Ten years ago I flipped open my laptop, turned on the built-in camera, and started filming. There was this platform called YouTube which was still in its infancy, but quickly gaining traction.
I was in college in Cleveland, Ohio, and had recently become vegan. As you can imagine, at the time (’08), Cleveland was not a very vegan-friendly area, and stepping into a vegan lifestyle came with quite a steep learning curve. I fumbled around trying to figure out what to eat, how to cook with new ingredients, and how to handle eating out with friends, family dinners, and beyond. At the time there were only a handful of vegan bloggers, and I hungrily soaked up the wisdom and vegan recipes they shared. Finding an online community brought a feeling of camaraderie that made going vegan on my own so much easier.
Just as those bloggers had helped me, I wanted to be a resource for others new to the plant-powered path. I wanted to be a virtual vegan friend for those who may not have that in their own personal life. Nobody should have to feel alone. And so I started making videos.
I spent many days alone in my room, talking to my computer. What a weirdo, I know.
At least at the time, it was weird. Fast forward to today, and everyone with a cell phone has a video camera, and many have started exploring the nerve-wracking, soul-exposing experience of posting themselves on the World Wide Web.
Today YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world. It’s revolutionizing how information is delivered and consumed. With over 1.5 billion active users, and more than one billion hours of content watched on YouTube every single day, YouTube will soon surpass television as the most watched platform in the world.
No longer does the power of spreading a message lie in the hands of top television execs and billion dollar companies with massive advertising budgets. Now anyone, anywhere, can start a YouTube channel and begin broadcasting anything they want to the world.
If there’s a cause you care about, you absolutely should be using this platform and the power of technology to amplify your voice.
Today I’m going to share what I’ve learned over the past 10 years, as I evolved from using my laptop camera to becoming a professional vegan YouTuber and filmmaker. I’ll share my tips on how to start a YouTube channel and what video equipment you’ll need to flourish. I hope that this inspires you to tap into your passions and share them with the world.
What You Need to Start Making Videos
- Camera Equipment
- Video Editing Software
- A YouTube Channel
Now let’s break this down.
This is where most people get overwhelmed and step away from making videos altogether. So let me start with the most important point: You need nothing more than a cell phone camera to make great videos. In fact, many of the most-watched viral videos on YouTube were filmed haphazardly from a cell phone. If you’re working on a tight budget and want to get started as quickly as possible, start with your phone.
When you’re ready to step up your game, here is what I recommend:
- My favorite vlogging and travel-friendly camera: Canon g7x
- My main camera: Panasonic Lumix GH4 (the GH5 is now out but the GH4 has everything I need)
- My favorite lens for the GH4: Olympus 25mm f 1.8 [This is a fixed lens similar to a 50mm lens on a full-frame camera. It gets beautiful bokeh (the blurry background effect)]
- A SD card: Transcend 128GB
- A lavalier microphone: Dual Omnidirectional Mic (great for interviews too)
- Backup camera batteries (so you never have to pause filming and wait for your battery to charge)
Once you feel comfortable with the gear above—which may well take you a full year or more—then I’d recommend investing some next-level tools for better audio and video stabilization.
- External audio recorder: I love this uber-portable recorder with this adapter and this lav mic.
- Handheld Camera Stabilizer: Zhiyun Crane Gimball
I know all this gear can seem overwhelming at first, so I filmed a video breaking it down for you. Also, don’t forget that you don’t need anything more than your cell phone. Make it easy on yourself and start with that, and only upgrade as you’re ready and itching to accommodate specific filming needs.
Regardless of what camera equipment you’re using, you will want to learn how and where to film to get the best quality footage possible. This has more to do with how you use your camera and where you position your subject than the camera itself. A few quick (but critically important) tips:
- Find a quiet place to film. This may mean moving further away from a busy street, going inside, or even waiting until your loud roommates have gone to bed. Fixing bad audio in post-production is an extraordinarily difficult art form (I haven’t even come close to mastering it after all these years). The best thing you can do is capture clean audio while you’re filming.
- Never film in direct sunlight. Find some shade or go inside near a window with indirect light and film there. You’ll notice that when you move from the sun to the shade you’ll be able to see your eyes much more clearly, your skin will become softer and more evenly lit, and the overall image will be a whole lot more pleasant to the viewer.
- Know your camera. Watch YouTube tutorials and read books to help you master your camera and refine your filmmaking skills. Develop an understanding of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO at the very least. When you understand how your camera works, you can make the best of almost any situation. Filming somewhere unsightly? Crop in close to your subject and blur out the background using a low aperture. You can always use camera angles and settings to your advantage.
- Understand that your first video (or first dozen videos) will suck. No matter how much time and energy you invest or how much moolah you drop on camera equipment, they just will. It’s part of the initiation to become a YouTuber. There is no YouTuber who looks back on their early videos and thinks, “Wow—those were amazing!” Embrace imperfection and vulnerability and put yourself out there. You can have a good laugh about it later. I sure do.
Video Editing Software
If you’re just starting out you can use iMovie which comes free on all Mac computers. That’s what I used for the first several years of making videos, and it was great.
When you’re ready to step up your game and feel confident that you’ll continue making videos for many years to come, I highly recommend investing in Final Cut Pro. That’s what I use now and I absolutely love it.
Create A YouTube Channel
Finally, you need a channel where you can upload your videos. Of course, you can upload your videos on Facebook and other social media platforms (and I encourage you to do that too), but YouTube is a great home for your videos for all the reasons I shared earlier.
So start a channel! It’s easy. Just follow the steps here.
Take time to flesh our your channel as much as possible before you publish your first video. Add a channel description, channel art, and perhaps even a trailer video letting your (future) audience know what your channel is all about and encouraging them to subscribe. Some functionality will only become available once you become a more established YouTube channel, but take advantage of the options you have to start.
That’s it! Now grab your cell phone and start filming! I’ll be cheering for you, and would love to see your channel when you make it live. Cheers to changing the world one video at a time!