMP 50 Adjustable Smartphone Mini Teleprompter here

CuePro Prompter Teleprompter

As of when I was initially researching this post, this prompter was among the cheapest available. At the time of writing this, however, it seems to be currently out of stock. Whether this is due to constantly selling out or otherwise due to build reasons in a few of the reviews, well, who knows.

But if it does come back in stock, check it out. If you absolutely need a near-DIY quality/cost device and are just too lazy to build one yourself (like myself!), this one’s the prompter for you. It claims to support phones and tablets up to 10″, and they vehemently describe it as not being made with cardboard or paper. So, there’s that! Honestly, I don’t remember what it was selling for at this point, but if you need it on the ultra cheap, it actually didn’t seem too terrible of an option.

Buy the CuePro Prompter Teleprompter here

Parrot Teleprompter Version 2 Bundle w/Parrot PT Teleprompter Remote

Here’s a device with the exact opposite approach as the CuePro. The Parrot V2 teleprompter is smaller (only smartphones), more rugged, and more expensive. But the V2 has made some pretty important improvements over the initial version, such as switching from glue to physical clips for the mirror glass, being made out of a tougher material to reduce scratches to the device, and changing up the phone grip and mounting system.

And the bundle comes with the Parrot PT Teleprompter Remote as well, so you won’t have to look for one separately. All for a pretty attractive bundle price. Can’t go wrong here for a smartphone tablet.

Buy the Parrot Teleprompter Version 2 Bundle here

Glide Gear TMP100 Adjustable iPad/Tablet/Smartphone Teleprompter Beam Splitter Glass with Carry Case

The TMP 100 is Glide Gear’s next size up, offering both a better camera mounting solution and larger tablet capacity. It can hold up to a 10.5 by 9.5 inch tablet, and again is a collapsible device that mounts onto any tripod. This is definitely a better option than the TMP 50 if you need a larger tablet and bigger camera, but isn’t too much larger to carry around.

Buy the Glide Gear TMP 100 Adjustable iPad/Tablet/Smartphone Teleprompter Beam Splitter Glass with Carry Case here

Glide Gear TMP 500 Universal Video Camera Tripod / Shoulder Rig Teleprompter 15mm Rails w/ Carry Case

The TMP 500 is Glide Gear’s biggest prompter, and also the most complicated. Despite being the “big boy” in their lineup, it actually holds tablets up to 10.5 by 8.5 inches. This change is primarily due to the fact that this model is on a 15mm rail system, and space is limited with the provided rails.

Because it’s on a rail system, however, you actually have a lot of control over the positioning of the camera, mirror mount, and overall balance on the tripod. You can also extend the rails or replace them with your own 15mm rails if you need different ones. One of the other advertised features is that you can put the rails on a shoulder mount and be able to carry around your teleprompter rig. You know, if you had that need for whatever reason.

Buy the Glide Gear TMP 500 Universal Video Camera Tripod / Shoulder Rig Teleprompter 15mm Rails w/ Carry Case here

Telmax PROIPEX iPad / Android / Smartphone Universal Teleprompter

Here’s another entry from Telmax, but a tablet version. Just like the G2-17, the build quality is pretty great, and the shroud is plastic. Because of the these features the PRO-IP-EX is a bit heavier and a good chunk more expensive, but if you need something that can take a bit more abuse it’s a great option.

Buy the Telmax PROIPEX iPad / Android / Smartphone Universal Teleprompter here

Glide Gear TMP-WB Solo Tablet iPad Laptop Desktop Tripod Teleprompter

This one is a bit odd, but hear me out. This is a teleprompter for use with an iPad. Or a laptop. Or even a desktop, maybe, depending on how your webcam is positioned. Basically, this is meant to hang on your iPad or laptop, and has a gap between the beamsplitter up top and the phone tray at the bottom, letting you see your video chat window between the two. Wild, right??

Seriously, I just had to include this because of how random and unique it is. If you do a lot of livestreams and the like, but yet still need to read a script, you shouldn’t have to look off of your monitor or phone like a pleb just because you’re using a webcam and not a dedicated camera.

Really though, admittedly the use case for this is somewhat niche, but you never know when someone might need exactly this for whatever random setup they have going on.

And frankly, just the concept of a teleprompter for your iPad is hilarious. So amazing.

Buy the Glide Gear TMP-WB Solo Tablet iPad Laptop Desktop Tripod Teleprompter here

Prompt-it Maxi Teleprompter with Beamsplitter Glass

The Prompt-it Maxi is a slightly different animal compared to the rest of these. This unit does not have a camera mount–it’s solely a teleprompter. It’s also designed for the tablet to be in portrait mode, not landscape like most of the rest. This will give more room for copy to be on screen at once, allowing you to read a bit easier.

The Maxi will support tablets up to 192mm by 260mm, with a max recommended thickness of 20mm. So this is definitely not for phones, but for people who need a larger prompter. And while there is no camera mount, it does include the glare shroud, so at least there’s that.

Honestly, this is actually a pretty decent prompter, albeit for a more specific audience; one that needs a tablet, wants it in portrait, and doesn’t mind having two tripods (or one large tripod on a rail system).

Buy the Prompt-it Maxi Teleprompter with Beamsplitter Glass here

Ikan PT-ELITE-V2 Universal Tablet Teleprompter

I initially wanted to shy away from some of the more expensive units, but I suppose in the grand scheme of things this isn’t terrible compared to the actual expensive ones. Plus, I did want to show that there’s some more rugged stuff with a rail mount than the Glide Gear.

Ikan makes a ton of prompters, including some very expensive models. But this is actually a pretty affordable, high quality tablet-based unit with a great build quality. Really, the only real issue with this one is that it’s easy to install the glass backwards by accident. But aside from that one quirk, there’s really not much to compain about with this tablet–just make sure your tablet is compatible with the bracket.

But if you need a fairly heavy duty rail-mounted teleprompter rig at a relatively affordable cost, the PT-ELITE-V2 is your choice.

Buy the Ikan PT-ELITE-V2 Universal Tablet Teleprompter here

Cue card style prompters

This isn’t a “real” category, but it’s what I’m calling off-axis prompter devices. Or in other words, the script copy is not directly in front of the camera lens, but either above, below, or off to the side somehow.

The same concept as having someone holding cue cards, this usually involves some sort of cage or mount that will hold your smartphone or tablet above the camera lens. These are typically cheaper and smaller, but you’ll still have some degree of eye shift from the copy to the lens. This degree with increase as the distance between talent and camera decreases, but it will definitely get the job done if you need a super small, portable rig–or just don’t need a prompter very often.

iShot G10 Pro Large Universal 360° Adjustable iPad Pro Surface Tablet Premium Teleprompter Camera Cage Kit

 

This is actually more than just a teleprompter that mounts above your camera, but is a full kit for mounting your camera, a tablet, and other things atop a tripod. I’m including it because it’s actually a really useful setup.

The tablet mount will hold a tablet between 8 and 13 inches, so no smartphone capacity. But the really nice part about this kit is that it’s built upon a camera cage. While the cage lets you mount other things up top (such as a video light and microphone), the main benefit is that it will help steady out your handheld footage on the cheap. It’s not the best video stabilizer out there, but it’s way cheaper than a gimbal for sure.

So, really, you’re getting a pretty versatile setup here. Super-compact teleprompter-ish device along with a useful camera cage and stabilizer. For the money, if it fits your needs, you seriously can’t go wrong with this setup.

Buy the iShot G10 Pro Large Universal 360° Adjustable iPad Pro Surface Tablet Premium Teleprompter Camera Cage Kit here

Powermounts Premium Smartphone/Action Camera Teleprompter Kit with 6000mAh Powerbank

Here we have one of the more low-cost and low-tech options available. This is designed to hold one phone as the prompter, and a second phone as the camera (or a GoPro or other action camera if that’s your jam) and mount it atop your laptop screen. Well, technically it mounts behind and peeks up above it, but it will also allow for a mount on, as they mention, a stack of books. Yeah. Because why not?

The downsides to this one are a few, though. First, the phone orientation is in portrait. I guess that’s fine for Instagram Live or Snapchat or Facebook Live video, but otherwise, a bit less than desirable. You could mount a regular phone mount to the GoPro mount, but that’s just getting cumbersome. Second is the fact that you most likely need to slap something onto your laptop for a good suction mount. They do include these, but still, not necessarily a fan of sticking something so random on my laptop lid.

But it does some with a 6000mAh powerbank to make sure your phone is topped off during recording, so that’s a nice bonus. And you don’t have to mount it on your laptop, so why not just slap it on that stack of books for some impromptu IG live videos, right? Seriously though, this is definitely a bit of a niche item for a few people who don’t mind defacing their laptop or need something ultra portable (and fairly inexpensive).

Buy the Powermounts Premium Smartphone/Action Camera Teleprompter Kit with 6000mAh Powerbank here

Presidental Teleprompters

Initially I wasn’t going to include these, as they’re somewhat outside the target demographic I have in mind. But after researching these, I think they’re worth at least covering a little bit so we’ll look at some examples.

They get their name from–quite obviously–the fact that they’re used by the President and other public speakers in order to give their address and be engaging with the audience instead of maintaining eye contact with the camera in the case of a conventional teleprompter. One prompter is placed on each side of the stage in the line of sight of the speaker, and provides freedom of movement to the speaker.

There’s not much special about presidential prompters, except that difference in positioning as well as being as unobtrusive as possible. They’re really pretty simple, but ridiculously expensive just because of who the usual buyers of these devices are.

Glide Gear STG 100 Speech / Presentation / Presidential Tablet Stage Prompter

Yet another Glide Gear product, this presidential teleprompter will hold tablets ranging form 7″ to 15″. The glass is also 15″, so while it’s not listed in the specs, the readable range is probably up to around 15′ to 18′ in best conditions.

Build-wise, it’s not really anything more than a mic stand with a tablet mount and a glass mount up top instead of a mic clip. You could probably source the parts and make one yourself for way less money, so that’s an option if you need this style of teleprompter on a budget.

Buy the Glide Gear STG 100 Speech / Presentation / Presidential Tablet Stage Prompter here

Prompter People FLEX-iPAD-PRES FLEX Presidential Teleprompter

Prompter People make a lot of different higher end teleprompters, and this is their tablet version of a presidential teleprompter. Again, it’s pretty pricey, and not anything more than a mic stand with some special mounts affixed to it.

