Channel Makers

Recommended Tools

I’ve used a LOT of tools and gear to build YouTube channels. This is where I share the best production, editing, productivity and recording gear I’ve found.

Let’s Get Going. Select One:

I'm Just Getting Started

I started my YouTube channel and want to get the best gear I can on a starter budget

I Want the Next Level

I’ve built my channel up and am getting good traction with views and subscribers – what’s next?

I Want Top Tier Gear

I’ve been doing YouTube for a while, and I want the best gear I can get for a full-quality channel

Starter Gear Setup

Camera: Your Current Phone/Camera (as long as it was released in the past 3 years)

Why I Picked It: Most smartphones and cameras released recently have cameras that are just fine for a person starting on YouTube. Unless you have a good reason to record at 4K resolution, I recommend setting your camera to 1080p which is fantastic for most YouTube videos. The same is true if you’re doing Youtube Shorts, just make sure you get the resolution to 9:16 rather than 16:9!

What You Could Do: I don’t recommend using a phone as your primary camera long term (which is why I recommend other gear below), but if you’re planning to use a phone for a while, consider watching videos or buying a simple course to get really familiar with everything you can do with it, and never settle for the same style every video

Video Lighting: Neewer LED Softbox Lighting Kit

Why I Picked It: I like that these lights have multiple leds (no need to replace a single bulb), and are adjustable for a variety of filming situations. Each light has a display and separate knobs on the back to adjust color temperature and brightness. When it comes to video lighting, more light over more space is most often better, because it gets rid of harsh shadows and makes a more natural look. Softbox lights are a really good option because they don’t cost as much, but still disperse light over a larger area with the box design.

What They Could do to Improve: I have only two things I would change about these (awesome) budget lights: 1) I wish the brightness could get just a biiit brighter for more lighting situations, and 2) the power cord could be longer.

Compared to the Competition: I’ve tried several budget brands of softboxes (Yicoe, and Mount Dog to name a few), and while this set costs slightly more than many you’ll find, the brand (I’ve used Neewer lights for years) and added adjustable features like color temperature and brightness WITHOUT needing a remote are totally worth it.

Microphone: Tascam DR-10L

Why I Picked It: This lav mic is almost perfect. I use the Tascam in almost EVERY YouTube video I’ve made because it does 80% of the work of good video audio for me, and it has stood the test of time; my team and I have bought and used 5+ of this same model over the past 4 years, and they’re still working great. It’s 80% of why people think my audio is the best they’ve heard on YouTube.

Whenever someone asks what I recommend as a first purchase for good YouTube videos, this mic is what I recommend. It’s just too good.

What They Could do to Improve: The one downside of having a separate audio recorder like the Tascam is that the audio files need to be synced with the video. Not a big deal because most editing software allows for easy syncing, but it’s still an extra step.

YouTube Extension: vidIQ 

Why I Picked It: vidIQ has become a key part of my YouTube toolset for a few reasons: 1) the tools is constantly improving and adding new, helpful features (like Daily Ideas), 2) while I was hard to convince at first, I’ve found that I rely more and more on the Channel Audit tool, as well as numerous little things like seeing a video’s thumbnail in the sidebar of a video I’m watching, as well as the number of subscribers a person comment on my video has, without needing to click thru to their channel. 

Compared to the Competition: I tested vidIQ vs TubeBuddy extensively, and the biggest thing that stood out to me about vidIQ was how quickly they adapted to the current situation on YouTube, and how nice the team was. Seriously, EVERY person I’ve interacted with at vidIQ, from customer support to the CEO, has been awesome. 

Editing Software: DaVinci Resolve

Why I Picked It: While there is a paid version, the free version of Resolve is surprisingly capable without a lot of the limitations on other free softwares (like watermarks, limited video length, etc). If you’ve used other editing programs the interface is easy to get used to.

Compared to the Competition: While I haven’t spent as much time using Davinci as Final Cut Pro, the sheer amount of times it’s recommended to me by other video creators speaks to its capability and appeal

Screen Recording & Streaming Software: OBS Studio

Why I Picked It: I’ve been blown away by just how much OBS is capable of. Want to stream from 3 different cameras, your desktop, and play a video all at once? Can do. It’s actually what I used to record with 7 webcams simultaniously in this video. It’s free, and ready to do whatever you want it to (maybe you could get it to make breakfast for you, too? It’s possible…).

What They Could do to Improve: Because of how much the software is capable of the starting learning curve can be a bit steep, but only at the beginning. Thankfully there are a lot of really good guide on how to use it.

Compared to the Competition: If you do a lot of YouTube livestreams (or are planning to in the future), it’s worth getting to know OBS early on, because you’re able to do things not built into YouTube (like sharing your screen, multiple cameras, and much more)

Next Level Gear Setup

Camera: Canon Powershot G7X Mark III

Why I Picked It: I’ve owned the Mark II version of this camera for almost 2 years, and it just works, really well. The screen flips up for selfie recording, it’s lightweight, and does almost everything a bigger camera does for a much lower price tag. The only reason I don’t use this camera more is because I’m using the Sony I recommend in the Top Tier section on this page (below).

