In this blog post, we are going to teach you how to pick the best podcast camera for making your video episodes.
Here is how we are going to do it:
First, we are going to go over key terms and concepts. 🗝️🗝️🗝️
Then we are going to list the questions you need to answer in order to figure out exactly what type of podcast video camera you are going to need. 🤔
From there, we will go over the best cameras used for podcast video, explaining how their strengths and weakness line up with what you need. 🧑🏫
By the end, you will know which podcast camera is the best one for your podcasting production.
Let’s get started!
Key Terms and Concepts for Picking a Podcast Camera
The lingo around video cameras can be intimidating, especially if the person doing the explaining wants to seem intimidating. 🙄
But that ain’t us! Our motto is “Make every podcaster’s voice heard” (and in the case of video podcasting, “seen”). So we are going to explain everything in regular, human people terms. 😁
Live streaming is not the same as recording. 🙅
Ok, ok that is not much of definition, but it is probably the most important thing to know about it! People seem to get the two confused all the time.
Live streaming is when video is being instantaneously broadcasted on the internet.
Some platforms allow you to broadcast and record at the same time, like if you do a live event and then it is available online afterward. But some do not. 💁
There’s also the possibility that you do not want to both live stream and record, at least in terms of using the video file or even the same camera.
Why would you choose not to do both? 🤔
From a technology perspective, you may want the live stream to be done by a camera and accompanying software that specializes in live streaming-– small data files that won’t crash live feeds, as well automatic functions like auto-focus to make sure the quality stays relatively high even while you are busy being the podcast host moving around in front of the camera.
And then you may want a secondary camera to capture video in bigger data files (like higher resolution, shooting in flat, etc… we’ll get to those in a second) so you can provide a higher quality, even edited, video for the recording.
A camera’s sensor size is one of the most important video camera features (although you should always weigh it against battery life, microphone quality, need for lenses, mobility, etc).
The bigger the sensor, the more quality and detail of the video image. 🖼️
A bigger sensor allows for consistently good high-resolution shots, ability to film in low light, and more opportunities to shoot shallow depth of field (when the key objects are very in focus and the background is very blurry).
But of course, a bigger sensor is more expensive than a smaller one. That is a major thing to watch out for– does it fit in your podcast budget and do you even need the kind of quality it brings to the table. 💸💸💸
No, we are not talking about the promise you make to yourself in the New Year. 😬
We are talking about when cool, flashy things say they are in 4k… what does that mean?
That means that there are about 8.5 million little spots on the sensor capturing visual information, creating about 8.5 million pixels– pixels are dots that make up an image. 😵
The more dots/pixels, the higher quality the image will be.
Why do we say 4K when we are actually talking about 8.5 million? Because in these cases there are usually 4,000 pixels horizontally times 2,106 vertically which gives you 8.5 million.
If your video camera shoots in 4k, when you edit the video, you can zoom in on a specific spot, crop out the rest of it, and no one would notice! So, for example, if you notice a weird object that somehow was in the background when you made your podcast video, you could crop the video to get rid of it and it would still look good. ✂️
Another common resolution is called 1080. Rather than 4,000 pixels horizontally, there are only… you guessed it 1,080 pixels horizontally. When you multiple that by its usual partner, 1,920 vertical pixels, that makes for 2 million pixels. So not as good as 8.5 million! If your camera has 1080 resolution, you can’t zoom in or crop it without it looking noticeably bad.
One last thing to keep in mind about resolution. Higher resolution = more pixels, more pixels = bigger data files. 🏋
Frame Rate (FPS)
Video is just a series of still photographs going by so fast that our brains interpret it as one, moving image. Wild, right? 🙀
Frame rate, measured by frames per second (FPS), is how many still photographs your camera is taking every second.
You basically only need to worry about FPS if you are working in a pretty dark area, if the visuals you are trying to record are moving super quickly, or if you want to make slow-mo videos. Since none of those are applicable to a podcast setting, we don’t need to go into more detail here.