Buy the Prompter People FLEX-iPAD-PRES FLEX Presidential Teleprompter here

Telmax Presidential Teleprompter Bundles

You’ll notice that the tablet versions usually are sold invididually, while the built-in display versions are available in pairs. This is primarily because it’s way easier to set up and sync two of the display versions as opposed to two separate tablets.

Looking at these Telmax Presidential Teleprompter bundles you can see why, too. These are available with different size displays/glass to suit different size/distance applications, I’ve listed the 15″ and 19″ versions below (there is also a 17″ version).

But the nice part of these types of prompters is the fact that the displays both get connected to a four port VGA splitter, which feeds the second display output from the computer running the included ZaPrompt Pro software to both prompter displays at the same time. If you need a teleprompter setup for public speaking, these bundles will definitely do the job.

Buy the Telmax TSP2-15 Teleprompter Bundle here Buy the Telmax TSP2-19 Teleprompter Bundle here

Controllers

With traditional teleprompters, they’re usually controlled by someone on set, who will pause when necessary, roll it back for another take, and maybe edit the copy on the fly as needed. That’s usually not the way most video creators would be using a teleprompter, so we need a way to control the prompter from in front of the camera.

If you are using your own display attached to a computer, you could do what Paul from Paul’s Hardware does, and throw a keyboard on the floor under his desk, allowing him to hit the space bar like a footswitch. You could also do this with a Bluetooth keyboard paired to a smartphone.

But if you’re not using a PC to power a prompter and are instead running a tablet or smartphone, a Bluetooth controller is the way to go. Most are just handheld remotes, or you could use game controllers also. There are a small number of suitable Bluetooth foot pedals out there, but most seem to be geared towards transcription or sheet music control. They may still work, but not the way you’d like.

IK Multimedia iRig Blueboard wireless floor controller

IK Multimedia is a well-known player in the music industry, and over the past handful of years have been focusing on iPhone and iPad music creation. Their iRig Blueboard floor pedal is designed to work with a multitude of iOS apps, such as guitar effects or recording apps, as well as sheet music apps. The pedal connects via Bluetooth and communicates with MIDI over that Bluetooth connection.

Because the pedal is standard MIDI communication, developers have started building in support for this pedal into their teleprompter applications. Thankfully this means you have several iOS teleprompter apps to choose from, and you can configure the pedal to do just what you need with your teleprompter app of choice.

The down side is that based on everything I’ve found, it’s not compatible with Android despite using plain ol’ Bluetooth. It requires a companion app on the iOS device, which clearly can’t be installed on an Android.

Buy the IK Multimedia iRig Blueboard wireless floor controller here

AirTurn Stomp 6

Fear not, Android users, for AirTurn has got your back. While the Stomp 6 may not look as cool as the Blueboard and costs a bit more, it’s got it where it counts. Aside from backlighting, that is.

What the Stomp 6 does offer is six momentary foot switches, hence the name. Heavy duty industrial footswitches in an all metal enclosure is what you get here, which is definitely a contrast from the Blueboard and its somewhat squishy (albeit backlit) buttons. It does require a 9v battery, but it will also run on a 9v power supply like most any other guitar effects pedal, so you musicians should be good there.

AirTurn’s website has a ton of compatible apps listed, and I’m sure there’s others that haven’t been added. And yes, there are definitely Android apps available that are on the compatibility list. Again, this pedal is just using standard MIDI protocol, so nothing crazy here. That said, I think it’s important to note that none of the listed teleprompter apps on their list are marked as compatible with the Stomp 6, or even the Quad. Unsure if this is because they aren’t compatible yet, or documentation is just way behind.

Either way, this is definitely a high quality pedal and if the app is compatible, this will give you way more functionality than you’d need for a teleprompter, while still being able to work with any other app on your compatible devices, including computers with compatible Bluetooth versions.

Buy the AirTurn Stomp 6 here Buy the AirTurn QUAD here

Parrot PT-Remote Teleprompter Remote for Smartphones and Tablets with Bluetooth Wireless

We’ve discussed the Parrot teleprompter up above, but they also have a fully featured remote available as well. According to Parrot, they only guarantee compatibility with their app, but it may work with others as well. You should do your research to see if it works with your teleprompter app, but if it does, this is a pretty great little remote.

Buy the Parrot PT-Remote Teleprompter Remote for Smartphones and Tablets with Bluetooth Wireless here

8Bitdo Zero Mini Gamepad, Bluetooth Wireless Game Controller for Android/iOS/Windows

And now for something completely different. Again, app compatibility may be hit or miss, but the 8Bitdo mini game pad is actually a pretty good choice as a teleprompter remote. If you want something that will pull double duty as a remote and for gaming and looks pretty great, it’s going to fit the bill for sure. Again, just research app compatibility.

Buy the 8Bitdo Zero Mini Gamepad, Bluetooth Wireless Game Controller for Android/iOS/Windows here

AirTurn DIGIT Bluetooth Multi-Function Remote

Back with AirTurn here for a handheld remote. With foot pedal compatibility. Wait, what? Yep, the original AirTurn DIGIT is not only a handheld app controller, but it actually has 3.5mm jacks that break out into 6.3mm jacks to connect expression pedals or other footswitches to. Really unique, not sure how useful to how many people it would be, but I can definitely see this actually being a really powerful remote system.

Powered by an internal rechargable battery with mini USB charging, users should expect up to 100 hours of standby time, which isn’t terrible at all. Just like the footswitches, it pairs with iOS, Android, Windows, and macOS, so it’s a pretty versatile setup. And with the ability to add foot pedals if you need them, it should have all your needs covered.

Buy the AirTurn DIGIT Bluetooth Multi-Function Remote here

AirTurn DIGIT III Bluetooth Multi-Function Remote

The DIGIT III is AirTurn’s latest remote control available, and runs on Bluetooth 4.0, unlike the original DIGIT. This means that your phone, tablet, PC/Mac, etc, needs to support Bluetooth 4.0. Most major flagship phones of the past few years support this protocol, however if you have an older iPad 1 or 2, you should stick with the DIGIT.

The DIGIT III is a different design than the first, however. Instead of a larger, expandable remote, this new iteration shrinks down in size. Retaining only the face buttons and USB charging port, it’s definitely easier to hold and hide. If you don’t need the pedal ability from the original DIGIT and have a modern device to use with it, save some money and pick this one up.

Buy the AirTurn DIGIT III Bluetooth Multi-Function Remote here

ACGAM R1 Bluetooth 4.0 Wireless Gamepad VR Remote

One of the last remotes we’ll cover here is definitely one of the more strange entries in the list. Again, this is a Bluetooth 4.0 remote, so do that research on your device compatibility up front. But really, the unique form factor and control features are why it’s making the list.

First of all, this is definitely a VR controller, meant to be used in one hand, or maybe paired with another off-hand controller as well. There’s a thumbstick, face buttons, side buttons, trigger buttons, and all on a little device that slips over your finger like a ring. And it’s that form factor that makes it a great potential wireless teleprompter remote.

My thought here is that it’s unobtrusive enough to keep in your hand as you’re doing your video and it won’t look terribly awkward. Yes, people will definitely ask what it is and what it’s for, but hey, just one more question for one of your FAQ videos, right?

In all seriousness though, if you don’t care about going the route of hiding a footswitch out of frame, this could be a really great alternative that you can hide in you palm and still have instant control of your teleprompter app. And I hate repeating this, but definitely do your compatibility research of your teleprompter app to see if it will work with game pads.

Buy the ACGAM R1 Bluetooth 4.0 Wireless Gamepad VR Remote here

Bluetooth keyboards

Last, but not least, are just Bluetooth keyboards in general. If you already have one lying around for any of your devices, this is an easy choice. If you have somewhere to hide it out of frame (or don’t care if it’s in the shot), it’s an easy and very compatible method that almost all of the teleprompter apps can support. Seeing as they’re available in a ton of different form factors, you can definitely find one that will work for your needs.

Logitech K380 Multi-Device Bluetooth Keyboard

Anker Bluetooth Ultra-Slim Keyboard

Jelly Comb Handheld Remote Control Wireless Mini Keyboard with Touchpad Mouse

Logitech K810 Wireless Bluetooth Illuminated Multi-Device Keyboard for PC, Tablets and Smartphones

Rii FMKBTL1-IV1 i8+ BT Mini Wireless Bluetooth Backlight Touchpad Keyboard with Mouse

Teleprompter apps

The final piece of the puzzle here are, of course, apps. There are several teleprompter apps available for Android, iOS, PC and Mac. No matter whether you’re going for a smartphone teleprompter or a full, more professional teleprompter, you will be able to find an app for your needs.

Some apps are compatible with more remotes than others, some only work with that brand’s own hardware. You’ll most likely have to play around with the apps and find the ones that work with your prompter remote the best, but there’s definitely several choices out there.

In addition to remote compatibility, you’ll want to make sure that any teleprompter app you work with has adjustable text size and speed, as well as mirror text. The size and speed of course so that you can read the prompter copy without issues, and the mirror text because that’s how the whole teleprompter thing works: It’s a piece of glass that is a essentially a one-way mirror. The copy on the device needs to be reversed in order to actually read it at all.

There are a lot of teleprompter apps for Android and iOS out there, and covering even just the top players would be difficult, so I’ve compiled a list of the ones I like or have heard good things about, including the app cost, any in-app purchases (IAPs), presence of ads, and on iOS, what devices they support. Take a look through them and find the one that works best for your devices and workflow.

Android teleprompter apps

Simple Teleprompter – Free, no IAPs
Teleprompter Pro LITE – Free, no IAPs
Teleprompter Pro – $4.99, no IAPs
Parrot Teleprompter – Free, no IAPs
A Prompter For Android – Free, IAPs
Autocue – Free, contains ads, no IAPs
Remote Prompter – Free, no IAPs
PromptWare Plus – Free, no IAPs

iOS teleprompter apps (iPhone/iPad)

Teleprompter Lite – iPhone/iPad – Free – No IAP
Teleprompter Premium – iPhone/iPad/Apple Watch – $11.99 – IAP
PromptSmart Lite – iPhone/iPad – Free – IAP
PromptSmart Pro – iPhone/iPad – $19.99 – IAP
Parrot Teleprompter – iPhone/iPad – Free – No IAP
Promptster – iPhone/iPad – Free – IAP
Promptster Pro – iPhone/iPad – $9.99 – IAP
iCue – iPhone/iPad – $7.99 – No IAP
iAutocue – iPhone/iPad/Apple Watch – $12.99 – No IAP

Desktop and online teleprompters

There are other options available out there, primarily for those of you who have a teleprompter with a built-in display, or have built your own DIY teleprompter and have set up either your own display or using a laptop.

