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17 Best microphones for live streaming and podcasting [2019]

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Congratulations! You’ve set up your DSLR or camcorder for live streaming, you’ve set up some great lighting to make your stream look crisp, and you’re ready to start broadcasting video through this series of tubes we call the Internet! But you feel like there’s still something missing from your production. Why doesn’t it sound right? What’s the best way to capture great voice tracks for your live stream? Well, you’re in luck because we’re finally looking at the best microphones for live streaming video to get great audio for your live stream!

Audio for live streaming video

We’ve previously covered how important great lighting is for live streaming video, but believe it or not, it’s not the number one component of great video broadcasts. Yes, lighting is crucial for video image quality and having the right camera for your live stream is key, but audio is the number one quality metric of any sort of video, and that includes streaming.

If you want to ensure that people stick around for your streams you are going to absolutely need great audio quality. Nothing turns people away from a video more than poor audio, so make sure you do it right.

Great audio for your live stream (or podcast!) starts with the mic.  There are literally thousands of choices out there, so let’s take a look at what you might see when shopping for a new mic along with some of our suggestions for what to look at and what to avoid.

Can I use the on-board mic on my camera for my live stream video?

Yes, you could use the mic on your camera for quick streams, but on-board mics are never great, relatively speaking. You would benefit greatly from an external mic, preferably through a good audio interface.

Long story short, mics on cameras are really meant as a fallback, or for collecting “scratch audio”–an audio track used for reference or syncing up multiple cameras and to a better quality audio recording. They don’t have the highest quality, widest frequency range, and because they’re on the camera itself, they’re further away than they really should be.

You could get away with throwing a mic on the camera similar to one that you might use for vlogging, but it’s really not the best option because of the lack of control you have over the mic along with the aforementioned distance.

So, yes, while it technically will get the job done if you don’t have a mic, you’ll want to upgrade your audio setup as soon as you can.

XLR microphone and audio interface vs standalone USB mic

I get this question a lot, and I almost always suggest a separate XLR microphone running into an audio interface as opposed to a singular USB microphone. While USB mics these days are capable of getting the job done and the Blue Yeti (and its Snowball precursor) have become a staple for the YouTuber community thanks to its simplicity, you end up with much more flexibility and quality by going with a mic and interface.

You may be asking “What are these devices though?”, and that’s reasonable. A USB mic is pretty easy to pick up on: It’s a mic that plugs in to the computer via a USB port. The mic has a digital to analog converter built in, and does the translation to a signal the computer can understand.

An audio interface is basically that same converter, but much more features and it’s separate from the mic. You have gain controls, input and output volume controls, signal pads, and most interfaces allow for multiple mics to be connected, making podcasts and multi-person streams a breeze.

What’s an XLR microphone, then? XLR is an industry-standard mic and audio connection. This is what professional microphones use because of the quality and durability that the connection offers.

The flexibility of using an audio interface with XLR microphones, on the other hand, is immense. You can connect any XLR mic, and be able to choose which mic suits your voice the best without having to worry about picking only from USB mics and you really just have more control over your signal.

With a single USB mic, that’s it. That’s all you’ve got. One mic. One analog to digital converter (or audio interface) If the capsule or the converter dies, you replace the whole thing. Want two mics? You’ll need two USB ports. Want to upgrade mics or get another mic for a different purpose? You’ll need to go with another USB mic.

Should I use a condenser mic or dynamic mic for live streaming?

You may see these two terms a lot, and while they sound mysterious they’re really just describing the type of design that the mic contains for capturing audio. You don’t necessarily need to know the exact mechanical differences between these two designs, but knowing their strengths and weaknesses are key to picking out which mic you should be using for live streaming based on what you’re streaming and what you need to emphasize or avoid.

Condenser microphones

If you’ve Googled things like “What’s a good vocal microphone?” you’ve probably come across a lot of recommendations for condenser microphones, and for good reason. Condenser mics are very sensitive and detailed, creating an excellent microphone design for vocals, acoustic instruments, and more.

Some of the classic mics of all time fall into this design, and there are plenty of options. They’re often a bit more pricey than their dynamic counterparts, but they do come with a usually higher measure of quality. Because this quality comes from the more sensitive design, this does mean that they’re more delicate and can’t take the abuse that a dynamic can endure.

Condenser mics, due to their more delicate design, require external power in order to work properly. They can’t produce enough voltage without this power source, and as such require a 48V power source–often referred to as phantom power–either on the pre-amp or mic input on the audio interface/mixer board. Thankfully most interfaces and boards do have phantom power built in, including some bus-powered USB interfaces.

Condenser mics do pick up more ambient and room sounds, but that’s the flip side to their higher detail and quality for voice. If you don’t have to have fans or an air conditioner on, you’re not game streaming with super loud mechanical keyboards, and your desktop tower fans aren’t raging full blast under load a condenser mic will get you superior vocal quality as compared to a dynamic mic.

Dynamic microphones

Dynamic mics are the most widespread type of mics across most audio industries. They’re durable, tough to abuse, and do a pretty damn good job of capturing all sorts of audio sources while avoiding some of the pitfalls of condenser mics and often at a lower price point.

As an example, handheld mics on stage are almost always dynamics. The industry standard stage microphone, the Shure SM58, can be found on almost every stage, every studio, and every PA setup working today. The SM58 is so tough and road-tested, the joke is that you could go out and build a house with it as a hammer in the day, and go on stage with it that night.

As for actual real-world applications of dynamic mics, they take a lot of sound pressure before overloading. Scream all you want, crank a guitar amp up, whatever you give it, it’ll usually take it. The voice coil design in a dynamic mic is not terribly delicate compared to other designs like condenser mics and ribbon microphones.

Unlike condenser mics, they don’t require any sort of external power and can be plugged into any mic input, whether or not it has phantom power on that input. On the flip side, however, they do require a beefier pre-amp to get them operating at a high enough signal level, so you may want to get an interface with higher gain amps or some sort of pre-amp.

For streaming, dynamics make an excellent choice because they aren’t as sensitive as condenser mics. Because of this, they generally do a better job of rejecting noise from behind their pickup patterns as well as general room noise. If you’re a game streamer, you may want to go with a dynamic mic to avoid picking up keyboard sounds as well as your desktop tower fans if it’s not a silent rig.

Ribbon microphones (bonus microphone type!)

Ribbon mics are typically much more expensive than condensers, and are often better for instruments like guitars, drums, and brass instruments, not necessarily for vocals. They’re more delicate than both condensers and dynamics because of the thinness of the ribbon membrane.

The interesting thing about ribbon mics, however, is that they’re actually highly detailed without being as sensitive as condenser mics. They can get very close to an audio source, they reject off-axis and room noise quite well, and modern ribbons can take a pretty high pressure level.

Ribbon mics also very non-linear, meaning that they hear “similar to our ears”–they produce a natural sound. What hits the ribbon is what gets captured; some condenser and dynamic mics will “color” your sound whereas ribbon mics give you exactly what you put into them.

The main downside is that all ribbon mics are bidirectional because both sides of the ribbon pick up sound, creating a figure-8 pickup pattern. This makes them great room mics, but not the best for rejecting keyboard clicks.

Ribbon mics, like dynamic mics, don’t require any sort of external power source as they rely on the velocity of the sound hitting the ribbon in order to create the electrical signal. Phantom power will actually destroy most ribbon mics, so always make sure this is turned off if you’re connecting a ribbon mic to an input.

We almost didn’t include anything about ribbon mics in this guide, but I’ve always had a soft spot for these mics in studio applications and felt they were worth at least a quick mention. We don’t necessarily advocate for their use a streaming environment (especially for gamers), but they’re definitely interesting and may do the trick if no other mic is quite hitting the spot for you.

Dynamic microphones for live streaming video

Dynamic microphones will be better for game streamers thanks to their better ability to reject the clicks and clacks of mechanical gaming keyboards. They’re also excellent for not picking up as much room noise like room fans, loud desktop towers, and air conditioning. If these are your concerns, these dynamic microphones will be the best mic for streaming for you.

Keep in mind that dynamic microphones do need a stronger pre-amp to get the same signal level as a comparable condenser mic.

Shure SM7B

Shure SM7B image attachment (large)

You have probably seen this mic everywhere, and for good reason. With its start as a rock solid broadcast/spoken word mic, The Shure SM7B is now a go-to vocal mic for professional recording studios, having been used all over countless classic albums.

The SM7B provides a warm, rich vocal quality and flatters almost every voice you put in front of it. The mic has has a pop filter to keep out plosives (vocal P’s, B’s, T’s, etc), electromagnetic shielding to ensure there’s no interference from computers and other electronics, and has bass roll-off and midrange emphasis switches.

The SM7B has a sturdy yolk mount which includes the XLR connector, and you connect your cable to the base of the yolk mount. Because of the mount and integrated cable, there isn’t an external shock mount available for the mic, but it does have what Shure calls internal “air suspension” shock isolation so it actually does pretty good about rejecting handling noise and bumps.

The SM7B has a cardioid pickup pattern to ensure that it hears what’s in front of it while rejecting what’s behind it. The mic has a built-in windscreen, but it is a front-address mic meaning that you speak into the end of the mic. You may want to keep this in mind depending on your desk setup and how/where you plan on mounting the mic.

Check the lowest price of the Shure SM7B on Amazon

Electro-Voice RE20

Electro-Voice RE20 image attachment (large)

The Electro-Voice RE20 is another classic broadcast microphone. Like the SM7B, the RE20 is a cardioid mic with a smooth, clean frequency response and is shielded to ensure it doesn’t pick up any electronic buzzing and hum.

Like the SM7B, again, it is a front-address mic. There is a very durable built-in pop filter, which means, when combined with the near-immunity to proximity effect (proximity effect means that the closer your are to the mic, the more low end and bass boom you get), you can get right up close to the mic without fear of loud plosives or overwhelming booming bass.

Again in similarity to the SM7B there is an internal shock-mount for the mic component to eliminate physical bumps, but Electro-Voice does sell a full external shock mount for this mic.

In general, the RE20 is one of the more revered broadcast mics out there, with countless streamers, voiceover artists, and podcasters in love with the sound it produces. It flatters pretty much any voice you put in front of it with little to no effort.

Check the lowest price of the Electro-Voice RE20 on Amazon

RODE Procaster

Rode Procaster

RODE is well known across audio and video industries for their quality microphones and recently have been catering to the independent creators more and more. The RODE Procaster is the company’s more affordable answer to the RE20.

The build and design is similar, as it is a cardioid front-address mic with a tight polar pattern and built-in pop filter. You will need to ensure that your interface or mixing board has enough gain in the preamps to get this mic juiced up to a good level, which most modern interfaces shouldn’t have an issue with.

And while it’s very similar in design to the RE20, it doesn’t have the immunity to proximity effect that the RE20 does. On the other side of that, the SM7B does get very warm while getting close to the mic, and the Procaster sits nicely in between the two on how it reacts to proximity of what it’s recording.

The Procaster doesn’t come with any internal shock mount nor does it ship with an external shock mount, but RODE does make one, and you can pick up a bundle with the Procaster, the PSA 1 broadcast boom arm, and the Procaster shock mount.

Check the lowest price of the RODE Procaster on Amazon

Shure SM58

Shure SM58

If you were to ask anyone in sound what one single mic they would want if they could only use one mic the rest of their career and most of those would probably answer with the SM58. This classic mic is found almost anywhere involving sound–from large concert PA sets to small church PA systems to recording studios of all sizes and corporate media departments.

This isn’t by accident. The SM58 is damn near indestructible, sounds great, and can be used for everything from vocals to guitar amps to snare drums and everything in between. I’ve had the same SM58 for about twenty years at this point, through numerous bands, loaned out, beaten around, and it still sounds like it did on day one.

If someone only had $100 to spend on the only mic they’ll likely want to buy in the next five years and needed to know that it will never fail under normal everyday use, this would be the mic we’d suggest. It’s not the most fancy mic in the list, but its value is unmatched and chances are you won’t replace it unless it’s lost or stolen.

As it’s a handheld mic, there’s no shock mount included, but Shure does sell the A55M Shock-Stopper for the SM58 and other similar mics from Shure and others.

Check the lowest price of the Shure SM58 on Amazon

Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB

Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB

There’s not many mics we’d suggest below the price point and value proposition that the SM58 offers, but if you really need to get something at a lower cost, the ATR2100-USB is a good option in a very crowded segment of the market.

This is actually a really interesting mic. Not only does it have an XLR output, there is a mini-USB port, allowing you to connect this mic directly to your PC or Mac without an audio interface. The USB interface definitely isn’t as high quality as the XLR output, but it’s better than nothing if you forget your interface somewhere.

This actually can substitute as a full audio interface and mic setup in an emergency, as in addition to the USB output there is also a volume dial and 3.5mm headphone output. With these features, the ATR2100-USB makes a really great emergency backup for podcasters and others.

The ATR2100-USB is a popular inexpensive mic with some extras that you might not need, but it does sound clean, rejects noise well enough, and is a great backup in case of emergencies in a travel podcasting kit.

Again, there is no shock mount included with this mic, and as it’s a larger mic than most other in this form factor, you’ll have to be sure to check which third party shock mounts work for this mic.

Check the lowest price of the Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB on Amazon

Condenser microphones for live streaming video

Condenser microphones are the popular choice for vocals in the studio, and as such they make an excellent mic for live streaming video. They don’t require as strong a pre-amp as many dynamic mics due to their higher sensitivity, but this also means they pick up much more background and room sound than their dynamic counterparts.

Condenser mics also require 48v phantom power, which most audio interfaces and sound boards do provide. Condenser mics are better for streamers who aren’t typing away during gaming streams even if they have the same cardioid (or even hyper-cardioid) pickup patterns.

RODE NTK

Rode NTK

We’re just jumping into things with a classic. The RODE NTK is a premium tube condenser mic and is a favorite in many broadcast booths and studios alike. The NTK is a very detailed mic and is incredibly clean and warm.

The NTK does stand out a bit from other mics in this list in that it does come with a power supply for reliable, clean power to the mic. This definitely helps keep the mic signal clean from noise, but does require finding a place in your setup for an extra box.

While the NTK does have internal shock handling, it’s still highly recommended to pick up an external shock mount with this mic as it is highly sensitive to bumps through the mic stand.

All in all, however, the RODE NTK is one of the best condenser mics you can get for your setup. While it’s not exactly “budget friendly”, it’s a steal compared to many other mics in its price range and higher.

Check the lowest price of the RODE NTK on Amazon

Neumann U87AI

Neumann-U-87Ai

Let’s be honest. This mic is only here just for fun. The Neumann U 87Ai is the literal definition of “overkill” for any live streamer, and is by far the most expensive mic on this list at least three times over (most people have owned used cars that cost less than this mic).

It’s also one of the most coveted mics on the planet. Ask any small recording studio owner what their dream mic is and they’ll almost always answer with a Neumann U 87.

The U 87Ai is the third version of the classic U87, with some enhancements to the electronics. Most engineers do prefer the U87 classic, but at this point, finding them is tough.

Neumann U 87Ai Set
U 87 box, set includes shock mount

There is a shock mount available for the U 87, but not all retail packages come with the mount. The box set does seem to ship with the shock mount and cable, however.

But yeah. If you have an unlimited budget and like to show off, this is the mic for you. Again, it’s ultimate overkill for streaming, but good god does this mic sound nice!

Check the lowest price (lol) of the Neumann U 87Ai on Amazon

Neumann TLM 103

Neumann TLM103

Coming back down (closer) to reality, and we have the Neumann TLM 103. This is a modern take on the previously mentioned classic, with a capsule based on that of the U87. It’s also a third of the price. Still overkill for most live streamers, but it’s one of the best vocal mics in production today.

The TLM 103 is a very low noise, very clear, detailed, and warm mic for many voice types. It handles high sound pressure levels (SPLs) easily, making this mic very resistant to distortion. The TLM 103 does thankfully come with a shock mount, ensuring that you have everything you need right out of the box (minus the cable).

If you require a very high quality mic for a multitude of professional uses, you really can’t go wrong with the TLM 103. At a price, of course.

Check the lowest price of the Neumann TLM 103 on Amazon

Audio-Technica AT2020

Audio-Technica AT2020

On the complete opposite side of things we have the Audio-Technica AT2020. This is one of the lowest cost mics in the list, but has been a broadcast, voice-over, and studio staple for decades.

While the AT2020 has lost a lot of its popularity over the past ten or so years thanks to higher competition in the price point of this mic, it’s still an incredibly reliable and high quality mic. Audio-Technica even found it significant enough to make a USB version of it, but we strongly advise sticking with the classic XLR version.

I like to refer to this mic as the condenser mic version of the SM58. For about $100, you can get an extremely solid and reliable large diaphragm mic for vocals, instruments, and more, and not have to worry about it sounding necessarily bad. As the price point would indicate, however, this mic does not ship with a shock mount.

It’s not the most fancy (like the SM58), but it’s a good straight down the middle mic for many purposes, and is a good addition to anyone’s setup or mic closet at a price low enough to pick one up as a backup or secondary mic if needed at some point.

Check the lowest price of the Audio-Technica AT2020 on Amazon

AKG Pro Audio C414 XLII

AKG Pro Audio C414 XLII

AKG has been making great equipment for a very long time, and the C414 XLII is one of the more versatile mics in their lineup. Once again we’re in the price range of the TLM103, but this mic stands out with its versatility.

While this is absolutely unnecessary for live streamers and podcasters, the C414 XLII (and its instrument-focused sibling C414 XLS) has nine different polarity pattern settings. This allows for a unidirectional, cardioid, wide cardioid, hyper-cardioid, and bi-directional figure-8 pickup pattern with options to blend in between the five.

For streaming you’d usually only use cardioid or super-cardioid. There are also three switchable bass-cut filters to attenuate really boomy, bassy voices or room noise from air conditioners, for example.

What the C414 XLII excels in is low background noise, highly detailed sound, and a neutral, accurate capture of what it hears. It does come in a hard road case with a shock mount, windscreen and pop filter, ensuring that you’re ready to counter any sort of noise that may interfere with your stream.

