INTRODUCTION :: Don’t get overwhelmed with details

Making anything can be easy, or it can be hard. It depends on your level of experience, passion, enthusiasm and, crucially, support.

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Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success

-- Pablo Picasso

We know if we at InstructorHQ help you, if we add our experience and encouragement to your passion, you will go out and make great courses. You’ll succeed where so many others have quit because they couldn’t navigate the challenges of writing, shooting and marketing a course all on their own.

This is why InstructorHQ exists. We know that encouragement and a bloody good map will help you to make it.

This part of the online course process is where all the bodies lay strewn about the mountainside. The climb was too high for so many.

Many people have attempted creating a course without good direction and often solo. The odds of surviving, let alone thriving, are against them.

Physically recording your course has both artistic and technical challenges that can be daunting. But fear not.

We’ve been there, and done that, and made a lot of mistakes. We then marked those mistakes on the map so you could avoid them (ring lights anyone?). Over the years we’ve refined our guidance to show you the best route to getting over the hump of producing video courses that people will pay for over and over again.

There are many moving parts to creating the video content, but it’s a process. That means it’s plannable and repeatable. You can manage it. Yes, even you ‘squirrels on crack’ A.D.D. creative types.

You start at the beginning, make a lot of small decisions and at the end, you wind up where you intended. In our experience, good planning will be a huge key to your success, along with maintaining your excitement for creating a great course.

This guide will take you step-by-step through the mechanics of creating video content. Don’t quit, don’t get overwhelmed, just take it a step at a time and create courses that will improve the skills and lives of hundreds and thousands of viewers. You have our help, and we believe you can do it. So let’s begin the thousand-mile journey with the first few steps.

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The height of my goals will not hold me in awe, though I may stumble often before they are reached.

-- OG Mandino

REMEMBER, we update articles like this all the time, make sure you’ve subscribed to our free (and spam free) email list and fresh content and updates served just enough times you won’t get sick of us.

Video version of this article here

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The Major Steps to Recording Video(s) :: OVERVIEW

At this point, we’re going to take a bird’s eye view of the steps involved in recording your video course. We’ll skip the details and make a note of the major milestones.

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Perseverance and perspective until victory.

-- Lincoln Diaz-Balart

We encourage you to keep a notebook at all stages of your course creation, and the following headlines can be a rough guide to measuring your progress and keeping track of what needs doing. And, in what order.

We suggest writing them on a page each and then filling in the details as you plan and produce so you can check them off. This means you won’t get ambushed halfway through with something you forgot to prepare or plan for.


By this stage, you should have read our guide [insert link] on choosing a topic that has audience demand. By doing this, you should know WHO you are creating the course for, and the best way to address them, and the content.

You should have already created an outline, yep, we have a piece about that too.

Some people choose to write an entire script, an abbreviated shooting script (bullet points) or are happy enough to use the outline. Just so long as you know what you are going to say and do in each step, and how you are going to break the content into multiple (not too many) short videos.

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For someone who works in theatre, the rehearsal is where you discover everything. It is where the magic happens, where the script enters you and becomes part of you.

-- Alifazal

You need to map out what needs to filmed live, what’s a ‘talking head’ or piece to camera where you don’t move, and what is a ‘screencast’ or a live capture of your computer monitor (if you’re doing something software related, this will be your big one).

If you are demonstrating a process (like knitting) you might want to shoot a closeup and a wide shot at the same time. This makes editing much easier but will require 2 cameras.

If you are filming something dynamic, like forging an ax, you will probably need someone to follow you around with a camera and have one or two other cameras on fixed angles covering the whole scene, or a super close detail shot (often overhead for details). If it’s just you talking, then things just got simpler and it’s one camera, some audio and you in a comfortable spot.

Screen capture, or screencasting, is getting easier all the time with lots of software and online tutorials on how to do it (we’ll link to some shortly.)

Please consider filming yourself talking while you do a screen capture session – it’s a great relief for the audience to see you talk to them occasionally, and it means you can cover your edits by cutting between the screenshot and your headshot.

There are a large number of very successful courses filmed on just one camera and with a very simple setup – so don’t see this as a requirement (or excuse) to spend money like a mad bull in a camera store (guilty as charged!).

We want you to think through the process and consider the best (and simplest) way to achieve a good piece of video content.

There is an age-old expression, ‘show, don’t tell,’ that suggests with a little effort (like inserting photos, graphics or extra footage filmed at another time) you could bring more life to your videos – plan this out and write it down.

If you’re just starting, and most of you reading this are, remember to do what you can do well, don’t try to do everything in your first video or course. Grow with it as your skills and resources increase.

It’s your presentation as a person that’s most important to engage your audience, not fancy sets or camera tricks. Do what you can to let your personality come through and connect with your viewers.


Your script or outline – what are you going to say and how are you going to break that into multiple videos.

Prepare your shooting space – controlling the noise (turn off your phone, etc.), what’s in the background of your shot, where are the lights and camera going to go physically, etc.

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There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.

-- Colin Powell

Prepare yourself – get your voice warmed up, think about what you are going to wear (go simple) and some camera-ready makeup if you need it (go simple!).

Prepare your assets – do you need props or tools? Are they ready and easy to grab? If you’re doing a screencast do you have all the software and assets you will be using in the right order and the right place?

Check before and after you shoot – make sure your audio levels are good, check your camera’s shot and focus (hint: turn off auto exposure and focus once it’s set if you’re not moving) and make sure your memory cards or hard drives have plenty of space free. Once you’ve shot something, immediately review it (at least check the beginning, middle, and end) to make sure everything worked, and nothing drifted off during the recording. You can also review your performance, and if you think you could do better (more energy?) do it now while you’re still set up and it’s fresh in your mind.

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What we can control is our performance and our execution, and that’s what we’re going to focus on.

-- Bill Belichick

Essential Equipment and Resources:

You’ve hopefully already thought through the process of making a video and realized you need some (not all, and not the ‘best’) equipment.

This section will quickly deal with WHY you need to be paying attention, and later on, we’ll get into specific recommendations. You can, in theory, make an entire course on your phone – from writing it to filming it, to editing it to uploading and maintaining and engaging your audience. While it’s possible, and we getter closer with every generation of iPhone, it’s still going to be easier in 2020 to use a more traditional approach with a decent laptop/desktop and a camera.

The reason for this is that phones lack the horsepower, the storage capacity, and the mature software to easily work your way through the production process. But with a bit of determination and trial and error, it’s doable.

If this methodology appeals to you -TRY IT. Test your ideas, make a video, then compare your results with other successful courses and try uploading a test to Udemy to see if you meet their requirements.

For the normal production process, you will need (in approximate order of importance):


A decent laptop (they tend to have smaller slow hard drives making video editing harder) or a desktop. If you upgrade your RAM and hard drive (SSD, NVMe) they tend to run more reliably. You will be writing, recording, and editing on your computer – it’s a tool worth investing in and you’ll get years out of a good one.

A good graphics card is very helpful for video editing and screen capture. You can’t upgrade your laptop, but many people can add a proper card to their desktop easily (the one built into your motherboard is often maxed out just running windows).

2 Monitors make life a lot easier for screen capture – you capture one and keep your notes on the other. It’s also great for video editing – you edit on one and get a full-screen preview on the other. Screens are very affordable – just make sure your video card supports more than one output.


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The sound and music are at least 50% of the entertainment in a movie.

-- George Lucas

Good sound is more important than picture quality. There’s a ton of research around this that also points out that bad sound will drive your audience away faster than anything else technical.

This is why the mic built-in with your earbuds will NOT cut it. Nobody likes shrill audio, and your audio better sound cleaner than a cell phone call in a tunnel.

A good microphone will last you a lifetime – providing you don’t smoke or drink all over it. Microphones hold their value (unlike cameras).

Every mic sounds different on different voices and in different spaces – you should try before you buy if possible.

Don’t cheap out – invest in something reasonable and you won’t need to ‘upgrade’ as soon as your video courses take off. At the same time, you are not Orson Wells or Mariah Carey and you don’t need a vintage studio mic either.

You should consider getting a quality audio interface, it allows a better mic signal into the computer (less hiss) and you also get much higher quality outputs to your headphones and/or speakers.

If you monitor your audio on earbuds or those little tiny plastic speakers that came with your computer, you will not be able to hear half of what is going on with your sound. A typical giveaway is that your recordings have far too much bass (because your little speakers can’t reproduce anything below a typical voice’s frequencies).

Beats by Dre are NOT studio headphones (if you saw a rock star using them in a studio, that was product placement). Earbuds are NOT studio headphones.

You need to hear everything that’s going into your videos because somewhere out there your audience is hearing everything too.

You also need to think about how you plan to record your sound. If you are moving about doing a demonstration as part of your videos, you will need a lapel mic (AKA lavaliere) and probably a wireless connection to your camera or recorder. A quick note at this point – those tiny little mics are convenient, but NEVER sound as good as a larger mic (which is why movies/TV use boom mics instead).

If you are sitting still on camera, you can boom a mic (just a simple mic stand will do) over your head just out of shot. Or you can place it just under the shot pointing up if your shot is tight enough.

If you choose well, you can use the same mic for booming that you use for recording voice only when not on camera.

Some people elect to show the microphone on camera – it’s a choice, but we feel it’s untidy and distracting – especially if it’s between you and the camera. You don’t talk to people normally like that, so don’t make videos that make people feel something is between you and them.