You can find plenty of free online teleprompters out there, and some great premium ones such as EasyPrompter (They also have a free EasyPrompter Basic available as well). As for desktop apps, most of the manufacturers that sell the built-in models do bundle their own teleprompter software, and there are a lot of other desktop apps for Mac and PC available.

Tips on shooting with your new teleprompter

Okay, so now you’ve bought your teleprompter, got it set up and are ready to shoot your next video. You may find that there’s a learning curve if you aren’t used to reading off of a prompter. Some people take to it faster than others, but here’s some quick tips for getting up and running as quick as possible.

  • When you’re setting things up, make sure you can read the copy without squinting, or doing anything unnatural. You want to read the script and not necessarily make it super clear that you’re reading.
  • If you’re putting together your teleprompter and need to install the glass, make sure the glass is installed facing the right way. Teleprompter glass is essentially a one-way mirror.
  • Once you have your teleprompter set up, practice. Practice, practice, practice. You may have to spend some time getting used to reading off of a prompter and keeping your cadence natural and conversational, but practicing before jumping into your first video with the teleprompter is a good idea. Even if you don’t have anything to write, just grab any script similar to what you’ll be doing and load it into your app. Shoot some test video and watch it back to fix what needs fixing.
  • Learn your teleprompter app. Learn your remote control. Get the operation down to a thoughtless process. Find a font size that works for you at a speed that you’re comfortable with based on your natural cadence. This may take some testing, which plays into the previous tip.
  • Along the lines of practicing, practice your script writing. Seeing as you’re speaking to your audience, you’ll want your script to be fluid, or as I mentioned before, natural and conversational. While you’re essentially delivering a monologue, you still want your audience to be engaged. You want to talk with your audience, not at them.
  • Yet more practice, but if you shoot at different places often, make sure you know how to set up and break down your teleprompter quickly. Thankfully most are pretty easy to set up, but still a good idea to know your gear inside and out.

Final thoughts

Phew! This definitely ended up a bit more involved than I initially intended, but through the research (and even writing) of this post it seemed like there were a lot of things that I felt would be helpful to a lot of people looking to get started with finding the best teleprompter for their needs.

Thankfully there are a lot of different variations out there, allowing you to get exactly what you need and can afford. Whether you’re a small bedroom operation or have some dedicated studio space, finding a suitable teleprompter for for your YouTube broadcast, educational videos, or livestream seminars is definitely a viable option.

If you have any questions about getting started with a teleprompter, be sure to leave a comment below. And if you have had any interesting experiences with any of these or other similar teleprompters, be sure to let us know!

Seagate Backup Plus Hub 8TB USB 3.0 HDD review

Seagate Backup Plus Hub 8TB External HDD review

I’ve been needing a new storage solution for a while for my home PC, and thankfully Amazon Prime Day happened.  After doing some research on the drives available, I wound up snagging a Seagate Backup Plus Hub 8TB USB 3.0 External HDD.  And while I wasn’t planning on reviewing an external hard drive when so many others have reviewed them in detail, I did want to at least point out why I ended up buying this.  Other than the price.

Brief overview of the Seagate Backup Plus Hub 8TB USB 3.0 External HDD

I suppose the name of the product really communicates most of the main points, right?  8TB drive?  Yep.  USB 3.0?  Sure.  External?  Definitely is!  But “Plus Hub”?  Well, it makes a bit more sense after looking at the front of it.  There’s two USB 3.0 ports right up front.  For those of you with a super clean desk setup (not me, at the moment) and are particular about wires this is an excellent feature, as you don’t have the need for a big USB hub separately up at your desk if you just need to pop in a flash drive, charge your phone, or whatever your USB-driven heart desires.

The performance is the other main draw to this drive.  No, it’s not the fastest in the world, but it’s definitely above average.  While I’m not going to bore you with specs (again, because many, many others have done a better job than I would), it performs quite quickly, topping 190 MB/s read and 180 MB/s write in some tests.  And while this drive isn’t going to be my daily workspace, it’s going to be moving large amounts of data at a time on a regular basis.

The included software is pretty meh, to be honest.  But I rarely use included software for external drives, I’d rather work with something a bit more feature-rich and have control over things.  I’ll probably get into tweaking my Syncthing installs to not only sync my desktop and laptop with each other, but backup to the external.  One of these days.

Rounding out the drive is the small footprint, relative quietness, and a fairly attractive aesthetic.   And from what I could find, failure rate isn’t an issue on this drive, either.

But yeah, that’s about it.  I mean, c’mon, external hard drives aren’t TOO sexy or exciting.

What am I using this drive for?

This is the real reason why I’m even bothering writing this.  The main purpose for this drive is really to be a home for my Plex library.  My previous library location was an internal 1TB drive that has basically constantly been out of space for the past several years.  I’d constantly have to delete content as I finished watching it in order to throw more up there.  Now that’s not an issue.

Yeah, 8TB is pretty overkill, but at least this way I know it’s going to be good for a while.  I’m not that voracious a media consumer these days, but my girlfriend and I do like to be able to keep our media collection with us wherever we go.  So now we have access to the various TV shows and movies that we don’t watch on Netflix, on-demand, or whatnot in any part of the house as well as on our phones.

Once I spent the admittedly way longer than I thought to copy all of my media over to the new drive, first thing I did was fire up the most high bitrate content I could throw at my poor old Nexus Player and the drive never skipped a beat.  CPU cycles were within reason, and overall the drive performed as expected.

I’ve also been streaming content to Plex in the living room when other large content is being downloaded over the network to the server, and specifically the drive, and no bottlenecks have been observed that were due to the drive or CPU.  All in all, it definitely gets the job done.

It probably will also serve as an archive for completed video and audio projects as I get to them, but maybe not, as I’d rather keep those on internal media as long as I can, since I have a newly-available 1TB drive and a substantial portion of my other 2TB internal that isn’t already occupied by my full photography catalog and some video projects.  I can’t imagine while the drive would be an issue for this use though, it moves other large files quite nicely.

Final thoughts

So yeah, not much detail to go into here, but I definitely would recommend the Seagate Backup Plus Hub 8TB USB 3.0 External HDD to anyone needing a stupid large external drive, but isn’t quite ready to move into NAS territory (that’s really my ultimate goal here).  But as far as a large single drive for media collections or raw video archive goes, this drive can’t be overlooked.  Even at non-Prime Day prices.

Have you purchased this drive?  What are you using it for?  Are you using another ridiculously large single drive option that you love?  Leave a comment below and let us know!

30 awesome premium WordPress music themes

30 awesome Wordpress music themes

I’ve been playing in bands for a large portion of my life, and usually I’m the most tech-oriented. This has almost always meant that not only was I a musician, but I also was the web designer, graphics guy, and whatever else that may come along with that. This means I’ve spent way more time than I would have liked to in the search for WordPress music themes.  And that’s what we’re going to take a look at today.

Choosing the best WordPress music theme for your band

There are more than enough out there, and that means that finding one can often take days, or weeks. You look for something that will offer all the features you may want, such as a music player, good photo gallery, ecommerce compatibility, social sharing. But most of all, you want something that will match your band’s image, and look badass while separating you from the rest of your scene. Something that identifies your band as unique, edgy, and professional. In other words, people know that you’ve got your shit together.  But let’s quickly touch on some of the key features you’d be looking for, in addition to the overall look and feel.

WooCommerce compatibility

I always look for WooCommerce compatibility so you can not only sell physical merch (physical CDs, shirts, hats, etc), but also digital downloads and tickets (both with the right WooCommerce plugins, of course).  This allows you to have full control over your sales, as opposed to relying on iTunes or Google Play Music and those platforms taking their cut.  Even if you don’t plan on using it right away, having the theme be compatible means that it’s covered if you change your game plan.

Social connectivity

Having a theme with built-in integrations to the various social media platforms is helpful.  Having integration with the music-specific services like Soundcloud, Beatport, Bandcamp, etc, is even better, even if only having included icons in a matching style:

Some themes will go beyond this, and allow for importing of existing content on other platforms, including embedding music from Soundcloud and other places.

Music player

There are a bunch of music players out there, some better than others.  You’ll likely want to stay away from Flash-based players, as Chrome is now blocking Flash, and it doesn’t work on mobile.  HTML5 players are the way to go.  Finding one that looks good, imports music if you need it, and has the extra features you need will go a long way to helping your site.  You may want one that allows for rating, or comments a la Soundcloud.  Or one that will provide download and/or purchase links to iTunes/etc.

Releases/Albums/Discography

Most of these themes do offer a way to display and promote your released albums.  Usually in a discography format, with each album being a custom post type, and then populating the album tracks into that post.  Album art, links to listen/buy, you name it.  If you’re a new band you may not have any releases yet, but keep this in mind for down the road.

About the list

I’ve put together a list of some of the newer (or at least recently updated) premium WordPress music themes that I liked. While I haven’t made this list quite as narrowed down as I would if I were searching for a theme for one of my own projects, it wouldn’t make much sense to others if I had. What I did verify, however, was that the themes are still being updated within the past year or so, they look very flexible and modern, and most will support WooCommerce for any band merch or self-hosted digial download needs you may have.

So without further ado, let’s get into this!

30 of the best WordPress music themes

Tune – One-Page Music WordPress Theme

Tune - One-Page Music WordPress Theme

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve gone through this whole shebang before, and the first WordPress music theme I wanted to showcase was [eafl id=”231″ name=”Live! – Music WordPress Theme” text=”Live! by WolfThemes”]. I ended up picking it for the site of my old band, ForNeveR. Unfortunately, Live! is no longer updated, having last been touched in in October 2015. It’s the only one of their older themes that hasn’t been refreshed, and it’s a shame.

But there’s a new WolfThemes WordPress music theme called Tune, and it looks damn fine. What they refer to as a “multi-concept one-page music WordPress theme”, it lives up to the name. There are several demos and configurations for any part of the industry you could want, from bands to managers, to labels, and even recording studios. Full responsive design, WooCommerce integration, tons of extra plugins for further functionality, and great support from my first-hand experience.

Oh, and get this: There’s a theme demo called “Remember Myspace?”. Yeah, it’s pretty much what you’d think, but modernized. Really though, I’ve been a fan of WolfThemes for a while now, and this new theme looks crazy awesome. So go check it out and see if it will make its way into your new site.