What They Could do to Improve: Make sure you get an extra battery if you’re going to do longer recording sessions or batching, because this lil beast eats the little battery life for breakfast.

IMPORTANT UPDATE Feb 2022: Some members of Project 24 have reported having issues with the Mark III autofocus not working correctly, and recent updates to the camera don’t seem to have fixed them. I’d hope Canon would get this fixed more quickly, but until then, maybe hold off purchasing this model.

Alternate Camera: DJI Pocket 2

Why I Picked It: This little thing is almost perfect if you do a lot of vlogging or shots walking around. Why? Because it really is as small as it looks, and packs a solid 4K camera, stabilization, a selfie screen into a frame you could forget you put into your pocket. I also enjoy the cool features like face-follow and smooth transition between stabilization options. Sometimes I just wish I had an excuse to use this camera more on Channel Makers. Maybe I need to, you know, go outside more? 🙂

What They Could do to Improve: Not a big deal, but becaue it’s so different there is a learning curve upfront. I also wish the price was just a little bit less, but hey, I guess they’re packing a camera, screen, and gimball into something just bigger than a pack of gum.

Tripod: K&F Concept 72 Inch

Why I Picked It: Most low-to-mid-end tripods are awful. This one isn’t.

But really, I own two of these and they’re the perfect blend of capability vs price. Most tripods don’t go as high as this one (when you’re as tall as I am, that matters, okay?), and this tripod also allows for ultra adjustable close up shots with a unique inverted design. It also folds into a really compact space for transport, and can convert into a monopod.

What They Could do to Improve: Because it’s sooo adjustable, it can take extra steps to get it just how I want it. It’s a pro and a con. I also don’t like tripod legs that require “unscrewing” to adjust; I prefer single action clip releases, but that’s just me…

Video Lighting: Falcon Eyes RX-18TDX

Why I Picked It: This is the BEST video light I’ve ever tried. I’ve solved 95% of every YouTube video lighting issue just by buying this light. It’s larger with an “egg crate” cover that disperses the light evenly, and eliminated sharp shadows without being too much. You’ll need a stand for it like this one, then once you have it set up, you’re good. My videos got DRAMATICALLY better when I added this light to the setup.

Compared to the Competition: My team and I have tried a variety of lights, from panels, ring lights, soft boxes, and much more expensive versions (I mention one in the Top Tier section below), but the Falcon Eyes looks the best on video hands down.

Video Accent/RGB Lighting: IVISII G2 Pocket Light

Why I Picked It: RGB pocket lights are some of the most versatile lights to add to your recording setup as either a background accent (like I use in virtually every Channel Makers video) or a hair light to add a “3D” look to you on camera.

I made a video where I bought and tested 7 top RGB lights, and the IVISII G2 won in multiple categories. The price + value of this light is just unbeatable.

What They Could do to Improve: I wish this light had is an app to make setting up multiple lights easier, especially if I’m using different light styles or colors for different shots or videos.

Lavalier Microphone: Tascam DR-10L

Why I Picked It: I already recommended this in the Starter set, so if you haven’t gotten this already, just get it. 🙂

The Tascam device is the recorder itself, so you put the box in your pocket and press record, run the wire under your shirt to clip the mic on your collar, and you’re ready to go. It also records two tracks simultaneously at two different gain settings, so if you yell or laugh loudly, you never have audio peaking issues.

Compared to the Competition: If you’re in the market for a lavalier mic, the only reason why I wouldn’t get this one is if you’re looking for wireless capability, meaning a mic that connects directly to your camera via receiver and syncs audio right then. In that case, I recommend the lav mic in the Top Tier set later on this page.

Voiceover/Streaming Microphone: Blue Yeti X

Why I Picked It: If you’re doing more livestreams or stationary recording, the Blue Yeti X is a solid option. What I like about it is 1) audio is solid, 2) good build and weighted base means it’s not going to move around and break if you accidently bump it, and 3) it looks dang good so you’re not worried if it makes a cameo in your videos.

What They Could do to Improve: If I bump the table the mic is set on you can hear it pretty loud, so a better suspension/reverb cancelation method would be nice.

Editing Software: Final Cut Pro

Why I Picked It: Final Cut is FAST, inexpensive since you don’t have to pay a monthly subscription and works beautifully for us since my whole team and I use the Mac platform.

What They Could do to Improve: It’ll fill up your hard drive fast if you don’t regularly delete generated files manually; I’d love a more automated solution.

Compared to the Competition: We used to use Adobe Premiere but it’s just gotten SOOOO slow (just like Adobe Lightroom, ahem…). It took us about 3 days of using Final Cut before we were COMPLETELY convinced that it was better for us and we’ve never looked back. Editing software is definitely a matter of personal preference, but this is working great for us.

Top Tier Gear Setup

Camera: Sony A6600

Why I Picked It: Before doing YouTube, we’ve owned or used nearly every single model of DSLR/mirrorless camera currently in production.  The a6600 is small and light, has a flip-up LCD screen so you can see yourself when recording, excellent video quality, near-perfect autofocus, and it’s reasonably priced. The battery is much larger than the previous models and there is no 30 minute video record limit! There really isn’t much more I could even ask for in a YouTube camera.