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You’re only as good as your weakest link in the ecosystem of sound, of audio.

―- Jimmy Iovine


Great lighting will make an average camera look good. Sucky lighting will kill even a broadcast camera and produce ugly pictures.

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Lighting is everything. It creates mood and has an emotional effect on you.

―- Zak Bagans

We will link to some of the many, many, YouTube videos about how to light your talking head video, but you should keep an eye out for how the rest of your room is lit, just as much as your face.

Our eyes are attracted to the brightest thing in the frame (the white wall behind you?) and we love color separation (hint: colored light is easier than painting that wall). Most cameras don’t do well with deep shadows – they will either overexpose to find detail in the shadows or will be fooled by something bright in the frame and crush the shadows (usually resulting in you having raccoon eyes).

We will link to some of the many, many, YouTube videos about how to light your talking head video, but you should keep an eye out for how the rest of your room is lit, just as much as your face.

Our eyes are attracted to the brightest thing in the frame (the white wall behind you?) and we love color separation (hint: colored light is easier than painting that wall). Most cameras don’t do well with deep shadows – they will either overexpose to find detail in the shadows or will be fooled by something bright in the frame and crush the shadows (usually resulting in you having raccoon eyes).

You need soft even light on your face, and we recommend the rest of the room is NOT brighter than you.

You get what you pay for in lights – and cameras interpret light differently. A cheap LED will lead to a purple or green cast to your skin that can be difficult to correct. We’ll make some recommendations, but again, this is an area to try things and experiment, and watch lots of videos on how to light yourself properly – it’s not hard, but you have to make the effort.

It’s tempting to say ‘I’ll just sit by the window – which is a guarantee that it will start raining and turn dull. You need consistent light in all your videos at all times of the day so you can film when it suits you, and so you don’t have to quit halfway through.


These get cheaper and better every year – but there are limits to how cheap you should go. The biggest factor is having manual control over your image.

You need to be able to set your exposure and your focus and not have them drift or change as the video progresses. It’s very distracting if the brightness keeps changing, or the focus ‘hunts’ in and out all the time.

Unfortunately, most super affordable camcorders lack manual controls and it can be hard to get them to behave. The higher end of Sony, JVC, and Panasonic ‘consumer’ camcorders make great HD pictures, have a screen you can reverse to see yourself on, and have manual controls – the essential ingredient.

Hundreds of ‘photography’ style cameras can film well and have manual controls. ‘Mirrorless’ cameras usually have better video features, though Canon and Nikon DSLRs also work well. Do your research, we’ll make some recommendations later on.

In many cases you will have options to buy a lens for your camera – faster lenses (f-stops) on cameras with larger sensors (typically DSLRs, not camcorders) create ‘shallow depth of field’ – you can get the background out of focus. Getting obsessed with this has led to far too many video makers spending far too much. Just make sure you’re large in the frame and the background isn’t distracting and you’ll be fine.

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Even with cameras being very cheap, one thing that researchers noticed was that you look really bad in a videoconference image because the lighting is bad and you get shadows and things.

―- Bill Gates

Webcams and GoPro cameras tend to look like security cameras because they are unnaturally wide. They also tend to have poor image quality and few if any manual controls. BUT: if all you’ve got is a webcam, spend the money on a reasonable microphone and a light and get started.

If all you have is a smartphone, good lighting and good audio will overcome many of the limitations of using your phone.

With anything camera related, USE A TRIPOD or have some way to position your camera properly and hold it still. There are lots of arms and clamps you can buy to stick your camera to your desk (especially great for filming yourself while doing a screen capture session) or to your mic stand so you don’t have to fit a tripod in between you and your desk.

We couldn’t wait, because this video (and this channel) is SOOO cool!

Check out how to put all your filming and audio gear (even the lights) on your desk!

The set/shooting space

‘Where’ you film has a lot to say about your content. If you’re talking about knotting, perhaps the local airport isn’t the right setting – but a cozy chair by the fireside, or even the woolshed on a farm might be cool.

Don’t limit yourself to a plain room with white walls if you’re going to demonstrate something with action.

If you mostly do screencasts, then you are under a lot less pressure to think ‘where’ you should shoot, but still think about what the audience sees. What’s in the background? Do they see your hands on the mouse and keyboard? What colors and how are things lit?

If you simply talk to the camera (introduction to understanding ancient Greek philosophy for example) you could shoot your video somewhere interesting – like a library with a collection of books adding to the ‘weight’ of your video. Be creative. (PS, consider getting after-hours access to a cool looking location when it’s quiet and you can film uninterrupted).

Yeah, it’s more work to shoot stuff in the field, and you’ll probably need help – but you can work up to that, and let’s be honest, most videos need a bit of ‘extra’ to separate them from the herd.

Do respect copyright if displaying artwork (band posters etc) in the background. Be wise.

Just try and get beyond the white wall behind you. Wear clothes that don’t clash with your filming background.

And finally, consider the sound implications of where you shoot.

Pick a spot that has soft furnishings and carpet and you won’t get the boxy ‘reverb’ of hard walls or tiled floors. Be aware of ambient noise (as the carpenter next door to me fires up his saw for the 100th time today). Traffic, kids, pets will all factor into where you should shoot.

We will delve into fixing the acoustic situation of at least your own space for making videos, but you can go a long way with fabric or colored light or posters to making your ‘set’ look nice without being distracting.

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Lighting is a good way to change the look of a place without spending much.

―- Bobby Berk

Ok, here are a few curated YouTube videos that have great ideas, but you don’t have to do all of it the first time. Or even the 2nd. Work up to it as your experience and resources (not to mention need) grow.

First up, Jeremy Siers (you don’t need a beard and ink to look cool. Start with the hat maybe LOL)

The (in)famous Peter McKinnon.

The uber YouTuber Nick Nimmin

DSLR Video Shooter

Becki and Chris have lots of helpful tips for anyone creating a video in the home ‘space’ (whatever you have). This one is about designing a room for filming in.

A Checklist for Shooting a Piece to Camera

  • Is the camera plugged into power or is there enough battery to last while you talk?
  • Set your white balance, set your exposure and set your focus, then set the controls to manual so they won’t change during the recording
  • Check your audio: does it sound good, is the mic in the right place, are your levels set properly
  • Final looks: is your hair, makeup, and wardrobe looking it’s best?
  • Are notes ready? Are props ready? Are assets ready? Do you have everything you need in the right order, and are your notes easy to read as you go?
  • If you are recording your audio separate from the camera, sync by clapping on camera so you can see and hear the sync point
  • Slate your take: write it on a piece of paper, hold it up to the camera and read it out while the camera is recording so you have a visual and audible method of knowing which clip is which
  • Make sure the camera and audio (and computer if screencasting) are recording.
  • When you’ve finished, stop recording, then do a quick playback check to make sure EVERYTHING kept recording properly to the end.
  • Think you could do a better take? Do It! You can choose which take later on, but go while it’s fresh in your mind and you’re still set up!

The Detailed Stuff:

Choosing video editing software

Video editing has many professional (and semi-pro) options with its gangs of diehard users. So, if you get serious, there are tons of tutorials and support from every direction. The three most popular: Adobe Premiere, DaVinci Resolve & Final Cut Pro. That last one only works on a Mac. DaVinci is free for all but the most elaborate features and Premier requires a cloud subscription. Pick one and move on – they all work amazingly well, and they all have a learning curve marginally better than the Matterhorn.

But, if you’re not sure, and you don’t want to get deep into learning a complex video editing app, then try either of the most popular free options:

Apple iMovie

(comes free with a Mac or use it on your iPad)

Window Movie Maker

(comes free with Windows)

DaVinci Resolve 16

Professional-level tools for editing including video editing, visual effects, motion graphics, color correction, and audio postproduction, all in a single application. And it’s free with a paid upgrade to super-pro version – but the free version is more than enough for most people. And there are tons of training videos (official and YouTube).

DaVinci Resolve 16

Adobe Premiere Pro CC Icon

Adobe Premiere Pro CC

Everything you need from editing to titles to pretty robust motion graphics (although Adobe After Effects is for that) and audio. There are always new versions and new tutorials for getting started:

If you are a power user of any other Adobe products, or you already have a cloud subscription (and yes, you can move projects around from PS to AE to Pr to Au) this is probably the right choice. There is a cut down version of Premier (Elements) but you might as well use a free option instead.

Adobe Premiere Pro CC

Apple Final Cut Pro icon

Apple Final Cut Pro

Final Cut has a huge fan base, and therefore a lot of support (for free) and it deserves its place as one of the top choices. It has everything you need for creating very robust video content. But, as we’ve said, it’s only for Mac users. Whereas the other 2 choices work on Mac or PC. Watch some tutorials here to see if you might be interested:

With any tutorials, be sure they’re using the same version of the software that you have.

Apple Final Cut Pro

Magix Vegas Icon

Magix Vegas

This app comes in several flavors (at corresponding prices) but even its most basic version is suitable for almost all video production. Vegas is very easy to learn and is very affordable. It’s the perfect middle ground though not as popular as the ‘big 3.’ Until recently, it was owned by Sony, so you’ll see a lot of references to ‘Sony Vegas.’

The only drawback is that you might find it harder to find someone else to edit your projects if you get in over your head, where the other 3 have so many users you can hire help or outsource your editing at any stage easily.