Tune – One-Page Music WordPress Theme

Remix Music – Music Band Theme

Remix Music - Music Band Theme

Remix has been around for a few years, and is still updated. It’s touted as a fast, flexible, and powerful theme using some cool features such as AJAX versions of the site, a great player, and support for some major plugins.

Built around Visual Composer, the theme is easy to configure and even includes event management for tours and shows. The theme even comes with a copy of Revolution Slider (pretty usual these days) and Essential Grid, the latter being one of my recent favorite premium WordPress plugins, primarily after the latest update. Essential Grid is insanely flexible, and will let you do pretty much anything you want with a grid layout, including galleries, videos, lightboxes, and full theming customization. If you like this style of theme, it’s almost worth buying this one just for Essential Grid.

Remix Music – Music Band Theme

Mixtape – A Fresh Music Theme for Artists Bands and Festivals

Mixtape - A Fresh Music Theme for Artists, Bands, and Festivals

Mixtape is a very new theme, released just in May. It’s very modern looking, and will most likely cater to the more pop/hip hop/electronic/hipster sort of acts with the way the demos are configured. But it has everything you’d need, with outstanding galleries, discography, shop, social, and tour dates support. Whether you’re a band or solo artist, this theme will definitely get the job done in style.

Mixtape – A Fresh Music Theme for Artists Bands and Festivals

Anthem – Music Band and Musical Events WordPress Theme

Anthem - Music Band and Musical Events WordPress Theme

Anthem is a bit more subdued, but it’s even more new than Mixtape with a July 2017 release. Shipping with music and video players, album/discography functions along with galleries and tour date management, its five homepage layouts will work for just about any musician or event needs.

Anthem – Music Band and Musical Events WordPress Theme

FWRD – Music Band and Musician WordPress Theme

FWRD - Music Band and Musician WordPress Theme

No doubt about it, FWRD looks damn good. The author, IronTemplates, has been making excellent WordPress music themes for years now and FWRD is no exception. This is a very modern and flat theme, and with Visual Composer and Essential Grid included you should be able to get up and running in no time with a stunning site at the end.

FWRD – Music Band and Musician WordPress Theme

Lush – Music Band and Musician WordPress Theme

Lush - Music Band and Musician WordPress Theme

Another IronTemplates theme, this has been around since 2014 and is always updated. One of the more popular WordPress music themes out there, it’s very flexible, has several different styles, and just damn gorgeous. With all the features that IronThemes usually includes, Lush has you covered.

Lush – Music Band and Musician WordPress Theme

Untold – WordPress Theme for Bands and Musicians

Untold - WordPress Theme for Bands and Musicians

Untold is a pretty straightforward theme. It’s customizable, attractive, and fast. With several demos to get you started, you can have your site up and running with minimal effort. The one thing it won’t get you, however is WooCommerce support. Yet. It is only a few months old, however, so hopefully this will change soon. But if you don’t need a shop page and you like the looks, it’s worth saving a bit of cash going with Untold instead of one of the more expensive more featured themes.

Untold – WordPress Theme for Bands and Musicians

Trio – Band WordPress Theme

Trio - Band WordPress Theme

One of the older themes on the list, Trio is thankfully still being updated regularly. You won’t see much modern flashiness here, Trio is a more traditional band website theme, eschewing parallax scrolling, one page design, and full-screen splash pages for a much more straight-to-the-content approach. The theme is fully color-customizable and has all your audio/video player needs met, along with photo galleries and the other usual suspects. I do find a certain appeal in the more simplistic design amidst so much “Oooh shiny!” of new modern themes, and this one is just clean, fast, and gets the job done.

Trio – Band WordPress Theme

AQURA – Music Bands Musicians and DJ’s WordPress Theme

AQURA - Music Bands Musicians and DJ's WordPress Theme

And just like that, we’re back to the new shit. Aqura is definitely a bit different from the rest of these themes, but that’s a good thing. It looks more like a photography theme, or perhaps a portfolio theme. But don’t let that fool you, this is for musicians. The demos cater to different sort of artists and acts, and so far in this list is the only one to feature BandsInTown integration to help your social reach and let people know when you’re touring in their area. There are several layouts, WooCommerce support, Retina support, and even the ability to sync your other social presences to be the content for your blog. Not too bad, right?

AQURA – Music Bands Musicians and DJ’s WordPress Theme

MESH – Music Band Musician Event Club Theme

MESH - Music, Band, Musician, Event, Club Theme

Mesh is an attractive, clean and fast theme that’s flexible to cover many needs. One of the main attractions here is the built-in ticketing system that allows you to sell tickets, reservations, and other similar items without needing a full WooCommerce install. With eight importable demos and social content sync, setting up and maintaining a site with the Mesh theme will be a breeze.

MESH – Music Band Musician Event Club Theme

Musisi – Musicians Bands Theme

Musisi - Musicians, Bands Theme

Musisi isn’t necessarily flashy or crazy unique, but it looks slick. This is a legit theme that’s fast, highly customizable, responsive, and easy to set up. Unfortunately, it’s one of the few without WooCommerce support for slingin’ merch, but maybe the authors will add it eventually. That said, it’s still a gorgeous theme.

Musisi – Musicians Bands Theme

JamSession – Music and Music Band WordPress Theme

JamSession - Music and Music Band WordPress Theme

This one’s a bit different. It’s not visually as modern as some of the other themes in this list, but it still stands out with a fullscreen homepage mode that looks good, and puts social and tour events at the bottom of the frame where it’s easy to find. There are other homepages, one with a scrolling page and one with a scrolling page and minimal menu, but JamSession does an outstanding job of displaying content, such as galleries, tour info, discographies, and more. If you’re looking for something a bit out of the norm, give it a glance.

JamSession – Music and Music Band WordPress Theme

Vice – Music Band Dj and Radio WordPress Theme

Vice - Music Band, Dj and Radio WordPress Theme

Vice stands out as a very modern, very polished and flat theme, doing the one-page style of site quite well. It will allow for actual pages as well, but the option is there if you want a one-page.

The theme is crazy modern, and just looks stunning. You’ll find all of the post types for artists, albums, events, podcasts, releases, and more along with a continuous player and video backgrounds. Vice even supports radio feeds, and is really usable for pretty much any sort of entity within the music industry, albeit traditional terrestrial radio stations won’t find the content to be as dense as they usually like to pack their websites.

The standout feature here, however, is the add-ons for physical documents. The author has created InDesign templates for business cards, presentation brochures, and one-page press kits that match the WordPress theme perfectly. Once you’ve customized the colors for the site, just make the matching changes to the document templates, and you’ve got instantly matching hardcopy to go with your website. These are purchased separately, but I’ve got to say that this is extremely rare in WordPress music themes, and absolutely refreshing to see an author take this extra step.

Vice – Music Band Dj and Radio WordPress Theme

Audiopress – A WordPress Theme for Music Festivals and Bands

Audiopress - A WordPress Theme for Music Festivals and Bands

Audiopress is a theme more specifically for festivals and other similar events, but it could definitely work as a band or musician WordPress theme. It’s a clean one-page design for the homepage, and is fast and lightweight. Sell your tickets or merch with the WooCommerce integration, and customize the page using the built-in page builder, not a theme options panel. This should be a quick setup for anyone looking for something modern and sharp.

Audiopress – A WordPress Theme for Music Festivals and Bands

Sonorama – Music Band and Musician WordPress Theme

Sonorama - Music Band and Musician WordPress Theme

Sonorama is a great all-purpose WordPress music theme, suitable for a wide variety of genres. I could see this theme on an electronic/pop artist site just as much as a metal band. It’s flat, sharp, modern, and flexible with a light and dark theme and some preset color choices to get you started. And thankfully the author does include the PSDs for further detailed customization.

Sonorama – Music Band and Musician WordPress Theme

Strings – Music Band Artist and Event WordPress Theme

Strings - Music, Band, Artist and Event WordPress Theme

If you’re looking for a simple, modern, and sleek page with all of the basic necessities for WordPress music themes, Strings is a great choice. It’s not overly flashy, but definitely looks pro. WooCommerce, social, streaming, embedding, and discography features are all here with an easy setup process.

Strings – Music Band Artist and Event WordPress Theme

Hugo – Music / Artist / Singers / Bands WordPress

Hugo - Music / Artist / Singers / Bands WordPress

Hugo is a great looking theme with lots of “flavor” customizations, but not necessarily completely rebuildable like some other themes. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing though! With Hugo, you get what you see in the demos, and they’re pretty straightforward. You’ll be able to match the theme to your band’s look without any issue, and still have all the prerequesite features WordPress music themes should have.

Hugo – Music / Artist / Singers / Bands WordPress

Pendulum – Responsive Music WordPress Theme for Bands and Djs

Pendulum - Responsive Music WordPress Theme for Bands and Djs

Pendulum is one of the oldest themes on the list, however it’s still being refreshed as necessary, with the last update being in December of 2016. For a 7 year old theme, that’s well within the acceptable range. And somehow it still looks really good for being as old as it is. While it does have almost all the features that a modern theme would have, it’s sadly missing WooCommerce compatibility, but that doesn’t surprise me due to its age. That said, the Scamp player that it comes with is quite excellent, and it is responsive and Retina-ready. Don’t judge this one by the age, it still will throw down with the best of them.

Pendulum – Responsive Music WordPress Theme for Bands and Djs

NOISE – Onepage DJs and Band WordPress Theme

NOISE - Onepage DJs and Band WordPress Theme

Yet another full-features WordPress music theme, everything you’d need for a band or artist site is covered. The author does a great job of ensuring that the theme is fully compatible with new versions of WordPress and WooCommerce, and there are a ton of customization options available. There’s an interesting, unique aesthetic to the theme, and it really stands out, but is thankfully just shy of “too much”, in my opinion. Definitely worth a look to see if it fits your bands look and feel.

NOISE – Onepage DJs and Band WordPress Theme

SLAM! – Music Band Musician and Dj WordPress Theme

SLAM! - Music Band, Musician and Dj WordPress Theme

If you have an already-established group of releases on Beatport, Slam may be the theme for you. You can import your Beatport library as releases via the Slam theme, along with Facebook galleries, and easily customize your pages around those using the built-in Visual Composer page builder. The theme has boxed and wide versions depending on your taste, and generally any feature you’d ever want for a band WordPress theme. Worth a look indeed.

