This is the final in a three-part series detailing the journey of a YouTube channel, its vision, delivery and the technology used to create content.
In this part, I asked a few other YouTubers for their tech set-ups and experiences.
Thoughts from Youtubers on the Tech Needed to Create Professional Content
While considering putting something together about the audio and video tech I use for creating my YouTube and Instagram videos, I was fortunate enough to find myself in Berlin at Superbooth 2023. If you’ve never been, I can only describe it as being like a synth summer camp in the woods on the outskirts of the city. Although it’s ostensibly a trade show, where manufacturers, distributors, retail outlets and music tech media do their business, the vast majority of visitors are musicians, synth heads, and performers.
It's a great opportunity for people like me to meet up with friends from across Europe and indeed the rest of the world; to sit and chill with all those people you’ve only spoken to online, or haven’t seen since last year’s Superbooth. The three-day event feels like it’s morphing into a mini electronica festival where people go to chill, look at cool stuff, and listen to techno as the sun goes down.
It's here that I bumped into loads of my fellow SynthTubers so I asked some of them for their thoughts on the tech needed and how they record their content. Here’s what they had to say, in their own words—with some of their recent videos added for your reference.
Nick Batt of SonicState
The most important thing is sound. Most cameras are OK. Unless they’re blurry and out of focus most are going to be alright. Get the sound right and then spend money on cameras. we use Rode wired lav mics in the studio because we can be sure they are working and won’t get any inference. At shows we use Rode Gomic II as they give us flexibility of using the internal mic or you can plug in an external mic too. Bear in mind that most of these mics are omni, so if you have a noisy or echoey room, it will most likely pick that up.
But if you do have the option, it's good to have at least one camera with a decent lens. If you've got a 4k shot you can always punch-in and get the detail. Also, make sure you set your frame right, because if you've got a little tiny piece of equipment in the middle of a massive frame it's hard to get the details.
Audio-wise in the studio, we use a Behringer X32 that feeds into a 4-channel recording of every session. But here I'm using a Zoom Podtrak P4. It’s got 4 mic inputs and it’s an audio interface at the same time...you can also use it for things like remote recording or streaming from your phone. With one of those you could have somebody talking to you from Zoom or whatever and that wouldn't go to the camera footage. So I would definitely say audio first.
All our studio cameras are Panasonics; we’ve got GH4s and an S5. We used to use the GH4s out here as well but we just got sick of carrying them around so we’ve just got minimal here and use phones [at Superbooth].
But if you’ve got decent lights even a crappy camera will look good. We’ve got some Neewer panels, they’re pretty good, and we a small RGB LED stage lighting system to create colour. But if you have one or two lights, bright and diffuse is the best way to go rather than spotlights.
AudioPilz (of Bad Gear)
Do you remember 2011 when we all thought 720P was the shizzle?
I have 2 of the cheapest Lumixes from 4–5 years ago they were 400 bucks then and around 600 bucks now. They spit out 4K and they’re okay for YouTube. If you put a nice lens on them they’re better. I just bought them because I wanted 4k, I wanted to future proof in a way. The one I have here is this Sony Camera that has these influencer ready colors. I don't know what it is [checks the label]...it’s a Sony ZVE 10. I have had no experience with stuff like that, but it was affordable and it had good reviews. I just bought that one because it looks trustworthy, but I'm no expert. It looks a bit like small DSLR. It's restricted to 30 minutes but I don't care because usually my clips are only two seconds long. The thing is you don't want to talk to the real experts because they won't stop talking about it!
The whole video camera photo camera lens **** waving contest is like, the actual worst.
I also bought a GoPro because I thought I needed a second angle and I’ve just used it for Nick now [he had just finished interviewing Nick Batt from Sonicstate at the time]. I'm using the GoPro 9, because it was cheap. I thought of buying a copy but they all sucked in a way, so I thought I'd go for the professional quality. I mean take a look [shows me the interview footage]. That's a pretty nice shot. It’s really Instagram friendly.
I bought expensive stands where you can angle the boom. You can pull it out to 180cm high. I don’t know what that is in American!
I'm using an SM7B for the voice overs—and this is an important thing, this might be interesting. There are these inline preamps that are powered by phantom power that look like a barrel XLR adapter called the Triton Audio FEThead. You need a really good preamp for an SM7B otherwise it will get noisy and sound dull.