For anyone starting in video editing who doesn’t want to be limited by the free iMovie or Movie Maker apps, this is worth a look.

Magix Vegas

Screencast/screen capture software & tips

If you’re teaching software, or anything computer related, chances are you want to record what’s happening on your screen. We’ll just quickly repeat the advice that 2 screens on your computer meaning you can control your recording and notes on one and record the 2nd screen without interruption.

Again, you have the choice of going the free route (and why not, in this arena, there are a lot of great free choices: We use Camtasia which is a paid product, but we’ve had no problems starting with QuickTime (Mac) or the Xbox app (Win).

Camtasia Icon


There is a free version of Camtasia to try, but your final output is covered by a huge watermark. Test it out and watch a couple of tutorials before you commit. This is the software that Dan uses and its PC or Mac, but at US$250 it’s a commitment.

Here’s a YouTube link to several tutorials and overviews of how Camtasia works, and it features:


OBS Studio Icon

OBS Studio:

There is a free version of Camtasia to try, but your final output is covered by a huge watermark. Test it out and watch a couple of tutorials before you commit. This is the software that Dan uses and its PC or Mac, but at US$250 it’s a commitment.

Here’s a YouTube link to several tutorials and overviews of how Camtasia works, and it features:


OBS Studio Icon

Using QuickTime on a Mac

Super powerful screen and live streaming software for free? Yes! And it has a lot of fans and support out there, including hardware controls and plugins.

It’s easy to use, works on PC, Mac or Linux and is used by some well-known gamers and professional streamers.

Use the link above to download, then watch this tutorial for doing a screencast:

OBS Studio Icon

Using the Xbox app on PC

Open up the Xbox app (or type Xbox in the search bar). Once you’ve done that, hold the ‘Windows’ + ‘G’ keys and click ‘Yes, this is a game’ when prompted.

You can make adjustments in the ‘Game DVR’ options. Set your recording resolution (hint: make sure it’s the same as your screen resolution to capture the whole screen) and your audio requirements.

When ready, click the ‘Record’ button and off you go. When you’ve stopped, your video will automatically be saved in your ‘Videos/Capture’ folder (typically on your C: drive).

Here’s a quick tutorial video:

Some tips:

Setting up your computer for screen capture is time well spent for several reasons. It’s pretty frustrating to start editing your videos and notice things well after your 40-minute recording session like notifications going off (Dan’s doe this in a couple of videos and it’s still hilarious to everyone but him).

Backgrounds: don’t have anything copyright, inappropriate to your audience (pretty much anything in this day and age, but especially manga and anime Femme Fatales) or distracting. Consider a ‘neutral’ (read boring but not distracting) color.

Turn off date and time: want to reuse that footage 2 years later? Don’t want your audience wondering why 3 gallons of coffee and 3 AM are your jam?

Resolutions: set up your screen to HD resolution (1920x1080) or the nearest setting to that for maximum compatibility with your viewers. Even if they view it on low res, the aspect ratio will be correct in the media player.

Safe Area

Safe Area: due to a ridiculous hangover from old tube-based displays, even modern TVs (the one in your lounge) don’t by default show the outer 10% of a video image. This is very annoying if something important is outside the ‘safe zone’ and can’t be seen. If it’s going to be an issue for you, shrink the working window of your software a little bit (say, 10%?) so everything important (like the menu at the top of a window) is visible to your ENTIRE audience.

Hard drives

Hard drives: Its always better to record data to a different drive than the one windows runs on. Windows has a lame attitude to suddenly prioritizing its need to update apps you’ve never used (EVER!) and corrupt your screen capture. [image019] optional – find your own if you want

Turn off auto-updates and notifications: any an all excuses for your computer to randomly plaster something on-screen (your proctologist just like you on Facebook) will be pursued by the fates to disrupt your session. Turn off all notifications, and windows updates and other apps that you don’t need.

Audio for video

Audio Technica AT2020USB

The short and simple method: get a USB microphone (Audio Technica AT2020USB) and connect it to your computer (you can plug your headphones into the mic itself for better monitoring). Record your sound on the computer and video on your camera – clap your hands ‘on camera’ so you can see/hear where to match the audio and video files up in your editing software.

Audio Technica AT2020USB

The camera version: many affordable cameras (DSLR, Mirrorless, Camcorders) can record audio and have a 3.5mm (1/8”) input jack. You can find many mics that will work with this, but there are a few limitations. Many cameras have noisy inputs (hiss), no headphone jacks (so you can’t check your audio is working well) and there are a lot of poor-quality microphones in this space.

The obvious reason you would use your camera to record your sound is the audio and the video are all together in one file making it easier to edit.

Here are a couple of well known and reliable options for adding a mic to your camera:

The Rode Video Micro [image022] ( or the Deity V-Mic D3 either the standard version ( or the pro version ([image023]

Here’s a super important tip!!

Don’t put the mic on the camera – put it on a mic stand. Get the mic closer to your mouth (as close as you can without being in the shot) and use a 3.5mm extension cable to connect to the camera.

Don’t use the mic in your camera, and don’t put the mic on your camera!

The mic in your camera or camcorder is usually an ‘omnidirectional’ mic. This means it hears everything in every direction, which usually includes every tiny little noise your camera makes.

The closer to your mouth the mic is, the more we will hear you instead of background noises and sound reflecting off walls (that boxy or hollow sound).

Putting your mic on your camera means it’s suddenly nowhere near close enough to you.

Also, the further away your mic is, the more ‘gain’ (amplified volume) your device needs to get a good level, and at the ‘affordable’ end of the budget, more gain means more noise (hiss) from electronics struggling to boost the signal high enough.

An alternative strategy is to use a wireless lapel mic. These have the 3.5mm outputs to suit most cameras and you won’t need a mic stand. This is the only way to fly if you move about on camera doing demos.

Lapel mics don’t sound as good as studio mics, and you have to learn how to position them correctly.

Affordable (but still quality) versions include:



Camera with Pro Mics: If your camera has balanced audio inputs (XLR connections) you can go ahead and plug your mic in (use a mic cable) and off you go!

If you’re new (or noob), those sorts of cameras can be VERY expensive, but fear not! You can buy an interface for your camera (Sony and Panasonic make very good XLR adapters for their mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras like the A7 series and the GH5).

Here’s’ a list of options from a well-loved retail website:

(use it as a jumping-off point for research):

We love most of the Beachtek ( stuff

Marantz PMD 602a preamp

Here is a review of the very affordable Marantz PMD 602a preamp

Tascam DR-60DMKII

A very clever option for a bit more money (hint: audio gear is pretty resilient, check the used market online) is the Tascam DR-60DMKII ( which is also a standalone audio recorder and mounts under your camera.

The Computer version: A good sound card (AKA audio interface) will have knobs for volume controls. This is super convenient because you can’t go clicking around the screen for volume controls during screen capture. There are dozens of affordable models to choose from, but we suggest you start with ‘PreSonus’ branded equipment for the best quality/features/value rations.

They have an ‘AudioBox iTwo Studio’ bundle that includes the soundcard, a studio mic, quality headphones, and powerful audio software. You can get similar bundles from Focusrite who also make a great bang for your buck product range as well.

Amp mic headphones

Plug your mic and headphones into your audio interface, the USB from the interface connects your computer and all the audio in and out of your device now goes through the higher quality of your soundcard.

The good ones have much higher quality mic preamps and ‘balanced’ connections (a 3-pin plug called an XLR) that’ shielded against interference from your cell phone and your PC.

You can record audio at any time to your PC, whether it’s a screencast (where your software will generally record the audio alongside the screen capture in the same file) or separately from your camera (remember to ‘sync’ your sound and picture by clapping your hands together on camera at the beginning so you can ‘see’ and ‘hear’ where the audio and picture meet when you match the 2 files together in video editing.

The Audio Recorder Version: We don’t recommend this slightly more advanced technique especially for beginners as the cost is higher and so is the complexity. But, you might have access to an audio recorder. If so, here’s how to use it to record your audio.

It’s the same as the ‘computer version’ because a good audio recorder can connect to your computer via USB and become your ‘soundcard’ or sit on your desk on all on its recording audio to an SD card. You get proper audio inputs, manual controls, and a headphone jack. The bonus is you can take the audio recorder anywhere you want and simply record audio – super handy if the only quiet place you can do your recording is a closet (an old podcast trick for a quiet space with no reverb). The best out there for this application is the rather pricey MixPre3 by Sound Devices (

MixPre3 by Sound Devices
Tascam range

But a great starting point (affordable and still high quality is the Zoom series of recorders (H4n, H6, etc)

or the Tascam range Look for a recorder that is USB compatible, has XLR inputs and a decently sized headphone volume control.

Choosing and using a microphone

This can be as tormenting and fun as picking a camera and a lens. So many options, so much gear to drool over and convince yourself to spend more than you should. If you have G.A.S. (gear acquisition syndrome) you could lose yourself down the rabbit hole here.

Stop. Consider that you need a reasonable mic (and after SU$100 most big brands do good work) to record your voice, not a high-end pro tool better suited to The Hit Factory or Abbey Road Studios.

Your Get out of Jail Free Card:

The Audio Technica AT2020USB

If you plan to go the USB into your computer route: The Audio Technica AT2020USB

The Audio Technica AT2035

If you can use an XLR input into a device/adapter/sound card: The Audio Technica AT2035

Rode Videomicro

If you want something with a 3.5mm jack to plug into your camera: The Rode Videomicro Get a mic cable, 3.5mm extension cable or super-long USB cable and put your mic on a mic stand with a long boom arm.