SLAM! – Music Band Musician and Dj WordPress Theme

Odio – Music WP Theme For Bands Clubs and Musicians

Odio - Music WP Theme For Bands, Clubs, and Musicians

Good god is this theme sexy! One-page, multi-page, whatever you want. It’s fast, lightweight, incredibly full-featured, and it has its own distinct feel for sure. It’s also one of the very few themes on this list that feel like they cater more towards rock/metal bands without feeling overly cliche’d and extremely dated. But that’s not to say it won’t work for pop or EDM or whatever you happen to play, so don’t worry. All in all, this is probably one of my more favorite themes of this style in the list.

Odio – Music WP Theme For Bands Clubs and Musicians

Muziq – Music Band and Musician WordPress Theme

Muziq - Music Band and Musician WordPress Theme

There’s a lot to like with the Muziq theme. It’s not going to win any awards in the “outside the box thinking” category, but of course that’s not a bad thing at all. What you get is a highly polished theme with almost everything you’d need. They even include a “coming soon” countdown page, for use when you’re getting everything set up on the site or prepping for an album release. What you don’t get, however, is WooCommerce compatibility, and that’s just a shame. But the theme’s only been around since late 2016, so maybe it’s coming shortly. But if you don’t have a need for ecommerce yet and sell music via established platforms, this may be the theme for you.

Muziq – Music Band and Musician WordPress Theme

Harmony – Music WordPress Theme

Harmony - Music WordPress Theme

Another very flexible WordPress music theme, Harmony has a big ol’ handful of demos highlighting different homepages, headers, and header effects. Yep, there’s particle effects and other shiny gizmos to help look “edgy”. As a result, I feel that it runs a bit sluggish on some devices, but it still looks good and is fully responsive. And has WooCommerce support including selling music out of the box, always a great add-on.

Harmony – Music WordPress Theme

SoundRise – Artists Producers and Record Labels WordPress Theme

SoundRise - Artists, Producers and Record Labels WordPress Theme

IronTemplates shows up in the list yet again with an absolute monster of a theme. While yes, this theme would work well for bands, IronTemplates has definitely created something specifically for the business side of the industry. Catering towards labels, promoters, managers, and A&R, SoundRise is perfect for highlighting your roster of bands and artists. The theme has all the custom post types you’d need for displaying and organizing these sorts of content, and does support WooCommerce despite not having a shop anywhere on their demos. Speaking of demos, there’s a bunch of great ones to get you started, so take a look if you’re in the market for a label-esque theme.

SoundRise – Artists Producers and Record Labels WordPress Theme

Rebellion – A High-powered Theme for Musicians Bands and Record Labels

Rebellion - A High-powered Theme for Musicians, Bands, and Record Labels

I’m sure that when you clicked on this post, you were hoping to find your next theme. Hoping for something that looks amazing, functions awesome. Hoping for something to make your band look as great as you sound. Well… Rebellions are built on hope (You had to have known that was coming, right?).

Rebellion is a rock-oriented theme with a bunch of great demos to get you up and running as soon as possible. And they’re all substantially different, but all great. WooCommerce support, tons of page templates, fully customizable layouts. Connect with a variety of music shop platforms, including App Store, Google Play, Bandcamp, Spotify, Amazon Mp3, and Deezer. Again, this is one of my favorites in the list because of how flexible and clean it is, so give it a look.

Rebellion – A High-powered Theme for Musicians Bands and Record Labels

Zona – Multipurpose Music Theme

Zona - Multipurpose Music Theme

Another flexible theme for all sorts of uses, Zona is fairly simple and minimal, but also doesn’t shy away from the flashy. As of writing this there’s a light and dark demo, with a third to come. It’s also yet another theme built around the excellent Scamp player, however this is a much newer theme than the aforementioned Pendulum. There’s great integration with other online music platforms such as Soundcloud, Heartthis.at, Shoutcast, and Google Drive hosting. Overall, quite a well put together theme for anyone in the industry.

Zona – Multipurpose Music Theme

Beat – One-Page Music and Band AJAX WordPress Theme

Beat - One-Page Music and Band AJAX WordPress Theme

Beat is a bit different, as far as the header goes. It opts to put a focus on content up front atop a hero image, video, or color, and then below is more of the typical one-page style. If you find the typical choices of one or the other not hitting the spot, this may be your answer. It’s also one of the few that tout a version for a different CMS, so if you’re looking for a Joomla music theme (or might be moving over to Joomla at some point), maybe this is the right choice for you. But as for the WordPress version, what we have here is a clean, light, and fairly unique theme that looks pretty easy to set up.

Beat – One-Page Music and Band AJAX WordPress Theme

Solala Music – Music WordPress Theme

Solala Music - Music WordPress Theme

Solala is another full-features WordPress music theme, and an attractive one at that. Several demos show off what it’s capable of with its 2 headers, 6 homepage options, and 6 blog layouts. The theme is easily customized and built with a drag & drop page builder, and overall is a very good-looking and powerful theme. Although, won’t lie: The example of the Linkin Park “Coming soon” tour date block was a bit painful. Too soon. But the theme was last updated before Chester’s passing, so we’ll let it slide this time. Meanwhile as we get back on track, this is a great option for any sort of band or artist, so check it out for sure.

Solala Music – Music WordPress Theme

Recording Studio WordPress Theme – DJ / Producer / Music / Soundtrack / Artist / Entertainment

Recording Studio WordPress Theme - DJ / Producer / Music / Soundtrack / Artist / Entertainment

While not necessarily for bands (although it would definitely work), I wanted to include Recording Studio in this list because it’s an excellent theme for just about any other part of the industry. It’s a very flexible theme that looks great, loads quickly, and has pre-designed options for labels, producers, and studios. And I have a soft spot for studios. Let’s face it, recording studios are awesome (I’m in the process of building mine as we speak). So if you’re looking for a recording studio WordPress theme, can’t pass this one up. If you’re a label, producer, or manager, this would be a great theme for you as well. It’s very customizable, has a great grid aesthetic, and has pretty much any feature anyone could need for a site in the music industry.

Recording Studio WordPress Theme – DJ / Producer / Music / Soundtrack / Artist / Entertainment

Lucille – Music WordPress Theme

Lucille - Music WordPress Theme

Lucille is a gorgeous all-purpose WordPress music theme. There are a handful of demos that are geared toward certain feels or types of sites, but really this theme could be used for just about anything creative. There’s the usual compliment of features that any band or artist could need, and the theme is quick and fluid. With the included Visual Composer page builder, you’ll go from install to completion with minimal effort, maximum results. Definitely not a theme to go unnoticed.

Lucille – Music WordPress Theme

Final thoughts

So there you have it. 30 of the best premium WordPress music themes for musicians, bands, artists, managers, labels, recording studios, clubs, you name it. There are a metric ton more, but this is definitely a great start, and some of the more up to date and fresh themes available. These will make sure your band stands out as professional and well put together, providing all of the features you would need at the time.

Have you found WordPress music themes that you like? Do you have questions about site design for band websites? Post in the comments below and let us know your thoughts and we’ll answer to the best of our abilities.

Buying a home recording studio desk on a budget

Studio RTA Producer Station

I’ve finally been getting around to setting up our spare room as my home studio, and wanted to look into a new home recording studio desk. After finding a bunch of crazy expensive options (along with some less expensive ones), I realized that there’s not many for most of us to choose from.  But if you have a bedroom or project recording studio, it’s something that does require a bit of thought, and some planning.  And money.

This very topic is actually one of the reasons I started this site.  After doing enough research on this, I figured that putting together a list of great studio desks, along with deciding factors, would be helpful.

A few notes on this article:

  • This will be mostly from my point of view during my research, and probably won’t go into nuts and bolts details about each desk, but mostly my observations that would figure into a real-world decision
  • I will, however, cover some cool smaller options available as well
  • I won’t really be covering any of the more expensive units out there, such as Argosy, bigger Omnirax, AZ-Studio Workstations, bigger Ultimate Support, RAB Audio, etc.  Maybe for another post.
  • I’m specifically not including anything from AZ-Studio Workstations because their desks look like they were made by a high school shop student, and they charge WAY too much.
  • The price ceiling will be around $1000.  I know.  “Only” a thousand bucks, right?  Honestly, I don’t even want to cross the $500 threshold, but I know it will happen at some point.
  • I won’t be covering sidecars or other extraneous furniture other than the main desks

I also plan on putting together an article about using non-specialized desks for as a home recording studio desk, and that will come soon enough.  But for now, let’s get on with the show.

What features do I need in a home recording studio desk?

A good home recording studio desk needs to do a few things well, and thankfully it’s not much.  But depending on your current gear, your planned upgrade path, and your room situation will dictate most of it.

Main surface space

Take a look at your current desk.  What’s on the work surface?  What can go, what needs to stay, and what do you wish you had there?  Some people want room for a MIDI controler.  Keyboard, faders, button strip, full control surface, etc.  Others just need their keyboard, mouse, and that’s it.

Personally, I don’t have plans to add a keyboard or other sort of instrument controller, as I pretty much never use one.  So far.  But I do want to add a second set of monitors eventually, and with that some sort of monitor control box.  I’m not terribly demanding here, but many do need to have their controllers right in front of them.

Rack space

The main difference between a recording studio desk and a regular desk is the rack space.  A majority of desks above 45″ is usually the presence of 8U of rack space, usually divided up into two 4U bays.  So look at your gear, what do you have?  What do you plan on buying for sure?  Personally, while I don’t have anything rackmounted other than a power conditioner, I do plan on upgrading to a larger interface, and perhaps a nice mic pre or two.  Having the gear in racks is nice, keeps it out of the way, hides your cable clutter, and generally keeps things in order.

Display space

What’s your current display setup?  Single widescreen display?  Dual widescreens?  Planning on being a baller and upgrading to a nice big ultrawide (or two)?  Well, not only do you have to think about the top shelf room for the display(s), but also for your studio monitors.

If you have 5″ or 6″ monitors, it’s not the end of the world to put them and a single 23″ to 27″ all on the same surface.  More than that on either piece of hardware, however, and you start looking into either much larger desks, or speaker stands for your monitors.

Cable management and computer placement

Need a keyboard tray?  Is the desk high enough to accommodate one without slamming your knees into it?  Most desks don’t come with a tray, so you’ll have to buy one separately, and take the main surface height into consideration when you do.

