Setting Up Your Webcam, Podcasting, Videos, and Streaming

In the last few weeks, I have been live streaming and publishing videos on my YouTube channel, and it has made me appreciate how much I have invested in getting a good hardware setup—not just for streaming, but also for those of us who work remotely each day.

A lot of time has been spent obsessing over lights and cameras, and I wanted to share some options with you—new streamers, podcasters, remote workers, or anyone just looking to make a new setup.

What is here?

Then, I will start by covering each section starting with the cheapest option:
  • Webcam
  • Audio
  • Lighting

Finally, I'll talk about my setup, as well as some recommended full configurations at various price points.
  • My setup
  • Barebones
  • Entry-level podcasting and remote work
  • Podcasts and mid-level remote work
  • Podcasting at a professional level
  • Streamers/YouTubers

This is intended as a reference when it comes to finding more clarity and not to stress you out or to judge anything you are happy with your existing setup. Do you require more clarity from your system? Let's not spend any money on anything just yet.

Although I love having a high-quality webcam for working remotely, would I have purchased it if I weren't so concerned with me being able to give videos to people on YouTube? No. Make the most of your budget by using this resource.

A proper microphone for podcasters is needed. Streamers need high-quality mics and cameras, but lighting is perhaps the most crucial factor. Although YouTubers need the best camera and light, the audio still matters a lot. The remote worker's requirements are the least severe. Do what works best for you.

Webcams

Basics: $free

Let's start with the simplest solution. Your computer probably has a built-in webcam that's also likely terrible.

The image is very flat and hard to see, even though I am using a Mac. Especially in lowlight situations like my room, with no streaming lights on, it's very low quality.
  • (Nothing required, just use your built-ins)
Check your webcam by just carrying online webcam test to check its quality. If your webcam qaulity is so poor then buy new webcam.

Minor upgrade: Logitech's cheap webcams ($18 or $33)

I have never used any of the Logitech cameras, but I hear that they are a good addition to your existing built-in camera. If you are buying a cheaper camera, it'll surely be an upgrade to the built-in camera, but whether it will be sufficient depends both on your needs and whether you have enough lighting; cheaper cameras are very dependent on having sufficient light.
  • The Logitech C6315 ($33)
  • The Logitech C270 ($18)

The Classic Medium upgrade: a Logitech webcam (US$50-100)

Most Tighten employees have upgraded to a Logitech webcam. There is a wide variety of options available, but most recommendations are in and around the 900 series. We are owning the C930e, but Wirecutter recommends the C920s, which is a bit cheaper and includes a privacy shield. Additionally, the c930e has a wider field of view, which is good if you have a large room to capture, but is not a necessity if you're reading this article.

This makes the 1080p Logitech cameras better for viewing rooms and I still have a better view with the camera's c930e (if you want to zoom), since the software also allows you to edit it.
  • The Logitech c930e ($72)
  • The Logitech C920s ($50)

A new kid medium upgrade: Razer Kiyo ($90)

During writing this post, I was served by an excellent post by Olivier Lacan on best practices and lighting for webcams. Among his recommendations is a Razer Kiyo webcam that has a built-in ring light.

Here is a side-by-side comparison between the Logitech C920 and the Razer Kiyo by Olivier:

Several other helpful tips are given on zooming, webcam settings, and natural lighting in your room.
  • The Razer Kiyo ($87)

Major upgrade: Real Sony Camera ($400+)

It's time to think about recording or streaming videos with your computer, especially if you plan to stream and particularly if you plan to record videos for YouTube.

Elgato recently introduced a device called Camlink, which lets you use any device that is HDMI enabled as a webcam, so any video- and HDMI-enabled camera can be used as a webcam.

Elgato has a list of cameras for this use: they all come with HDMI output and can be rigged to be plugged into the wall instead of drawing power from batteries.

You will also need a power adapter if you want to get a Sony camera that'll allow you to connect the battery compartment to a power cord so that your camera runs on A/C power rather than a battery.
  • HDMI input: Elgato Camlink ($120)
  • The Sony a6000 or a6300 or a similar camera will cost between $300 to $1,000.
  • Cable: Most cameras use Micro-HDMI, so you'll need a micro-HDMI to HDMI cable ($10).
  • Install: I use the Elgato Multi-Mount, but it's a bit pricey; you can use a desk tripod or any number of swiveling mounts for $20-$50. Dan Mall recommends this tripod.
  • Dummy Battery: If your camera isn't able to charge itself with a dummy battery, you can use one ($20) to accomplish the same task.

Audio: Mics

Yes, We've got you looking good; what about audio?

The simplest answer is that you should do anything in your power to get a standalone mic. I don't, unfortunately, have very many examples sitting around, because I eventually saved up for my dream mic and got rid of the rest. But here are a few options.