To be honest, this mic is only listed because it’s PewDiePie’s current mic of choice in his setup as of this year. Even he says it’s completely unnecessary for almost everyone. And for live streaming, that’s absolutely right. Yes, it sounds amazing. Is it worth the cost for most people? Probably not. But there’s no contesting the sheer quality of this mic.

Check the lowest price of the AKG Pro Audio C414 XLII on Amazon

AKG C214

AKG Pro Audio C214

Really, you’re better off going with something else unless you’re just filthy rich. If you’re set on the sound and/or look of the C414 XLII, we’d recommend the AKG C214. This mic is very similar to the C414 minus all the insane polar pattern options.

With the C214 you get a cardioid pickup pattern and a switchable 20dB attenuator and bass-cut filter to reduce low end boom and AC/room noise. Like the C414 XLII it comes with a hard road case, shock mount, and windscreen.

It’s really all the sound quality of the C414 without the extra engineering at less than half the price with all the legacy of the original classic C12 from the 50’s that lives through all these mics.

Check the lowest price of the AKG Pro Audio C214 on Amazon

RODE NT1 and NT1-A

RODE NT1KIT

Firmly back in the realm of affordable mics, we have the RODE NT1 and RODE NT1-A. Both are affordable mics and are extremely similar with a few minor differences while being extremely high quality mics. Both mics come with a shock mount and pop filter, making these excellent full kits for anyone looking to get up and running out of the box.

The NT1 (often listed as the model number NT1KIT as it ships in a bundle) is newer, and has a frequency response closer to a flat, neutral mic like a U 87. It’s also a bit bigger, heavier, and a tad more expensive.

You’ll get a very neutral, accurate reference recording with the NT1 with little bass roll-off. If you want to record as accurate a recording as possible, the NT1 is the choice and is a good warm mic that caters to male vocals.  Also of note, this was the mic of choice for PewDiePie for a long while before switching up to the AKG C414 XLII.

Meanwhile, the NT1-A is a classic mic for emphasizing and deemphasizing certain elements of the frequency spectrum. It’s a good deal brighter in the higher frequencies with a stronger bass roll-off starting at about 100Hz, making it a good choice for female voices as it’s not quite as warm a mic, especially in the lower frequencies.  It may be a bit harsh for some voices though, coming off as “fizzy” to some.

Both are excellent mics, however, and you can’t go wrong with either one. Make a judgement based on how your voice sounds to you, and go from there.

Check the lowest price of the RODE NT1 on Amazon
Check the lowest price of the RODE NT1-A on Amazon

Blue Bluebird SL

Believe it or not, the Snowball and Yeti aren’t the mics that kicked off Blue’s popularity. The company started out making high-end studio mics for discerning recording studios and didn’t get into the consumer game until a push from Apple led to the design and release of the Snowball as a low-cost USB mic for use with Macs and PCs.

While their flagship Bottle mic is a whopping $3999, the much more affordable Baby Bottle is their most popular mic. The Baby Bottle is their “classic warmth and presence”, carrying on the tonal qualities of the Bottle. The Spark SL is the second version of the Spark, their more natural and transparent mic

This leads to the Bluebird SL which is, again, their new version of the Bluebird. The Bluebird is an interesting mic, as it gives a quite bright, super clear sound. I’ve owned one for several years now and it shines on vocals and acoustic guitars among other sources.

The SL version adds 100Hz high-pass and -20dB pad switches that don’t exist on the non-SL version (all SL versions add these where they weren’t there previously). All of the Essentials series (SL mics) do come with a custom shock mount that the mics thread in to at the base of the mic.

Yes, the Baby Bottle and Spark SL may be more “natural” or “traditional” sounding mics, we wanted to focus on the Bluebird as we feel it’s a bit of an underrated mic. It fills a need that many of these other mics can’t, and that’s providing enhanced top end “air” to a wide range of voices that other mics may not provide without sounding harsh.

If other mics don’t provide the top end sheen to your live stream voice tracks, give the Bluebird SL a shot, it’s a very fun mic as long as it suits your voice.

Check the lowest price of the Blue Bluebird SL on Amazon

Blue Ember

The Blue Ember is a well-reviewed small diaphragm condenser mic that’s designed with modern content creators in mind. It has a less colored sound than any of the Essentials (SL) line, and costs a great deal less.

The Ember is a side-address condenser like the other Blue mics and in a smaller, sleeker form factor. It fits well in many setups where a larger mic may have difficulty and doesn’t block your face more than necessary.

Where the Ember really stands out as a condenser mic is its polar pattern. The pickup pattern is tighter and more front-focused, meaning it can reject background noise more than most condenser microphones out there. It provides a good compromise of detail and clarity of a condenser with room rejection of a dynamic.

Unfortunately it does not come with a shock mount, so you’ll need to purchase the S3 Shock (or a third party shock mount) separately, which we do highly suggest. This is actually the same shock mount used for the Essentials mics like the Bluebird SL mentioned above.

If you’re looking for something smaller, a bit more discreet, with great off-axis rejection and detailed and wide sound, give this mic a chance.

Check the lowest price of the Blue Ember on Amazon

MXL V67G

Home recordists on a budget for decades will be familiar with this one. MXL says that the phrase most often used to describe the sound of the V67G is “old school tube mellow”, and it’s actually a pretty accurate description. As long as you take into consideration just how inexpensive this mic is.

Home and project studios have been rocking the V67G for a very long time because back in the day this was pretty much the only inexpensive option worth its salt even a little. It’s another side-address cardioid mic with a mostly smooth frequency response save for a few dips and peaks in strategic places.

You would definitely want to pick up a shock mount for the V67G, as it doesn’t ship with one which makes sense at this price point.

This mic will give you a really warm sound resembling that of much more expensive tube-based mics. There are many more options out these days, but if you’re on a strict budget and other mics feel a bit too harsh for your liking, the V67G is your mic.

Check the lowest price of the MXL V67G on Amazon

MXL 770

MXL has a ton of budget mics throughout the years, but the 770 is one of their most popular, along with the aforementioned V67G. It’s a tad more expensive, but has a more modern look and a few extra niceties. Unlike the V67G, the 770 does actually come with a shock mount, however.

First, you’ll get a -10dB pad switch to compensate for louder voices/sources, and a built-in high-pass filter at 150Hz to help cut room hum and wind noise. Second, this mic excels with more husky mail voices thanks to how it treats the low end. There’s a substantial high end boost that will give some air and crispness to the top end of a voice, and also flatters female voices as well.

This is a go-to budget mic for rappers/hip hop artists and podcasters alike. If you want something a little less “vintage warm” like the V67G and instead a bit of a more “modern warm”, it’s a great budget solution.

Check the lowest price of the MXL 770 on Amazon

Monoprice Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone (600800)

Yes. Monoprice. The cheap cable people. Believe it or not, this is actually a really great mic.

Why? Because it’s essentially a rebadged MXL 770 (or MXL 990, its switchless counterpart). Same switches, same circuit board, same capsule.

So why include it in this list? So you can keep an eye out for deals on either mic, of course! So, yeah, not much else to say other than that.

Check the lowest price of the Monoprice 600800 on Amazon

RODE Broadcaster

Podcasters, broadcasters, and live streamers everywhere love the RODE Broadcaster. It’s similar to the other RODE mics on the list, but built specifically for broadcast purposes.

The Broadcaster is an end-address mic known for its full sound and an emphasis on proximity effect to create some very rich, low end tightness for voices of all types. There is a 75Hz high-pass switch to help eliminate room and air conditioner noise, and of course an internal pop filter like many RODE mics have.

If you’re using an external broadcast sound board with a Channel On/Mute function, this mic actually has an “On Air” indicator, letting you know whether your mic is hot or not. Definitely helpful in multi-person podcasts and other broadcast situations. And like the Procaster mentioned before, it doesn’t come with a shock mount, but one is available.

Yes, it’s a bit more pricey than the likes of the NT1, but it delivers some incredibly polished audio as long as you’re close enough to make use of the proximity effect.

Check the lowest price of the RODE Broadcaster on Amazon

Are USB microphones good for live streaming video?

Long story short, not in our opinion. Yes, you’ve got popular classics like the Blue Yeti and Blue Snowball along with newer entries like the Yeti Nano or AT2020USB, but honestly, we can’t suggest them.

The main weakness is the analog-to-digital converters built in to these mics. They’re not nearly as good as an external USB audio interface with XLR inputs, quality pre-amps, and just better digital signal conversion in general.

They’ll do in a pinch, and if it’s the only thing you have don’t let it ever stop you from creating. But if you’re looking for a better quality, more future proof solution, using an XLR mic with a proper audio interface is by far the better way to go.

Best microphone broadcast boom arms for live streaming video

Now that you’ve picked out your mic of choice, you need some way to support it. You could use a regular mic stand with a straight boom arm, but that quickly gets awkward around the desk and isn’t necessarily the ideal setup for a permanently mounted mic that you’ll be using often.

You also don’t want to get a desktop stand as it will not only get in the way of your peripherals, but it will also pick up taps and bumps even from typing. It’s fine for temporary use, but again not ideal.

The best option is to get a broadcast boom arm that you can mount to the edge of your desk and swing in the mic when using it, and swing it back out when not needed. Boom arms offer high levels of fine adjustment along with further dampening any bumps on the desk.

Even if you have a shock mount for your mic (which you absolutely should), the boom arm will absorb major bumps before it even gets to the shock mount. That said, definitely pick up a shock mount regardless of which boom arm or stand you get.

One thing of note, however, is you don’t want to get the cheapest boom arm out there, as low quality boom arms will often be squeaky when moving around, and may not even hold the position you want, sagging or dropping after being positioned.

You’ll also want to pay attention to the maximum weight the arm can support. Make sure that it easily covers the weight of the mic, the shock mount, and any extra weight from the cable hanging. This will be crucial to ensuring the boom arm does what it’s supposed to.

If you’re spending decent money on a mic, spend decent money on a boom arm. With that said, here are some of our favorite boom arms.

RODE PSA 1

RODE PSA 1 Swivel Mount Studio Microphone Boom Arm image attachment (large)

Perhaps it’s no surprise that the first broadcast boom arm on the list is from RODE. This is also probably the most popular option as it’s incredibly solid and supports up to 4.4 lbs of microphone.

The PSA 1 offers a huge reach of 32.5″ horizontally and 33″ vertically while being able to swivel a full 360 degrees. There are two desk mounting options, a desk insert so you can drill through the desk and a clamp so you don’t need to modify your desk.

The tensions springs are all internal and looks pretty sleep compared to most external spring designs. There are cable wraps to manage your mic cable and keep things organized and out of sight.

This is probably the best option available for around $100 and there’s not many people for which this wouldn’t be an excellent choice.

Check the lowest price of the RODE PSA 1 on Amazon

Blue Compass

Blue Compass Premium Tube-Style Broadcast Boom Arm image attachment (large)

Again, not surprising that the next entrant is from Blue. The Compas is a premium tube-style broadcast boom arm, meaning that it’s not using the multiple piece arm design that most traditional external-spring designs utilize. This also means that this is, by far, the best looking boom arm on the list.

All the springs are internal and tension is maintained by a tension knob to get the right resistance for your mic, allowing precise positioning while maintaining a solid suspension of your mic. There is also a hidden cable channel to ensure that your mic cable is clean and as invisible as possible.

While this is designed for the Yeti, it does work for most other mics, although you will want to use a shock mount with this arm, just like with any other stand. The Compass does not come with a desk-insert style mount, so the included c-clamp is the only mounting method that ships with this arm.

This is a great option for many mics, with a supported weight of up to 2.4lbs including shock mount with a 32″ maximum reach. It’s not as solid as the RODE PSA 1, but it’s definitely a looker and will get the job done depending on your choice of mic.

Check the lowest price of the Blue Compass on Amazon

Samson Technologies MBA38

Samson Technologies Mounting Arm MBA38 image attachment (large)

Rounding out the list is the Samson MBA38. This is another two-piece arm design but again with internal springs. And again, like the RODE PSA 1, it does come with both a c-clamp mount and a desk-insert style flange mount.

The MBA38 does offer a longer 38″ maximum arm reach, making it the longest reach in the list as well as the most weight capacity at 5lbs.

Most people absolutely rave about this broadcast boom arm, citing its solid build and ability to keep a mic where you put it. Whereas the PSA 1 does act a bit iffy with very light mics, this isn’t an issue with the MBA38. There are some inconsistent results with mics with a Yeti-like mount, making it a bit more difficult for use with the thread on these designs but aren’t an issue if you’re using a shock mount. Some users also report the need to break in the swivel mount a bit, but after a few days things seem to smooth out.

Overall, despite being from a brand known for their budget microphones and gear, this is an absolute deal at half the price of the competition for these features and quality, and might even be a better option if you need the extra reach and weight support.

Check the lowest price of the Samson MBA38 on Amazon

What is a shock mount?

We’ve been throwing this term around a bit and just realized we haven’t necessarily covered it. A shock mount is a mount for a microphone that absorbs physical shocks to the mic. Clever name, right?

Basically, if a mic is mounted directly in a solid plastic mic holder or threaded directly onto a mic stand or broadcast boom arm, any bumps to the stand/arm will get transferred to the mic, creating a loud thump in your recording. This also extends to bumps and taps on whatever surface the mic stand/arm is directly connected to or sitting on.

A shock mount has a collar that the mic slips into, which is then suspended in the middle of a larger collar with rubber bands, basically. These bands absorb all of the physical jostling that occurs from the outer collar, preventing them from transferring to the inner collar. Tap or bump your boom arm all you want, you’ll get little to no transference to your mic.

Having a shock mount is crucial to a clean, professional mic setup, as you don’t want these extremely loud thumps to come through your live stream, especially for your headphone-wearing viewers.

Many mics do come with their own shock mount, and those that don’t usually have one available from the manufacturer or even a third party. We’re not going to list any here because they’re very mic-specific at times. Yes, some mics are somewhat universal in diameter, and some shock mounts are adjustable, but in general it’s not feasible to list every shock mount for every mic here.

Just make note of whether the mic of your choice comes with one, and if not, budget in the extra to buy one separately. You’ll be regretting not picking one up pretty quickly; I definitely speak from experience here.

Final thoughts

The world of audio is incredibly expansive. There are thousands of mics out there across all price points with their individual strengths and weaknesses. There are those mics that are definitive go-to choices for some people, while others swear by another (perhaps even very similar) mic. It can get overwhelming.

We hope that we’ve provided a good solid glimpse into the mics that are the no-contest champions along with a few that deserve a bit of extra love as they’re off the beaten path when it comes to most people.

But really, when it comes down to it, a mic is just a tool. It’s not going to make or break your live stream, but the right mic for the right user can definitely help tighten up your production.

Do you have any questions about anything we’ve covered here? Is there a mic you love that should be included on this list? Leave a comment down below and let us know! Also, be sure to follow us on Twitter and Instagram for more cool stuff coming in the future!

 

Best lighting for live streaming video [2019]

Best Live Streaming Lighting

Live streaming can be quite fun and doesn’t take a ton of crazy expensive gear to make it happen. Even with an entry-level live streaming equipment setup you can get some pretty great results with the right light. But chances are that your streams are looking particularly noisy and grainy, and that’s because you don’t have enough light. You might think you do, but you don’t. So let’s take a look at some great live streaming lighting setup ideas!

Lighting is the most important part of good live stream video quality

In another life I was a fairly active photographer, working with a lot of live music photography and band/portrait work. The key there was light. The more the better, and the better the light the better the image.

That holds true even more for video and even live streaming video. Great light can make even inexpensive gear look killer, so be sure to work out a great lighting setup.

What to look for in a live stream lighting setup

  • LED lights: They’re thinner, bright, lower on power, don’t get nearly as hot, and easily positioned in your setup.
  • Size: The larger the light source in comparison to the subject (you), the more flattering the light quality. It doesn’t need to be gigantic, but bigger lights will be better than the tiny little box lights that go on top of a video camera. Look at getting something with a light surface roughly the size of a sheet of paper or larger.
  • Positioning: Bigger lights may be better than smaller lights, but even a big light can act small when placed far away from the subject (you). Get a light that’s a decent size but can still be placed relatively close to you.
  • Brightness: You’ll want not just a bright light, but also to be able to control the brightness to get your exposure right. This gives you more flexibility in exposing not just yourself but your set and backdrop as well.
  • Color temperature: This dictates how warm or cool the light is. This basically means whether the light is more yellow or more white/blue. Daylight is about 5500K, many new laptops (including Macbooks) calibrate their screens at 6900-7000K to look “really white”, and properly calibrated displays should be around 6500K. The ability to change this will let you match existing lights and ensure that things look natural on your video broadcast.
  • Power: While many LED lights can run on batteries, you’ll probably want one with an external power cable to plug into the wall for long stream sessions.
  • Diffusion: Diffusion is making a light source softer. If the bulbs/LED elements are exposed bare, you’ll want something over them to make those less harsh. If you can’t see bare LEDs/bulbs through the plastic covering that’s a good start.

Note: this guide’s scope is really to address the best lights for smaller live streamers working from a desk setup, not necessarily from a video broadcast studio type of setup.

There are a lot of great options available these days, so let’s check out a few of our favorite live streaming lights for Facebook Live, YouTube Live, Twitch, and more.

Lighting is the most important part of good live stream video quality Click to Tweet

Best lights for live streaming and video broadcasting

Elgato Key Light

Elgato Key LightElgato is turning its attention toward the streaming market pretty hard these days, and their latest new entrant into the area is the Elgato Key Light. It’s basically tailor-made for streamers, and is growing in popularity very quickly.

The benefits to this light is that it’s a fairly good size light at 13.77″ x 9.84″ (just a bit larger than a normal sheet of paper) that outputs a ton of controllable light. A single Key Light can crank up to 2800 lumens. For reference, that’s over twice as powerful as a Lifx smart LED bulb’s 1100 lumens (Lifx, by the way, is the brightest of the smart LED bulbs out there, with Philips Hues coming in around 800 lumens).

Not only do they get bright, but they do have an adjustable color temperature, ranging from a very warm 2900K to a super white 7000K. The Key Light is definitely one of the more flexible lights out there and lets you dial up exactly what you need for your stream.