Do you have somewhere designated for your computer tower (if you don’t use a laptop or small form factor PC/Mac?  Is your tower currently resting on the carpet?  You should probably fix that, and a desk with a bottom shelf is a great option.

Speaking of the computer placement, cable management is also critical for an easily organized and operable setup.  Will your new desk have some management trays and routing holes?  Or will you need to go crazy with the cable ties or cable clips?  It’s always easier to find a desk with good options here, as it will reduce the amount of extra work involved.

What size home recording studio desk should I get?

Now that we’ve looked at the general features that are pretty critical to your setup, let’s get into the overall footprint.  The size of desk you buy is often the most deciding of factors when look at when setting out to find a desk.  A lot of home, project, or bedroom studios are limited in space, and so choosing a recording studio desk that fits whatever is available is paramount.  I currently have an Ikea Linnmon desk with Adils legs that is about 47″ by 24″.  Initially purchased years ago when I moved out from a roommate situation, it was just my computer desk.  It’s big enough for two 23″ monitors and small speakers, but currently I have one monitor and my Tannoy Reveal 502 monitors.  I also have the monitor on a much too tall riser, with my Furman M-8X2 Merit Series 8 Outlet Power Conditioner and Surge Protector and old M-Audio Fast Track Pro sitting underneath it.  Before the riser, the Fast Track Pro always sat awkwardly on the desk, and adding the power conditioner just exacerbated everything.

Large recording studio desks

At the time of purchase, my little Ikea desk was only a computer desk.  Somewhere to put a monitor, small speakers, mouse, keyboard, and various other little things (USB hub, card reader, etc).  Now that I have the room to grow, I’m thinking more and more that a larger desk is in order.  I also have plans to replace the Fast Track Pro with something much more new and capable, so that will be (most likely) another rackmount device.  So let’s check some of these options out:

Studio RTA Creation Station

Studio RTA Creation Station recording studio desk

Not long ago, the Studio RTA Creation Station (most often listed as the “Studio RTA Work Station” nowdays) was a popular choice.  It’s basically a 60″ wide desk, with the top shelf at about 55″.  It’s big enough for two 23″ (maybe 27″) displays, an ultrawide, or a single normal display and your studio monitors up on the top shelf.  Dual 19″ rack bays keep your outboard gear organized, and there’s enough room on the main surface for a keyboard smaller than an 88-key device.

Not much going on in the way of cable management, but there’s room for your tower down below, and I suppose you could always install a keyboard tray underneath the main surface if you need it.  But finding this desk is getting increasingly more difficult, which is a shame because it’s a great compromise between the size groups above and below it.

Studio RTA Producer Station

Studio RTA Producer Station recording studio desk

If you search for a recording studio desk, the Studio RTA Producer Station will often be one of the first ones you find.  And this thing is huge.  72″ wide main desk surface, with the top shelf at 60″, it will easily accommodate most display/studio monitor combinations within reason.  There’s plenty of cable management options, and dual CD racks.  Y’know, if you still keep physical media all over your desktop.  And rackspace.  5U rack bay up top, dual 13U bays below.  Table top large enough for an 88-key instrument, keyboard tray, mini keyboard tray.  And wheels.  And like most Studio RTA studio desks, it comes in the maple pictured above, or a cool dark cherry finish.  Although that one seems to not be easily found in most online retailers anymore.

But yeah, it’s big.  It would take up at least 80% of the wall where my mix position needs to be in my room.  But it would also negate the need to get speaker stands for my monitors if I wanted to run dual displays (or an ultrawide).  And for some rooms, this would be perfect, for sure.  If you have the space and also have a ton of outboard gear, this desk is pretty much the answer.

 Studio Trends 46 Desk

Studio Trends 46" recording studio desk

Studio Trends is another manufacturer you’ll find in your search for a budget recording studio desk, and hence its inclusion in this article.  They have just about the same style of products that Studio RTA and On-Stage Stands stuff, coming in a maple or cherry/mahogany finish.

In Studio Trends’ infinitely clever naming scheme, it’s readily apparent that this is a 46″ desk.  So don’t plan on running dual displays or an ultrawide unless you plan on putting your monitors on separate stands.  Just like most other studio desks it does some with casters (which are optional on most desks) and some cable management, however unlike the Studio RTA gear, there’s no bottom shelf to place your computer tower.  Gotta put that on the floor, or somewhere else.  Or you can be a cool kid and get yourself a computer tower caddy.

All in all, it’s a good desk though.  Dual 4U rack bays, cable management, and it matches up with their various extension sidecars.  They also make a 30″ desk that has a single 4U rack bay, which is good for a much tighter space, or maybe a secondary station in your project studio.  If you have a studio assistant whose sole purpose in life is to time-align things, stick them on that.

Omnirax Presto Studio Desk

Omnirax Presto recording studio desk

The Omnirax Presto is basically your middle point between the Studio RTA Creation Station and the Studio Trends 46″ desk.  With both main and shelf surfaces at about 55″ across, you’re not losing any shelf space, while you slim down the overall shape, shedding about 5″ to maybe help fit into your mix desk location.  Just like the Studio RTA though, it does have a bottom shelf for CPU tower placement, along with the dual 4U rack bays.

The Presto does come in black (or gray, according to some), maple, or mahogany/cherry finishes.  However, don’t be fooled about that keyboard tray–it’s not included, sadly.  But overall, if you need something bigger than the Studio Trends 46″ but can’t fit the Studio RTA Producer Station, this isn’t a bad option at all.  And from what I can tell from the reviews, the hardware seems to be a better quality, as no complaints about the assembly could be found.  But at more than twice the cost, it seriously better be solid.  Good god.

Ultimate Support Nucleus-Z Explorer Studio Desk

Ultimate Support Nucleus-Z Explorer recording studio desk

Okay.  This one is a bit of a reach in the whole “budget recording studio desk” range, but hear me out.  It’s a 60″ wide desk with dual 4U rack bays, full-width top shelf, and the main surface is about 23″ deep.  As far as a recording studio desk goes, this is pretty great for the money.  And Ultimate Support is a company that I’ve always felt good about, going back to my childhood.  My dad was a working musician, and I remember when he upgraded from his heavy, clunky PA speaker stands to some nice, light Ultimate Support stands.  And they never once failed during all of his gigs over decades.  So yeah, I have no qualms about putting my studio on top of one of their desks.

The Nucleus-Z Explorer does have most of the other features as the rest on the list, including some built-in cable management and the ability to add on a keyboard tray along with extra floor-standing rack space, but it definitely looks completely different.  This is probably the closest you’ll get to that “Argosy look” without dropping the “Argosy cash”.  Not saying that the rest of the Nucleus line is cheap by any means, but this is definitely the little brother to the Navigator, which starts at well over a grand.

Honestly, I’d love to have something like this in my room, but it’s definitely a bit of money.  And it doesn’t have a bottom shelf for your CPU tower, but that’s not necessarily a dealbreaker.  Also, it’s one of the higher main surface heights in the list at about 30″.  Most of the rest of these are around the 26″ height, so keep that in mind if you’re looking into the Explorer.

Small recording studio desks

I initially wasn’t going to cover any of these just because I dismissed them for my own search.  But honestly, might as well show what options are available in the under 46″ range.  Sometimes space is at a premium, and that shouldn’t stop you from working, so let’s take a gander, shall we?

On-Stage Stands WS7500 Wood Workstation

On-Stage Stands WS7500 Wood Workstation recording studio desk

This is probably the absolute first desk you’ll run across when you start searching for studio desks.  While I’m including it in the small desk category, it’s not tiny.  I thought it would be less wide than its actual 43″ width, but there it is.  It will most likely cap you out at a 23″ display and 5″ monitors, and I’m guessing that will be a tight fit.  Don’t even think about dual displays or an ultrawide unless you plan on throwing your monitors on speaker stands.

On-Stage Stands makes all sorts of support gear for musicians and studios, and this desk is pretty highly rated on any site you find it for sale.  If the Ikea Linnmon is just a hair too big, but a 30″ desk is too small, this one’s a great option, and available in a maple and all black.  There is also a side car rack and a corner angle extension so the rack can be easily reached and still maintain a contiguous table surface.  Overall, a good option when working in a price (and space) budget.

Studio Trends 30 Desk

Studio Trends 30" recording studio desk

I briefly mentioned this desk when discussing the 46″ version, and it’s basically identical, sans 16″ in width.  As a result, it halves your rack space down to a single 4U bay, but hey, if you’re cramped for space, most likely there’s not enough outboard gear to need more than that.  All in all, it’s a solid little desk.

Conclusion

I know that this is a bit of a scattered article, but I suppose it somewhat reflects my whole thought process on what I’ll be doing when it comes to picking out my next recording studio desk.  On one hand, I really want to get as big of a desk as I can, but on the other hand, I know it’s not always practical.  And possibly expensive.

I could always go the cheaper route and buy a desk that isn’t necessarily made for a recording studio setup, but I’d be missing the desktop rack space this way.  Unless I build a rack bridge (or find one online somewhere that isn’t crazy expensive or look ridiculously bad), I’d be in the same predicament as I am now in regards to organizing outboard gear.

My room isn’t terribly big, it’s just another bedroom in our house.  Because of that, I’d like to keep my current (and future) rack gear consolidated, so I’ll most likely end up going with one of these desks.

What about your setup?  Do you have a recording studio desk you love for your home studio?  What sort of cool hacks have you found?  I’d love to see anything clever or unique down in the comments below, so post your photos and let us know what you’ve done.

Best cameras for streaming to Facebook Live, YouTube Live and Twitch

Canon XA35

We’re in an exciting time for being able to broadcast whatever it is we want to say, as there are so many platforms on which to stream live video. YouTube Live is the de facto live streaming platform, however, Facebook Live is now pushing strong to catch up. YouTube has had desktop streaming and just rolled out mobile streaming. Facebook is the opposite, at first allowing everyone mobile streaming capabilities and now allowing everyone–not just fan pages–to stream from their desktop/laptop. Twitch, of course, is the popular spot for streaming video games, again, usually from your desktop or laptop.  And that’s where this will focus: What are the best webcams or cameras for streaming live video to Facebook Live, YouTube Live, Twitch, or whatever your platform of choice is?

What kind of cameras can I use to stream to Facebook Live, YouTube Live, and Twitch?

There are really three main types of streaming cameras you can use to stream to Facebook Live, YouTube Live, Twitch, and the others.