All you need to know is that you don’t need all sorts of fancy frame rate options on the camera you pick. You just need 30fps for live streaming, and 24fps for recording (you can use 30fps for recording too, 24fps just gives you that more cinematic look). 🤌
Internal Microphone vs. XLR Cable Outlets
Since we are talking about podcasts, we cannot end this section without talking about audio. Some video cameras do not have any microphones built in to capture sound.
Instead, you have to buy an external podcast microphone and plug it into the camera using an XLR cable. While this may not seem ideal, this option can actually give you the highest quality audio recording. You can use high quality microphones, plus you can get the microphone very close to the podcast host or guest if you have a long XLR cable. 🎙️
When a camera does has a microphone built in to record audio, it is called an internal microphone. While it is convenient that the microphone is built right in, usually internal microphones are not high quality. Even when they are high quality, the camera is usually set up too far away from the podcast host or guest for the internal microphone to pick up good audio.
Production Questions to Figure Out Your Individual Podcast Camera Needs
Hopefully the above section helped you start to understand the details you need to consider when figuring out what video camera is best for you. But in this section we are going to dive into specific questions you need to ask yourself.
Let’s be real. This is probably the number one decision factor for most independent podcasters. How much of a budget are you working with for camera and camera gear purchases? 🤑
Are you trying to make do with whatever you already have on hand like a built in camera on your laptop or smartphone?
Or do you have around a hundred dollars to work with? A lot more?
Start doing the math and we’ll circle back around when we start going over specific camera types!
How much data can your computer work with at once? You can have a super fancy camera, but if your computer can’t handle the massive video data, it is all for naught.
You also want to think about if you want to deal with storing the big video files on additional hard drives or backing them up on cloud services. ☁️☁️☁️
Also, double check that your hosting platform does not have some sort of upload data limit that might interfere with publishing video podcasts.
Extent of Editing
How much video editing work do you plan on putting in? 💪
If you don’t plan on ever trying to crop anything out, then maybe you don’t need a 4k camera. 🤷
If you don’t have video editing software, then there might not be a point of getting a camera that records in a special way (called ‘shooting in flat’) so you can do mind-blowing color correction afterwards.
Auto Settings vs. Manual
Here’s how to think about this one: Do you want a camera that has an optimized way of doing things that you cannot have much control over (and you are thankful not to have much control over), or do you like being able to tinker to make everything exactly how you want it? 🔧
If your podcast is an interview format, most likely at least some of your guests are going to be remote. That means remote video tapping. 💻
Do you plan on shipping them a camera to use? How tech savvy would you average guest be? How much work would they be willing to do to get a video camera up and running?
Are you going to record online or are you going to have them record independently on their end and then send you the footage? Or are you going to use a service like Riverside.fm? 🎧
If you are just going to record online, your video recording is only going to be as good as your internet connection so it might not be worth it to get a nice camera. If you are going to use a service like Riverside.fm, you want to check to see what they recommend for capturing video.
We basically already covered this in the Key Terms and Concepts section, but we wanted to squeeze it in here too.
Do you want to live stream your video podcast on a platform like YouTube in addition to recording it? If so, you want a camera option that goes well with streaming. 📹
Check your streaming platform to see what they recommend. Your camera and software need to cooperate well with the live streaming platform. 🤝
Also, your live stream and/or the internet quality your viewers have may only be able handle low resolution videos– so no point in getting a high resolution camera!
Of course you can always use one camera for live streaming and then a separate one to record your episode. It all depends on if it is worth it to you. ⚖️
Podcast Camera Types to Choose From
Now that you know the important terms and concepts, and now that you know what questions to ask yourself about what you want and need, we will go over specific camera types so you can decide which one is the best one for you. 🥇
Built-in Camera 🖥️
Most computers and smart phones these days now come with a built-in camera. You definitely can use one as your podcast camera, if you chose.