The last key benefit (no pun intended, but it’s staying! haha) is the mounting system. Each Key Light comes with a metal telescoping pole on which you mount the light. This pole is actually designed to clamp on to your desk, allowing it to be quite flush against the wall your desk is on and eliminates the need for a traditional light stand. Oh, and the AC power supply is included, so, bonus!

The Key Light can work with Elgato’s Stream Deck along with its own control software, and connects via wifi for setup. You can control your lights without having to get to the physical device, and it makes setting these up and getting ready to stream super easy, barely an inconvenience.

Being able to get such a thin light on a space-saving stand to minimal overall impact to your existing desk setup is a godsend to many live streamers. It’s super flexible, insanely bright for the size, and most importantly it throws out some very quality light. While there are more inexpensive options available, none have the complete package of features that many streamers will need for their setups.

Buy Elgato Key Light here

Viltrox L132T

Viltrox L132T While the Key Light is a complete all-in-one package, it does come at a fairly high price compared to some other options out there. One of my personal favorites (and the one that probably gets the most overall use around here) is the Viltrox L132T and it packs a ton of use into a small, well-priced package.

The L132T is smaller than the Key Light, roughly half the surface area at about 4″ x 10″. It’s also not as bright, capping out at 1065 lumens at a warm blend. It does cover 3300-5600K color temp and dimming down to 20%. Even at around 1000 lumens it’s often much too bright, especially for up close work and food photography (my girlfriend loves this light for her blog photos).

Yes, that means it’s half the size and half the power and half the color temperature range of the Key Light. But it’s less than a quarter of the price. And it takes standard Sony NP-F550/F750/F960 series batteries as well as a 12V adapter (some ship with this, others don’t).

We can’t say enough good things about this light. Yes, there are “better” lights out there, but at this price point you won’t find one at this size that creates such even, smooth, and controllable light at all.

Note: Viltrox lights usually have a B version and a T version. The B version is usually only daylight, 5500 or 5600K. The T versions are the adjustable color temp variants. These sacrifice max brightness for flexibility. Also note that max brightness is referenced at around 4400K temperature, the halfway point in the blend where all LEDs in the light are on.

Buy Viltrox L132T here

Viltrox VL-200T/VL-400T

VILTROX VL-200T

What if you do need a larger sized light and still keep the affordability? Viltrox has got you covered there too. They have a few larger lights that are quite similar to the Key Light in size, shape, and brightness but share the same creature comforts as the L132T.

The VL-200T is about 10″ x 8″ and maxes out at 2500 lumens at 4400K. Whereas the L132T takes one Sony NP-F battery, the VL-200T and VL-400T have two battery slots because of the larger number of LED elements.

If you want an even larger light, the VL-400T measures around 14″ x 9.5″ and can pump out 2900 lumens at 4400K. These larger lights usually don’t ship with the batteries, but do ship with the AC adapter and even a wireless remote control for adjusting the lights individually or as a group.

All of the Viltrox lights here are CRI 95+, meaning that the color accuracy of the light is pretty outstanding. What they light up will be pretty close to how the subject actually looks in daylight. Yes, you may see some ever so slight color tinging and shifting here and there, but most of the time you’ll never catch it. We haven’t even found CRI measurements for the Key Lights, but I’m assuming they’re also CRI 95+, so these are all most likely on equal footing, accuracy-wise.

I’d put the VL-200T and VL-400T as the best competitors to the Key Light at this point, although they will require picking up a separate mounting solution, which shouldn’t be terribly expensive. You won’t be able to control them from your computer like the Key Lights, but you could get a lot more light for you dollar with the various Viltrox offerings.

If you’re tight on budget or just don’t care about computer control, the Viltrox lights are probably your most affordable bet.

Buy Viltrox VL-200T here
Buy Viltrox VL-400T (2 light kit) here

Falcon Eyes SO-28TD/SO-68TD Flapjack lights

Falcon Eyes SO-28TD

Another popular style of light are what’s referred to as “flapjack” panels for their round, flat profile. Falcon Eyes has been making their SO-28TD and SO-68TD panels (among others) for a while now, and produce great quality light.

They’re not as inexpensive as the Viltrox lights, but are much more sturdy builds with larger surface area and more brightness. The SO-28TD is about a 14″ diameter and outputs around 2460 lux, with the SO-68TD around 26″ and maxing out at 5920 lux. They can be powered by batteries or AC adapter.

These are used by a lot of filmmakers and YouTubers because of their build quality and pleasing light output, but also make excellent lights for live streaming and video broadcasting. They’re a great alternative to the Key Light, especially if you want something you can use on location as well as at your streaming desk.

Buy Falcon Eyes SO-28TD here
Buy Falcon Eyes SO-68TD here

Aputure 120D II

Aputure Lightstorm COB 120Dii

We’ve previously gushed about the Aputure 120D IIand the Light Dome in our guide on how to start vlogging. Yes, it’s a bit overkill for some vloggers (especially those who don’t always vlog at home or in a studio), but it’s definitely one of the popular choices for many vloggers and YouTubers.

Streamers have also fallen in love with this light, as the Light Dome modifier creates some absolutely gorgeous light and is incredibly easy to work with. As long as you have the physical space available for it, that is.

The 120D II cranks out a whopping 30,000 lux (with

the fresnel reflector) at CRI 96+ and TLCI97+ ratings and is daylight balanced–no color temp adjustments here, just 5500K goodness.

It runs on AC power with an included power/control unit, but if you need portability you can always use a battery pack like the classic Paul C. Buff Vagabond Mini battery packs. There is an active cooling fan in the housing, but it’s pretty quiet at around 18 dB.

Aputure Light Dome 35" octobox
[/thirstylink] Aputure Light Dome 35″ octobox
The Light Dome is pretty large, especially when compared to smaller LED panels like we’ve covered already. Add to that the required C-stand and it makes it a bit of a tight fit if you’re in a small space, or if your desk is right up against a wall.

But that said, it’s still an amazing light at a pretty reasonable price point. If you need the best with no compromises and have the space for it, it’s a great option.

Buy Aputure 120D II here
Buy Aputure Light Dome here

Godox SL-60W/SL-200W

Godox SL-60W

Godox has been making lighting and photography gear for quite a while, and is known for some great budget-friendly equipment. With the growing popularity of the Aputure 120D, the Godox SL-60W has rose to the status of the go-to alternative at a fraction of the price.

The SL-60W is the same type of light as the 120D. There’s no built-in diffusion or reflector, as it accepts light modifiers with a Bowens mount, same as the 120D. The SL-60W is considerably lower price though–you could buy about five SL-60W lights for the cost of a single 120D, making it extremely popular for YouTubers and filmmakers on a budget.

That said, there are some compromises here. You’ll only get 4100 lux brightness, CRI 95+ and TLCI 90+. The fan is definitely not as quiet, but if you’re close mic’ing your subject or using a good directional microphone it shouldn’t be an issue for streamers.

The bigger brother gets a lot closer to the 120D in brightness, reaching 20,000 lumens with CRI 95+. It’s about 2/3rds the output but also about 2/3rds the price. Again, an excellent alternative but not without its tradeoffs.

With the SL series lights, you do have wide compatibility with a huge assortment of light modifiers, wireless control and grouping. It’s not the absolute tank of a unit that the 120D is, but it’s an excellent first light for beginners or a great fill light for larger setups. You sure can’t beat the price, so definitely check this light out as a great alternative to the 120D.

Buy Godox SL-60W here
Buy Godox SL-200W here
Buy Neewer 32″ Octo Softbox here

CAME-TV Boltzen Andromeda 2FT-R RGB LED Video Light

CAME-TV Boltzen Andromeda 2FT-R RGB LED Video Light

Here’s something a bit different, if the other form factors don’t quite suite your needs.  CAME-TV has a rather unique light in a tube light form.  Similar in design to the lights found in much more expensive Kino Flo, these CAME-TV lights are pretty powerful and easy to mount and come in various lengths (2FT, 3FT, 4FT, etc).

The 2FT-R is a 20W RGB light that runs on optional batteries or included power adapter, they are adjustable from 0-100% brightness, white balance between 2000K and 10000K, and offer CRI 96+ and TLCI 97+ accuracy.

They come with full-length barn doors for controlling light spill, and can also be purchased in a kit of four with a mounting bar to connect them together.  The lights can also be controlled via an app on your phone for easy adjustment if mounted out of reach.

The 3FT version is a daylight-balanced 5600K light that shares the same features and kit options, but is a 60W light for a much stronger output.  Either of these models, however, are a much more affordable Kino Flo option, and would be a great pick if you’re looking for something a bit different.

Buy CAME-TV Boltzen Andromeda 2FT-R RGB LED Video Light (single) here
Buy CAME-TV Boltzen Andromeda 2FT-R RGB LED Video Light (4 piece) here
Buy CAME-TV Boltzen 60W Andromeda 3FT-D Daylight LED Video Light (single) here
Buy CAME-TV Boltzen 60W Andromeda 3FT-R RGB LED Video Light (single) here

Quasar Science Q-LED T8 30W 120V Dimmable Lamp

Quasar Science Q-LED T8 30W 120V Dimmable Lamp

Like the tube light look, but need something a bit more affordable?  Quasar Science has you covered with their 30W 5600K light.  It’s a standard 4′ T8 lamp, but does come with the P1Z plug to plug it into the wall.

This one’s pretty no-frills.  Brightness is adjustable, and that’s about it.  It’s definitely more of a set-and-forget lamp, but makes an excellent accent or fill light for your streaming lighting setup.

Buy Quasar Science Q-LED T8 30W 120V Dimmable Lamp here

Desk mounting LED lights (Elgato Key Light alternative mounting)

The major benefit to the Elgato Key Light is that it does come with everything you need to mount the light to your desk, including an adjustable boom pole and a desk clamp. The lights we’ve looked at do not come with a stand, but do come with tripod or light stand mounting points so we can piece together our own mounting solution similar to the Key Light.

First, we’ll need an adjustable boom pole, such as this Andoer monopod/mic boom pole. It’s not as sleek as the Key Light support, but it’ll get the job done. Next, some sort of clamp like this UTEBIT clamp. Both of these actually come with a ball head mount for a camera, but you won’t necessarily be using these for the lights.

If you pair these with even the larger Viltrox lights you have a very affordable version of the Key Light. I wouldn’t advise mounting the large Falcon Eyes lights, however, and especially not the Aputure/Godox style lights. But for the smaller panels this would work quite well.

What about ring lights?

We thought about including ring lights in this guide, but after some deliberation, we’ve come to the conclusion that the day of the ring light for most live streaming setups is probably in the past. With the advent of larger, softer LED panels, you can get much better quality of light in a more flexible form factor.

Ring lights are really meant for one specific task–creating a shadow-less lighting source with one single lighting fixture. They’re really meant for beauty lighting to create light from all directions around a camera lens. This is why they’re a ring–you place your camera inside the ring and the light hits the subject from all angles, neutralizing shadows.

Really, this is for showing off makeup or other similar uses, or creating a very distinct stylized high-key light on a subject with minimal depth. You also need to get a ring light fairly close to the subject to achieve this goal. It’s meant to completely bathe the subject in light from “all sides”.

If you really want that look, however, go for it. If you want the weird “cut-out” shadow look, go for it. If you love the “halo eyes” catch lights in your eyes, go for it. But, in our humble opinion, you’re better off picking up a flat solid light that creates more lighting surface instead of the small strip of light on a ring light.

Remember, total size of surface area relative to the subject is what creates softer light on the subject. Ring lights just won’t get this look in our opinion.

Final thoughts

Plain and simple: Lighting equals great images. You’re going to need something flexible, powerful, and small enough to fit into your streaming setup. Thankfully we live in the age of great LED lighting options at ridiculously affordable prices. Any of the options above would work excellent for various types of setups.

Do you have any questions about lighting setups for live streaming that we missed? Any thoughts or suggestions? Drop a comment below or @ us at @creatorbeat_ on Twitter or @creatorbeat on Instagram!

How to live stream with a video camera [2019]

How to live stream with a video camera

So you’ve decided you want to start live streaming to Facebook, YouTube, Twitch, or any of the other number of platforms out there. You have your laptop, you’ve got your video camera. But what next? How do you get the camera signal to the computer and out to the internet? Well, you’re in luck because we’re going to walk you through exactly what equipment you need to live stream to Facebook, YouTube, Twitch, and more with your video camera.

One quick note before we go forward, however. This guide is specifically for the required equipment or hardware you’ll need, not necessarily how to go live on your platform of choice. Usually these options are pretty easy to find in the interfaces, and they do have extensive documentation on how to do this.

Also, there are specific apps for streaming, such as OBS, SLOBS, Xsplit, and more. Those are extensive topics on their own, and we won’t be covering that here. Anyway, on with the show!
How to live stream to Facebook, YouTube, Twitch, and more with a video camera Click to Tweet

What do you need to live stream video with a camera to Facebook, YouTube, Twitch, and more?

You don’t need much to get your camera’s image on to a live stream, most of which you probably already have:

  • Camera with a clean HDMI output (here’s some of our favorite live streaming cameras!)
  • Laptop or computer to broadcast your video online
  • Video capture card or capture device to get the camera video into the computer
  • Light!
  • Microphone suitable for good clean voice recording (optional but highly recommended)
  • Audio interface to capture the microphone’s signal (necessary depending on type of microphone)
  • Headphones for monitoring audio (optional, recommended for game streamers)

Cameras for live streaming video

Since live streaming video is already pretty compressed, cameras are almost a diminishing return sort of thing. You do want something relatively good (especially if you plan on using it for non-streaming uses), but you don’t need to break the bank.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s a DSLR, mirrorless, point and shoot, or camcorder, anything will work.

You will, however, want a camera with clean HDMI out (no menus on the output), something with an external power adapter, the appropriate lens for your setup, and perhaps good autofocus if you want it to track your face. We’ve written up a huge guide on our picks of the best cameras for live streaming to Facebook, YouTube, Twitch, and more so definitely go check that out.

Computer or laptop for streaming live video

You will need a computer with enough horsepower to encode video and upload it without dropping frames and breaking up the stream. Higher core count processors are beneficial here, with Ryzen being a new contender to Intel CPUs thanks to its high core count and low price. But that’s better addressed elsewhere.  ()We plan on updating our Ryzen for content creators post now that Ryzen 3 is released, so keep an eye on that one!).

Really, if you’re just streaming video then it’s a good chance that your existing computer (given that it’s somewhat recent-ish) will do quite nicely. If you’re streaming games to Twitch, however, you may need some extra horsepower to be able to handle both the game and the video broadcasting.

Do you need a laptop or computer to live stream video?

The short answer is technically no, but it’s definitely the easiest way. The computer is basically your video ingest device (along with the video capture card), your video control, and broadcast device all in one. While there are dedicated video broadcast equipment for both studio (home/indoors) and out in the field (away from the studio/home/laptop/wifi), they’re infinitely more expensive and unnecessary for 99% of live streaming video applications at which this post is aimed.

Video capture card/device for live streaming video

Yes, your laptop most likely has an HDMI port on it already (or mini-HDMI, DisplayPort, or mini-DisplayPort), but unfortunately that’s almost always an output to connect to an external monitor. Almost all laptops do not have a video input, making a video capture card (or device) a necessity.  So how do you get your camera output into your laptop or desktop?

Commonly referred to as a video capture card thanks to traditionally being a PCI expansion card that goes inside your desktop computer, a video capture device simply does what its name implies: it captures the video signal of whatever is plugged into its input and makes it available for the computer software to see and manipulate.

These have now commonly become external boxes connected mostly via USB, and can be used without tearing open your computer to install them. While there are a ton of these on the market now with varying degrees of quality and features, we are now almost always recommending one single device.

Elgato Cam Link 4K – The best video capture device for live streaming video

Elgato CamLink 4K

Initially covered in our aforementioned streaming cameras guide, the Elgato Cam Link 4K is fairly new, and an update of their existing Cam Link. This device is seriously impressive as it can accept HDMI inputs up to 4K 30fps, and will do 1080p at 60fps. And it’s not a box–it’s a USB dongle, making it perfect for streaming video from a laptop.

Insane, right? Well, this has quickly become the go-to for streamers and general video capture. It even works with Skype, OBS/SLOBS, and any other application that can recognize webcams because it actually registers its signal as a webcam.

All these features (and the many more we’re not covering here) along with a very affordable price make this our number one pick for video capture devices for both desktop and laptop computers. Unless you need specialized features we don’t see a better option out there.

Buy Elgato Cam Link 4K here

Epiphan AV.io HD and 4K – Rock solid reliability for mission-critical video capture

Epiphan AV.io HD

We’ve recently espoused the reliability of the Epiphan AV.io capture devices in our guide to cameras for live streaming and live video broadcasting, and they warrant another mention here. They’re considerably more expensive than other options on this list, but if you need insanely reliable can’t-break-it devices, these are your ticket to success.

There is a 1080p version and a 4K version available for those with massive bandwidth available. They interpret your incoming camera signal into a webcam camera that Windows can natively use in almost any video application, and are fully capable of hot-swapping the inputs in case anything comes unplugged while streaming.

Definitely a pricey option, but if you’re doing mission-critical streaming you can’t go wrong here with the Epiphan AV.io family.

Buy Epiphan AV.io HD here
Buy Epiphan AV.io 4K here

Elgato Game Capture Card HD60 S – Game console capture for streaming

Elgato Game Capture Card HD60 S

Everything in this article has been geared toward users who want to capture a camera input device. But what about those streamers who are playing console games? How would you capture and stream your Xbox One or Playstation 4?

Enter the Elgato HD60 S. This is a USB type-C device that allows you to connect your game console’s output and then send that out from the device to your TV while also piping the signal to your computer to include in your stream.

The usual issue with these pass-through capture devices is the latency, but that’s not really an issue with the HD60 S. Elgato calls it Instant Gameview, and promises ultra-low latency so your gaming session isn’t impacted by the capture device.

This particular device doesn’t do the h.264 video encoding for you, so your computer’s CPU will be handling that load, so keep that in mind. It will, however, support up to 1080p60 capture, so your games will look silky smooth.

There are other devices in the game capture line with more features, higher resolution, and other nice-to-haves, but as far as a dead simple affordable game capture device, this is the perfect starting point.