USB vs Studio mic

A USB mic has all the analog to digital conversion inside the mic, and they frequently have a headphone jack with a physical control to mix between what the mic hears and what your computer is playing back.

The single biggest obstacle is usually the short length of a USB cable. The USB spec is a maximum of 3 meters (9 feet 10 inches).

A ‘Studio’ mic may or may not need ‘Phantom Power’ – 48v that travels down the mic cable to power the active electronics inside the mic.

Different types of mics

Need it in total detail?:

The first major distinction is ‘dynamic’ mics or ‘condenser’ mics.

Shure Sm7b or EV Re20

Dynamic mics have low output but don’t need power and are electrically and mechanically very simple and robust. The Shure Sm7b or EV Re20 are studio favorites for voice recording. You’ll see a lot of them in podcasts and radio studios. These mics tend to emphasize ‘bass response (think Barry White) and make you sound more authoritative.

If you are not monitoring your audio correctly, this can come out as muffled or boomy if you’re not paying attention.

Dynamic mics are popular BECAUSE they are less sensitive – meaning if it’s always just a couple of inches from your mouth, they don’t get a lot of ‘mouth noise’ or ‘ambient’ noise (room sound) and if set up well can cover a multitude of sins in your room and mic technique.

Their low output means you need a good ‘preamp’ – the bit that amplifies the mic signal to convert it to something your computer/camera can record. If you have a good audio interface, you’ll be ok, but many (cheap) audio recorders or cameras struggle to get enough signal without a lot of noise.

Neumann U87

Condenser mics are much more sensitive, meaning you need less gain (which makes hiss/noise) in whatever is recording to get a good level. The Neumann U87 is a gold standard for voice-over artists, but it’s also hella expensive.

Audio Technica AT2035

The Audio Technica AT2035 or (new) Rode NT1 are popular choices; great sounding and budget-friendly.

Microphone power:

‘Phantom Power’ 12v or 48v supplied from the preamp/whatever you plugged into. Lots of power means the mic can have quality electronics for much better sound quality and sensitivity.

‘Plugin or Plug-In’ power: camcorders put out a tiny amount of voltage to get a circuit working on simple mics like the Rode Videomicro or many lapel mics. These devices usually have less sensitivity to sound, so you need more gain and get more ‘noise/hiss.’ In practical terms, if the mic is close enough to you, there is enough volume that the mic doesn’t have to work hard and you’ll get a decent sound.

Battery Power: Many mics have either a replaceable AA or AAA battery inside or a rechargeable battery that you can top up by connecting a USB cable occasionally. Most of these last for days of continued use. This is super useful if the device you are connecting too cannot supply ‘phantom power (see above) to power the microphone’s electronics. The popular Deity V-mic V3 has AAA battery inside, the V3 Pro version has a rechargeable battery inside.

Rode NTG1

Great examples of the many options available are the venerable Rode NTG1 (a shotgun mic that needs phantom power) and the NTG2 (the same mic with a battery inside). The NTG1 is shorter because it doesn’t need to accommodate a battery. The NTG2 can run on phantom or battery, great for when your camcorder doesn’t provide phantom power.

Microphone power:

Polar Patterns

The directionality of a mic determines where it hears (some hear in every direction evenly: omnidirectional.’ Some only from the front and very little from the sides: shotgun or hyper-cardioid.

The most common (especially for voice recording) are ‘cardioid’ mics – they have a heart-shaped (or ace of spades) pickup pattern being sensitive from the front and sides of the mic, and almost deaf from the rear

Large or Small Diaphragm:

How large the surface area of a mic’s diaphragm is (the usually round bit that vibrates under acoustic pressure and converts it to an electrical impulse) determines how sensitive it is. The smaller it is, the more it tends to be accurate. Too small = too noisy. Tool large = flabby and inaccurate sound.

In practical terms – larger diaphragm mics tend to sound ‘richer, warmer, more Barry White [insert your ideal character here]’ and people generally like that ‘sound.’ It’s all about the character.

Small diaphragm mics

Small diaphragm mics are more accurate and are favored for ‘natural sound.’ Because they tend to be physically (vastly) smaller they are less obtrusive in a shot, or easier to boom without needing a super heavy-duty boom stand.

Whatever you plug into does all the rest of the work converting the audio into something your computer/camera can ‘hear.’ A good mic with a balanced output (XLR) can run a cable half a mile without trouble (though the price of copper these days makes that a bit impractical). In practical terms, it’s not going to suffer from interference from your cell phone or computer. That’s call RF interference. If you hear a lot of pulsing, clicking or strange noises, that’s probably the culprit.

You get a high-quality audio signal coming from a quality mic that can plug into a lot of different devices.

An audio interface (sound card) for your computer does what the USB connection of a USB mic does but has generally better audio quality and nice big knobs for controlling everything.

USB mics have poor resale value, studio mics in good condition hold their value over many years. If you’re not sure how serious you are about making online video courses, borrow something, or buy something used to start with. Just remember that quality audio is pretty damned important in keeping your audience engaged.

Shotgun vs lapel vs studio mics

Shotgun mics are great for ‘extra reach’ when booming overhead or if you can’t quite get the mic closer – it’s an illusion because the mic hears very little from the sides and is most sensitive to the front of the mic. This is a good thing, but it achieves this by canceling out the sounds from the sides of the mic with an ‘interference’ tube. These are the little slots along the sides of the mics body tube. Unfortunate, short reflections from nearby walls and ceilings wreak havoc on this system and the longer a shotgun mic, the worse it can sound in a small room.

Little short shotguns like the various offering from Deity can be great for booming but still work well inside, unlike the industry standard Sennheiser MKH416 that needs a room with very controlled acoustics to not sound terrible.

Hyper cardioid or Super cardioid mics are the preferred choices indoors if you still want the mic to be ‘out of frame’ or just off-camera. The Audio Technica 4053b ( is the most affordable professional choice and is a great ‘natural’ sounding mic. But it’s still pretty expensive.

Sennheiser MKH416 The Audio Technica 4053b
Rode Videomicro

Cardioid mics can be boomed (the Rode Videomicro is great for this) but I suggest you use a ‘small-diaphragm’ mic (the diaphragm is the round flat plate inside the mic that actually picks up the sound) like a Rode M5 [image046] – mostly because they are smaller, often cheaper, and easier to boom.

But, if your mic stand is up to it (use a counterweight on the other end of the boom arm) boom your studio mic just beneath your shot, or just above it – whichever lets you get the mic closest to your mouth. Just remember, the reason it’s better to boom with a more directional mic is so you don’t hear ‘the room’ and ambient noise competing with your voice. Dogs barking and your kids playing Nintendo are rookie mistakes.

Many presenters are happy to show their mic on camera – nothing wrong with this as long as it’s not covering your face and not larger than your head because it’s closer to the camera on a wide-angle shot. Remember to minimize the number of things that distance or separate you from your viewer.

Lapel Mics: small (nay, tiny) mics that get their name because they sit on your lapels – except I recommend you put them ‘third button down’ in the center of your chest (on the breastbone or where your bra cups meet in the middle).

They can be invisible or so small you won’t see them anyway, so why not use them all the time? The very thing that makes them work is that they are tiny but that means poor sensitivity, and therefore they’re noticeably noisier. Because they are so close to your mouth, they get ‘enough’ volume but again, they are so close your head movements can make the sound change and get quite muffled if you talk ‘away’ from the mic.

Where lapel mics usually earn their keep is as part of a wireless mic setup where you can walk around and not worry about cables or trying to boom a mic.

Sennheiser MKE2-EW-Gold

You absolutely get what you pay for in lapel mics – the TRAM TR50 or Sanken Cos11 or Countryman B6 or Sennheiser MKE2-EW-Gold are priced accordingly but sound decidedly decent compared to the mics that come ‘free’ with your wireless mic setup (which usually sound noisy, honky and in some cases shrill.

Recommended affordable regular studio mics to record your voice on:

use this as a starting point for trying mics, and if you can, try before you buy.

Samson C01

Samson C01 (super value!)

This mic is a little more directional (tighter pickup at high frequencies) and very sensitive, it can be boomed with ease, and its great value. It just freak’n works.

Audio-Technica AT2035

Audio-Technica AT2035 Large-Diaphragm Condenser Microphone (Great sound, awesome price)

It comes with a very good shock mount and windshield, sounds smooth (great for thin, shrill voices, smooths out mouth noises very well). Terrific build quality too.

CAD E100s

CAD E100s (Highest quality)

Relatively affordable (compared to super high-end German mics at least) and the secret weapon of many pro voiceover artists. It has ridiculously low self-noise, is very directional (sound amazing boomed or up close) and sounds incredibly ‘invisible’ – less flattering but more natural. If you can afford it, it’s pretty amazing on most voices.

Rode NT1

Rode NT1 (Reliably quality)

Make sure you get the latest (black body) version of this mic (and not the NT1a) because it’s a stunning improvement over older versions. Clean, clear and natural, but you can still ‘work’ this mic for a bit of character, and it’s a little tighter in the high frequencies meaning it’s more forgiving to room noise. You can get the mic in a kit with a shock mount and pop screen.

