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Choosing the Right Webcam in the Youtube Era

Old time film camera

Q: I am looking at starting a Youtube channel, and I was wondering what you’d suggest for a webcam solution. I’m looking for one that has good audio. Alternatively, what is the best, cheap USB interface to buy?

A: As many of you may know, I could stand to focus a little attention to my production values with my own YouTube videos. I have often simply gone with what I had available to me or what was most affordable.

But, as I’ve started to take my videos a bit more seriously, I have come to a few conclusions.

First, USB webcams just don’t produce very good looking or sounding videos. I haven’t had any luck with them.

My built in webcam in my newer desktop computer (using the built in mic of the computer) is acceptable, but it still doesn’t look that slick and the built in mic is overdriven quite easily. I bought a Flip at one point, but I think that I may have gotten a lemon because it never charged well, and I wasn’t very impressed with the quality.

I’ve actually had the best luck with my digital still camera. I have a Canon Powershot which shoots HD video and it looks great and sounds great. The digital SLR cameras also do a fantastic job. Janek Gwizdala, for example, uses his camera for all of his podcasts and video stuff and it looks fantastic.

Janek, as well as Ed Friedland and many others who have an upper level quality in their videos tend to record their instruments directly, using recording software (ProTools, Logic, etc.).

I’ve recently begun to considered the following as my personal next step in this direction:

  1. Buying a nice USB podcasting mic for my voice
  2. Using my HD video, still camera for the video
  3. Recording directly into ProTools for the bass sound (this also allows you to add a little reverb, compression, and so on).

Of the USB podcasting mics I’ve explored, there are quite a few that are supposed to be pretty great, but I don’t have any personal experience with them.
I’ve been recommended the Blue Snowball or the Blue Yeti, both of which seem reasonably priced. Most every company makes a good USB mic these days. I’d definitely do an online search, read some forums, etc.

Readers, I know plenty of you have solved this! What do you use? Share your recommendations in the comments.

Photo by Jason Antony

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