Buy Elgato Game Capture Card HD60 S here

Live streaming video without a computer or laptop

Live streaming with a desktop or laptop computer is pretty straightforward, as we’ve shown. You most likely have almost everything you need. But what if you need to live video broadcasting out in the field, away from your home or office/studio? That’s where it gets a bit more complex, and a lot more expensive.

With a computer-based setup, your computer (and the capture device) handles the signal ingest, video encoding, video broadcast prep (titles, camera/game layouts, etc), and the actual broadcast to the streaming platform over the network. It’s a handy self-contained system.

When you’re away from the desk, on the move without power, network/wifi, and, well, a desk, you need all of those components with you. You can’t be messing around with a laptop, so you’ll be looking at dedicated setups that consist of these functions in separate devices.

What do you need to stream without a desktop or laptop computer?

  • First you’ll need a video capture device that does encoding. Most will encode to h.264, however there are h.265/HEVC encoders available.
  • You’ll need a network device, such as a portable LTE modem. LTE modems are often not quite enough bandwidth by themselves, so you’ll need multiple modems to work together, which means…
  • Network bonding. Bonding is the act of taking multiple network connections and bridging them together to act as one network connection. This ensures more network bandwidth and redundancy incase one modem loses signal.
  • High-gain antennas to get those modem signals the best tower connection possible.
  • Massive batteries. Usually Gold or V Mount batteries because of the high capacity.
  • A way to keep all this equipment cool.
  • Something in which to carry all these separate things.

There are more and more live video broadcasting streaming encoders out on the market, but unfortunately even the affordable ones are still pretty pricey. But here’s a few of our current favorite options if you’re so inclined to get out there and broadcast from the field.

Teradek Bond 659 backpack

Teradek Bond 659 AVC Backpack

I’m an avid disc golfer (and occasionally blog about disc golf!), and as such watch a good amount of pre-recorded footage and live tournaments. Disc golf isn’t a huge sport like traditional golf, and as such the community has had to figure out a way to get the live coverage where there’s no infrastructure for full stationary camera setups, and do it at a fraction of the cost.

One of the most prominent disc golf YouTube channels out there, SmashBoxx, has been streaming tournaments for years, and use Teradek Bond kits for their two on-course cameras (one at the tee, one at the basket, called a “catch cam”).

Teradek is known for excellent wireless transmission gear for professional applications, and the Bond backpack kits are probably the most well-rounded and modular setups available right now. They come with almost everything you need to get up and running, even if you don’t have any modems of your own.

The backpacks come with the Teradek Cube h.264 encoders (h.265 in the Bond 759) to handle the video input and compression, the Bond device to bond together multiple modems, and four Node modems for whichever geographical region you choose when you buy the set.

You’ll also get the massive high-gain antennas and your choice of battery mount system, but you’ll have to supply your own batteries (hence the aforementioned “almost everything”). The whole setup is connected with locking cables so nothing can come loose in the backpack, and there’s an active cooling system to keep everything running outdoors.

Typically the data stream from these setups will be fed to a control room where all of the titles, graphics, camera angle cuts, and voiceover/announcing can be coordinated. This frees the camera operators to do exactly what their job title says, and all other decisions are handled remotely.

While they have a fairly high price attached, the reliability and plug-and-play functionality really do make these excellent remote live streaming encoder kits. For those who need rock solid stability, the Teradek Bond backpacks should be your first stop for an all-in-one solution.

Buy Teradeck Bond 659 here

LiveU Solo Wireless Live Video Streaming Encoder

LiveU Solo Wireless Live Video Streaming Encoder

The LiveU Solo is a much more affordable solution, albeit less robust. This is a smaller device meant for smaller outfits, but still provides a solid option for remote video broadcasting.

You won’t need to supply your own battery, as there’s an internal rechargeable battery that can supply up to 3 hours of broadcasting. You can bond up to four connections, including one wifi, one ethernet, and up to two LTE or WiMax modems connected via USB, which you will need to provide on your own.

The stream can be monitored on the small built-in display, and your stream destinations set up via the LiveU Solo portal on any web-connected device. It’s a relatively dead simple setup and is easy to operate for on-the-go video broadcasting and makes an excellent single person live streaming setup for when you’re away from your home base.

Buy LiveU Solo Wireless Live Video Streaming Encoder here

SlingStudio Hub and SlingStudio CameraLink

SlingStudio Hub - HD Video Switcher for Multi-Camera Production, and Live Streaming

We’ve been meaning to put together a full guide on the SlingStudio Hub and its associated devices but keeps getting delayed. This is a really interesting ecosystem of devices. It isn’t necessarily a fully field-ready video broadcast system, but it does work if you have wifi.

The basics are that there’s a base station (SlingStudio Hub) and then transmitters that go on your cameras (SlingStudio CameraLink). Everything can be monitored and controlled via the SlingStudio Console app on an iPad or Mac (no Windows or Android devices, sadly). This allows you to control your cameras without needing a computer, or from in front of the camera.

Speaking of cameras, not only can you connect your DSLR, camcorder, or mirrorless camera with a CameraLink as well as take an HDMI input, but you can also use your iOS or Android (on supported devices) device as an additional camera with the SlingStudio Capture app.

In 1080p30 and lower, you can have up to 10 total camera sources, up to 4 of those monitored via the app–you won’t get a full heads-up view of all 10 sources. In 1080p60 that unfortunately drops to 2 monitored sources.

Not only can you stream from the SlingStudio Hub, but you can also save the streams either separately or as the stream was cut on an SD card or USB portable hard drive (USB 3.0 preferred, 2.0 not recommended). This is so that you can later on come back to the footage and either upload the master stream exactly as switched live, or re-edit the source footage in case one camera angle missed something important.

Coming back to the portability aspect of this, of course there’s a battery available. It’s basically an add-on that the Hub sits on. This way you will be able to go portable with the Hub–as long as you’re on wifi.

There’s a small number of drawbacks if you’re looking for a field-ready setup. First, the range from the Hub to the CameraLinks is about 300 feet, less with objects and other interference.

Second, the Hub’s operating temperature range is only 32°F to 95°F. So basically, don’t operate this outside in the summer or else it will most likely overheat and shut down.

And lastly is the lack of connectivity to USB LTE or WiMax modems. This is probably the biggest obstacle to using it as a truly portable video broadcast system. It really is only suitable for indoors situations around strong wifi, but is honestly meant for a stationary studio situation as an affordable version of the studio standard Tricaster.

But if that’s what you need, then this is an excellent option for you, as it offers a ton of connectivity and flexibility for not much money as long as you work within its limitations.

Buy SlingStudio Hub here
Buy SlingStudio CameraLink here
Buy SlingStudio Battery here

Final thoughts

Not counting the whole last section on fully remote broadcast streaming setups, there’s really not much in the way of you setting up a great live stream with your external video camera. Most people are really only missing the video capture device, but we hope to have demystified it and get you up and running, ready to take on the world of live streaming video.

Do you have any questions about live streaming with a video camera that we missed? Any thoughts or suggestions? Drop a comment below or @ us at @creatorbeat_ on Twitter or @creatorbeat on Instagram!

The ultimate cinema video camera buying guide [2019]

The ultimate cinema video camera buying guide

Filmmaking can get expensive. Crew, sets, talent, lighting, post production, visual effects, and of course, cameras. The motion picture industry uses the best of the best cinema cameras, and for good reason: films need to look the best that they can.

Cameras used on movie and TV show sets are often referred to as “cinema cameras”, and these are the workhorses of professionals in the industry out of the grasp of the everyday user or hobbyist. This has changed only very recently, and now these cinema video cameras are available to more users than ever.

But there is a lot to know about when getting started with cinema cameras, and that’s what we aim to demystify with this guide. Read on as we look into the technology, terminology, and concepts that need to be understood with these cinema cameras, along with our picks for the best cinema video cameras you may want to look into.

Note: This has developed into a very long and extensive guide. Please use the table of contents if you want to jump to our picks for the best video cameras below, or any other part of the post in which you may be interested.

What is a cinema camera, and what is cinematic video?

Plainly put, a cinema camera is a video camera that is designed specifically for shooting high-end motion picture footage for professional movies and TV shows. While all cameras with video capabilities can record video, they may not look great or have the right features to enable you to capture footage and create cinematic video footage, or a “cinematic look”.

While “cinematic look” is a highly overused phrase, it’s one that gets the general point across to most people the easiest. When you think of cinematic video, you think of movies and their specific feel on screen. This is different from the “video look”, which describes things like sitcoms, game shows, news broadcasts, and home video camera footage.

Before even getting into the cinematic post-processing that all movies and cinematic TV shows (think Game of Thrones, Daredevil, etc) go through, a majority of that cinematic feel comes from a few basic concepts:

  • Frame rate: Cinematic footage is shot in 24fps (frames per second). The aforementioned “video look” content is shot at 30fps (or more specifically 29.97fps). We’ll cover frame rates more later.
  • Depth of field: While not all shots in a movie make use of this (such as wide exterior shots). Most “video look” content is shot with narrow aperture, causing the whole frame (or most of it) to all stay in focus. Movies make use of shallow depth of field from wide open apertures to create separation in scenes, and this contributes to the stylized look of most movies.
  • Image quality, bitrate, and dynamic range: The ability to completely manipulate the footage in post to the desired color, tone, and style is crucial in filmmaking. You need a camera that has the quality and depth to the image that will allow you to push your footage in post.

Cinema camera crew in field

These are pretty much the three baseline contributors to getting what people refer to as cinematic footage, and any camera you choose should start with these capabilities at a bare minimum. There are obviously a ton of other elements that contribute to the look of your project, but these do a large amount of the work.

Good cinema cameras also have other features such as quality audio inputs, focus and exposure assist features and much more. These are usually features you won’t find on a normal video-capable DSLR or consumer grade video camera, so you’ll need a camera that’s loaded to the gills with these features. And these features are what we’ll look at next.

Film cinema cameras vs digital cinema cameras

Up until the past decade, the industry has stuck to their guns and used various types of film cameras that shoot on celluloid film stock, primarily because the quality and reliability of digital cameras really wasn’t there. While there was definitely some conceptual snobbery in Hollywood against digital cine cameras–and there still is, with some pros–things have changed and digital is finally a viable option for true cinematic motion picture projects.

If you wanted to make films in years past, you would have needed tons of money for some very expensive film cinema cameras or shoot your project on a lesser quality camera. In 2008, Canon unleashed the 5D Mark II, and the award-winning photographer Vincent Laforet directed the groundbreaking short “Reverie” with the new camera and the game was effectively changed.

What emerged from this was the DSLR video craze and ignited the arms race for affordable video cameras that are capable of making serious films. This has resulted in pretty much every camera released since coming with video capabilities to varying degrees. DSLRs no longer were solely for photography, and video became the next big thing.

In the past ten years since the 5D Mark II was released, we’ve seen an insane increase in video capabilities and quality, with both DSLRs and dedicated cinema cameras are now extremely affordable compared to decades past, and can bang out absolutely unreal results for that money.

Cinema cameras vs DSLRs and mirrorless cameras

DSLR on glidecam

If you would have suggested using a DSLR for professional video applications before 2008, you would have been laughed out of the room. Laforet proved that this was absolutely viable now that the 5DmkII was available, and cameras have only become exponentially better for video since then. But there’s still a gap between cinema cameras and consumer grade DSLRs and mirrorless cameras.

Predominantly, cinema cameras are larger in physical size because they’re meant for use in large rigs on set. They need specialized physical controls and specific outputs for industry-standard gear like monitors, power sources, timecode sync, and more.

DSLRs–and by extension, mirrorless cameras–have none of this heritage. They’re a body style that was designed purely for photography. No stabilizing rigs, no matte boxes, no external monitors or power sources. DSLRs are still photography cameras that have video features included. They may be very, very good video features, but they’re nowhere near the specialized professional devices that cinema cameras are.

Another key difference is the image quality that is recorded by each type of camera. Digital cinema cameras offer extremely high quality video files that are somewhat cumbersome for the average consumer to work with, nor would they need the overwhelming amount of data that they can provide.

Consumer DSLRs often shoot compressed video, which is much easier to work with at a cost of visual quality and post-production flexibility. It’s a capability that the average YouTuber may not actually need (nor want to deal with), but something that industry professionals absolutely need.

What to look for in a cinema camera

As we just mentioned, filmmaking requires more specialized features and functions than your everyday video. We’ve already touched on the fact that you don’t need a crazy expensive camera for shooting vlogs or YouTube videos (but don’t tell Jonathan Morrison or Marques Brownlee that!), but when you’re shooting films and other high-end video projects you need more.

It can sometimes be daunting when looking for getting into cinematography and filmmaking. A lot of these are new terms, or you may have heard them before and aren’t sure what they mean. So without further ado, let’s get through the nitty gritty and demystify what these mean when looking for the best video camera for your projects and why you need them.

Resolution (DCI vs UHD, 1080p, etc)

Digital video monitor resolution

This is a pretty easy one to start off with, so we’ll get it out of the way now. Most people are familiar with the terms HD and 4K these days. But there are actually some interesting slight differences and choices to be made before hitting record for the first time.

The resolution for full HD is 1920 x 1080, or 1080p. TVs and monitors typically use what’s called 4K UHD (ultra high definition) which has a resolution of 3840 x 2160. While technically it can be referenced as 2160p, no one really ever does. Both of these resolutions are in a 16:9 aspect ratio.

DCI 4K is slightly wider with the same vertical pixel count, sitting at 4096 x 2160. This resolution is what cinema projectors use, and as such is the format you need to shoot in if you want to deliver your project to theaters. DCI 4K has an aspect ratio of 1.9:1. In other words, it’s almost exactly twice as wide as it is tall, or 2:1.

An interesting note from this point is that with modern smart phones becoming fairly tall, they’re averaging a ration of 18:9 (when held in landscape orientation, or 9:18 when held normally). This actually is a 2:1 ratio, close to DCI 4K.

But you’ll find that many online creators, such as the aforementioned Jonathan Morrison of TLDToday, are actually posting videos in a 2:1 aspect ratio to cater to mobile phone viewers, and more are adopting the practice as we go along. When viewed on a 16:9 display like your TV, this actually will create letterboxing and give the black bars at the top and bottom of the screen and adds to the cinematic feel of these channels’ videos.

But long story short, you’ll want to not just have 4K for future-proofing for online video, but DCI 4K if you plan on theatrical releases. Even if you plan on delivering 1080p finishes, shooting in 4K will allow for reframing your shot in post and/or downsampling 4K footage to 1080p, resulting in very sharp HD footage.

Frame rate

Next, let’s look at frame rate. Basically, this describes how many images are recorded or drawn on the screen per second. Believe it or not, frame rate has a huge impact on what your footage will look like.

Cinema has been shooting and projecting movies at 24fps (frames per second) for almost as long as movies have existed. Because of the established format, we associate the look of 24fps with “cinematic”. So if you want that look, you’ll need to shoot at 24fps. The exception here is unless you’re shooting for broadcast TV, which needs to be at 23.976 for multiple reasons we don’t need to get in to.

TV shows look different because traditionally they’re shot on tape instead of film due to budget constraints and turnaround time for expediting the production process. The TL;DR of it all is that sitcoms, game shows, and news shows use a 30fps frame rate.

It gets a bit complicated, so check out this info about modern video standards over on Wikipedia for some great in-depth info. Either way, the aforementioned “video look” content is shot at 30fps (or more specifically 29.97fps)

The video look is more “life-like” because 30fps captures more natural movement with less motion blur and looks more like the real world our eyes see. Shooting in 24fps creates a more stylized, less smooth look, and we just associate it with movies as opposed to 30fps, which feels like TV.

The only reason why we associate these looks is because we’ve been trained to do so, based on the content we’ve consumed while growing up.  We know that movies look a certain way, and broadcast TV looks another way.

What if you want to shoot slow motion footage? You need to shoot at a higher frame rate than 30fps. If you shoot at 60fps and reduce the clip speed to 40%, it matches perfectly to a 24fps timeline and gets some decently dramatic footage thanks to the slower playback speed. If you need even more slowness (dramatic feel), you can shoot in 120fps or higher, and slow down accordingly.

Unfortunately, there’s really no shortcut to getting this dramatic look in post when shooting at a normal 24fps, so if you want that cinematic, dramatic, and epic footage, shooting at the higher frame rate and slowing down to the appropriate speed in post is a must-have, and you’ll want a camera that preferably can do 120fps at 4K resolutions.

Video codecs

When looking for the best cinema camera for your needs, you’ll want to look at to which codec(s) the camera can record. Codecs are a huge part of what makes a cinema camera what it is, and there are different codecs that suit different needs.

What is a video codec?

A codec is basically a method of encoding and decoding video content with compression (COmpress/DECompress). Video is a large format when not compressed, so there needs to be compression used to make those files a reasonable and manageable file size.

The codec is usually referred to by a name that the developer creates, and is often built on a differently named compression format. It can seem a bit odd at times, and it doesn’t really merit going into the details, but just know that there may often be different terms for the same thing in a sense.

At this point, there are a handful of widely used codecs, and not all are created equal. Some offer much higher compression rates, but at the cost of lower visual quality. Not all cameras support all of the higher quality codecs, and choosing the cinema camera with the right codecs for you will be a crucial point depending on what your end goals and workflow look like.

Codec terminology

Keyframing (long-GOP and intra-frame codecs)

Some codecs can further support different profile types that all have certain capabilities and features. Again, not going to dive fully into this, but the main part is to take a look at whether a codec is what is called a long-GOP codec or all-intra frame codec.

If you want a deeper look into the technical details on long-GOP versus intra frame codecs, check out these articles from Larry Jordan, Premium Beat, and Frame.io. But for now, here’s the short short versions.