Audio Technica AT875r Shotgun Mic

Audio Technica AT875r Shotgun Mic (the great all ‘rounder)

For what it can do, vs the price, this is worth a long hard look at. Despite being a ‘shotgun’ mic, the (slightly different from normal) design is fairly impervious to bad acoustics unlike it’s more ‘ahem’ expensive competition.

You can boom with this, and you can use it up close as the main mic (famed podcast ‘99% Invisible’ does). You will need to find a windshield and a shock mount. Not because it’s windy; for your ‘plosives’ from your breath, and because it’s susceptible (like almost all mics) to stand, AC, and handling noise.

If you want more (and there’s a ton more) start with this mic shoot out for voice-over:

Audio Accessories:

Channel Strips

A channel strip is a ‘preamplifier’ (it turns the mics’ tiny output into something more usable for your recording device) or ‘pre’ that also has EQ (change the frequency response) and often a compressor (smooth out your volume so you don’t get too loud). Some also come with an ‘expander’ that makes sure your levels are not to low as well. You can also get features designed to ‘enhance’ your sound like ‘Big bottom’ which adds some weight to your…voice.

If your channel strip has a ‘de-esser’ you can tame those pesky sibilant sounds from your ‘s’ and ‘t’ sounds making your voice easier on the listener’s ear.

They take a mic signal, then process it and output a line-level signal you can then send to your recorder or audio interface. Much of what you can do here as far as ‘processing’ or altering your sound can be done in software, but it’s often easier to do it with a channel strip, and some have circuits that add ‘the magic’ that software struggles to match.

Not an essential accessory, but if you’ve got the coin, then have a look.

dbx 286s Aphex Channel - Master Preamp and Input Processor

dbx 286s

Simple enough for a noob to make good use of, and very affordable. This will make you sound better in ways that are not ‘for trained ears only.’

Aphex Channel - Master Preamp and Input Processor

Professional gear at a corresponding price but found in many a radio station for good reason.

Shock mount

Shock mounts

Shock mounts Microphones convert acoustic pressure (changes in the air) to electrical signals but as a result of being so sensitive, any mechanical vibrations (bumping the mic, the stand, or the desk your mic sits on) get amplified like a train wreck.

Some mics have ‘internal’ shock mounting, but that’s kind of the minimum, and especially if your mic is mounted in some way to a wood floor or your desk, you should get a shock mount.

They come in two basic flavors – the ‘spider’ mount or ‘cradle’ that holds the mic at the bottom, then connects to the outside world by rubber bands, hardened plastic or silicone which will not transmit the vibrations to the mic from the stand. The other most common is the type that clips onto your mic body with a plastic ‘structure’ or clips which are in turn connected to something that kills vibration. This is how most ‘shotgun’ mics are mounted (often inside a windshield).

Shock mount

Rycote is the most commonly known manufacturer who invented half of what we know about getting it right. Rode makes licensed copies of the designs which are available (or sometimes included) with their mics.

Shock mount

Rycote’s website ( has a tool for finding your mic and an appropriate shock mount Be sure to be careful about how you place your mic cable because it too can transmit vibrations. Rycote’s designs can hold the cable in check too.

Mic stands vs boom arms

Mic boom

If you’ve ever had the unpleasant task sorting through mic stands on a major website, you’ll know there are as many brands and designs as there are grains of sands in an hourglass (and like the Days of our lives…).

You do get what you pay for, but fortunately, in the grand scheme of things, it’s still pretty affordable.

You should get the biggest (and highest weight capacity) stand you can reasonably afford (still typically less than US$100). If you are putting a ‘studio’ mic on the far end, get a sandbag/counterweight to go on the other end. A sandbag on the bottom of your stand is cheap insurance against putting several hundred buck’s worth of mic through your computer monitor (or crashing to the floor).

Podcasters and radio types love their boom arms – but probably for different reasons than you might think. They can be noisy, droop and be magnets for mechanical noise getting picked up by your mic. So, if you’re going that route, get a good one. Rode makes a good one you can afford. Watch several reviews and check the weight capacity before you take the plunge.


Boom arms are best used when space is at a premium (radio stations are notorious for this; the ad sales guy’s office is always 3x larger than the broadcast ‘booth’).

The advantage of a proper mic stand with a boom arm is you can position your mic more flexibly, especially if you want to boom your mic just out of shot.

You can, of course, do both as it suits. As long as you don’t mind moving your mic and shock mount from one to the other (which is why despite my tiny office/studio I still use a stand).

Popper stopper/windshields

Popper stopper/windshields

You need one, even if you boom your mic. ‘B’s and ‘P’s’ are notorious for blasting air onto the mic which creates a ‘popping sound’ that can ruin your recording (and it’s hard on your mic).

Rycote is a great place to start if you want something for a small mic or shotgun mic. There are a lot of choices for regular studio mics.

Aston Microphones SwiftShield

Here’s an all in one solution (though not cheap, it’s well made):

Aston Microphones SwiftShield Universal Shockmount and Pop Filter. (

Rycote InVision Universal Pop Filter

Rycote InVision Universal Pop Filter


Royer Labs PS101 - Metal Round Pop Filter with Gooseneck

( there are lots of copies of this design.

If your mic came with some sort of foam windshield, and you’re booming inside (even without moving), use it. Air conditioning and gentle breeze can produce destructive low frequency ‘rumble’ that many people can’t hear because their monitoring setup isn’t adequate (and from people like me who have great monitors and headphones: you drive us nuts! Tame your bass!)


Unless you spend more money on fixing your room acoustics and get serious about your studio monitors (not the plastic speakers plugged into your PC) you are going to need GREAT headphones.

You need headphones designed for accuracy – NOT FOR SOUNDING GOOD! If your headphones are bass boosted, you’ll mix your bass badly (often meaning it sounds gutless to the rest of us). You want to hear every little flaw. Preferably before you record, so you can fix it before you roll.

Sony MDR-7510

You need microscopic attention to detail in your headphones, and your speakers can be A; more affordable and B; more like what your audience is listening on.

A popular place to start is the Sony MDR-7506 or if you can afford them, the Sony MDR-7510 headphones (my current set).

Hers’s a different opinion:

You can also get great ‘cans’ from AKG, Audio Technica or Sennheiser.

Again, don’t get ‘HiFi’ headphones, get a set rated for accuracy – there are plenty of reviews out there to guide you. This is one area not to compromise in.

Also, be aware that not all headphone amplifiers (especially the ones built into cameras) are very good. Some are appalling. This is another reason to invest in an external sound interface for your computer because these generally have much better headphone amps than your laptop or PC.

You want to get ‘closed-back’ headphones so what you’re listening to doesn’t bleed back into your mic while recording, and you can only hear what you are recording, not the ambient noise around you.

Earbuds are often very uncomfortable during long recording days and it’s more expensive to find a set that is ‘accurate’ as opposed to ‘pleasant sounding.’

Also, stay away from ‘noise-cancelling’ headphones, they will wreak havoc if you are trying to speak while wearing them recording yourself.

Studio Monitors (speakers)

It’s not comfortable to edit all day on headphones. It’s possible, but it’s also often a cause of harm to your ears. They need frequent breaks, just like the rest of you.

While accuracy is a nice idea, it’s not practical in the average computer /office setup. Your room will have a major impact on how your speakers sound, and it can be REALY expensive (like $10ks) to fix ‘minor’ problems. And good studio monitors don’t come cheap.

Studio Monitors (speakers)

This is not the first time in my life where you know going into a job that you’re going to hear in stereo what was wrong with what you did. A. Bartlett Giamatti

I don’t recommend HiFi or gaming speakers for editing, because no matter how ‘wrong and flattering’ you KNOW they are, they will fool you into making bad choices while working on your audio. It’s good to cross-check with accurate headphones.

M-Audio, KRK, Presonus, Mackie, and JBL make affordable but still excellent products. In the higher end, the sky is the limit.

A couple of reliable but ‘affordable’ choices are:

JBL 1 Series 104 Compact Powered Desktop Reference Monitors

JBL 1 Series 104 Compact Powered Desktop Reference Monitors


Designed for desktop use with a focus on accurate sound.

IK Multimedia iLoud Micro Monitors

IK Multimedia iLoud Micro Monitors super useful and with a ton of positive feedback from ‘record label guys’ who know what they are talking about.

Portable Isolation booths

Portable Isolation booths / Reflection Filters enough said.

DIY acoustic panels and treatment

That ‘boxy’ sound you get when recording in a small room is because your voice is spreading all around the room and hitting walls, ceilings, floors, and your computer monitor – the sound is reflecting back into the mic slightly delayed by its little journey pinging off the walls like a squirrel on crack riding a pinball.

Acoustic treatment can be as easy as putting a rug on the floor or hanging some acoustically absorbent panels on the walls (strategically!).

DIY acoustic panels

This is not ‘soundproofing.’ Stopping outside noise from getting in (or vice versa) is expensive, technical and not worth attempting.

The best solution is to keep the mic as close to your mouth as possible so it’s comparatively louder than anything else. Most common treatments for a room (and it’s one of those ‘stand out from the herd’ things) will mean your voice is clean, clear and impactful and you’re not sounding like you recorded in the spare bedroom (I mean, you should record in the spare bedroom, just make it look and sound like you didn’t record in the spare bedroom if possible).

The key to killing stray sound is mass. If a sound uses up all (or most) of its energy trying to get through something (like a very heavy blanket) it doesn’t have enough power to make the trip back to your mic at the same volume.