For the interview stuff I use I use the Rode GO lavalier that I used here. I have them for directly connecting them to the phone and I’ve used that for quite some time but now I have the other one with the XLR adapter and I'm using a really fancy preamp but just because it's there. With the phone and Rode clip on mics you have really nice audio on the phone. If you have an iPhone it's gonna look awesome.
I use two cameras, sometimes three. My main camera is Black Magic Cinema 4K—it's a very stable studio camera, just goes and goes and records to ProRes. I've made a grading solution so it's already graded in the camera, ready to go. That's the one I'm mounting on different tripods.
Previously I was using the GH5, which is a very good camera, but it’s got a terrible auto focus which is the only negative thing about. But it's really nice, never overheats it just keeps going and going for hours. Having said that, because the auto focus is so terrible on the Panasonic I have a much lighter Fujifilm camera, the new X-T5. It’s not marketed as a video camera but it records without any issues for as long as you want. To be honest the current iPhone line-up has great cameras for stuff like this [pointing around Superbooth]. With just an iPhone and you have a great camera, but overall the content is more important.
I think the sound aspect is even more important. If you have **** sound, that is going to ruin the footage. So I’m recording all the sound on the Zoom H6.
I used to use the Panasonic GH2 with mods back in the day, but I upgraded to a Sony A7S because I wanted something full frame that had low light capability. The ‘S’ is for light sensitivity—so you can go up to like mad ISOs—but really the main factor is it is full frame, which meant I could use vintage lenses and use the full width of the lens. My brother used to have an Olympus OM10 so we had some old 50 mm and 35 mm lenses kicking about. When you put those on a full frame camera (and you can adapt basically any lens to an A7S) you get a full 50/35mm, so I didn't have to spend a lot of money on wide-angle lenses.
I just recently upgraded to a Sony A6300, and finally had to get a wide-angle lens. I bought a Samyang 12mm lens, which is a really nice precise wide angle, so you can get quite close but still fit everything in. I upgraded as I needed 4k. You need to shoot your overhead in 4k so you can push in, and that's really a necessity. One caveat is they are prone to overheat without a firmware update (also get a smallrig cage for it as it can act like a heatsink), the newer ones are more reliable but the older one is cheaper.
Holding the overhead is a problem every YouTuber finds because if you plant something to the table it will jiggle the camera and you’ll ruin the footage. Basically we have to decouple it. What I did for a while was use a Manfrotto articulated arm. It was £130, which is a painful amount of money for a little clamp, but they really hold their position. If you have space, the best solution is mount a bar above your table and clamp to that, or buy a C-Stand, sandbags and flexible ball head so that you have the camera up high and decoupled. I also use these cheap Smallrig articulated arms which you can pick up for £25 which you can put your lights or monitor on, and clamp to table/shelf edges or pipework.
I’ve also got a 1080p GoPro and a Yi 4K Action Camera, their own version of a GoPro. I use these for super mega wide angles like gigs and just clamp them onto the table for dirty recording.
The mic I've used the most is the Rode NTR ribbon mic which doesn’t sound like something you’d use on your voice, but you just sound like God! I’ve used the Rode Podmic quite a bit as well, and the Rodecaster Pro which is the dynamic mic. I use that nice and close when you don't want any spill. I don’t have my face on camera so it’s not in the way—get a PSA1 arm. That may be better for a podcast, but the NTR... that thing sounds off the hook.
For cameras, I use the Canon R6 because the quality is so crisp. I'm really into colors and like nice soft colors—and Canon is great for that. I forgot the name of the lens...I'm not like a camera guy, but it's a really nice lens. I have a second R6 and I have a Canon R as well. So I have three different angles for my content, recording in 4k—which is heavy files, but I think it’s worth it. It stands out a bit, and I like the finished product and the way it looks.
In terms of recording audio it’s super simple, I use the Zoom H5. It has a stereo mic and then it has two inputs, but sometimes I use a mixer as well. I have the Model 1.4 that I've been obsessed with for like months now. I sometimes just go out the mixer and into the Zoom H5 and then I sync it in Davinci Resolve and that's pretty much it.