  • Long-GOP compression: A higher compression rate accomplished by starting with a group of pictures. The first frame is a full intra keyframe, and then the following frames are just the changes from the previous intra keyframe. The frames between the full intra frames are actually only the differences recorded by the sensor from the previous frame. These files play in the forward direction without issue, but have problems skipping around, scrubbing backwards, and other non-straightforward play actions.
  • All-intra frame compression: This compression is the opposite of long-GOP–plays in all directions without issue, uses full intra keyframes to record all actual changes instead of just the difference between frames, but results in larger video files, often about three times the size. Despite being harder to manage due to the larger file sizes, the editing process will be much easier and don’t necessarily require transcoding to another all-intra frame codec. If you have the storage and bandwidth for the larger file sizes and/or have a slower CPU/GPU, this is a good option for you.
Lossless vs lossy

These terms refer to the type of compression the codec uses. Lossless compression is a lower compression ratio (meaning the file size isn’t decreased as much), but there are no details lost in the compression process. These increase the quality of the video clip at the expense of larger file sizes.

Lossy compression is the opposite–smaller file sizes, but you do lose some data in the file due to that compression. There are varying degrees to which a codec may be lossy, usually depending on the compression ratio. The more lossy a codec, the lower quality the clip, and the more it will break down and degrade when color correcting and grading that clip.

Some compression is referred to as “visually lossless”. This is a middle ground between lossy and lossless. While there is compression going on, and technically some data is thrown out, you can’t actually discern that loss of quality with your eyes. We’re seeing more and more visually lossless codecs out there, and it’s a great compromise between quality and convenience.

Bitrate

Bitrate defines the amount of data per second that the codec is capable of carrying, usually measured in megabits per second (MB/s). The higher the bitrate, the more data it can record or play back. On the other side of it, however, the higher the bitrate, the larger the file size.

Many cinema cameras will offer between 100MB/s and 400MB/s, depending on the resolution, frame rate, and whether it’s a long-GOP or intra-frame/all-i compression.

That’s still a considerable amount of data even on the lower side of things; the bitrate for a DVD is about 9.8MB/s, 1080p Blu-ray is 40MB/s, and even YouTube 1080p 60fps using H.264 streams at 6.8MB/s. Even the Filmic Pro mobile video app has a Filmic Extreme codec that just got bumped up from 100MB/s to 130MB/s late 2018.

As a point of reference, full 10-bit 4:4:4 uncompressed 1080p 24fps video has a bitrate of about 1.4Gbps (gigabits per second–a gigabit is 1024 megabits).

The reason for having a higher bitrate is for more color depth and more details. With more data, you can really push the colors and exposure further before the image starts to get degraded and the colors begin artifacting. If you’re going to be heavily color correcting and grading, you’ll want as high of a bitrate as possible.

Bit depth
sRGB color gamut
sRGB color gamut. Source: Wikimedia commons

Where bitrate is the amount of data transferred per second, bit depth describes exactly what levels of data can be conveyed in an image. Bit depth is described in the number of bits that are used to describe the colors that can be reproduced.

Starting with 8-bit color as the baseline for monitors and video, each of the red, green and blue channels are capable of carrying 256 distinct possible values. Between all three channels there are a possible combination of about 16.7 million colors, and is the most common bit depth in consumer grade equipment.

This may sound like a lot of colors, but it’s still not enough to create smooth, natural looking gradients from one color range to another, especially when color grading gets aggressive. For that, there’s 10-bit and 12-bit color.

Jumping up to 10-bit colors opens the possible colors to just over a billion different colors. This comes at an increase in file size of around 20%, which is a quite reasonable increase for the performance gains granted. Moving up to 12-bit color jumps the depth up to about 68 billion colors.

The editing possibilities and natural-looking gradients with 12-bit color is unreal, and is becoming more and more popular. Even the newly announced Blackmagic Raw format supports 12-bit raw video. 14-bit color is poised to be more available as well, with the speculation of several cameras coming out in 2019 offering 14-bit raw output.

Just like with bitrate, the higher the bit depth, the better the visual quality and post-processing flexibility. As mentioned before, higher bit depth does contribute to higher file size, but the benefits to visual quality do justify the increase file size cost.

In general, if you’re doing serious video and grading work, you’ll want at least a 10-bit recording, even if that’s only available via external recording (more about that soon).

Chroma sub-sampling
Chroma subsampling example
Chroma subsampling example – Source: Wikimedia commons

You may have seen codec features listed as a series of numbers like 4:4:4, 4:2:0, or in the case of ProRes profile names, ProRes 422. This is the description of the type of chroma subsampling used in the codec. Chroma subsampling is a way of compressing the image in a manner that favors keeping luma (brightness) data while losing some chroma (color) data.

Chroma subsampling is, in my opinion, probably the least understood component of codecs, and for a good reason. It’s a fairly technical concept while still often being at the forefront of codec discussions, and it does impact your video quality–especially under heavy color grades.

The short version is that due to human vision recognizing changes in brightness far easier than changes in color, you can compress in a way where you knock down some of the color info while retaining the brightness. This allows for cutting down on data bandwidth while still retaining a quality image.

Chroma subsampling diagram
Chroma subsampling diagram – Chroma subsampling example

When describing subsampling, the common terminology is J:a:b, where

  • J is the total number of luminance samples being taken
  • a relays how many samples are taken in the upper row of pixels, and
  • b indicates how many samples are in the lower row

This ends up looking like 4:2:0, or 4 total samples, 2 upper row samples, and zero lower row samples in a sample block 4 pixels wide by 2 pixels tall.

4:2:0 is the most common subsampling found in consumer cameras, TVs, and media equipment. Even Blu-ray discs are at 4:2:0. This is fine for finished products like broadcast TV and Blu-Ray discs, as well as cellphone cameras and most DSLRs and mirrorless cameras.

With 4:2:0, we have the full luma sample horizontal and vertical, and out of the 4 pixels across we divide that into 2 samples (columns 1/2 and 3/4) because of the second value in the term. But because the third value is 0, we are only sampling the 2 samples from the top row, not the second, and that means that the color values from the top row essentially carry over to the bottom row, saving the bandwidth that those samples would have convey.

The luma value, however, is still shining through across all 4 samples on both the rows. Even though we don’t have full color samples on that bottom row and only half the samples on the top row, the luma values still carry through and convey detail–just not entirely color-accurate detail.

When you’re only carrying half the samples of the top row and none of the bottom row, you end up saving tons of space in the encoded file, and is the whole reason for chroma subsampling in compression. The next popular step up would be 4:2:2, which is essentially the same as 4:2:0, but also includes the samples in the bottom row. You get twice the number of samples, but still have a decent savings in bandwidth over full 4:4:4.

Chroma subsampling of 4:4:4 is actually the complete lack of subsampling. Across all 4 columns of samples, you get 4 samples on the top row, and 4 on the bottom. None of it is guesswork or carry-over from the top row, and no columns are combined into simplified sample groups.

If you’re working with the best of the best quality and raw video, you’ll most likely be using full 4:4:4 video. The file sizes are insanely huge, however, as you’re not compressing any of that chroma data. 4:2:2 samples the two chroma components at half the rate of the luma, and gives about one third the file size of 4:4:4. 4:2:0 gives great visual quality at about a quarter of 4:4:4 video, but isn’t the best option for color correction and color grading

There are other subsampling rates in use, such as 4:1:1, 4:1:0, or even 3:1:1, but these days with modern cinema cameras you really don’t need to concern yourself with anything but 4:2:0, 4:2:2, and 4:4:4.

Just know that the higher the numbers, the more total samples being carried, but will also bring higher file sizes. If you want higher visual quality and the flexibility to push footage in color grading, stick to 4:2:2 or better and your footage will thank you.

What are the best codecs for filmmaking?

Let’s take a look at some of the more popular codecs found in popular cinema cameras. We won’t cover all codecs (like ARRIRAW and REDCODE RAW), but just the ones that really matter for the majority of people reading this guide.

As usual, these can get very complex, so we’ll provide a good overview, and you can go check out the full details if you feel the need.

x264/x265

The x264 and x265 are more or less open codec standards, and are used by the majority of consumer grade cameras out today, including your smartphone. The codecs use compression formats very similar to codec names.

The x264 codec uses the H.264 compression, which is basically the next evolution from MPEG-4. After x264 started hitting its limits, x265 was created, and uses the H.265 compression (or HEVC).

Apple has started moving to HEVC, and is also available on many DSLRs/mirrorless and Android devices as well. It offers the most hardware acceleration support, adding both Nvidia CUDA and AMD hardware acceleration to aid in playing back and editing media. H.264 only supports OpenCL and Intel AVX.

These are excellent codecs for smartphones, small mirrorless cameras, and other consumer grade cameras. They are highly compressed formats and don’t necessarily take extreme color grades very well, and H.264 can often play back and edit with extreme performance degradation, especially if using a long-GOP version of the codec.

The down side to these codecs is that when brought in for editing and color grading, the footage will break down when you start pushing the grade past moderate color correction. You can definitely get work done, but just don’t expect saving over/under-exposed footage or similar mistakes.

ProRes 422/4444

Apple developed and released the ProRes codec in 2007 primarily for use as an intermediate codec used for post-production. It’s an easily editable codec, and is very popular within the industry.

The most common version used is ProRes 422, and unlike x264/x265, supports 10-bit color at multitudes of resolutions and bitrates all at its namesake’s 4:2:2 chroma subsampling (more on those last two later).

ProRes 4444 is the higher quality big brother to ProRes 422, allowing for 4:4:4 chroma subsampling and up to 12-bit color depth and a much higher bitrate.

The unfortunate part with ProRes is that you can’t actually encode these files on Windows, with a few caveats. Apple protects the license of ProRes and doesn’t make an official channel for developers to use the codec in Windows applications.

The first of two exceptions are the Windows ProRes project, which is an unofficial, unlicensed, unsupported version of ProRes encoding, and in general works pretty well.

The second is a more official option, with Adobe now supporting ProRes encoding on Windows starting with Adobe Premiere CC 13.0.2, along with the correlating versions of After Effects and Media Encoder.

You’ll find that many cinema cameras do record in ProRes in varying support of profiles and versions, and makes an excellent shooting and editing codec, especially if you’re on a Mac or using Adobe Creative Cloud.

DNxHD

Avid Technologies, the developers of the industry-standard editing suite Media Composer (along with current owners of M-Audio, ProTools, and much more), created DNxHD in 2004, and is basically thought of as the Windows equivalent to ProRes.

Much like ProRes, there are different versions of DNxHD with various quality support, but unlike ProRes, there are also different versions for various resolutions. It makes learning the use of the codec a bit rough at first, but it’s worth learning.

DNxHD works quite well as both a shooting and editing codec, and will be much less resource-intensive than something heavily compressed like x264. The codec does support 10-bit color depth at mostly 4:2:2 subsampling, although some versions will support 4:4:4 in some resolutions.

It does require the download and installation of the Avid DNxHD codec installer, but other than that, it’s ready to go right away. If you’re editing in Windows in an editor other than Premiere Pro, this is an excellent codec to work in, especially if your camera records directly to your desired codec.

AVCHD

In 2006 Sony and Panasonic jointly developed the AVCHD codec for use in their consumer grade and professional cameras. The codec uses MPEG-4 H.264 compression technology and can be found in multiple cameras from more than just Sony and Panasonic, including Canon, JVC, and even Leica.

AVCHD is a widely supported codec and is easy to work with, however, being a long-GOP codec it still causes a performance degradation during editing. There is an AVC-Intra version of the codec that offers intra-frame compression and is offered on professional Panasonic cameras.

Basically, AVCHD is equivalent to x264, and handles exactly as such. If you have the option to shoot in a higher quality codec and space isn’t a constraint, you’ll want to go with that option, but AVCHD is still a viable format for projects that don’t need much post-production.

CinemaDNG

Adobe created their own version of photography RAW formats, called DNG, and pledged it as an open solution for any manufacturer to use, as an alternative to the proprietary formats such as Canon’s CR2 and Nikon’s NEF RAW photo formats. I’ve used DNG with my Canon DSLRs for close to a decade now, primarily for its openness and more friendly feature set.

CinemaDNG is basically the same concept, but for video formats. Unlike the codecs above, CinemaDNG is considered a raw video format, meaning that it’s saving exactly what the sensor captures, instead of a compressed version, which loses details. If you’re familiar with RAW format in photography, you know exactly how powerful this can be during editing.

Being a raw video codec, CinemaDNG files can typically be pretty big. The quality is there, but you do need to have the extra means with which to manage and work with the larger files.

Several cameras do support saving CinemaDNG, and if you absolutely need the flexibility of a raw codec along with the horsepower and storage to edit and archive the footage, it’s a good way to go.

Blackmagic Raw

In late 2018, Blackmagic Design announced their new Blackmagic Raw format. Blackmagic is known for advancing the technology available in fairly affordable ranges, along with true pro-level production gear. Their new raw format holds extremely true to this.

Blackmagic Raw can provide extremely high compression rates without losing any visible quality from an uncompressed raw file. It’s built out as a modern codec, supporting multi-thread processing to take advantage of high core count CPUs that are everywhere today. Plainly put, it’s been designed to shoot efficiently and edit extremely fast despite its options to use high compression rates.

Speaking of high compression rate, Blackmagic Raw supports up to a 12:1 compression ratio, which is absolutely mind-boggling when you really think about it. It’s not necessarily visually lossless at that point, but it’s easily at least as comparable to x264 if not better.

Even though this is a new codec and not many cameras support it yet, it’s definitely pretty groundbreaking in its technology, and should be a pretty interesting future for the codec.

Audio

Sony cinema camera with microphone

Audio quality is possibly the most important part of videos, even more than crisp visuals. With filmmaking and other professional level video, however, it’s a bit of a different situation than your usual YouTube video production.

When working on professional projects, primary audio is typically recorded to an external recording device, such as a field recorder. The mics run to this recorder, and then the audio is synced up with the footage in post-production, either by comparing it to the audio from the camera (referred to as scratch audio or a scratch track, which is a placeholder) or synced up using SMTPE timecodes.

Timecodes are an easy way to sync up multiple cameras, field recorders, and clappers for noting takes and scenes, but with software solution that will automatically sync audio tracks (such as PluralEyes or the built-in sync in Davinci Resolve, for example) you don’t necessarily need timecodes for the audio sync, especially on smaller size projects.

Thankfully, many cinema cameras today have amazing audio capabilities, such as clean, quiet mic pre-amps and XLR inputs. This allows the use of pro-level mics directly into your camera and eliminating the need for an external recorder. You’ll see this much more often these days, especially on smaller projects.

Video output – HDMI vs SDI

HDMI connector
HDMI connector – Source: Wikimedia commons

Most cameras these days have some sort of video output, usually in the form of HDMI, mini-HDMI, or even micro-HDMI on things like action cameras. This is the same HDMI that you’d use for your home TV, computer, game console, and more. Nothing really groundbreaking here, just good ol’ standard HDMI output.

On high-end cinema and broadcast cameras, however, there’s typically been a different kind of output, called SDI, or serial digital interface. SDI comes in various standards supporting different bandwidths and resolutions.

Functionally, there’s not much difference between HDMI and SDI in most instances. Consumer and hobbyist level gear will almost never have an SDI out, but cinema cameras are being equipped with HDMI outputs more and more due to it’s proliferation on mainstream cameras.

HDMI does have a few drawbacks, such as the connector itself. It’s less durable than SDI (that goes double for mini and micro HDMI), and pretty much never has any sort of locking mechanism to ensure that the cable doesn’t get unplugged on accident while on set. SDI’s twist-lock BNC connectors are rock solid, however, and will take a lot of abuse and mismanagement to get it unplugged without intention.

SDI connector
SDI connector – Source: Wikimedia commons

SDI cable runs can go pretty far, about 300 feet without a signal amplifier. This, combined with the twist-lock connection safety is why it’s the industry standard. HDMI cables, however, are limited to about 50 feet before you need an amplifier to get a boost for longer cable runs.

There are some other differences, such as the HDCP (high-bandwidth digital content protection) copy protection support on HDMI, lack of timecode support in HDMI, and differences in supported bandwidth and resolutions depending on the standard you are using (both HDMI and SDI have different versions that support more and more features as the versions are ratified and released).

With HDMI 2.1 finding its way into more and more products to add support for high frame rate and 6K and higher resolutions, it may end up supplanting SDI on many cameras (at least until Thunderbolt possibly replaces it, which is my prediction). HDMI is widely supported and definitely more common on more cameras, recorders, and monitors.

But in general, whether you need to output to a monitor, external recorder, or another device, both of these standards will work excellent for you. Any preference one way or the other will most likely be personal, or not even consequential.

Sensor size

Sensor size comparison
Sensor size comparison – Source: Wikimedia Commons

You may be familiar with terms like “full frame”, “crop sensor”, or “APS-C”. These are names for various sensor sizes hailing from digital still photography cameras. The world of motion picture film sizes and cinema camera sensor sizes get infinitely more varied and can get pretty particular, but there are some easily understood sensor size classes that we can look at.

Micro Four Thirds

Many mirrorless cameras have adopted the Micro Four Thirds sensor size thanks to its smaller form factor to allow for much smaller camera body sizes. MFT sensors are around 17mm x 13mm, considerably smaller than Super35 and even APS-C sensor sizes.

This sensor does necessitate specific lenses, however you can use adapters to let you fit other lens systems onto Micro Four Thirds cameras. Including the use of these adapters, there are an absolutely huge selection of lenses available for these cameras.

Even though it’s a smaller format, modern sensors are extremely efficient and even pack some amazing low light performance–something that smaller sensors aren’t usually great at. It’s quickly becoming a very popular format for smaller filmmakers and production companies thanks to its ease of use and flexibility.

APS-C

Also known as “crop sensors”, APS-C are smaller sensors than their full-frame counterparts. APS-C sensors are 23.6mm x 15.6mm, or 22.2mm x 14.8mm in the case of many Canon cameras.

APS-C are usually a lower cost sensor compared to larger formats, and make up the majority of DSLR cameras on the market, especially in the consumer/prosumer market.

Much like MFT, there are a large amount of lenses that are compatible with APS-C cameras. They’re more affordable than the full-frame counterparts, and generally are more flexible for smaller production houses.

Super 35mm

The 35mm photography frame is not to be confused with the Super 35mm film frame size. Where 35mm photography frames are 36mm by 24mm, Super 35mm is smaller at 24.89mm by 18.66mm. It’s actually pretty much the same film, just instead of running horizontally like in a photography camera, it runs vertically in film cameras, making it a smaller dimension because the of the constraint of the smaller width in this orientation.