In our next section we'll look at our onboard microphone, headsets, and private USB microphones, followed by the top of the range, the standalone XLR microphone with the onboard audio interface.

Onboard/webcam mic ($free)

You won't be able to hear yourself clearly, as your onboard or webcam mics are so bad that they defeat software noise cancellation (sometimes to the point where they will hear themselves back). They won't work like that.

Headset

When you have a wired boom mic headset or even your desktop version, you're likely to get a good battery life and sound quality better than what you'd get from your computer or webcam. You can use this option if you are only watching from home, not streaming, and do not care very much about audio quality. Streamers themselves are quite happy with this option, so don't knock it off.

The following are a few of the best there is:
  • The Evolve 75 ($280)
  • 165$ Plantronics Voyager Focus
  • The Jabra Evolve 65 ($120)
  • The Jabra Evolve 40 ($90)
  • A Microsoft LifeChat LX-6000 ($50)

Audio: Mic accessories and headphones

Once you have a microphone, you might need some new headphones, and you might also need help setting your microphone up for good recording.

Headphones

Honestly? You can use whatever you like, even if you have at least one pair of iPhone headphones.

If you're setting your sights on a studio-quality headphone, you should check out the Sennheiser HD280Pro's. It's $100, but worth it. I recorded in one of the biggest studios in Chicago and that was the headphones we used.
  • A Sennheiser HD280PRO ($100)

But. This is the last place to spend money. Just go with your ears open and spend your cash somewhere else.

Standalone microphone accessories

You will likely need an XLR cable, stand, shock mount, and perhaps a pop filter if you decide to buy a standalone mic.

The room treatment

There are three more blog posts on the subject of room treatment alone, but here are some simple tips.
If you are willing to spend some money on your room acoustics, ATS Acoustic panels are much more durable and better.
  • The ATS Acoustic Panels

My setup

In addition to working remotely, I am also on Zoom video calls all day. I also run several podcasts, the Five-Minute Geek Show and the Laravel Podcasts, create YouTube videos, and stream on Twitch and YouTube. My job also includes a lot of developer relations even though my actual work isn't developer relations. Therefore, I've been investing in my setup for quite some time.

A few years ago, I saved up for the mic. When you don't have an overflowing bank account, setup takes time.

  1. The Shure SM7b ($400)
  2. A Rode PSA1 ($100) boom
    The Triton Audio Fethead ($100)
    Onyx Blackjack (gifted, discontinued)
  3. The Sony A6300 is $1,100 new, $550 used.
  4. Sony Dummy Battery ($23)
  5. The Elgato Camlink ($120)
  6. The Elgato Multi-Mount (for the camera) ($50)
  7. The Elgato Key Light (153 the day I bought it, 220 now) would make me so sick.
  8. A Sennheiser HD280PRO ($100)

Entry-level podcasting and remote work

If this is your only requirement for a webcam and headset, I'd consider getting the Logitech C615 and the Lifechat headset. However, they aren't my first choice, so if you can turn instead to the mid-level set-up, I'd suggest it.
  • A Logitech C615 ($33)
  • A LifeChat LX-6000 ($50)

Mid-level remote work and podcasting

For more investment, I would recommend either the Razer Kiyo or the Logitech C920s for your remote work setup. Then the best Jabra you can afford.
  1. The Razer Kiyo ($87)
  2. The Logitech C920s ($50)
  3. The Evolve 75 ($280)
  4. The Jabra Evolve 65 ($120)
  5. The Jabra Evolve 40 ($90)

Streamers/YouTubers

I have my dream setup for streaming video, but if you're just starting, here's what I would get:
  1. A cheap light—probably two inexpensive can lights
  2. Beautiful bulbs in the right shade for my room
  3. Razer Kiyo webcam
  4. You have whatever headphones lying around.

If you own a headset and intend to stream, and ATR2100 mic and stand as well as a filter is essential.

In reality, you can do even less and still get ahead in streaming—it's about your content and not about you. In addition to high-resolution video (at 30fps), this camera helps develop good microphone techniques as well as recording very good audio.

For $90 for the Kiyo, $40 for some pendant lights and cans, and, if you are recording full-screen videos rather than streaming, maybe one would also need the ATR2100 and $20 for a stand.

FAQs:

  • Why do I love my Blue Yeti so much?
Keep using it if you like it for goodness sake! I'm making broad broad generalizations, so if you have an environment where that mic thrives, enjoy it!
  • What if I record just using Voice Memo?
Do it. Half of the recent Five Minute Geek Show episodes were recorded with Voice Memo. Just get it out there! Once you have enough listeners that they care, worry about the audio quality.
  • What about shotgun microphones?
For YouTubers and streamers, shotgun mics make the most sense. Since I had serious issues with my Shure SM7b, I sent back the Rode NTG2. However, I have since heard that there were better shotguns if you could afford $400 or more, so I am not a knowledgeable person here.