If the sound has to travel through the absorber, hit a wall and then make a return journey through the same absorber, you just doubled the effectiveness for no money. Make sure your blankets or absorber panels hang an inch or 2 off the walls.

This is also one of the reasons we don’t recommend foam tiles. If they are stuck to the walls, they just don’t work as well as something with an air gap.

The other reason is mass – the more mass, the more energy can be absorbed. DIY panels with insulation or sound blankets have lots of mass. Mattress foam does not.

Bass frequencies require a lot more effort to deal with, but in the average home, they just power through the wall and keep going. A few hundred pounds of absorbent material (aka couch) will help tame the bass in a room (less boom).

You can also diffuse the sound – scattering it with a loaded bookshelf or acoustic diffusers (there are tons of resources online) can help.

DIY diffusers

3. DIY diffusers

In short – there are a crap-ton (if you’ll forgive the vulgar vernacular) of misconceptions, voodoo snake oil and just plain wrong ideas about acoustics, but it peaks at the worst when discussing diffusion. If it matters, or you are interested, start reading. Otherwise:

and now to open Pandora’s box:

Choosing audio recording and editing software

Audio is super critical to your video content being easily viewed. It’s more important than your picture quality – but fortunately, audio gear is usually less expensive than cameras, and they don’t go out of date.

Most of what you need to do to your audio can be done inside your video editing software if you’re using something comprehensive like Premier Pro, Vegas or Final Cut. DaVinci Resolve also has a very pro audio suite (and it’s free!).

Some programs are super high end (Pro Tools) that can do more, but this is well beyond what the average user needs. Especially for creating online video courses.

If you do want to look at something just for editing, search YouTube or Google for the following:

( free and powerful


( free 60-day trial


Video Specs

Technical standards for online video and your computer

Your production specs (file format) and your upload specs are 2 different things. When you shoot and edit your videos, you should use the highest settings your camera is capable of.

HD OR 4k?

70% of Americans (currently the world’s largest consumer of online media) watch TV on their phones.

If you have a VERY expensive phone (latest iPhone, etc) the best it can manage is 2.7k (barely perceptibly better than HD).

More importantly, a mobile stream will nuke the files down closer to 720p on average. HD is more than adequate for streaming video on any platform.

4K files (and space it takes up on your hard drive) are 4x larger than HD.

This means your computer has to work 4x harder to produce 4k content – or to look at it another way, it’s 4x slower to produce 4k content. That’s a gross oversimplification, but if you have HD gear, carry on and be happy. People will still watch your HD content for years and years.

How many times have you watched VHS without it being an issue (or worse, VHS tapes uploaded to YouTube?)

The quality of your content will show through. 4k for streaming is far less of an issue. If you already have 4k gear.

If you are buying a new camera, most of them do 4k. If you try a quick test and your computer can handle it – why not!

If it’s running slow, go with HD and be happy.

Almost your entire audience is watching on HD displays or phones.

You could shoot 4k on your camera, record 2k on your monitor (if it supports that) and edit your video at 2k – you get a high-quality master. Then your audience will probably view it in 1080p HD, but the resolution and compression won’t be so different that they can’t read your screen capture.

Or you could simply shoot and master everything in HD because it’s faster, and online video compression is the great equalizer (or destroyer) and your lighting and sound quality are more important anyway

You could shoot 4k on your camera, record 2k on your monitor (if it supports that) and edit your video at 2k – you get a high-quality master. Then your audience will probably view it in 1080p HD, but the resolution and compression won’t be so different that they can’t read your screen capture.

Or you could simply shoot and master everything in HD because it’s faster, and online video compression is the great equalizer (or destroyer) and your lighting and sound quality are more important anyway.

Recommended upload encoding settings

A lot of video editing apps will have an ‘HD for YouTube’ (or a 2k or 4k) output setting already set up, but just in case:

File format: MP4

  • Audio codec: AAC-LC (48khz)
  • Video codec: H.264 (don’t panic, most of this will be set by default to the right standards)
  • Progressive scan (no interlacing)
  • High Profile
  • 2 consecutive B frames
  • Closed GOP. GOP of half the frame rate.
  • Variable bitrate. No bitrate limit required, though we offer recommended bit rates below for reference
  • Chroma subsampling: 4:2:0
  • Frame rate: Whatever you shot in (25 fps or 30 fps recommended)
  • Interlaced content should be deinterlaced before uploading. For example, 1080i60 content should be deinterlaced to 1080p30. 60 interlaced fields per second should be deinterlaced to 30 progressive frames per second. (Hint: don’t shoot/edit interlaced)
  • Bit Rate: for HD - 1080p 8 Mbps, 1440p (2k) 16 Mbps, 2160p (4k) 35-45 Mbps (for 25-30 fps – if for some reason you had to shoot 60fps, you should bump up your bitrate by 50%)
  • Audio Bit Rate: Stereo 384 kbps
  • Resolution: The standard aspect ratio for YouTube on a computer is 16:9.
    • HD 1920x1080 pixels
    • 2560 x 1440 (typical monitor resolution) AKA 2k
    • 4096 x 2160 4k

Create and upload a simple test BEFORE YOU MAKE ALL YOUR CONTENT upload encoding settings

This will be the fastest way to make sure you have what you need BEFORE you make all your videos. If your test failed, you can fix it (usually easily) and there is no shame or penalty for trying a few things well before you commit to shooting hours of video.

What computer hardware do you need?s

In general terms, your video editing software is going to be the most demanding application your computer has to deal with, so we can use that as a pretty reliable measure.

If you run a recent Mac, check out Final Cut Pros’ requirements:

Minimum System Requirements

  • macOS 10.13.6 or later.
  • 4GB of RAM (8GB recommended for 4K editing, 3D titles, and 360° video editing)
  • OpenCL-capable graphics card or Intel HD Graphics 3000 or later.
  • 256MB of VRAM (1GB recommended for 4K editing, 3D titles, and 360° video editing)

Since PCs have many more variables you might want to do a little research (or simply run the 30-day free trial most software offers). We’ll use Adobe Premiere Pro as the yardstick:

Recommended specifications

  • Intel® 7thGen or newer CPU – or AMD equivalent
  • Microsoft Windows 10 (64-bit) version 1809 or later
  • 16 GB of RAM for HD media or 32 GB for 4K media or higher
  • 4 GB of GPU VRAM (Adobe products are GPU (graphics card) accelerated – here’s’ a list of compatible cards:
  • Fast internal SSD for app installation and cache
  • Additional high-speed drive(s) for media

If you have a PC that doesn’t measure up to this spec, try Magix Vegas video editing software – it will run much more easily on older PCs and laptops (I currently run a spare copy on a 6-year-old laptop with an appalling laptop hard drive that runs slow – and it all works without crashing with HD footage!)

Importing files

SD card reader

The most common import you will perform is from your camera’s cards and bringing the files into your computer.

You will need an SD card reader (or XQD if you’re living in the fast lane) and we recommend you pay the little bit extra for a card reader from Kingston, SanDisk, Lexar or Sony. Buy the reader from companies that make the cards and memory. Card readers have little brains in them with software, and they are not all created equal.

A cheap card reader could introduce errors, or at the very least run much slower than a decent reader.

Backing up your files

Video files are large, and if you’re making more than one video course, you’re going to wind up with a lot of them.

Consider getting an external Hard Disk (USB3.0) to back your files (audio and video) up and keep it on the shelf. Just copy them across while you have lunch and when you’re done, disconnect that backup drive so it’s not taken down with your computer if it fails from power surges, ransomware or you decide you need more space and you could ‘just dump that old footage.’

You can also upload your files to cloud storage, but it’s going to take a VERY long time and take up a lot of space, so research that well. Your free 2GB on Dropbox will not cut it.

You should, however, backup up versions of your editing projects (not with the assets or media) to Google Drive or Dropbox (whatever you use).

After you’ve saved for the day, pop a copy of the project file from your video editing app onto your backup cloud drive or hard drive. Don’t delete the older versions for a while in case you suddenly realize you’ve gone down the rabbit hole and need to go back a day or two.

Hard drive management

SD card

You should keep your assets like audio and video files on a separate drive from your operating system. And in the case of Adobe software, consider getting a dedicated SSD or NVMe drive to run your current catalogs and ‘scratch disks’ on. It’s only $100 but your apps will run visibly faster.

Video loves all the speed it can get – so a big 7200 RPM (or more) hard disk with lots of cache memory is a good idea.

You can use SSD’s (they’re much faster) but you might find it’s too expensive because of the large amount of space video needs. If you are super organized, you could run one project at a time on an SSD (just for audio and video files) and use a regular hard drive for bulk storage.

Leave windows on its own (operating system) drive – it frequently goes off on a tangent and can slow the rest of your system down. If you’re on a laptop, the USB3.0 or Thunderbolt drives are your friends. Consider a big slow drive for bulk storage and a super-fast SSD for ‘current projects.’

Displays (monitors) & 2 screen setups

Displays (monitors) & 2 screen setups

Real estate is a worthy consideration, especially for video editing. You can benefit from having one monitor for your app and one to preview your video at full resolution. Or one screen for your notes and one to capture your screen during a screencast session.

If you’re only running HD on each monitor, one recent video card (GPU) (1070 or above) will more than merrily drive 2 displays and have horsepower left over to accelerate your adobe apps.