Webcams

First, is the good ol’ webcam. While most laptops have them built into the monitor bezel, they’re almost never any good. This is where you would buy an external webcam with a larger sensor, better lens, and higher quality mic than what is built into the laptop.

Webcams are usually the first choice in kicking off a live stream broadcast due to their availability, low cost, ease of use and many streamers’ first camera is a Logitech webcam. They make excellent affordable choices for streaming cameras, as long as you’ve got a reasonable amount of light on you to keep the exposure within a reasonable range.

DSLRs

The second option gets a bit more complicated, however can possibly up the quality of your stream considerably. Many YouTubers these days are running DSLRs for their live video streaming camera needs.

The reason this gets complicated is that, natively, DSLRs aren’t made to be video cameras. Most do not have native video interfaces via USB and require an HDMI output to a capture device. And even then, not all cameras output clean HDMI at full resolution (clean resolution refers to not having the onscreen display data on the output).

Most DSLRs don’t come with power adapters and require separate purchases, as well as not always being easy to use–many are battery inserts that leave a cord coming out of the battery compartment. And that’s not even getting into the overheating issue with many consumer DSLRs. But if you do some research and get a setup that works well, you will absolutely get better image quality for your Facebook Live or YouTube Live videos.

Camcorders

Dedicated camcorders are the third option for live video streaming. Whereas DSLRs aren’t necessarily designed for always-on video capture, camcorders are. As such, they have clean HDMI outputs at the common resolutions and frame rates, and don’t heat up the way that a DSLR does. Camcorders are most often your best bet for quality streaming video for long durations and are most likely the easiest method to get going, outside of webcams.

The downside to camcorders, however, is the fact that usually, it’s only one half of the hardware equation. As these output HDMI signals, you do need some sort of HDMI video capture device, which then will connect to your computer via USB, Thunderbolt, or another similar interface. Unlike DSLRs, the options of connecting directly through USB (depending on your DSLR model) are basically non-existent.

At this point, however, very few Facebook Live streamers are probably using this setup outside of established media/video outfits and is much more common on YouTube Live or with larger budgets for high end streaming cameras.

What makes the best live streaming camera for Facebook Live, YouTube Live, Twitch, and more?

  • Excellent overall image quality – Live streaming video already takes a visual hit from compression, so you’ll want the best quality going in.
  • Strong low light performance – You may be live streaming in darker rooms, and a camera with low noise levels in darker situations will help immensely.
  • External power adapter – Live streams can go for hours, and your camera battery definitely won’t. Plug it in!
  • Clean HDMI output – If you’re not using a webcam, you’ll need to connect to a capture device, and a clean HDMI output ensures your image won’t have the camera menu/interface on it.
  • Ability to run for a long time without overheating – Computers build up heat as they’re being used, and there’s a tiny one in your camera that’s no exception. A good heat dissipation system will ensure your camera won’t shut down mid-stream
  • A flip-out screen – Being able to see–and control–your camera during the stream is helpful when you aren’t able to have your monitoring software up on your computer display. Also helps changing settings with touch screen models.
  • Easy operation – You don’t want to waste time figuring out how to change a setting or going through menus. The easier to change settings, the faster you get to go live!

Best webcams for streaming live video

Logitech HD Pro C920

Logitech C920

The Logitech HD Pro C920 has been out for quite a while, having been released in 2012. That said, it’s probably the absolute go-to webcam for most people. The camera shoots at full 1080p at 30fps, has dual stereo mics, and a solid build.

It’s definitely the best camera around for performance per dollar and sits atop many a monitor as a result. There are newer versions at higher price points, but honestly, you can’t go wrong with the C920 even with those other options.

Buy Logitech HD Pro C920 here

Microsoft LifeCam HD-3000

Microsoft LifeCam HD-3000

While the C920 is actually pretty affordable for the quality you get, the Microsoft LifeCam HD-3000 is our pick for the best true budget webcam. Coming in at less than half the cost of the C920, it still delivers great image quality and just works reliably to deliver 720p 30fps video. You may see some issues with color temperature here and there, but at this cost, it’s definitely acceptable.

Buy Microsoft LifeCam HD-3000 here

Logitech C922 Pro

Logitech C922The follow-up to the C920 is the Logitech C922 Pro. It’s essentially the same camera as its predecessor, however, does allow for shooting 1080p at 60fps, if you’re into that buttery smooth video look. It also comes with a few months of free Xsplit Live, which is cool, but other than that, you may be better off buying the C920 at the lower cost.

With rising broadband speeds and many people already streaming gameplay at high frame rates, the 60fps that the C922 Pro provides makes this a new favorite Logitech webcam for streaming on Twitch and YouTube Live.

Buy Logitech C922 Pro here

Logitech C930e

Logitech C930eThe Logitech C930e is the business version of the C920. Basically the same camera, however, this model offers a wider field of view, along with pan, tilt, zoom, and other conference-friendly options. Unless you do a lot of group videos, the better choice would be any of the other cameras on the list.

Buy Logitech C930e here

Logitech Brio 4K

Logitech BRIO 4KFor those who absolutely, positively shoot every pixel available, the Logitech Brio is your weapon of choice. Yes, it shoots 4K. No, most streaming/chat platforms don’t support 4K. But you can record locally, and then edit/upload that 4K footage.

And honestly, as a 1080p camera, this thing just kills it. The Brio is sharp, adapts well to not-so-great lighting situations, and also has Intel RealSense in order to function as a Windows Hello unlocking method. This camera also offers 5X digital zoom and adjustable field of view, which makes it a very versatile camera.

But if you want all these goodies, it’ll cost you, coming in at a crazy high $200. That said, it’s worth the money on a pure features/quality level; it just may not be worth the extra cost if you’re on the lower side of the budget.

Buy Logitech Brio 4K here

Best mirrorless cameras or DSLRs for streaming live video

Canon EOS M50

Canon has finally delivered a camera with two features that haven’t been paired together before: 4k video and a flip-out screen.  Although it’s not without its compromises, this is a great new entry geared toward vloggers and similar creators, and also makes an excellent streaming camera!

The strengths of this camera lie in the 1080p footage, which has Canon’s great dual-pixel autofocus and will do up to 60fps, but no more.  Jumping up to 4k means ditching the dual-pixel autofocus and limiting frame rate to 24fps.  You can get 120fps at 720p, but you lose so many other options it’s not even worth it.

And the only reason this camera makes the list whereas the Canon SL2 doesn’t is because the M50 also features a clean HDMI out, making it not only one of the best vlogging cameras, but also a perfect streaming camera with great autofocus and other helpful features for streaming.

Buy Canon EOS M50 here

Panasonic LUMIX GH4

Panasonic LUMIX GH4The Panasonic GH4 is one of the most popular DSLRs among YouTube content creators and is an extremely versatile camera. It falls under the Micro Four Thirds sensor format, and unlike many DSLRs that do video, it seems to have been designed with video as a forethought.

While it’s an excellent stills camera, it shines in video, offering 4K 24/30fps, and up to 60fps at 1080p. The GH4 has all the other video options you may need, with a great flip-out screen, long recording times, and the ability to run for an extended period without overheating. It supports both 8- and 10-bit output at various formats, and of course supports a wide variety of compatible lenses.

If you look into the setups of many serious video content creators, you’ll see the GH4 pop up in a vast majority of them.  If you want a flexible option for offline video, stills, and streaming to Facebook Live and YouTube Live, this is always an excellent choice.

Buy Panasonic LUMIX GH4 here

Panasonic LUMIX GH5

Panasonic LUMIX GH5The successor to the GH4, naturally, is the GH5. Arriving earlier this year, the GH5 is very much the same camera loved by video creators, with some helpful upgrades. This time around, 4K can shoot in up to 60fps, with 1080p at 180fps. These features, along with an improved autofocus system, make this not only still a great streaming camera, but one of the best vlogging cameras out there.

If you do a lot of cinematography and need slow motion functionality at higher resolutions (or more slowness at standard HD), this camera is a great option to cover all your bases. The camera can also output 4K 10-bit images at 4:2:2, whereas the GH4 can only do 10-bit at 4:2:0. This would almost never be used during streaming due to image bandwidth sizes but is great for non-live recording.

The GH5 also adds a cool “rack focus” focus shifting system, which will allow for changes in autofocus to emulate cinematic focus pulls, instead of requiring manual focusing or an all too quick change in focus like previous autofocus systems.

All in all, if you need the extended color depth and upgraded sensor and focusing, it’s a great option. This camera pulls double duty as a killer live streaming camera and also an affordable cinema camera. But if all you need is basic streaming camera functions and don’t need the updated autofocus system, save the money and get a GH4.

Buy Panasonic LUMIX GH5 here

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K

Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera 4K

In 2018, Blackmagic Design revealed one of their most anticipated cameras to date with the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K.  If the name is familiar, it’s because it’s identical to their previous incarnation, just with 4K tacked on.  But don’t let that fool you–the BMPCC4K is a full-on game changer in the sub-$2000 cinema camera market.  And even then, believe it or not, this camera is only $1300 and it includes a full copy of Davinci Resolve Studio.

Yes, you get 4K recording, of course–up to full DCI 4096 x 2160 at 60fps–but this camera offers so much more, I’m not even sure where to start.  You’ll get 120fps in cropped HD for that slick B-roll, multiple raw video formats (breaking! Blackmagic Raw is now available with up to 12:1 compression!), Prores 422, and dual-native ISO allowing for clean images in both normal light and low light.

While there is no autofocus on the BMPCC4K, it still has a Micro Four Thirds mount, and can be adapted to pretty much any mainstream lens lineup available with the help of adapters.  There are also micro-XLR inputs for high quality audio, and even has a USB-C port for saving files to external drives or charging your camera.

As a streaming camera, as long as you don’t need autofocus, the clean, high quality HDMI output has you covered.  You’ll want to ensure you’re using the power adapter for longer shoots, as the Canon LP-E6 batteries won’t last terribly long, but the camera also does a great job of not overheating on longer shoots.

Buy Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K here

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera

Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema CameraEven with Blackmagic Design having replaced the Pocket Cinema Camera with the Pocket Cinema Camera 4K, is still an excellent live streaming camera.  For under a grand you can get true cinematic video thanks to its Super 16 sized 1080p sensor. Again, no 4K on this one, but the quality of 1080p video more than makes up for it.

The ability to save videos into lossless CinemaDNG or Apple’s Prores 422 formats give you great-looking video files that are easy to work with for recorded content. The Pocket Cinema Camera also has a Micro Four Thirds mount, allowing you a huge selection of compatible lenses.

