By Christian Cawley
You’ve been making some YouTube videos, and they’re gaining popularity. You want to make a step to the next level, and build a dedicated YouTube studio (or use a portion of a room) but there’s a problem.
Yeah. Once again, the lucre is holding you back. But does it really have to be this way? Do you genuinely need a YouTube studio? And if you do, does it really need to cost you the money you think?
Well, we’re big fans of saving money here at MakeUseOf. Let’s find out how you can get started with your YouTube studio for as little financial outlay as possible.
Wait, Do You Really Need a YouTube Studio?
Before carrying on, however, it’s time to take a good, hard look at the situation. Do you really need a YouTube studio? While it might be nice to have, there are various things that might stand in your way.
We’ve already considered that lack of funds might scupper this plan. But what about a lack of space? After all, to build a studio, you need somewhere to put it. If you don’t have a spare room (or corner of a larger room) or space in a shed, then gathering the equipment needed for a studio seems somewhat pointless.
Meanwhile, if your YouTube channel is all about videos streamed from video games, or edited together images in slideshow format, with a simple voiceover (or even graphics), then your YouTube studio already exists. It’s in your PC or tablet, in the form of a video editing app.
The answer to this is probably “No”. Therefore, if you really need a YouTube studio, you’ll need to consider hardware that is easy to set up, and portable enough to move, or put away, when absolutely necessary.
Hardware for a Budget YouTube Studio
If you’re still certain that you want to build a YouTube studio, you’ll need lights, a camera and tripod, a microphone, and some software.
You have three choices here, and can even use two at the same time!
If you have a smartphone, then this is the option to use. Any of the top end, iPhone-esque devices should do, whether it be by Apple or Samsung or whoever. We have a lot of smartphone reviews at MakeUseOf — you’re sure to find information about a suitable, affordable phone. If yours is covered, all the better. If not, just try it out, and see if you like the quality.
The second option is to employ a DSLR in video mode. If you already own a DSLR, then this is the best choice, as you’re going to have the option of switch lenses, along with a higher quality end product than a smartphone (although the gap between the two camera types is ever narrowing).
Best of all, you can record footage on multiple cameras. Expecting your viewer to become a little distracted by a single, static shot of you opining? Simply record on your smartphone camera, positioned to the side (or perhaps above, as per a security cam) for the “B-roll,” and you’ll have a nice choice of shots when you come to edit.
Finally, if you’re streaming games, a webcam should be all you need. Use an external device, rather than built in, however, as these are easier to position.
Most DSLR tripods available under $100 should suffice. Somewhere in the $25-$55 area on Amazon will give you a good, sturdy tripod ideal for interior home use.
Planning to use a smartphone? Various tripods are available for phones. We’ve even shown you how to make a DIY smartphone stand. For this sort of scenario, however, one of the “mount anywhere” tripods will do the trick, enabling you to attach your smartphone to walls, doors, pipes, that sort of thing. For a secondary camera, this is a great option.
Built-in microphones are usually unsuitable for anything other than Skype calls. We would recommend a third party mic for podcasting, and the same goes for making YouTube videos. One of the most popular available is the Blue Snowball.
I use one myself for podcasting and producing voiceovers for MakeUseOf videos. More recent models than mine even have presets to give you the best sound. A mic like this should be used in conjunction with an audio recording tool on your PC. The audio can then be added to the video at the editing stage.
Another microphone I use (which can be connected to a DSLR or a smartphone) is the RØDE Smartlav+ Lavalier microphone. The sound quality from this tie-clip style mic is excellent and ideal for voice work. Similarly, the $99 RØDE VideoMic Go, a camera-mounted mic for DSLRs, is a great, directional microphone that you should consider.
If your video is well-lit, it will look great. But you don’t necessarily need additional lighting. Large, naturally lit spaces will do just as well. The best way to find out if you need lighting is to run a test video and see how well it turns out. When you determine that it looks a bit dark, that is the time to find a lighting solution.
This is not cheap, and will potentially be the most expensive item on your YouTube studio shopping list. Photography softboxes — complete with stands — will set you back anything from $40-$100 a piece. Some come in pairs, others with daylight light bulbs.
One way to save money here is to buy daylight bulbs and fit them in your ceiling, but this is not as effective.
5. Audio Software
We’ve looked at this application in depth over the years, and it is an excellent tool for so many different audio tasks.
6. Video Editing Software
Whichever option you choose, make sure it has the option to export to a format that can be uploaded to YouTube. Better still, find a video editor that will upload directly!
7. Some Sort of Background
A lot of YouTubers get the background wrong. It doesn’t need to be big, or ornate. You’re not building a TV news studio. But at the same time, the background — anything that can be seen behind you — needs to be tidy. If you live in a home with modern interior design, this can work well. If you don’t, then you might want to cheat somewhat. Two options are available here:
- A screen or wall with a relevant poster.
- A green screen. You can then find a suitable image to drop in as a background during the edit.
Stunning backgrounds are a great option for shooting your videos outdoors, incidentally. The viewer doesn’t even need to see the landscape in focus — they’ll just be aware that it is there.
Setting It All Up
With your equipment gathered, and perhaps a small amount of money paid, you’ll be ready to put your studio together. This is a key stage. Building a studio implies a certain amount of permanence, which means you’ll want to get the recording equipment lined up perfectly. Here’s a great YouTube video that shows much of what we’ve discussed here put into practice:
To do this, take the time to test your lighting and camera positions, making sure that everything is recorded. On film and TV, these things are done using tape on the floor. If this works for you, try it. Otherwise, other options are available for keeping a record of where equipment is placed, and what settings are used.
Remember: Start Before You Build a Studio
For the vast majority of YouTubers, a studio is not required. Here at MakeUseOf, our videos are created using our homes and nearby scenery. It’s fair to say that the results are mostly impressive.
Do you regularly upload videos to YouTube? Have you built a dedicated studio or do you prefer a more flexible solution? Tell us in the comments.