What are some good cameras for YouTube and short films?

The secret to finding the best video camera for YouTube videos is also the same secret to producing a blockbuster movie. So, in less than 2 minutes, let me tell you how blockbuster movies are made…

One of the most memorable movies, when I think of a short film, is Napolean Dynamite. It’s no blockbuster. The short film had humble beginnings. The short film was called Peluca, that means “wig” in Spanish. And the scene and lead, Jon Heder was cast into the feature “Napoleon Dynamite”.

Some of you might be now thinking: “What a ridiculous movie?”. But let’s talk about the short. It was shot on 16mm film. All black and white. With a budget of $500. The movie was shown at the 2003 Slamdance Film Festival.


The story about how Seth skips school along with two of his friends. His friend Giel suffering from a malaise; decided to show up bald to their little rendezvous. They end up buying a wig for Giel and later head back to school.  What happens next is quite a non sequitur, Seth heads to the FFA contest.

The Technology

What do you think really took the film from a short to a feature? The technology? Not quite. It’s the story. It’s all character building, that is the very first step. If you can build scintillating characters into your story production, things will start to happen for you. This is the secret to virality and maybe someday getting into a feature. The technology is just a tool. You can always make something great with whatever you have, lying around, even if it’s your smartphone tucked into your side pocket. What camera, what lens? Doesn’t really matter?…

You need the tech that will do justice to your story. And when your story is on YouTube, you need the technology that suits YouTube productions and workflows best. This is a secret that only most production people know. Even some of the top YouTube content creators don’t have a clue about video production and efficient workflows. They repeat tasks unnecessarily, over and over again.

When you consider a camera for productions. Especially for YouTube. You want to look for something that will reduce time on your workflow. This is the reason a black magic pocket camera or a DSLR is not the best fit. They need to be rigged up, they have uncomfortable ergonomics and yes, they require tonnes of post-production. You’re most likely to have to sync your audio, record it separately and sometimes re-shoot because your footage is out of focus. And worst of all, the footage looks soft, digitally enhanced and the opposite of cinematic. It looks fake!

What are some cheap and affordable cameras for YouTube?

If you have been considering investing in a good smartphone, you’re on to something interesting here. Smartphone filmmaking is by far the best tech for YouTube and short film videos. Typically, both these productions don’t pay you. The chances of making money from either of these are less than winning a lottery. True, 93% of YouTube channels have less than 100 subscribers and less than 1% of YouTube channels make more than minimum wage. It’s just that YouTube features only these channels that we start to believe the “I can do that too!”. So investing in a smartphone is not a loss. Meanwhile, you might already have one…

What are some advantages of using your smartphones for YouTube video productions? It simplifies your workflow like crazy!!! Yup, it makes things crazy simple. You don’t have to transfer your footage here and there, you could shoot, edit and upload your video right from your phone. You could set up a teleprompter on your screen or even edit while live recording using the pause function.

When you’re on a lookout for a smartphone for YouTube or Shortfilm video production. Consider a popular brand like Samsung or an iPhone, they are more reliable and balanced phones compared to the 1+, oppo, vivo, etc. A lot of phones bost specs but don’t perform. Make sure your camera has Optical Image Stabilisation. This is a super important feature for focusing, stabilisation during hand-held shots and shooting video. If you don’t have the funds to pick up the latest phone, consider buying an older model or a used iPhone 6 or the Samsung Galaxy Note 4.

Other cameras you could consider: You could consider GoPro cameras, again you could always go for a used one or a different brand that’s cheaper. You might need to sort out new batteries if your camera is used though, so don’t forget to budget for batteries. For some short films and YouTube productions like for adventure, parasailing GoPro’s are the only way to go.

Avoid DSLRs like the plague! By the time you sort out your DSLR and rig it up, you’d notice that you could have afforded a cinema or broadcast camera with all those features inbuilt.

Best Low-Cost camcorders for YouTube Videos and short film cinematography:

You’ll be shocked to know that camcorders, out of the box give you really cinematic looking images. Now, these cameras have smaller sensors so they need more light. Shooting in low light even on the most professional camera gives you rubbish footage. So save that money and invest in video lights. The cameras have awesome ergonomics, built-in features for different looks, built in lenses, zoom and buttons and waveforms for all common video features. You don’t need a rig, your footage will look awesome, handheld, they come with fantastic in camera multi-axis stabilisation and optical image stabilisation. They have awesome audio input as well, you could make do without an external microphone in most situations.

Best Low-Cost Microphones for YouTube Videos and short film cinematography:

Audio is one of the most neglected pieces of technology in amateur productions. Improve your audio to have your productions looking more professional. I have used MP3 recorders in difficult situations like capturing a wedding or an event by placing the microphone in the person pocket and then synchronising this sound to the footage in post-production. For interviews consider using a boom mic or a lavalier mic.

Essential Video Accessories & Rigs especially for smartphone filmmaking:

If you are using your smartphone, do your best to not shoot handheld. Use an adapter clip and mount your smartphone to a monopod. The monopod could be even used as a Steadicam. Balance the monopod horizontally with two fingers to find the centre of gravity, hold your monopod at that point while it is flipped back to be vertical to get stable shots while running and walking. Gorilla pods are great for shooting vlogs and to mount your camera on your table.

Don’t go for long 4 foot sliders, most cinematic shots are subtle; even a 9″ or 13″ pocket slider will get the job done and do it magnificently. The advantage is that you need just one tripod or stands for the setup, you won’t have to take time to rig up the slider. Sliders are great to get some interesting angles and movements to show emotion, reveal a dramatic scene or even for product and tech reviews.

Lighting that’s affordable and won’t run up your electricity bill:

Stay away from cheap LED panel lights (not LED bulbs), they have a very low range and they are really intense, they can give your talent a bad headache. Meanwhile, they aren’t nice and soft so that cause harsh highlights and they aren’t powerful enough to diffuse a shadow or brighten a background.

A low-cost solution is to use LED bulbs, you can get some pretty heavy duty ones or even use CFL. You can use combinations of warm and daylight depending on your shot. The LED bulbs are quite diffused and the umbrellas further diffuse them to give you a soft glowing light to brighten up your talent. Excellent for vlogs and interviews. Take of the diffusion to use it as a harsh backlight to create some separation between the talent and background.

Consider small lights to backlight your products or hide behind your talents, coffee mugs, they always come in handy somewhere or the other and save you a ton of money.

Can’t afford an underwater camera? Consider a waterproof pouch to capture some of those risky shots where water is in arms length.

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