These days, Super35 is more of a class than an exact specific measurement. Pretty much any sensor that’s around 24-25mm wide is labeled as Super35. It’s a bit odd, as the original Super 35 frame was a taller 4-perf height that wasn’t a 16:9 or other similar ratio. Current Super35 sensors are almost al some sort of widescreen, like 16:9 or DCI ratio.

Super35 sensors are extremely popular with DSLRs and cinema cameras. The lens support is very expansive, and don’t necessitate buying higher cost full-frame lenses. You’ll find this sensor class all over the place, and often many filmmakers in the digital space have a preference for the smaller sensor size because it’s closer to original 35mm motion picture film frame sizes.

Full Frame

The full frame sensor is called such because it’s the same size as a 35mm photography negative, and as digital cameras started coming out, the sensors were smaller than a 35mm frame until larger sensors that could be the same size hit the market. Hence, full frame.

Because of the rise of DSLR video, the full frame sensor size became a popular choice if only because that’s what the flagship cameras were using. Because these were photography cameras as a primary function, the sensor size was in the photography aspect ratio of a 35mm film frame. When using a widescreen aspect ratio, the full sensor isn’t being used, as the top and bottom (think black bars) of the native frame are discarded.

Full frame sensors do require full-frame lenses, which can often be more expensive than a smaller crop sensor size, and do produce a different field of view than a crop or Super35 frame. Full frame is an undeniably huge upgrade for photography, but for cinema and filmmaking the impact isn’t quite as drastic.

Large format sensors

There are larger frame sizes, such as the various Panavision films in the 60-70mm ranges, and these are about the same size as the largest sensor cinema cameras such as the ARRI ALEXA 65, which measures 54.12mm x 25.59mm, and is generally the largest sensor size available in a digital cinema camera.

The RED Helium and Dragon sensors are about 30mm x 16mm, still less wide than a full frame sensor, but definitely larger than Super35. The RED Monstro and Weapon sensors fill the gap between full frame and the ALEXA 65 at about 41mm x 22mm.

The benefit to larger sensors is that they have undeniably better low light performance than their smaller sensor counterparts. Aside from all the bokeh and field of view advantages, the low noise and smooth image quality is part of what makes cinema camera footage stand out above even full frame and Super35 footage.

These cameras are beasts in all aspects, from capabilities to cost to required equipment, but if you need the best of the best and have the means to operate them, they can’t be beat.

Lens mount

Cinema camera with cine lens

The vast majority of cinema cameras have interchangeable lenses, allowing for one camera body to serve a multitude of needs on set. Each manufacturer typically has their own preference on how to mount lenses to their bodies, and there are even some industry standards across brands.

Thankfully, there are also adapters that will allow a camera to accept lenses from a different mount system than the one native to the camera. It may be subject to some physical compatibility requirements between the lens and sensor, but usually there is almost always an option for you.

PL mount

ARRI developed the PL mount initially for use with 16mm and 35mm cameras, and has become a very popular mount for cine lenses in the industry. PL mounts have been on 35mm cameras, 16mm cameras, the 65mm ARRI cameras, and a multitude of digital cinema cameras across multiple brands.

Because the mount is already a standard in the motion picture industry, it’s an excellent choice for multiple cameras. Some manufacturers make their cameras in different variants, allowing you to choose a native PL mount instead of an EF mount, for example, while many others work perfectly with a PL mount adapter.

Canon EF mount system

Canon’s EF mount–and its various versions–is possibly one of the most widely supported mount systems in use today. There is a huge number of lenses covering every focal range, and in many different price points.

The EF mount has become so popular that even some third-party manufacturers sell cinema cameras with an EF mount variant. There are adapters to allow EF lenses to work on other mounts as well, making the EF system extremely popular with filmmakers.

EF

The main EF mount was developed for Canon SLR film cameras, and has carried into digital, being the mount for full-frame DSLRs. The larger sensor requires the specific format of the EF mount and flange distance.

EF-S

With APS-C crop sensor DSLRs, Canon developed the EF-S mount to work with the smaller sensor size. While EF-S lenses don’t work on the standard EF mount, you can definitely use EF lenses on EF-S mount cameras, making this format extremely flexible and affordable.

EF-M

When Canon started making mirrorless cameras, the EF-M mount was born for the smaller bodies. This mount still uses an APS-C size sensor, and can accept EF and EF-S lenses with the use of an adapter.

E mount

Sony’s α (alpha) system dates back to Minolta cameras prior to Sony’s acquisition of the legendary brand, with the A-type bayonet mount, now known as the A-mount. While there are a large number of lenses and bodies that support this mount, the current iteration is the E-mount.

Sony’s E-mount started with the NEX cameras, and now can be found on the large body ICLE (interchangeable lens with E-mount), small mirrorless bodies, and cinema cameras like the FS5 and FS7. It’s a growing lens mount system and boasts some very popular lenses.

Micro Four Thirds mount

The new hotness in video and filmmaking–especially in the independent and budget space–is definitely the Micro Four Thirds system, sometimes written as MFT or M4/3. The system was developed by Olympus and Panasonic and hailed as the next evolution of photography cameras. With a smaller system, camera bodies got smaller and more compact, making them quickly adopted by photographers looking for smaller, more travel-friendly and less conspicuous cameras.

Micro Four Thirds eschews the mirror box and pentaprism of the previous DSLR-based Four Thirds system, however the sensor sizes are the same. Currently, a wide number of manufacturers make MFT camera bodies, and all brands can use any other brand’s MFT lenses, making this one of the most versatile lens lineups available.

The flexibility of the mount and system also mean that it’s extremely easy to adapt other lens mount systems with specific adapters, such as EF, PL, various Leica mounts, and the previous Four Thirds lenses.

Shutter type

When discussing the shutter types that are available in various cameras, it could get fairly technical and varied across camera types. What is really important to know here is the difference between a rolling shutter and a global shutter.

Rolling shutter distortion
Rolling shutter distortion – Source: Wikimedia commons

The majority of camera sensors use a rolling shutter. This is referring to how the sensor scans the image, rolling from the top to bottom, for example, one line at a time. This behavior really came to prominence when sensors switched from a CCD to a CMOS technology, but again, that’s not the important part.

Global shutter sensors don’t scan line by line, but instead take a scan of the whole sensor at once. This is how most CCD sensors worked, and are in the minority of CMOS behaviors.

What this really means for cinematography is what happens to the image. With a rolling shutter, the image can become distorted when panning quickly, especially in perpendicular pans in relation to the direction of the rolling.

For example, if you pan left and right quickly the image will become skewed or warped because the top to bottom scan pattern is technically scanning the image in a slightly different position from where the previous line was scanning.

This means that if you’re doing quick action scenes or whip-pans your footage could look unnatural. It’s not really the end of the world, you just need to be cognizant of the shortcomings and work around them.

Use of stabilizers like Steadicams and Movi rigs can definitely cut down on the wobbly footage. Not shooting certain scenes in certain ways will be another part of dealing with it.

And best of all, not all rolling shutter sensors are as bad as others. Some good quality sensors barely have a visible rolling shutter effect, so it’s definitely possible to work with rolling shutter sensors and not have your footage destroyed. It’s just one more thing you need to keep in mind when shooting.

Dynamic range

Dynamic range denotes how wide a gamut of brightness that a camera sensor can capture in one exposure. The larger the dynamic range, the more highlight and shadow details a sensor can see without losing details.

While the human eye can reliably see details inside a house as well as outside through a bright window, cameras cannot do this. You either expose for the darker portion (indoors) and blow out the window highlights, or expose for the outside and the room is vastly underexposed.

Dynamic range is measured in “stops”, the same way that exposure, aperture, and other photographic terms are measured. This isn’t necessarily standardized between manufacturers, however, independent websites and outlets often test new cameras with a standardized testing methodology across all their tests. If you’re curious, checking out various websites’ tests is not a bad idea.

With a wider dynamic range, you lose less details in highlights and shadows, reproducing a wider range of the scene and making proper exposure easier and more true to what the eye can see.

Some of the best video cameras have a larger dynamic range than others, and even within the same camera, different profiles (Natural vs LOG, for example) will offer differing dynamic range with Log usually providing the most amount of stops of dynamic range.

Log gamma

Hybrid Log Gamma
Hybrid Log Gamma vs standard dynamic range gamma – Source: Wikimedia commons

Speaking of Log format, let’s get into that. If you’ve looked at video production at all, you may have heard of Log, as it’s very popular with a lot of YouTubers and is the preferred method of professional cinematography recording. But what is it, exactly?

While the technical description is, well, highly technical, the shorter version is that Log is a shooting profile where the exposure values are defined against a logarithmic curve instead of a linear 1:1 path. What this accomplishes is an exposure where the majority of the exposure values are in the middle range of the image, the shadows are compressed upward toward that mid range, and highlights also compressed down to the midrange.

Linear Distribution versus Gamma Corrected Distribution translated
Linear Distribution versus Gamma Corrected Distribution translated – Source: Wikimedia commons

This results in an image that looks flat, gray, murky, and generally not pleasing at all. Fortunately, the fact that most of the details are crammed toward the center of the exposure curve means that you can apply a LUT (lookup table) to the footage in your editor and correct this flat image into something much more pleasing, such as the broadcast standard Rec 709 format.

While Log does allow for higher dynamic range and far more post-production flexibility, it does of course require a bit more effort in post as opposed to shooting in another profile like Natural or other more vivid and accurate profiles. If you need faster turnaround time on video, shoot in one of these presets. But if you need the extra flexibility in footage processing, go for Log.

There are different versions of Log, depending on the manufacturer. Sony has their S-Log variants, Canon has C-Log, and Panasonic uses V-Log, just as examples. These are usually the Log versions that ship with the cameras, however, if your camera doesn’t come with a Log profile, you can often install a custom Log profile, such as Technicolor’s Cinestyle for Canon cameras.

Low light performance

Canon DSLR night scene

Most filmmaking is done on sets with lots of huge lights. Even “dark” scenes are lit way more than you’d assume. But if you’re on a budget or shooting on location in the evening or early morning, you may not have lights like you’d have on set. This means that your camera essentially needs to see in the dark, at least to an extent.

As mentioned when talking about dynamic range, cameras only have a finite amount of range that it can see. Film cinema cameras have a much larger dynamic range than most digital counterparts because film itself has a wider dynamic range than digital sensors. This means that with digital cinema cameras you’re working with a narrow slice of what your eyes see by quite a bit.

Thankfully, modern cinema cameras have better low light performance than ever, and even the DSLR and mirrorless cameras can do things that were unheard of even five years ago.

There are a few things that go into low light performance, starting with the sensitivity of the sensor. The more light that the sensor can see, the better the image in lower light. You can usually crank the sensitivity (ISO) up high enough to see in very dark situations, but there’s a drawback at a certain point, and that is noise, or what is effectively digital grain.

As you crank up your ISO, the sensor starts producing a noisier image. The noise starts creeping in through the shadows, so that will usually be the noisiest part of your image. Noise is pretty much your number one enemy in digital filmmaking, especially in low light situations.

As an example, the Sony Alpha cameras can do unreal things in low light, pretty much seeing in the dark. It’s not always usable in professional applications as it can get noisy, but the option is there. Even the new Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K has excellent low light performance, and while the ARRI ALEXA technically has worse low light performance in overall dynamic range, it has an extremely clean image in those shadow areas.

Overall, if you’re doing proper filmmaking you won’t necessarily need the extreme low light performance, but it doesn’t hurt. If you’re shooting documentaries or low budget, low crew films, however, you’ll enjoy the benefits of great low light performance.

Battery life/power

This is an often overlooked component to a good cinema camera system, but a crucial one. All cameras require power, and if you’re shooting professionally you need as much of it as reliably as possible.

The majority of all cinema cameras have the ability to run off of a battery (or batteries). On the smaller or DSLR/mirrorless side of things, most use smaller batteries that will offer various record times, depending on the camera, camera settings, and other variables.

This means that, usually, you’ll carry around a lot of spare batteries when on shoots where you’re out and about on location, because they don’t offer usually more than an hour of record time, especially at 4K. You’ll be swapping these batteries out frequently, which may also involve breaking down your rig in order to get to the battery compartment, depending on the rig hardware and camera design.

With bigger, more professional cinema cameras you have the ability to use much larger and higher capacity batteries, such as V-mount batteries. These are quite a bit more expensive and very heavy. This is pretty much an open standard and can be used on multiple brands of cameras (perhaps with the use of an adapter) or even studio lighting for portable kits.

When the need for longer, uninterrupted shooting arises you will most likely want some sort of AC power adapter to plug into a wall outlet. Most DSLR/mirrorless cameras have such an adapter available as an accessory, as do professional cinema cameras. Newer cameras with USB Type-C ports even can allow for charging via this port, and hopefully we see more cameras with the Type-C for both power and data transfer.

Storage methods

Cameras need to store the footage somewhere, and depending on the camera and file format, that storage device may vary, so let’s take a look at the various cinema camera storage devices that you may run into.

SD cards

The majority of consumer cameras these days store photos and videos on SD cards. SD cards are inexpensive and widely available. They not only come in different sizes, but also different read and write speeds, broken into three different speed classes.

The first class is Speed Class, with ratings of 2, 4, 6, and 10. These will get you up to 10 megabytes a second writing speed, and each class designation is indicative of the MB/sec rating. These are the most inexpensive cards and will work for 1080p low bandwidth video codecs.

Next is UHS Speed Class, rated at U1 and U3. These are 10MB/sec and 30MB/sec respectively, and can be used for up to 4K UHD recording, including up to 120 fps. These are the most common fast cards that you’ll see in stores.

Finally, there’s the Video Speed Class cards, again with rating classes indicative of their speed in MB/sec (V6, V10, V30, V60, and V90). Video Speed Class cards can record up to 8K with the higher bandwidths, and are best if you’re shooting in a high bandwidth codec.

Not all brands/cards are capable of reaching the advertised sequential write speeds as advertised, and due to not wanting to lose precious data, you’ll want to stick with reputable brands such as Sandisk, Kingston, Lexar, and the like. Personally, I have never had a Sandisk or Kingston card fail across different card formats.

CFast cards

Back in the day, the “professional” photography cameras used CF (CompactFlash) cards. They were more expensive than SD cards and definitely larger, and thus eventually fell out of favor with camera manufacturers. The cards are also slower due to the standard being built on Parallel ATA interfaces (also known as PATA, formerly known as IDE).

CFast was the next iteration, and thanks to its Serial ATA (SATA) interface, you can get a lot of data onto the cards very quickly, with speeds of up to 600MB/sec with the SATA III-based CFast 2.0 cards. This has made CFast cards popular with digital cinema camera manufacturers for high quality and high-bandwidth codec support.

There is also a CFexpress card that is built on PCI Express for even faster speeds, up to 2GB/sec. Not many cameras support this XQD form-factor card at this point, but Nikon has begun to roll this out across its line, including the new Z6 and Z7 cameras, and even Phase One is building in support in their IQ4 system.

CFast cards and their various versions are definitely more expensive than SD cards, but are crucial when shooting high bit rate footage. If you’re shooting with a higher end camera, there’s a good chance that you’ll be using these in your workflow.

SSDs

With USB 3.0 and Type-C becoming a more widely adopted interface on cameras, the ability to use consumer-grade SSDs has quickly become a reality for high speed, high capacity video storage.

With even a standard consumer drive such as the Samsung T5 (Amazon | B&H Photo) and Angelbird SSD2GO PKT XT series (Amazon | B&H Photo), you can have terabytes of storage space that’s fast enough to handle most codecs at a very affordable cost per GB.

You still need to make sure that the drive is using USB 3 or higher and supports the sustained sequential write speeds necessary to handle the codec without dropping frames, but it’s definitely a very popular method of saving footage from the growing number of cameras that support this method.

Hard drives, SxS, REDMAGs, and more

When you get to the upper echelon of cinema cameras, you start to see some more unique and proprietary storage methods. And these are usually higher capacity, higher speeds, and much higher price tags.

Several cinema cameras can use specialized hard drives to save the footage, and these are usually smaller custom proprietary formats for that brand’s cameras. They’re larger than memory cards, but usually offer high capacities.

Sony’s SxS format is a PCMCIA-based ExpressCard device and offers around 1.5GB/sec write speeds. SxS cards are professional grade in all manners, and the price reflects it, but you can use these in a variety of high end cameras.

RED cameras use their proprietary REDMAG SSDs. These are almost prohibitively expensive, and max out at just under 1TB at 300MB/sec, depending on the camera and its supported speeds. Unfortunately, RED cameras don’t support other methods of storage so you’ll need to load up on REDMAGs if the RED is your camera of choice.

Internal recording vs external recording

Atomos Shogun Inferno

All of the methods and storage devices above are what’s referred to as internal recording, meaning that the recording is occurring within the camera itself and not on a device that is apart from the camera. But there is another method of saving footage, and that is external recording.

The main difference between internal recording and external recording is that you’re not saving to a memory card or other storage medium directly from an interface that is built into the camera. This is usually done by the camera outputting a video signal over either HDMI or SDI and an external recording device is capturing that signal and saving a file as it reads the incoming signal.

Usually, these recorders take the form of what appears to just be an external monitor, but also has recording capabilities.  You mount these on your camera rig (or somewhere), and you can use it for getting better focus and color on a larger display than on the camera, plus the external recording capabilities.

The Atomos (Amazon | B&H Photo) recorders are some of the most popular and widely used units, and are most peoples’ introductions to external recording monitors. They offer multiple inputs, outputs, great display, and rock solid recording capabilities at fairly affordable prices.

There are some fairly substantial reasons as to why you may want to record externally, starting with longer record times. External recorders typically offer more storage space than most cards, making them beneficial for longer shoots, especially with camera rigs that may make the memory card door not accessible when in a cage.

Most external recorders like the Atomos units also offer a high quality external monitor in addition to recording capacities, and you’ve got yourself a very useful piece of equipment. You can even preload LUTs into your device to see what the footage will look like with a preset color grade applied, taking some of the guessing game out of getting the shot right in camera.

In addition to longer recording times and an external monitor, the next major reason to use an external recorder is to record in a different codec than what the camera itself supports along with a higher bit depth than what the camera can save natively.