I have a C-stand for the overhead shots of the gear, and I have a side angle, more of a close up angle I guess, and that might be my profile. It’s a lot easier to edit with three cameras, especially if you're doing a like a demonstration...and maybe sometimes you want to cut parts of the demonstration. Where you trying to set something up you can use that second angle to make it look a bit more seamless.
Robin Vincent (of Molten Music Technology)
It’s one of those frightening things when someone’s commented on old video and you realise how awful it looks. Whether I wanted to or not I became a semi-expert in video because you just wanted it to look like somebody else’s.
When I say expert I just mean in my sort of way where I have to find somethings out in order to try to improve it. So I went from a Sony camcorder I still use for overheads at 1080. I went from that to a Canon EOS 70D, which was great. I was really drawn to a DSLR and that was an instant massive upgrade in video quality. It just gives it an element of depth somehow, and a quality that’s not there otherwise. But that only works if you improve the lighting which I didn't understand for ages. So I had terribly harsh lighting which I'd spend forever trying to put post production filters on to make it look a bit more cinematic. And it just looks processed. So you fight with that for a while, then you realise you need two huge enormous lights, and now it looks nice. Now I can turn down all the settings in the camera. Rather than getting the big diffusers I've literally tied muslin around the lights.
I got this great, really short focal lens, which means that you have to stand about 10 yards away. The problem with Canon is that you only get 30 minutes before it turns off, but you can't hear when it stops filming. You only realise its stopped recording when it powers down, and you’ve continued talking for maybe five minutes. I finally saved up to buy a Lumix GH5, which is the nicest camera I’ve had and never lets me down. I set it at ISO 400 and manual focus, which I can just about reach from where I’m sitting.
For microphones I went with a Rode lavalier for ages, but I was forever catching it—so I ended up with a little Zoom recorder which just sits in front of me, and I sync in post.
Jorb (of Jorb Loves Gear)
I use a Panasonic Lumix GH5 for my main camera. I can't remember the lens. I used to use a Canon adapter into Sigma 1835 but now it's a 18-24 Olympus. I did have two broken GH4s, one of them will do video but it can't do stills, so I use that as a B-roll camera sometimes. I occasionally use a two-camera set-up but I try to avoid it as much as possible. Two cameras is useful for some editing slickness but I try and avoid it as much as I can. Recently I just try to talk straight through. I record in 4K for the overhead so I can crop down.
For audio, I use a Tascam Model 16 mixer, so I’ll record individual channels down to an SD card. The Model 16 letting me do individual 16 individual channels gives me so much flexibility when I’m recording music. But when I'm doing videos, I have my microphone on its own channel—I can control it. I have the mixer controls for the synthesisers, and I have their left and right separate. For mix down I do need everything to be separate.
My microphone’s the SM58, which is always in my hand or right in front of me—and then for like the top down stuff I use a gamer branded streamer arm that clips to a desk.
I recently started live streaming and I just got the Logictech Mevo system. It comes with three cameras and an app that you can have on iOS that you can switch cameras while you're live streaming. They're all battery powered and they have they have 3.5mm inputs. That means I can put an output from my mixer in my studio into one of them, giving me clean audio. Then whatever you do on the app when you switch cameras is recorded. So you can upload and already recorded multicam version, and it is also switching while you're live streaming. There’s a single director mode where you can say like, spend three seconds on this, then three seconds on that.
I was getting questions on the live chat as I was doing a live stream studio tour and I could just switch to the relevant camera and walkover to the kit and start playing it. That's what was going out live. Previously I was using my regular cameras—a Canon EOS RP—and I would switch into an overhead then to a base view and stuff like that. But this is super handy and I just got it like maybe two weeks ago.
All-in-all, from these interviews, it appears that a few general guidelines are emerging:
- Sound is the most important aspect
- Never record the synths with microphones, always record directly
- iPhones capture great video
- No one is an expert in camera tech, but most seem to own or have owned Panasonics (just don’t rely on the autofocus!)
- Record in 4k so you can punch-in to look at detail
- Multiple cameras and different angles allow for much slicker editing
- Capturing overhead video requires some thought—it really depends on your space, but lighting C-stands are a popular solution
Interestingly, it seems that independently we have all experienced similar issues and have all come to similar conclusions. Hopefully this may be able to guide you into making some informed decisions and help you to choose the kit that’s best for you. You couldn’t ask for a more expert panel!