You can also run dual video cards, but opinions are divided as to how much faster your system will run – search around ‘GPU acceleration Adobe’ as a starting point. And finally, if you’ve always wanted one of those amazing ‘ultra-wide’ displays, they are worth the money – but if you plan to do screencasts, then choose software that lets you define the part of your monitor you are capturing (Hint: 1920x1080) or add a second monitor for your setup that’s a dedicated HD resolution for capturing from. Again, two GPUs are good for this (and the 2nd smaller display can run off a cheaper graphics card).

Don’t use the ‘built-in’ graphics on your motherboard if running a PC – they rely on sharing the RAM from your system, which can be a bottleneck, and are generally underpowered.

This is one of the more important reasons (and hard drives) why laptops are not the best choice for editing video. BUT – if that’s what you have, just bash on regardless. It’s going to work.

Get a few courses under your belt and make at least a small profit before you go nuts ‘upgrading’ everything you own because you ‘need it’ because you probably will benefit, but you don’t ‘need’ it.

Just admit you merely ‘want’ it – that’s the first step to combatting G.A.S. (gear acquisition syndrome).

Recording your voice

Why Your Voice Sounds Better In Your Head Than In Recordings:

and if that wasn’t enough,
try this:

Warm-up exercises

Any athlete NOT trying for a benefit claim will warm up before a game or a performance, and you’re no different.

Getting your voice ready (not to mention learning how it works properly) is time well spent for anyone trying to make and keep attention with their speaking voice.

Want the expert opinion? Try this:

Here is a simple but effective warm-up routine:

For another approach, and it’s easy:

And finally, a bit of therapy:

Mic technique and mic position

There are a few basic things to account for when using a mic:

  • How close are you to the mic? Hint: the more directional a mic is, the more bass you get (AKA proximity effect) as you get closer.
  • What angle is the mic at in relationship to your mouth (clarity) and your chest (power/bass)?
  • How close to the mic are other reflective surfaces (like your desk, walls, etc.)?
  • Are you animated and moving a lot when you speak? This is a skill that you’re going to have to learn through practice and experience (AKA trial and error).

Here are several great YouTube videos to get your brain going:

First up, the inimitable William Williams (who also offers classes and training) gives you an excellent overview of how to use the mic, and how to behave while recording:

And finally, a bit of therapy:

And finally, audio engineer Allen Williams takes things from the audio pro’s perspective:

Every time I hear a recording I’ve made, I hear all kinds of things I could improve or things I should have done. - Charlie Parker

Sync sound and double system recording

When recording your audio, it’s sometimes necessary to record your audio on your computer (or a recorder) and your camera does the pictures (and a basic ‘scratch’ track, or the camera mic so you can sync up the sound later). You can also sync visually by using a clapper/slate or simply clap your hands together on camera.

When editing the video, you’re going to see where your hands come together on the picture track and the peak in the waveform (the graphical representation of your audio every editor or DAW displays) in the audio track. You simply move one to match the other.

It sounds easy (and it is) but seeing makes it even easier, so here are a few YouTube clips to get your head around the topic.

Curtis Judd (a super reliable source of great info) demos the process, and the much recommended

Tascam DR-60DmkII Audio Recorder.

Tascam DR-60DmkII Audio Recorder

Cell phone production techniques

The average recent cell phone makes pretty decent video images – but of course you make life harder for yourself with no reversible screen, challenging audio support and in the case of Apple products, it’s a lot of fuss to get files in and out of your phone (Android users just plug USB into the PC and transfer away).

IOS/Apple is the iXLR

Getting audio into your phone is very limited to the phones with a 3.5mm jack – or you can use a purpose-designed interface – Rode has several quite brilliant options ( but the best they offer for IOS/Apple is the iXLR which is audio in with a headphones out over a 3m lightning cable.

Most of the audio interfaces (like the Beachtek gear) you would use for a camera can work with an Android phone with the right cables.

iRig Pre by IK Multimedia

The better bet is again something purpose-built, like the iRig Pre by IK Multimedia

iRig Mic Studio

or the iRig Mic Studio which is a microphone that plugs into your phone

You need to work your lighting, and you need to figure out how to attach your phone to a tabletop stand or tripod – but again, there are a lot of purpose-built products for that.

Check out the great stuff at Think Media’s YouTube for smartphone accessories and production techniques

You can always record your sound into your computer directly or to a stand-alone recorder, and simply sync them up when you edit your video. Just remember: Roll Sound. Roll Camera. Show the shot # or description on a piece of paper and read it out loud, then clap your hands together on camera to create an easy sync point you can see/hear in the video and in the audio ‘waveform’ when your edit.

One of those ‘Hollywood’ style slates (clapper boards) is super handy for this.

If you can pay attention to setting up your camera with good lighting, good shot framing, and you’ve figured out your audio – then you’re all set to go. Send a test to and see what happens.

Filmic Pro

As with any sort of filming, regardless of what camera you use (and especially when using ‘prosumer’ or consumer-grade gear) getting manual control of your sound and picture is super important, because cameras and phones are not ‘that’ smart.

Enter Filmic Pro (and a host of competitors) the purpose-made app that controls the camera on your smartphone and sets the picture up for the best (for your situation) quality and controls.

If you’re going the phone route (and if you’re just starting, give it a try before you drop another grand or 2 on a camera) then you need this software. Or something like it.

More good ‘do it on your phone’ videos:

Camera and Accessories

We are going to show as much restraint as possible here because there is an ever-improving list of cameras that dance in our eyes like sugar plum fairies.

You should spend your money on a decent microphone and good lighting setup BEFORE you blow your load on a camera.

Choosing a camera

The most important criteria are

1: do you already have one? If yes, then use it. If no, go to question 2.

2: Can you borrow one? If no, then go to question 3.

3: What camera meets the minimum requirements for making the video? (hint: it’s not the latest and greatest, it’s the older model that’s much cheaper and still has a warranty and support).

The minimum technical requirement is HD video for a longer recording time than 10 minutes. For tax reasons, many ‘photography’ cameras will record video for just shy of 15 minutes – but you can probably imagine that for an online video course 15 minutes is long enough for each ‘chapter’ or module of your presentation. You can also edit around this limit by simply joining the clips together.

The next most important consideration is ‘can you control the camera manually?’

Can you set the white balance, the exposure and focus manually, and can you lock them so they don’t ‘wander off’ in the middle of a take?

Next is audio. [link to Camera with Pro Mics: ] If you want to record audio in-camera (which makes editing a little easier) then you need a camera with audio inputs, and preferably a headphone jack. You can get audio accessories for your camera (see ) or use an external sound recorder to act as the ‘front end’ for you camera – you plug the mic and your headphones into the recorder and send the output to the camera to so you get audio with your video file. Many audio recorders can be used for this (Sound Devices MixPre3, Tascam DR 60 or DR 70, Zoom H6 and dozens more).

If you’re even a tiny bit handy with some accessories and a couple of cable ties, here’s a great video you can use for inspiration

(HINT: the new version of the recorder in this video is the Zoom H1n and it’s terrific)

Whatever approach you take, you must have some way of hearing your audio (headphones) before and after (and during if you are just recording your voice, but using the camera as a recorder).

Meters that show the recording level are also super helpful and should be another reason to choose a camera.

Next, the lenses. How wide can you go? But not GoPro/webcam/security camera wide. On a DSLR or mirrorless camera with a DX/APSC/Super-35 sized sensor 16mm is a comfortable size, and 18mm will work nearly as well. On Full Frame cameras 24mm to 28mm is wide enough. On Micro 4/3 12mm (or very close) is a good working size.

This gives you a shot wide enough to comfortably include you from the waist up in the shot while your camera is on or over your desk.

Remember – if there’s a wall behind your desk and that’s where you’re shooting, you’re going to need to get real wide without it being comically distorted. 16mm will do it.

Camcorders have a plethora of different sensor sizes, so you will need to look at what the ’35mm’ (AKA full-frame) equivalency of the lens is. 24mm is the recommended number here. Sadly, most camcorders start at 28mm and this is sometimes not enough. Rearrange your space, get creative, you can make it work. This is a guide; it’s not carved in stone.

Finally – can you flip the screen around to see yourself while filming? Chances are it’s just you, so you need some way to see yourself to at least set up the shot (hint: you can run an HDMI cable to a spare computer monitor or TV).

This is a feature that camcorders tend to supply.

Panasonic GH4

Based on all of these factors, the Panasonic GH4 (or GH5) matches everything you need – it’s a great starting point, and there is a 5 and 5s model meaning the 4 is now very affordable – and worth considering as a used purchase. There are hundreds of very useful accessories for these cameras too.

Canon 70D

Also, worth looking at is the Canon 70D (or the 80 or 90) which is a terrific camera with everything you need, and you can get used lenses easily, or new ones which are still relatively affordable.

Canon PowerShot Sony a6100 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100

Other contenders are the Canon PowerShot G7 X Digital Camera Pic1, Sony a6100 pic 2 (and it’s family) and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 VII Pic 1 (and all the different versions).

“Looking into the camera creates a special eye and soul contact. ” -- Chiara Ferragni

These are ideas to get you started. Not endorsements. Spend an hour on the Rabbit Hole without limit that is cameras on YouTube. Set an alarm so you don’t sit there all day.