Where most cameras save in their own variant of the x264/x265 codec at a bit depth of 4:2:0, some cameras offer much better 4:2:2 output via the HDMI output, and connecting this to the external recorder will allow you to get that higher quality footage in a better codec, like ProRes or even Raw format.

Even if you can’t make use of the 4:2:2 footage or don’t need ProRes, you can also use an external recorder as a backup recording method–or using the internal recording as a backup to the external footage. Either way, redundancy can be a life saver when you’re working professionally, so definitely a good option to have.

Realistically, if you’re shooting professionally and need high quality footage for serious color grading, you’re very likely to be using an external recorder. They’re extremely invaluable for any kind of shoot and are worth looking in to.

Stabilization

Freefly MoVi Pro rig

One thing you won’t see on most pro cinema cameras is some form of in-body image stabilization. You may think this is a bit odd, coming from DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, but there’s a very good reason for it.

Cinema cameras don’t have stabilization features built in because they reduce the amount of control that filmmakers have over their shot. In-body image stabilization (IBIS) or in-lens stabilization actually accomplish their goals by creating a drift in the sensor or lens to counter the natural hand-held drift of the camera body.

This drift does impact the footage, and while it’s fine for non-professional YouTube, vlogging, or non-commercial projects, it would be readily apparent in cinematic projects. Because most cinema cameras are on full rigs, either tripods, huge cage kits, or professional gimbals or Steadicam mounts, having the camera taking a stab at the stabilization is counterproductive and often actually fights other forms of physical stabilization.

A perfect example of this is the GH5 and GH5s. The GH5 is more of a photography and video camera, and as such, offers stabilization. The GH5s, however, is geared more towards cinematography and removes the IBIS along with a few other cinema-minded changes.

With the amount of rigging and other gear that cinema cameras are usually on, you won’t need stabilization, so don’t get hung up on looking for a cinema camera that has this feature.

Our favorite cinema cameras (and cinema camera-adjacent cameras)

Now that we’ve gone over the more important things to know about what makes a great cinema camera and things you should be looking for and expecting, let’s finally look at the cameras.

We’ve put together a list of some of our favorite cinema cameras available today, along with some that are technically not cinema cameras but can definitely get the job done.

While not all of these are affordable to everyone, some definitely merit being included because of their stature in the industry. And on the other side of things, some are included because they can’t be overlooked as true budget cameras that make excellent first cameras for growing filmmakers.

So with that said, let’s get into this, starting with…

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K

Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera 4K

We won’t mince words about it, the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K (or BMPCC4K) is probably our very favorite cinema camera available right now, and for good reason. The image quality from its Four Thirds size sensor is impeccable, the I/O and connectors are well though out, supports the Micro Four Thirds lens mount for a huge amount of MFT lenses (and others with adapters), the menu system is dead simple, and has an MSRP of only $1,299.

You read that right. This is a highly competitive professional grade cinema camera that retails for $1,299, and shoots 4K 60fps or 1080p 120fps. Yes, you’ll need to buy a lens or three if you don’t have any MFT lenses or adapters for systems like EF or PL lenses.

But all in all, this is probably the best 4K video camera you can get for the money, hands down. In addition to being one of the best 4K cinema video cameras, it’s also truly one of the cheapest 4K cameras for filmmaking.

While it’s definitely the most budget friendly out of the box, you will need to add on to the camera, so keep this in mind. You’d likely want extra batteries, possibly an external SSD like the Samsung T5 (Amazon | B&H Photo) and Angelbird SSD2GO PKT XT drives (Amazon | B&H Photo), as well as some sort of cage and/or rail mount system to really get the best usability out of it, but still, the body itself is only $1,299.

Why is this a big deal? You won’t find this quality and usability at anywhere near this price point anywhere else. The BMPCC4K not only offers stunning footage quality, but offers many of the professional features that cameras five, ten, or maybe even twenty times the cost can offer. No, it’s not the best camera in the world and there are reasons why most cameras are more costly than the BMPCC4K, but even that said, the value is mind-blowing.

You can look forward to having all the filmmaking tools you’d want, such as zebra stripes, false color, and displaying footage with LUTs just to name a few. There are mini-XLR audio inputs for high-end microphone connectivity directly to the camera, as well as a Type-C connector for either power or SSD connectivity.

Best of all, with the latest update, there is now support for Blackmagic Raw, offering up to 12:1 compression with outstanding visual quality. You have the ability to save in multiple codecs if BMR isn’t your thing, including multiple ProRes and even ProRes Raw, and can shoot in 10-bit 4:2:2 or even 12-bit Raw.

This Blackmagic Raw support is one of the huge benefits to the camera, especially as the BMPCC4K is one of the small handful of cameras that are certified for Netflix production. If you’re shooting content specifically for the streaming platform, they have strict technical requirements, and the BMPCC4K is easily the most affordable camera to make the list, earning it some huge points with filmmakers.

Yes, there are some downsides, as there have been issues with cameras crashing or failing permanently early on, but this appears to have been smoothed out. Availability has been pretty much non-existent since release due to demand outpacing supply, and it’s only just now that orders are getting shipped out within a few months of placement, but this should start getting better soon.

Unlike many cameras in this price range, there is no continuous autofocus when shooting. While this is definitely a letdown for vloggers, this isn’t a vlogging camera and doesn’t offer autofocus just like any other cinema camera on the market.

Another vlogger-centric feature that people have been clamoring for in this camera is a flip-out display. While the 5″ touch screen monitor on the BMPCC4K is really great, it’s difficult to use when rigged out in a cage, or with battery packs, or slung low or in another difficult to view position. Yes, you can use an external monitor, but since most of the controls are on the touch screen, it does take a bit of fuss to use if you don’t kit it out with this in mind.

And let’s talk battery life. The battery life off of the single Canon LP-E6 is pretty horrendous, but it does come with a DC power adapter, and a battery grip announced that uses Sony L-series batteries was announced April 2019 for release in the following August, allowing for up to two hours of shooting. Thankfully, you can use USB battery banks, or even better, V-mount battery packs for massive amounts of power. While it’s not the best out of the box, the capabilities can be bolted on.

Blackmagic Design also now owns and develops DaVinci Resolve, their post-production suite, and they include a full Studio license with the BMPCC4K. Resolve has been rapidly growing in popularity as more features are included, largely in part to the fact that there is a rather full-featured free version and the Studio version is now a mere $300 to purchase.

Resolve includes editing, color grading, full audio mixing, delivery components, and with the latest updates, visual effects and compositing, making Resolve a full, one-stop shop for post-production.

While it is a bit different from Premiere Pro and Final Cut, it’s not a huge learning curve, and even offers to set up shortcuts to emulate those other apps. We absolutely love DaVinci Resolve for its power and flexibility, as well as being the best free alternative to Premiere Pro available. The addition of Fusion for visual effects and upgrades to the Fairlight audio module along with constant improvement of the Edit module make this an extremely valuable application

In reality, we could go on and on about the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K, but the full feature coverage would take way too long. We’ll wrap this up by saying that if you’re looking for an inexpensive cinema camera, your first cinema camera, or a great B camera (especially to match with a Blackmagic URSA series camera), the BMPCC4K is an insanely great value, even with the drawbacks of the camera. The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K is, in our eyes, the best camera for filmmaking on a budget.

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Panasonic LUMIX GH5s

Panasonic LUMIX GH5s The GH5s inherits the vlogger/indie filmmaker legacy of the GH5, GH4, and GH3 before it. Panasonic’s YouTuber-favorite camera is continuing the tradition of excellence in the Micro Four Thirds line of cameras, but with a few tweaks from the GH5 that shipped less than a year before the GH5s was released.

The GH5s is capable of shooting up to 4K 60fps depending on the codec and bitrate choices (including DCI 4K), but no 120fps at 1080p. You do get up to 10-bit 4:2:2 recording internally and externally, putting it at one of the more affordable cameras with this feature that also offer a flip out screen and pretty great autofocus.

The battery life is pretty great and also supports external power, and the menu system is user-friendly. The aforementioned autofocus is much better than the GH4, but still falls behind the Canon dual pixel autofocus and Sony’s new autofocus system, but definitely gets the job done.

So, then what about the differences between the GH5s and GH5? Well, starting with the autofocus, it’s a bit slower than the GH5, but the GH5s is better in low light. The GH5s sensor is half the size at 10.2MP compared to the GH5 20MP sensor, but this means larger pixels and better low light performance, including much better dual native ISO capabilities.

V-Log, Panasonic’s gamma profile, ships by default with the GH5s, but costs an additional $100 to download to install on the GH5. Along the lines of cinematography-specific changes, the GH5s doesn’t have in-body stabilization (IBIS), and instead can only use lenses with stabilization, and the body also supports timecode in/out via the flash sync port.

Speaking of V-Log, the GH5s also supports HLG, or Hybrid Log Gamma. HLG is a format created by England’s BBC and Japan’s NHK, two broadcast giants. The format was designed to allow for “instant HDR”. Basically, it allows for a wide dynamic range, as well as translation to non-HDR displays with accurate translations from HDR to SDR. HLG is a very flexible profile and offers quite a few benefits to HDR workflows, and the GH5s is one of the few cameras currently that support it.

Lastly, the GH5s variable frame rate (VFR) mode gets you up to 240fps, where the GH5 is capped at 180fps, and is roughly about $500 more than the GH5, and doesn’t retail with kit lens bundles.

No, the GH5s isn’t a “true” cinema camera, but with the improvements in this new variant it gets much closer. There are plenty of filmmakers running GH5 and GH5s productions, however, and the flexibility of the camera is why it is so popular an option for YouTubers, individual filmmakers, and others wanting a small camera with great visual quality.

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Sony A7III

Sony a7 III

Sony’s Alpha series of mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras have been strong contenders to Canon’s DSLRs in the video world for a good while now, and the A7III keeps improving upon the previous iterations and winning over independent filmmakers with their features and power.

The A7III sports a 24MP full frame sensor capable of 4K 24fps oversampled from a 6K frame. While there are no fancy codecs like Raw or ProRes, you’ll get your choice of either XAVC S or AVCHD formats of MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 options up to 100MB/sec bitrates.

In 4K you’ll get up to 30fps, albeit oversampled from a cropped in 5K frame instead of the 6K frame at 24fps, and 1080p shooters get up to 120p. You do also get S-Log II and S-Log II, as well as HLG and several other profiles. While internal recording is limited to 8-bit 4:2:0 color, external recording will get you 8-bit 4:2:2 color. Still not as powerful as 10-bit, but definitely a large step up.

Speaking of internal recording, the A7III does come with a dual card slot. Slot 1 supports UHS-I/II SD cards, while the second is a multi-card slot supporting Memory Stick Duo as well as SD, but only up to UHS-I speeds. Either way, dual card support can be invaluable when shooting mission-critical footage that you can’t risk losing if a card fails.

The A7III sports many of the cinematography features you’d expect, such as zebras, peaking, focus magnifier, grids, and others. Unfortunately, they’re on a screen that tilts, but doesn’t flip out.

But, unlike most cinema cameras, however, the autofocus on the A7III not only exists, but is extremely good–almost as good as Canon’s dual pixel autofocus. That, along with excellent codec support, in-body stabilization, and amazing low light performance make the A7III an excellent cinema camera for single operators, YouTubers, and more.

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Sony FS7 II

Sony PXW-FS7M2 4K XDCAM Super 35 Camcorder Kit

Sony has a wide range of digital cine cameras, one of the most popular being the FS7, and its successor, the FS7 II. This camera is a fully contained shoulder mount 4K Super 35mm full frame E-mount camera system, and is a very popular option for a multitude of filmmakers as one of the best professional video cameras available.

The FS7 II is, of course, Netflix certified, and supports the usual DCI 4K 60fps, but at a whopping 600MB/sec in XAVC-I recording mode, same with 1080p, but with a variable frame rate mode you can get up to 180fps in 1080p. Raw, ProRes 422 and ProRess 422 HQ are supported with the extension unit, offering post production flexibility with 10-bit color.

In addition to the excellent visual quality, you’ll get all of the other niceties that cine cameras offer, such as peaking, zebras, support for V-mount batteries, and external Raw recording capabilities.

One of the benefits of this camera is that it does come with a grip and control arm, allowing you to either hold it shoulder mounted, or against your chest, and still control all of your key functions without taking your hands off of the support point. With most cinema cameras you will need to add a cage or other rig in order to stabilize the camera, making this a great option for a full kit.

You’ll also get a built-in ND filter, allowing you to shoot outdoors in the daylight and still maintain shutter speed and aperture. Usually, an ND (neutral density) filter is a piece of glass that you put in front of the lens, but with some cameras they are built in to the camera body, meaning you’ll never be without it.

As far as I/O, there’s an XLR mic input with phantom power, SDI output, headphone out, DC input, HDMI output, and a few more. The storage media is the XQD CFexpress cards that can support the full 600MB/sec bandwidth this camera can generate, and sports two of these slots. There is also an SD card slot for saving configuration data.

There’s honestly a lot to like about the FS7 II, and is well established as a very popular camera. Despite needing an external add-on for ProRes and Raw support, the camera still offers a ton of power and flexibility thanks to its massive bitrate bandwidth. It’s a great (mostly) self-contained cinema camera that can do pretty much everything.

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Sony FS5 II

The Sony FS5 II is the little brother to the FS7 II, and actually is quite a bit different functionally. The common description of the FS5 is “an excellent 1080p camera, an okay 4K camera”, but is an excellent full HD run-and-gun camera.

Where the FS7 is a shoulder-mount design, the FS5 is more of a grab and go handheld system. You don’t necessarily need to add a ton to the camera to make it viable for a single camera operator, and is an excellent travel-friendly rig. While the camera does great with portability, power and features are definitely sacrificed in this model.

While 1080p footage can be saved in 10-bit 4:2:2 color, it’s only at a 50MB/s bitrate. Want 4K? It will come at a cost–8-bit 4:2:0 only at a mere 100MB/s bitrate. Also, you don’t get ProRes or HD422 codecs (note, the FS5 II does allow for ProRes Raw output to an external recorder), instead leaving you with XAVC-L. And there’s no slow motion in 4K either. But the footage does look good for its limitations. Again: an okay 4K camera.

Back to 1080p, it’s an excellent option for both filmmakers and YouTubers, as there’s log formats for post processing, Cinegamma settings for great colors out of the box if grading isn’t your thing, and you do have a multitude of slow motion frame rate options.

The FS5 sits in a weird spot in the cinema camera world these days. The A7III is cheaper and at least as good footage, but needs more gear to make it complete. The FS7 is undoubtedly the better camera, but at a much larger size and weight. But if you need a super solid 1080p camera that can shoot 4K if you need to while maintaining a travel/run-and-gun friendly body, you may find that the FS5 is your go-to camera.

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Canon M50

Canon EOS M50 Mirrorless Camera Kit w/EF-M15-45mm

Wait, the M50? You may be thinking to yourself “I thought this was about cinema cameras.” And while, yes, the majority of these cameras here are actual cinema cameras, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t shoot excellent footage on less expensive cameras.

We’ve previously lauded the praises of the M50 as not just one of the best cameras for live streaming but also as an excellent vlogging camera. But its actually a really capable cinema camera, especially if you’re on a budget. The M50 is is a really flexible camera with amazing 1080p footage and features.

The M50 does offer a flip out screen, decent battery life and support for EF-M lenses (and EF/EF-S with an adapter), and blazing fast dual-pixel autofocus. Unfortunately, that autofocus doesn’t engage in any mode other than 1080p, and while there is 60fps in 1080p, you need to drop down to 720p to get 120fps.

The main drawback as a cinema camera is the lack of C-Log. You can install third-party solutions, such as the EOSHD Picture Profiles, or Magic Lantern. The camera does have a bit lower bitrates, offering 120MB/s at 4K and 60MB/s in 1080p.

So, no, this isn’t really a cinema camera. But, as a first camera, travel camera, or budget filmmaking camera it’s definitely a good option to keep in mind.

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Canon C300 Mark II

And then we have the Canon C300 Mark II, on the complete opposite end of the spectrum from the M50. The C300 mkII is a full-blown cinema camera with pretty much every option you may need as a filmmaker, and at a fairly reasonable price point, solidifying it as one of the most popular Canon cinema cameras on the market.

The C300 mkII is a Super 35mm sensor camera that can shoot DCI 4K and UHD 4K up to 30fps at 10-bit 4:2:2 internally, and 2K or 1080p up to 60fps at 10- or 12-bit 4:4:4 internal. Both of these are intraframe modes, and offer as high as 410MB/s bitrates and do require writing to CFast cards. You do get smaller bitrate Long GOP formats as well, and while these can save to SD cards, you won’t get the high bandwidth modes unless you write to CFast.

Thankfully, you do get dual CFast cards, external Raw capability (including internal 4K and external Raw simultaneously), an internal ND filter with up to 10 stops of reduction, and Canon Log Gamma 2. You also do get built-in profiles for matching other cameras, BT.2020 support and DCI-P3 color space support.

And don’t forget Canon’s awesome dual pixel autofocus, an excellent addition for filmmakers who work in the documentary industry–Canon cinema cameras are some of the most commonly found bodies in this field thanks to the full feature set of the cameras.

Two XLR mic inputs are available, a great monitor and grip are included in some kits, and you have basically everything you need in order to shoot cinematic footage, documentaries in run-and-gun situations, or even YouTube videos (albeit this might be overkill according to some people).

Much like most of Canon’s cine cameras, the C300 mkII is available in either an EF-mount body or PL-mount variant, suiting a wide variety of users and situations. What you won’t get, however, is internal Raw or ProRes.

For that, you’ll need to output to something like an Atomos Shogun Inferno or other external recorder that supports these formats. But the internal XF-XAVC Intra formats definitely have enough bitrate and bit depth to handle shooting if you don’t need ProRes or Raw.

The big (and I mean BIG) brother to the C300, the full frame Canon C700, does offer ProRes internal recording to CFast at up to 72fps. With the optional Codex Digital Recorder you gain Raw up to 60fps at full frame, or Super35 crop up to 72fps and 2K/HD up to 168fps. That, along with HLG/HDR capabilities are the main features you’re missing out on with the C300 mkII, but the C700 comes in at three times the cost.

