What’s the best budget-friendly microphone to make videos? How do you set up your lighting in a home studio? Do you need a green screen? What’s a stream deck?
The TechSmith team has all these answers covered and much more. On this episode of The Visual Lounge, host Matt Pierce, Kara Swanson (Content Marketer), Andy Owen (Video Production), and Anton Bollen (Customer Success) share their top picks for audio, camera, lighting, and accessories.
If you’re looking for some recommendations to point you in the right direction, be sure to tune in today or keep reading. For a list of all the gear mentioned in this episode, head over to Matt’s wish list.
You can watch the video on this topic at the top of this post, to listen to the podcast episode, hit play below, or read on for more…
Top picks for audio equipment and tools
One of the most important pieces of equipment is audio equipment. Bad audio can ruin an otherwise great video, so it’s important to pay attention to it. Step one is picking a microphone.
1. Blue Yeti microphones
Kara Swanson’s pick is the Blue Yeti microphone, which is a side-address condenser microphone. It’s not super expensive, but it’s also a decent, trustworthy brand that’ll last for years to come.
As Kara explains, it’s a great pick for those who are newer to video who still want a professional-sounding microphone to make explainer videos.
“I love the Blue Yeti because as someone who’s definitely newer to video, I don’t have the budget for something that’s going to be crazy and also not really necessary. For me, my main video needs are explainer videos or quick walkthroughs. So the Blue Yeti is definitely a budget-friendly option running in at about $99.”
It’s not just Kara who thinks so either. A lot of the TechSmith team have one as well. Andy explains that one of the best things about it is that there’s a handy mute button on the microphone itself and a way to adjust the gain.
“A lot of that sounds really overwhelming, but they explain it really well in their instructions. And so, I think even though there are more knobs than on some of the others, I think it makes it more user-friendly to be able to control some of those things right in the microphone.”
2. TechSmith Assets
For beginner video creators, having something like TechSmith Assets can really help you add free music and sound effects to your video. You can also use any of the visuals and graphics on there to give your videos something a little bit extra.
3. Silent mouse and keyboard
Another thing to be aware of when you’re making explainer videos is the sound your mouse and keyboard make. It may not feel like they’re loud but play a video back, and they’ll stick out. And the last thing you want is a distracting noise when you’re trying to give a demo or instructions.
Anton recommends using a silent mouse and keyboard like the Logitech MK295. He also recommends in the meantime using mousepads to reduce the noise that your desk makes.
4. Audio Technica Shotgun condenser microphone
If you’re looking for a higher-end microphone, Matt’s pick is the Audio-Technica AT875R Line/Gradient Shotgun Condenser Microphone. This is what he uses in all of The Visual Lounge episodes.
It’s an XLR microphone and requires a mixer along with it, so it’s a bit more expensive than the Blue Yeti. It’s more for people who are getting into professional audio recording and want something high-quality and robust.
It’s all about the lighting
A common misconception about good quality video is that it’s all about the camera. The truth is, the lighting is just as important. You can have an amazing, expensive DSLR camera, but if your lighting is bad, it won’t make much difference.
Matt uses a basic set of LED panel lights for his videos. What he likes about these lights is that there’s a digital display on them that helps him set the color temperature. And because they pair up, you can match the color settings on each simultaneously.
For those who don’t want to splash out or don’t have the space for big panel lights, a ring light is a great alternative that Kara uses.
“The ring light is perfect for me because, first of all, it’s cheap, about $25-30. So that’s awesome. Second of all, it does have a few different settings. It’s not super fancy, but you can get a lot of different light tones with it.”
Green screens aren’t just for Hollywood anymore. In fact, we’ve all probably tried to use some kind of background swap on our Zoom calls by now.
A green screen is something that Anton likes to use when he’s helping customers with tutorial videos. It helps him set a nice neutral background or pull up information that helps him get his message across.
As he doesn’t have much space, he likes to use one you can pull down like a projector screen. He recommends one from Elgato, which is easy enough to mount on the wall and use whenever you need it.
The truth about sound panels
When people are setting up a studio, one of the things they focus on is those egg crate-style foam panels. It something that just says “recording studio” just by looking at them.
However, there are some common mistakes, says Andy.
Typically, Andy advises against the cheap stuff on Amazon because it doesn’t really work. They may look great, but there’s more to sound-dampening than a bit of foam. What you should look for is for air in between the panels, which usually means you have to spend a little more for panels with good air density.
“As far as panels, there needs to be some air in between. So when you can squish those things, and they just pop right back up, there’s not a lot of air density in between them. So for good sound dampening, you’re going to have to spend a little bit more money.”
Also, in terms of placement, you’ve probably seen videos of people with panels behind them. Again, they look great, but it’s generally a bad place to put them because they’re facing away from where you’re speaking. They need to go in front of you instead.
Camera gear is where the budget often disappears. However, there’s nothing wrong with using a good webcam if you’re looking for a cost-effective way to record video. Kara and Anton use simple Logitech HD webcams for their videos.
For those who have a bigger budget, you may want to look at DSLR or mirrorless cameras. The one Matt uses for The Visual Lounge is the Sony A6400 which is a fairly costly camera for the body alone.
With this type of camera, you also need to invest in a ton of accessories. For example, you need to buy lenses, batteries, adaptors, and other accessories to go along with it. Andy says that a lot of people don’t realize how expensive it can be to get a decent camera setup.
“The camera body is expensive, but then you also need lenses or at least a lens. Then you also need batteries. You’re also going to need some way to connect this camera to your computer.”
Control it all with a stream deck
Another handy piece of equipment that Anton recommends is a stream deck. This is like a digital control panel that you can program different buttons and integrate them with different applications.
He uses this to control his lighting, and he also uses it for music. Anton also uses it to bring up text snippets he’s saved, so he doesn’t have to type the same thing out for tutorials and demos.
“With a click of a button, I can fill in title descriptions, whatever I need to do as part of the demo, with the click of a silent button right here. Without actually having to do the typing, it looks a lot smoother, and it helps my demos when my video recordings just go a lot cleaner.”
For lots more tips and recommendations, check out the full video or podcast at the top of the page. If you head over to TechSmith Academy, you can also get lots of tips and tutorials on how to improve your videos and much more.