– Budget-friendly: It is free! (assuming you already have one)
– Easy to use: These cameras will usually automatically adjust exposure and sometimes even focus. They also are super easy to use with live-streaming software.
– Built in mic: No need to necessarily buy an external microphone or XLR cables. The audio and video are captured together by the computer or phone
– Easy to match guests: If your podcast guests are not audio or video professionals themselves, they probably just use the camera on their computer for remote interviews. So they will probably have a very similar quality and look as yours without any extra work needed.
– Manageable data load: These cameras usually don’t capture 4k so you do not need to worry about huge video files. You also don’t need to worry about memory cards and you can easily back-up to the cloud.
– Low quality video and audio: The things that make this option easy to use are the same things that often result in lower quality video and audio. The automatic exposure can leave faces a bit too dark or bright. The built-in mic doesn’t capture sound super well. The video resolution is low.
Important note: Some really nice, new smartphones have high quality cameras that you can do more manual adjustments and even shoot in 4k. So you may actually not have low quality video with this option!
External Webcam 📷
These are small cameras that can attach to the top of your computer monitor or stand alone. They usually connect into your computer with a USB cord. They were hard to find during the height of COVID when the demand skyrocketed due to everyone starting to use Zoom. Now they are pretty easy to find anywhere, including Amazon.
– Budget-friendly: These usually cost anywhere from $20 to $150.
– Easy to use: Most of the time it is as easy as just plugging the camera in. They tend to work seamlessly with live streaming or any other kind of remote software.
– Good option for remote guests: If you want, you can buy one that you send to guests. They are simple enough for your guests to use and they guarantee a certain level of quality. If you are using the same webcam, then your videos will match well.
– Higher resolution possible: There are webcams that offer 4k resolution.
– Mid level quality: Sometimes these cameras do offer an interface where you have more control over things like exposure, but they do not have all the features that a professional camera would have (large sensor, exchangeable lens, etc).
– No mic: Most webcams do not come with a built-in mic, which means you have to rely on your computer’s built-in mic or an external mic connected to your computer.
– More data, slower stream: Because most webcams are built to capture higher resolution shots, that means more data. More data means possible trouble with live streaming and more to worry about in terms of data management.
DSLR, Mirrorless, and Camcorder Video Cameras 🎥
These are the serious video cameras. Think Canon EOS, Sony, and Panasonic. Professional videographers use some of these which is why you will have to shift through a lot of information like frame rates and extremely lighting. The are going to give you great video… if you can use them correctly!
– High Quality Image: You can get incredible shots, including shallow depth of field. You can control everything to look just right.
– High Quality Audio: These cameras usually have an XLR outlet so you can plug a nice microphone in and the camera will record the video and audio at the same time.
– Cool Editing Opportunities: Because these cameras can shoot in flat and up to 8k in resolution, you can do a lot with the video when editing- awesome color correction, zooming in, etc.
– Price: These are going to cost you anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to a couple thousand.
– Additional gear: You will need to buy things like memory cards, a camera stand, lenses, batteries, etc.
– Difficult for Remote Guests: It is possible to send a simple camera kit to guests, but they are going to have to spend a lot more time and energy learning how to operate it.
– Not Great for Live Streaming: Some of these cameras do have software interfaces that make using the camera similar to using a webcam or built-in camera, but they can be buggy.
– A Lot of Data Management: Be ready to deal memory cards, uploads, and even external hard drives.
Final Word on Choosing a Podcast Camera
There is an old handyman saying that goes “Measure twice, cut once.” 🪚
In other words, you want to do a good job preparing for something so you do not end up having to do more work on the back end. 😅
The same goes for choosing a podcast camera!
Do your research. If possible, give some a try out. More expensive does not always mean better. The key is figuring out what works best for you. 🗝️
We look forward to watching your video podcasts! 😍
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