Also, remember you can buy small external monitors for your cameras – and they can be very affordable, meaning that cheaper cameras (or the one you already have) could suddenly be a good choice.

DSLR & mirrorless cameras

The principle difference is the DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) has a mirror just behind the lens that redirects the image to the optical viewfinder on the camera. It flips up out of the way (really quick) to reveal the sensor (film in the old days) and make a still shot.

In practical terms, this is not good for video because not only does it cut off the viewfinder (not a big deal if you’re just using the screen indoors) but it also cuts off the best part of the camera’s autofocus.

Some (like the Canon 80D and 90D) have very good autofocus built into the sensor – but many DLSR’s have terrible autofocus in video (AKA live) mode.

Mirrorless are essentially video cameras that just happen to take great photos. They have electronic viewfinders and as of the last 18 months pretty good autofocus for catching moving objects.

The most important upgrade on recent models is ‘face detect’ autofocus that does what it’s called. This is terrific for filming yourself and not worrying about the focus.

In this day and age, a mirrorless camera is probably the most appropriate choice for filming yourself.

DSLR & mirrorless cameras


For recording a static person talking to camera, the essential ingredients are a tripod (or something to hold the camera in place), the right lens (if you want the background out of focus on a camera with removable lenses, get a lens that’s f/1.4 – f/2) and reliable (high speed) SD cards.

Don’t cheap out on the SD (memory) cards

Don’t cheap out on the SD (memory) cards – stick with Sony, Lexar or Sandisk and make sure you check your camera’s required specs BEFORE you buy. RTFM.

The ‘Studio on a Stand setup’

Elsewhere in these pages, we also have the video of the desktop version of the same kind of set up – what’s key is that it shows you what you need – lights, a good mic close to your mouth, and some way to keep the camera in the right spot and monitor what you are filming at the same time.

Lighting Your Video

The key to a great looking video is…sound – seriously! When tested, people thought the picture looked better when asked, when all the researchers did was mess with the sound.

Ok, let’s start again – Lighting will do more to make your video look good than any camera. A good camera will perform better in ‘low’ light – but bad lighting is bad lighting.

LED vs Tungsten vs Fluorescent

LED is low power (and therefore low heat) and is starting to become low cost for the good stuff. A chief drawback is a potential for inaccurate color reproduction. Especially in budget products. Look for the CRI (color rendering index) and make sure that the number is higher than 95%. If not you may get a strange green or magenta color shift that may mess up your white balance. Mixing LEDs from different manufacturers (or even with the same team, but different models) can leave you with several subtle shifts in color that don’t play well with each other.

The biggest problem is when the quality of light isn’t good enough to render skin properly on camera, and this is a problem that even some high dollar lights still have, so try before you buy, check the reviews and keep your receipt.

Tungsten (old faithful) is cheap, there are a lot of lights to choose from…and it’s blazing hot in a small room. You lose up to 80% of the energy in a traditional light to heat – imagine a 2000watt heater in your office – because a light will pull 2000 watts to fill a large softbox – and then if you didn’t get the proper heat rated softbox it will catch on fire and you’re going to be extra warm and toasty.

Fluorescent has the same issues of color cast as LED, but it usually white balances out reasonably well.

There are lots of cheap ‘CF lamps in a softbox’ kits on Amazon and they mostly work pretty well – again, the reviews and the return policy. Bulk and fragility are the biggest turn-offs for most video guys, but if you’re just filming in your room, that’s not an issue.

Ring lights (just say no)

Ring Light

I don’t need a reason…

Real-world light doesn’t work like that. They remove all the shadows, but in a distracting and often creepy way. Ring lights are for makeup YouTubers who frequently can’t light themselves properly or are sold on the convenience.

They can be made to work, but its more for an effect – and you get alien catchlights (little glowing circles) in your eyes that are distracting.

On Camera Lights

Also no. Walk outside. Where does the light come from? Not directly in line with your face. Again, this can look very unnatural. You want a large light source (softbox) up high and a little to one side.

Tungsten, Daylight, Bicolored or Color Changing LEDs

If the rest of the lights in your space are daylight balanced (or ‘cool’ colored) like most CF or LED light bulbs, get the one that matches. If you have traditional tungsten lightbulbs…what, you don’t care about global warming…or you have ‘warm’ LED lamps, get the ‘Tungsten’ flavor of LED lights.

Bicolored lights have half tungsten (color temperature of 3200K) and half daylight (6500K) meaning only half of your lights are generally on at one time – or a proportional mix of the two. This kills the amount of output.

Color changing LED lights can just about squeak out white without too many complications, but after that, things get complicated:

Battery vs ‘plug in’ power

LED lights often come ready to rock on batteries. Which is not what you want for filming all day in your office/bedroom studio. You need it to plug in so you can forget about it, and cheap Chinese LED lights frequently come WITHOUT a mains power supply. If it’s extra, buy it or look for a light that includes the power supply.

One good light

If you start with one good light, you’re halfway there. And in many cases, only one light will be enough. A large light produces ‘soft light’ by virtue of shooting light from all directions across a larger area of your face. This means fewer shadows.

A small light source produces ‘hard light’ which usually translates to lots of shadows on your face.

You probably want at least 1 large light to start with and it should either be a small light into an umbrella or softbox (hint: a softbox is more efficient and doesn’t spray light around the room) or a large LED panel. You want something at least 1 ½’ or ½ a meter across – bigger is better, within reason.

If you turn all the lights off in the room, you’re going to get shadows on your face meaning you’ll need more lights or at least a reflector (or fill card, or something large and white) near the shadow side to bounce some light back in your face and ease those shadows. Light the rest of the room with a lower level of ambient light and those shadows will be less of a problem.

For a starting point try these lights: The Falcon Eyes RX-24TDX

The Falcon Eyes RX-24TDX

The Godox Godox SL60w (and get a softbox for it):

The Godox Godox SL60w

If you’re flat broke or frugal:

But wait, there’s more

You can use smaller lights for accents on your background or give yourself a ‘rim’ light to make yourself a little more ‘3D’ looking.

You can add color gels to these lights, and they don’t have to be very powerful – just remember to get something you can plug into the wall.

Being on Camera

“Imposter Syndrome”

Getting your head in the right space is important. You don’t want to look like a deer/kangaroo/[insert local traffic hazard mammal here] in the headlights.

You need confidence (and you’d better really believe it because we are staring you in the face).

The most common reluctance to public speaking and looking good on camera is imposter syndrome.

You can explain Imposter syndrome as a feeling of inadequacy, ineptitude or weakness that persists despite your actual success, skill or knowledge. ‘Imposters’ can suffer from chronic self-doubt that looks like a total lack of belief in what you are saying that affects how you look on camera and sound.

Bluntly, we start wondering ‘who the heck am I to teach this, and who would believe me?’ Let’s defer to some experts on how to deal with this:

Let's defer to some experts on how to deal with this:

Connecting with the Audience

You are talking to one person in the room with you. That camera is the person listening intently. This can also be a bit disconcerting at times. Are you supposed to be dominant (hint: no) or passive (hint: no). Be their friend. Be inclusive. Take your time and think about how to help them.

If you search, watch or read anything by Brené Brown, you’re going to find some incredible keys to being an effective communicator – and for that matter, an effective human being. Here’s some more help:

Here's some more help:


No, really. Practice. Do it in the mirror or film yourself, and review. What can you work on?

Don’t come cold into a 20-part video series – even if it’s just your voice and screen capture.

Practice. Try new things. Review. Improve.

What’s in your shot?

Make sure your shot is free of distractions and anything ugly. Check your shot carefully (or better yet, have a spouse/friend check the shot for the things you see every day and ignore.) See the section about your ‘set’ or how to decorate your shooting location.


Women generally get this, so it’s you fellas who need the heads up. But I speak to everyone when I say the camera doesn’t see you the same way as people do. Especially shiny skin.

This is about NOT being distracting – it’s not about being glamorous, though there is absolutely nothing wrong with that either.

If you thought cameras were a rabbit hole without end, try searching makeup tutorials on YouTube. Just make sure you search for ‘camera-ready’ and listen to the people who create results you like.

Also – this is a great time to freshen up your haircut, wax, pluck or shave (check the nose and ears for those random hairs) – whatever is appropriate.

It’s not about perfection, its about removing distraction.

What to wear

If you are doing multiple videos, we recommend you wear the same clothes where practical. Especially if you have not changed location.

Make sure your clothes are clean and pressed and not distracting.

Speaking on camera

Confidence comes from competence which comes from preparation and practice. Actually, that’s rather good. I should write that down.

Make sure you have an outline you can follow easily, or a script if you need it. Practice on camera a few times and you’ll improve quickly.

Your tone, speed, and body language are all important, but your confidence and understanding of the material will guide all of that. So relax, be you, and remember you know this stuff.

Some people love them, some people hate them. Some people have too big a teleprompter (or it’s too close) and you can see them reading from left to right.

You can search up how to DIY a teleprompter, but there are so many affordable versions that use your tablet or phone to save a lot of money, it’s worth researching to see if you should just buy one outright.

This is one of those things you should try first, though that may be difficult. Call around the local video production houses until you find someone who will let you try one in exchange for lunch or a drink. If possible, record yourself using one and watch the video. You’ll know pretty quick if it’s for you.

If you are purchasing a teleprompter, make sure it comes with a remote control and the right software for your device (phone, iPad, tablet).

Some helpful tips:

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