What They Could do to Improve: The only thing I’d like to see is 4k 60fps.  That’d be nice for some cinematic slow motion stuff at 4k, but you can do it at 1080 and few people will notice.

Compared to the Competition: Panasonic makes some cool cameras for vloggers with neat advanced video features, but their autofocus SUCKS.  Canon and Nikon have each released their mirrorless cameras now, but frankly they’ve disappointed.  The a6500 is nice but doesn’t have the front-facing LCD.  There are some excellent full-frame cameras but they are pretty pricey for making a vlog and the lenses are much larger and heavier.  Fuji’s cameras are fun to shoot with the aperture ring on the lens, but autofocus in video is still lagging.  In my opinion, if you’re using a camera strictly for YouTube, it’s tough to beat the a6600.  

Camera Lens: Sigma 16mm F1.4

Why I Picked It: Generally, I prefer zoom lenses, but for vlogging/YouTube videos we usually want to be pretty close to the camera so it feels more personal.  For us, the 16mm focal length on a crop sensor camera is perfect.  Plus, it’s crazy fast so we can slightly blur out the bookshelf behind our desk in our Youtube videos. My team and I use this lens in 90% of our Youtube videos now.

Compared to the Competition: Before we started using this lens, we were using the Sony 18-105.  We still use that lens for some outside shots where we need a longer focal length, but it’s rare.  It wasn’t fast enough for what we wanted.  Sony also makes a 16, but it is way more expensive for arguably no better quality.

Tripod: Sirui AM2-Series AM-284

Why I Picked It: This tripod is just so smooth; everything about it oozes quality. Where I’ve had many cheaper brands of tripod lose parts (still don’t know where all my tripod feet went) or break, I’ve never had any issues with this one. 

What They Could do to Improve: This particular model doesn’t have a center stock, which can be an issue for some if you like that freedom to adjust height. Because of it, the tripod doesn’t extend as high as my other recommendation further up this page. Also, good luck pronoucing “Sirui” – I’m still not sure how to. 

Video Lighting: Falcon Eyes RX-18TDX

Why I Picked It: I already recommended this one in the Next Level Tier on this page, because it’s just so good. I use this in almost every Channel Makers video as my primary light. 

Compared to the Competition: We got a much higher end video light a few months after getting the Falcon Eyes, and it just wasn’t as good. (If you’re curious it was this one, that turned out to be ~twice the price when you factor in a lighting box to go with it). The Falcon Eyes was more compact, lighter weight, more adjustable, and when it came down to it, just looked better.

Video Accent/RGB Lighting: Atomcube RX7

Why I Picked It: Solid build, excellent color accuracy and brightness, designed for professional lighting set ups, I love this RGB light. If you’re running multiple lights that need to be adjusted often, this is the best option I’ve found.

Compared to the Competition: There is one key factor that differentiated this light from the IVISII G2 in my battle of the RGB lights (video): the Atomcube (this one) has an app that ROCKS, and makes adjusting a single or multiple lights a cinch. 

Lavalier Microphone: Rode Wireless Go II

Why I Picked It: We said it’s upgrade time, and this lav mic is an upgrade in so many ways, but especially for 2 key reasons: 1) it’s wireless, and it’s wireless that WORKS RELIABLY. You’re able to directly connect the mic to your camera so the audio is synced during recording and eliminates that extra step in editing, and 2) there are 2 mics in the box, which means if you ever have more than one person in your videos, you can both record to the same camera/receiver at once.

Compared to the Competition: I’m a bit torn on this mic, because the Tascam I recommend elsewhere on this page is just so good. In the end it came down to getting that little extra convenience of wireless recording, from a solid audio device brand.

Streaming Adapter: Elgato Cam Link 4K

Why I Picked It: If you’re doing a lot of streaming or YouTube Live, this little piece of equipment is a must; with it you’re able to connect almost any camera to your computer and treat it like a webcam. Most cameras (and especially the ones on this page) are significantly better quality than a webcam, and allow for far more adjustment to picture, etc. on the camera itself. 

Compared to the Competition: There are a variety of brands offering this same capability, but I like the Elgato as a reliable, quality option. 

Editing Software: Final Cut Pro

Why I Picked It: I recommended Final Cut Pro above, but I’ll add here: because the software is SO widely used, there are a variety of LUTS, plugins, and more that are either free or can be purchased for a small fee that can make the software do just about anything you want it to. 

Compared to the Competition: Personally, I dislike paying for software monthly, and Final Cut is a single price that you purchase once then have for LIFE. The only drawback is that it’s Mac only, so the alternate I’d recommend is Davinci Resolve Studio, which is also a one time purchase, and works on PC, Mac and even Linux!

Important Legal Notice: This page contains affiliate links.  Channel Makers & Income School LLC is compensated for referring sales to Amazon and many other companies.  While we always do our best to be honest and only recommend the products and services we actually use and link, we want to be fully transparent about our relationship with these and other affiliate programs.