Although be sure to stock up on spare batteries if you’re shooting without AC power because this camera will absolutely chew through them. But I think this is still a great option for streaming because you won’t necessarily run into the issues faced while shooting on location, and can’t be overlooked as a live streaming video camera option.

Living in the massive shadow of the BMPCC4K, this camera is still a great buy used or discounted if you can find it new in box.  The video quality can’t be beat, and still packs a huge punch for any sort of video project.

Buy Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera here

Best camcorders for streaming live video

Panasonic HC-V770

Panasonic HC V770Sticking with Panasonic, the HC-V770 is a great entry-level camera for 1080p video with a quality clean HDMI output. The camera has a bunch of great video features for the price, including HDR, wifi/remote monitoring/shooting, 20x optical zoom, 5-axis image stabilization, manual focus, mic/headphone jacks, and 1080p at up to 120fps (software interpolation can get you up to 240fps). At the just barely sub-$500 range, this would be an excellent entry-level live streaming camera.

Buy Panasonic HC-V770 here

Zoom Q4 Handy Video Recorder

Zoom Q4Zoom isn’t really known for video recording at all, but are a well-known name in the audio game. Striking gold with the H4n handheld recorder, they’ve reached further into the portable content creation market with the Q4 Handy Video Recorder, along with some other models in this lineup.

The Q4 shoots 1080p video, but the audio is where this camera stands out. It has dedicated X/Y mounted stereo mics for excellent field audio capture without requiring external mics, amps, or adapters. You can control the gain manually or let it go on automatic gain control, as well as apply an optional low cut filter to remove boominess if you’re shooting somewhere with a ton of volume. There are also, of course, dedicated headphone and external mic jacks on the back.

A distinguishing feature to the Zoom cameras is that you don’t need a capture card–USB will connect the camera to your PC for transfer and live streaming video. Add a flip-out screen, tripod, and three-prong action camera mounts, and a small portable size and you have an excellent on-the-go lightweight video capture system as well as an excellent streaming camera for those who love great audio without the hassle.

Buy Zoom Q4 Handy Video Recorder here

Zoom Q8 Handy Video Recorder

Zoom Q8The Q8 is two levels up from the Q4 (the Q4n falls in between the two) and offers some massive upgrades in the audio department. First, the included X/Y mics are removable and can be replaced with other mic capsules that have been available for the Handy Recorder series of portable audio recorder devices. You can replace the usual stereo configuration mics with a shotgun mic, mid-side mic, as well as a few others depending on your audio needs.

Then there’s the addition of two phantom-powered combination jacks at the back, allowing for XLR or quarter-inch inputs with individual gain controls. The headphone mini-jack remains, offering a serious set of I/O for such a small camera.

The video features still take the back seat here, with no zoom and what is referred to as 3M HD, or a resolution of up to 2034 x 1296 up to 60fps. Again, not the highest-end video options, but the audio offerings here cannot be beat on an inexpensive device like this.

Buy Zoom Q8 Handy Video Recorder here

Canon VIXIA HF G40

Canon VIXIA HF G40Finally a Canon camera in this list! The G40 is the successor to the popular G20 and G30, both of which can be found used or from sellers who still have them around, but for the sake of this list, we’ll run with a newer version.

The G40 provides great video performance with all the usual offerings for a 1080p/60fps camera. Image stabilization, wifi control/shooting, 20x optical zoom, all of the useful IO for input/monitoring, and even dual SD card slots.

You also have the choice of encoding the video into AVCHD or MP4 codecs, depending on your destination or workflow process. If you’re looking to step up into a serious video camera, the G40 is a great intro to that realm.

Buy Canon VIXIA HF G40 here

Canon XA35

Canon XA35If you’re looking for a flexible, high-quality 1080p camera for any production need, the XA35 is a great option. No, there’s no 4K here, but there is a high-end sensor, great glass, and built-in XLR inputs on the removable handle for a self-contained video/audio rig.

HDMI and HD/SD-SDI output start to show that this is a camera for serious video enthusiasts and also includes the increasingly common prosumer feature of wifi control.

The XA35 is a very common run-and-gun journalism camera because of its compact size and impressive feature set. If you don’t need 4K, but want top-end video and audio features and are serious about a presence on Facebook Live or YouTube Live, the XA35 is most likely your solution.

Buy Canon XA35 here

Best HD capture devices for streaming live video

AVerMedia AVerCapture HD

AVerMedia AVerCapture HDThere are a ton of inexpensive HD capture devices out there, but as far as reputable, quality budget capture devices go, I’d suggest starting with the AVerMedia AVerCapture HD. Despite being geared toward capturing game console video for live streaming to YouTube Live, Facebook Live, or Twitch, you can connect your 1080p HDMI camera without any issues. No fancy features or uncompressed video here, but for less than $100 it gets the job done.

Buy AVerMedia AVerCapture HD here

Blackmagic Design Intensity Shuttle

Blackmagic Design Intensity Shuttle USB3 The reviews on the Intensity Shuttle devices are a bit mixed, but if you have compatible hardware and get things set up properly, you have great capture of your 1080p devices. The Intensity Shuttle is available in a USB3 version as well as a Thunderbolt model, so you’re covered regardless of what side of the OS divide you come down on.

You can capture uncompressed video, however, the storage requirements might be a bit more than you can provide for it depending on your drive configuration. But if you do your homework and have some patience, it’s a great option for HDMI capture.

Buy Blackmagic Design Intensity Shuttle USB3 here
Buy Blackmagic Design Intensity Shuttle Thunderbolt here

 

Epiphan AV.io HD and 4K

Epiphan AV.io 4K Epiphan is a new brand to me, however, after looking into it further, they’ve got some great gear. I first heard of Epiphan from Linus Tech Tips regarding their hardware revamp for their live streaming show, The WAN Show. Not only do they go over all the new audio hardware (which, of course, is one of my favorite types of hardware), but Linus introduces the use of the Epiphan converters, and later on demonstrates a full-on hot-swap disaster situation live on-air. This stuff just friggin’ works.

Epiphan has a 1080p model as well as a 4K version, and neither is cheap. They don’t require drivers and are natively detected by Windows, so setup and config are entirely done within your streaming software with the AV.io devices merely acting as a camera source. If you need no other features other than to capture video and audio from an external HDMI source and have the budget for rock-solid gear, look no further.

Buy Epiphan AV.io HD here
Buy Epiphan AV.io 4K here

Conclusion

Well, that got a bit long-winded. But as you can see, there are so many options for so many needs and budgets that this could just go on forever. I didn’t even cover any of the higher end cameras such as the Canon C100 or Blackmagic Ursa 4K Mini (although those are both excellent cameras!). But it all comes back to this: What is best for your situation? To be honest, even the venerable Logitech C920 webcam will get great results if you light yourself properly.

And what will you actually be doing? Will it be a daily news vlog? Facebook Live posts to your friends?  Live hangouts with your fans? Facecam for YouTube Live or Twitch streaming? All of these could warrant different hardware choices or limitations, so keep that in mind.

When it comes down to it, I think you’re really looking at two realistic conclusions. Either you’re using a traditional webcam and are alright with what I would call good but “less than professional” video quality or you’re attempting to create a more polished product, and invest in a camcorder-style camera and a decent HDMI capture interface. The DSLR option is fine if you have that already, but I wouldn’t advise it for people starting from scratch, hardware-wise.

And then the topic of 4K: Unless you plan on doing a large amount of non-live video and need the glossy sheen of all those pixels, 4K isn’t necessary yet. Your internet probably won’t even support uninterrupted streaming in 4K, so if streaming is the majority of your usage, skip the extra pixels and get a better sensor/lens. And lighting.

I hope this helps narrow down some choices and answer some questions regarding camera choices for platforms like Facebook Live and YouTube Live. If you have a question that I haven’t covered here, leave a comment below!

Update 6/25/18: Added the Canon M50
Update 3/11/19: Added the Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera 4K

The Ultimate Social Media Image, Video and Post Size Guide [Infographic]

The Ultimate Social Media Image, Video and Post Size Guide [Infographic]

When it comes time to upload images to the various social media networks, most people just grab their image and throw it up there.  While this often works, just as often it can result in issues where the image isn’t cropped properly, has details covered by overlapping elements, or just doesn’t share properly in feeds.  Determining the proper image post size for destinations such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are crucial to ensuring that your social media branding is tight and cohesive.

So, what is the proper post size for Facebook images?  What is the correct Twitter header image resolution?  What is the best image size and dimensions for uploading to Instagram?  And if you’re really adventurous, what is the image size and resolution for a Snapchat geofilter?

Thankfully, those talented folks over at Spreadfast put together a most excellent infographic outlining all of the useful post sizes for the major social media outlets.  Whether you’re creating your branding graphics for headers and profile photos, or ensuring that all of your content is sharing without cutting features off, this is definitely a must-have resource.

The Ultimate Social Media Image, Video and Post Size Guide [Infographic]

Post size quick-reference

All dimensions below are in pixels, width x height (compiled by HubSpot).

Facebook

  • Cover image: 828 x 315
  • Profile image: ≥180 x 180
  • Shared image: 1200 x 900
  • Shared link preview image: 1200 x 628

Twitter

  • Header image: 1500 x 500
  • Profile image: 400 x 400
  • Timeline image: 506 x 253

Google+

  • Profile image: 250 x 250
  • Cover image: 1080 x 608
  • Shared image: 506 pixels wide
  • Shared video: ≥506 x 284
  • Shared link image thumbnail: 150 x 150

Instagram

  • Profile image: 110 x 110
  • Image thumbnail: 161 x 161
  • Shared images: 1080 x 1080
  • Shared videos: 1080 pixels wide

Pinterest Image Sizes

  • Profile image: 180 x 180
  • Board cover image: 214 x 100
  • Pin preview: 238 pixels wide

LinkedIn

  • Banner image: 1850 x 200
  • Profile image: 400 x 400
  • Cover image: 1536 x 768
  • Shared image: 350 pixels wide
  • Shared link preview: 180 x 110
  • Logo image: 400 x 400

YouTube

  • Channel cover images: Varies by viewing platform
  • Channel icon: 800 x 800
  • Video thumbnail: 1280 x 720

Tumblr

  • Profile image: 128 x 128
  • Image post: 500 x 750 | 1280 x 1920 maximum

Snapchat

  • Geofilter: 1080 x 1920

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