This straightforward (and long) post will tell you step-by-step how to get started video blogging with a simple webcam. Video blogging is growing in popularity as the tools for it become easier to use and less expensive. You don’t need expensive equipment to get started. In fact, you can get going for less than $40 USD. You don’t need to be intimidated by any part of the process, and you can begin doing basic video posts and learn more complex and challenging aspects (such as separate microphones and video editing) later. All the product links in this post are affiliate links.
I’m not going to get into any philosophical discussions about why you want to do it or ask if you’ve got the time or skills to do it. I’m one of those “just do it and see” kinda guys. Over-analyzing before you begin is the best way to kill something before it even has a chance. Just go for it.
Ready? Lets’ get started video blogging!
Step 1: Get a Camera
Yeah, DUH, right? What, you thought this was going to be hard? Your main concern with a camera will likely be expense, then quality. You can spend less than $40 for a decent webcam. Webcams are cheap, some are very decent quality, and they are easy to use. I use a webcam so that’s what I’m focusing on here. Should you use a camcorder instead? Camcorders are not chained to the computer, offer higher-quality video, are more expensive, and involve more work. If anyone else wants to write a tutorial on them, let me know and I’ll link to it.
Video blogging cameras
Logitech Quickcam Communicate STX is what I’m using. It’s got a built-in microphone that picks up great, and the image quality is good. Bang for the buck, I think this is one of the best deals around. I did my homework before buying. You want decent image quality and sound without spending all your gas money for the week, this is puppy delivers.
Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000 is a higher-quality camera with a few more features, such as improved low-light capture (the customer reviews on this are pretty good) and sound quality. Because YouTube compresses the snot out of video, you want to start with as high of a video quality as possible. If I wasn’t cheap, I would’ve bought this one.
Step 2: Set up your camera
- Once you have your camera, install the software that comes with it and plug its USB cable into your computer (follow your camera’s specific instructions).
- Check to see if there are new drivers or other updates to its software. If there are updates, download and install them. Restart your computer, even if it doesn’t prompt you to…it’s always a good idea.
- Start your camera’s software. Logitech is a popular brand, and it’s what I use. In the little control panel, clicking on “Quick Capture” gives me a window that displays what the camera sees. There are buttons for taking still pictures or recording video. Don’t start recording yet.
- You’ll want as much light as possible. If the image you see is dim, turn on all the lights.
- Position the camera. Webcams usually rest atop a computer monitor. Point it at yourself as you sit in front of the computer. I have a really high-tech setup for mine to get the right angle and distance: I use a freakin’ Pringles can in front of my monitor (Spicy Guacamole, if you must know).
- Turn on some loud music, click record, and start dancing and taking off your clothes. Just kidding!
- Seriously, you might need to adjust your camera’s settings. There should be a button or a menu for this in the software interface. You’ll usually need to adjust brightness, color, and sound. There may be settings for dim light, but try to have the brightest ambient light possible, because these dim light settings product a grainy video with blurry movement.
Step 3: Make a few test videos
Click the record button on your software, look at the camera, and just start talking. Tell a joke, or something short. (What’s green and plays guitar? Elvis Parsley!) Stop recording and play back the video. If it doesn’t look okay, try adjusting the software settings some more. How do you sound? You want to be heard clearly at a normal volume. If the sound is a little quiet, you can do one or both of two things immediately: get closer to the camera/microphone or speak louder.
Lather, rinse, repeat until you have what you want.
Step 4: Make a real video
Okay, now you’re ready for the big time! Go brush your teeth and make sure you look decent. Avoid wearing all white or all black clothing, as it will wash out.
And… have something to say! Alright genius video blogger, what now? You want to have a clear idea of what you’re going to say with video as with the written word. I like to do videos when writing just seems like too much work (except in this case, where the benefit to you is greater than my laziness), so I tend to only write down the main points and then riff on them. Recently I’ve experimented with using a video blogging teleprompter. But here are some thoughts:
- Jot down your main points in a word processor or slide show application. If using a word processor, make your font really big. Display this on your computer screen as you record your video.
- Print or write out longhand (what’s that?) your points onto paper and tape the paper up on a wall behind the camera.
- Use CuePrompter, a free teleprompter web application.
While you’re recording the video, if you trip over your words or whatever, just stop recording. Record a new video and take it from the beginning. No big deal. If you live with others, make sure they know what you’re doing so you don’t get interrupted and, more importantly, so that they know you haven’t finally gone insane because you’re talking loudly in a room all by yourself.
Step 4: Edit your video?
Maybe. Anybody can click “record” and blabber into the camera. Except for babies. You have to click “record” for them. Anyway, the part about video blogging that can be intimidating is editing. The simple solution: don’t bother. If that’s what’s stopping you, then skip it so it’s no longer a perceived barrier. Since with a webcam, you’re clicking on a button with a mouse instead of reaching towards the camera for an off button, it’s not as awkward.
You don’t need fancy-pants editing and titles and all that. You certainly don’t need the awful special effects some people employ (most video bloggers don’t, thank goodness). If you want to see an example of absolutely killer, yet simple editing, check out Ze Frank. He did a year’s worth of daily videos and they’re definitely examples worth watching.
If you are going to edit your video, you need software for that. And lots of time. PCs running Windows have Windows Movie Maker, and Macs have iMovie. If you’re going to bother, learn the software. Learn by doing, watch a tutorial video, or get a book, such as the one that I use: Microsoft Windows Movie Maker 2: Do Amazing Things.
Editing is too big of a topic for me to show you how to do it here, and I could only show the Windows stuff anyway.
I’m serious about the time factor: video editing is an incredible time sink. You have been warned. That’s also why you may not want to even bother.
Step 5: Upload your video
Upload it to what? For most of us, the instant answer is YouTube of course. If you’re just starting, I recommend it, because it’s just stoopud easy. There are other advantages:
- Placing videos on YouTube provides another point of entry to your blog for new visitors.
- YouTube pays for the hosting and bandwidth.
- YouTube videos can spread virally by allowing others to embed them in their blogs (this happens with mine, occasionally–I love it).
- YouTube gives you your own customizable page to showcase your videos, and other people can subscribe to them and comment on them. Here’s the one for all my Remarkablogger videos.
If you don’t have a YouTube account, create one, then on any page in YouTube at the top is a yellow “Upload” button. Uploading is easy to do but takes a little time. Once the video is uploaded, YouTube has to convert it into the FLV (flash video) format. That also can take some time. Basically, what I’m saying is maybe come back in half an hour. There are limits on file size and duration for YouTube videos: 100 mb or 10 minutes. You will need to enter information about your video, such as a title and description.
Once that’s done, you can copy the embedding code and paste into the CODE VIEW of your blogging software (which is WordPress, of course and not Splogger, or worse yet, UglyPad, right? Okay I will get hate mail on that one, LOL).
By the way, did you catch that? HTML VIEW, friends. For complete information on this, check out How to Add Video to a WordPress Blog Post the Easy Way.
Whew! After all that, what’s a little bit more?
Tutorial style posts are necessarily long, so thanks for hanging in there. I know I’ve barely scratched the surface, but I wanted to make this as easy as possible for total beginners. You can always add more complexity later, after you’ve done the basic stuff and get a little comfortable.
If you buy a camera and make a video, link to it in the comments so we can all
laugh at you check it out and encourage you. First-time videos only, please.
If you have any questions, ask them in the comments. I’ll gather them up for another post to answer them.