Canon cinema cameras are extremely popular across the board, and the C300 mkII packs a huge amount of punch in a reasonably priced kit. It’s flexible enough to handle anything you’d throw at it, either minimally kitted out or fully rigged for a production set. The sheer richness of features in a compact, well thought out body with excellent image quality have easily set the C300 mkII up as a go-to camera for professional applications.

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Canon C200

The C200 is technically the little brother to the C300 mkII, but in some ways is a better option. Where the C300 mkII doesn’t offer Raw or ProRes internally the C200 does, offering up the excellent Canon Raw Light codec in up to 12-bit DCI 4K at 60fps with an insane bitrate of 1Gb/s to CFast cards. And it’s less than the C300 mkII.

You still have MP4 recording for 4K and 1080p at 4:2:0 8-bit quality, and while it’s not DCI 4K, the UHD 4K in this mode does support up to 60 fps at 150MB/s and 1080p up to 120 fps at 35MB/s.

What this really amounts to is that you’ve got two extremes: Insane quality Raw footage or 8-bit 4:2:0 footage that you can’t push nearly as hard in post. There’s no middle ground internally such as ProRes or even the XF-XAVC format found on the C300 mkII for some middle ground balance between size and quality.

The C200 does also come with a kit with a run-and-gun top handle, which the C300 mkII does not include–the C300 kits offer a camcorder style hand grip. But you still get the dual XLR mic inputs, SDI and HDMI output, individual 3.5mm mic inputs and headphone outputs, and the same ND filter built in to the body.

It’s a bit of a tough choice between the C200 and C300 mkII, but depending on your needs, one will end up on top. If you need quick turnaround, do a lot of broadcast TV gigs and don’t shoot Raw, the C300 mkII will be your choice. But if you need Raw internally, 4K 60fps footage, and want to save a few bucks, the C200 is an excellent choice.

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Canon C100 Mark II

And that leaves us with the C100 mkII. Yes, we’re looking at several Canon cine cameras here, but they do all have some rather distinct features that make the different models quite, well, different.

The C100 mkII doesn’t do 4K. It doesn’t do Raw, ProRes, or anything fancy. It doesn’t do SDI output. It doesn’t do CFast. It doesn’t do high bitrate, and it doesn’t do anything higher than 4:2:0 internally. I know that sounds like a lot of negatives, but what it does do, it does brilliantly.

You get 1080p 60fps footage in either AVCHD at 28MB/s or MP4 at 35MB/s. You still get two SDXC card slots, two XLR inputs, and an uncompressed HDMI output that does support 4:2:2 for recording to an external recorder that can support ProRes or another comparable codec.

It’s still a Super 35mm sensor, has decent low light sensitivity, and does support Canon Log Gamma and Wide DR Gamma. And you still get the insanely useful ND filters with the same stops of reduction as the bigger siblings in the series.

What the C100 mkII really turns out to be is a super clean 1080p camera for those who don’t need to push footage super hard in post. Perfect for YouTubers, small documentary crews or a B- or C-cam shooting along side the C200 or C300 mkII.

It’s an affordable high quality 1080p camera that is much more affordable than even the C200, and is great for documentary filmmakers, independent filmmakers, or event shooters.

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Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 4.6K G2

As of March 2019, Blackmagic Design has announced the release of the URSA Mini Pro 4.6K G2. G2 meaning, of course, as the second generation of the immensely popular URSA Mini Pro 4.6K. And this version brings some much-needed upgrades to the camera, especially following implementation of some of these features in the BMPCC4K.

The URSA Mini Pro 4.6K G2 is another Super 35mm sensor size camera, and is laid out like a broadcast camera, but handles like a cinema camera, especially after the new features in the G2, primarily with the support of the insanely good Blackmagic Raw format natively in the URSA Mini Pro 4.6K G2 in both film and extended video modes.

You do get a full 4.6K image out of the sensor at 120fps, but also windowed 4K DCI up to 150fps and windowed 1080p at a ridiculous 300fps. The fact that you can get these frame rates along with Raw, along with 15 stops of dynamic range is pretty unheard of.

Some of the other updates are the addition of a USB Type-C port, just like the BMPCC4K and general updates to the sensor itself. And in front of that sensor you’ll find the same type of built-in ND filters as the Canon C-series, offering up to 10 stops of ND reduction.

Unlike the BMPCC4K, however, the URSA Mini Pro 4.6K G2 ships with an EF mount for Canon lenses. You can purchase other mounts for PL, F mount, and others, offering flexibility for any sort of workflow you may find yourself in.

There are two CFast slots and two SD slots, offering a multitude of storage options and configurations. And with the aforementioned USB Type-C port, you can also save directly to an external SSD, just like with the BMPCC4K.

In addition to the newly implemented Blackmagic Raw format, you can save ProRes internally to either the CFast or SD cards, although the latter will need UHS-II class cards. This includes up to ProRes 444 which is exactly what it sounds like: support for full 4:4:4 bit depth, as well as 4:2:2 subsampling and other various versions of ProRes.

You do have multiple power options as well, with the included power supply, included battery, and we’re assuming, using a power pack with the Type-C port, although we haven’t found any information on that yet.

And of course, being a Blackmagic Design camera, it does ship with a full copy of DaVinci Resolve Studio, which could effectively be a $300 discount off of the price of the camera if you were planning on buying DaVinci Resolve Studio anyway.

Really, we love what Blackmagic Design has been doing for the cinematography and videography industry over the past several years, and the URSA Mini Pro 4.6K G2 continues that tradition. It’s an absolutely solid and powerful camera for a very reasonable price, and shouldn’t be overlooked if you need sheer power and flexibility.

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Fujifilm X-T3

And now for something completely different. Fujifilm has some amazing compact photography cameras in their X line, winning fans with their small size, excellent image quality, and stunning film emulations along with classic build styles. The X-T3 is the first of these that actually excels as a video and cinema camera.

The X-T3 is a small body mirrorless with a Super 35mm sensor, but packs a ton of features into a very affordable body. You get internal DCI 4K 60fps recording at 4:2:0 10-bit color, and 4:2:2 10-bit through the HDMI output. 1080p can shoot up to 120fps, and you have your choice of H.264 and H.265 codecs in either All Intra or Long-GOP, with DCI 4K maxing out at 400MB/s.

You’ll get F-Log gamma included if you want full control over your image, as well as several excellent built-in film simulations for great visuals out of the camera. If you’re using native X-Mount lenses (of which there are many great ones) you’ll get some great autofocus, but no in-body stabilization.

The one down side to this camera, in our opinion, is one that is really applicable to the target demographic of this camera, which is YouTubers, vloggers, and single-person crews, and that’s the lack of a fully articulated flip out display. The screen is similar to some of the Sony displays where it pivots and tilts, but not a true flip up or out.

Other than that, this is an excellent affordable cinema camera that’s off the beaten path, but is an overall very flexible and powerful camera. It may take a bit to kit out to get to a full cinema camera rig, but for small filmmakers who value image and codec quality, this is an amazing choice.

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RED cinema cameras

RED cameras are a bit of a mythical set of equipment, often eliciting wild lust from other filmmakers aspiring to reach the place in their career where they can shoot with one, and with great reason. The image quality out of the RED camera line is insanely good, and the quality it offers at the price–while still expensive–is opening doors for independent filmmakers more and more.

But if you’ve paid even a little bit of attention to RED cameras since the RED One 4K launched in 2007, you might be overwhelmed with the sheer number of oddly named cameras and sensors that have been released. Thankfully this has since become streamlined and is easier to figure out.

RED DSMC2 camera body

For the main RED cameras, they all revolve around one single camera body these days. Also referred to as a “brain”, this is the RED DSMC2. Formerly referred to as the Weapon, the DSMC2 body is what has all your I/O and controls the majority of the camera’s functions.

The DSMC2 is the result of RED’s recent efforts to unify the camera lines. Instead of using different bodies across different camera releases, now everything is built around the DSMC2. You buy the body with the specific sensor of your choice, but the body always stays the same. It’s much easier to know exactly what camera is what after this change, and we’ll discuss both the sensors and other bodies momentarily.

The body is what everything is bolted to, whether it be monitors, lens mounts, RED MINI-MAG, audio ports, video outputs, everything. It also handles all of the codec work.

You’ll be able to work with everything up to ProRes 4444 and ProRes 422 HQ, along with up to DNxHR HQX and DNxHD 444/HQX, just to name a few. Internal saving is done on the RED MINI-MAG drives, and there are no other options for internal recording.

You do get dual stereo mics, but XLR connectivity requires an expander module. This also will provide SDI and HDMI, so you’ll most likely need this module. There are different monitor options available, namely 4.7″ and 9″ versions along with EVF options.

Unfortunately, due to the modular nature of the system, you actually need to separately purchase the lens mount for whichever lens system you want to use. Yes, you read that right–you can’t even attach a lens without an additional accessory.

But you can’t even use a DC power connector without the expander, so, it’s just the way that RED does things. At least it has an AC adapter, but if you’re rocking V-mount batteries, you’ll be paying for the privilege.

But what about the resolutions, frame rates, dynamic range, and RED-specific codec options? Well, those are all determined by which sensor you pick with the DSMC2, and there are four different options that are in the current generation.

RED DIGITAL CINEMA DSMC2 BRAIN with MONSTRO 8K VV Sensor
RED Monstro 8K
RED Monstro 8K VV

The Monstro 8K VV is the big boy of the group, as it is an 8K full frame sensor in VistaVision (VV) format. It offers the most dynamic range at 17+ stops, and can top out full 8K footage at 60fps, 4K at 120fps, and even 2K at 240fps. It does support REDCODE at various compressions (all sensors vary on the compression rates, see the specs on this if you need to know) along with REDCODE RAW in a multitude of compression ratios (same notes apply here).

 

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RED DIGITAL CINEMA DSMC2 BRAIN with HELIUM 8K S35 Sensor

RED Helium 8K

The Helium 8K S35 is nearly identical to the Monstro, however the sensor size is a Super 35mm. While all the frame rates, resolutions, and codec options are the same, technically it does have a slightly lower dynamic range of 16.5+ (mind you, this is still insanely high).

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RED DIGITAL CINEMA DSMC2 BRAIN with GEMINI 5K S35 Sensor

RED Gemini 5K

The Gemini 5K S35 (B&H Photo) is a whole different beast. At less than half the megapixel count than the other two (15.4MP vs 35.4MP), this is a low light sensor. Dual sensitivity modes and larger pixels due to the lower pixel count equate to much improved low light performance. It is only a 5K sensor, but does offer basically the same frame rates and codec options as the bigger brothers.

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RED DIGITAL CINEMA DSMC2 BRAIN with DRAGON-X 5K Sensor

The last addition to the sensor lineup is the Dragon-X 5K S35. This is basically the no-frills 5K RED camera that slides into the entry level spot once held by the RED Raven up until recently. Slightly less pixels than the Gemini at 13.8MP, but offers most of the same options in frame rates, resolutions (up to that 5K limit, of course), and codec/compression options.

The benefit of the streamlining of the entry level sensor into the DSMC2 body is that now you have a much more smooth upgrade path from the Dragon-X into a Helium or Monstro sensor when that time arrives. Those who went for the Raven will need to replace their camera bodies as well as their sensors.

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Legacy RED camera bodies

You may see mentions of the old Epic bodies, or the Mysterium-X sensors, or more likely the RED Raven. Kitted out, the Raven was a 4K camera for under ten grand, which at the time was pretty insane. Unfortunately, this budget 4K camera is no longer around, and the DSMC2 Dragon-X has supplanted it.

The Scarlet-X has also been replaced by the DSMC2 Dragon-X, but this is less of a jump as the Scarlet-W was pretty much the precursor to the DSMC2 body, and is cheaper to buy a DSMC2 Dragon-X than to pick up a Scarlet-W and pay the upgrade cost.

In general, unless you’re buying used and getting a great deal, it’s more often a better deal to pick up the current line of RED cameras. It’s less convoluted these days, upgrade paths are much better, and the new brains are definitely improved.

Despite all the extra purchases and weird gotchas that come along with RED cameras, they’re an amazing tool for filmmakers and definitely rank among the best cinema cameras you can buy (or rent).

ARRI ALEXA

ARRI ALEXA LF

ARRI has been a staple in the film and TV industry for a very long time. Formed in 1917, they released their first film camera in 1924, and subsequently shaped the entire cinematography industry with the ARRIFLEX 35 in 1937. Almost all professional motion picture film cameras are based on this camera’s reflex mirror shutter design, and the design is still going strong.

ARRI’s ALEXA digital cinema camera was released in 2010 and shook things up. Built on the same principals of the ARRIFLEX, the ALEXA brought the holy grail to filmmakers: digital video that had astounding dynamic range, a look that is truly filmic, and every feature any professional DP or filmmaker would need on the job in a rock solid reliable package.

There have been several ALEXA digital cine cameras over the last near-decade, but right now there are a few cameras that make up the core of the ALEXA line that you should be aware of.

We’re not going into a lot of detail on the ALEXA. Not only are most of the features are similar to other cine cameras on paper, but, to be honest, more than the overview isn’t really important here. If you don’t know about these cameras, you’re most likely financially ready to own one. These are the professional gear, and they’re priced accordingly.

ARRI ALEXA LF

Where the original ALEXA cameras were all using the ALEV III 2.8K sensor, the ALEXA LF is a true 4K large format sensor (hence the LF in the name). It inherits all of the legacy from the previous iterations, the 4K and sheer sensor size are what finally brings this camera line into the modern era of RED cameras and their brethren.

The ALEXA LF is the current flagship of the ARRI lineup. With the new 4K sensor, you can really take advantage of all the codec options offered, being ProRes, DNxHD, and ARRIRAW, the latter offering an insane 16-bit raw footage.

The color science of the ALEXA is pretty much unmatched. Skin tones are not only accurate and detailed, but highly pleasing. Dynamic range is among the best, if not top of the class. Highlight roll off is smooth and pleasing, and in general the ALEXA is the workhorse of many a director of photography for all these reasons and then some.

ARRI ALEXA Mini LF

Sometimes names are difficult to decode, but fortunately that’s not the case with the ALEXA Mini LF. This is a smaller–much smaller–version of the ALEXA LF, initially developed for mobile mounts, drones, and other situations that benefit from a small form factor camera with stunning video quality.

The ALEXA Mini LF has the same sensor as the ALEXA LF, along with most of the other features and controls on the bigger version. You can strip off the viewfinder or display if you need an even smaller payload for a gimbal or drone, all while matching your A-cam big brother.

The Mini LF has become one of the most popular cameras in the film and TV industry since its initial release, and quickly found its way onto countless production crews thanks to its durability, reliability, small size and incredible image quality. It may take more gear to kit out for a non-mobile shooting environment, but if you need the small size, this is an amazing camera.

ALEXA AMIRA

The AMIRA is an interesting camera to fit into the ALEXA line. It’s definitely cheaper than the ALEXA LF, and is actually built to compete with the Canon C200 and the like.

The AMIRA is an ENG style camera, or Electronic News Gathering. It’s built to be a self-contained camera not requiring a huge rig to make it work. Slap on a lens, battery, and storage device, and you’re good to go.

Thanks to this design, it’s great for documentary filmmakers, low budget movie crews, or anything else where you need run and gun flexibility with ARRI visuals. It does support 4K, assuming you purchase the UHD license, and can support up to ProRes 4444.

As we said before, it’s an interesting camera in the lineup, and for some people it’s the absolute perfect camera for a number of users. If money is no object and you want to jump from the Canon cine lineup, look at the AMIRA.

Cinema camera rentals

Toy filmmaker

If you’ve been looking at the cameras listed and getting a (perhaps not so) mild case of sticker shock, you’re not alone. Many filmmakers rent the camera that they choose for that particular job instead of owning the camera themselves. With cameras that can cost $10,000 and up, this is often the only option for many up-and-coming filmmakers and is a very widespread behavior in the industry.

Renting cinema cameras instead of buying is a great way of testing out which gear you like and get some practice without committing to a full purchase. As a photographer I would rent gear frequently for specific projects, or if I just wanted to test something I was contemplating buying to add to my camera bag.

There are many rental houses available, and most likely there is one near you locally. Some of our favorites are BorrowLenses and LensRentals, both with extremely knowledgeable staff, extensive inventory, and are very cost-efficient. They make it very easy to test out new gear or rent job-specific gear that you don’t currently own with flexible rental terms for however long you need the gear.

If you end up renting a camera extremely frequently, it may be beneficial to finally pull the trigger on a purchase. If you’re working frequently enough to make it worthwhile, owning the gear could be a good option, that way the camera is always on hand.

Fortunately, most freelance cinematographers do build in a rental fee in addition to their own job fees, so you could actually have a situation where the camera will end up literally paying for itself after a period of time. Just because you own the gear doesn’t mean that the client isn’t technically renting the gear from you for the job, so it definitely takes the sting out of buying a RED or ALEXA a little bit at a time.

Final thoughts

Cinema cameras occupy a fairly interesting spot in the realm of video cameras. Their visual quality is often unmatched, yet are usually highly specialized devices for the professional cinematographers for use within the motion picture industry. They’re definitely not for everyone who’s making video content, and do involve more than just pointing and shooting.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing at all. If you’re looking to elevate your video projects or want to make films, you’re going to absolutely want to step up to the bigger pro cameras over the run of the mill DSLR or camcorder.

Thankfully not all cinema cameras need to cost the same as a new car, finally bringing pro-level cine cameras into the reach of nearly anyone. While the ALEXA may be unattainable for most independent filmmakers, even RED has relatively affordable options compared to what was available in years and decades past.

Whether you’re making films with actual budgets or shooting short projects for YouTube, there’s definitely a great cinema camera for every filmmaker and every budget.

We’re in a golden era for small, independent storytellers to grow and thrive and these cameras–and cameras to come–are just making things much more accessible. But at the end of the day, remember: it’s not the camera that makes a story memorable, it’s the story that makes the story memorable. It’s not the arrow, it’s the archer.

 

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 and make sure my audio in video production is the best it can be. 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!

15 best teleprompters for more professional videos [2019]

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.

15 best teleprompters for making better videos Click to Tweet

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!

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