Video Content

5 Things I Cannot Vlog Without

Having recently wrapped up my longest series yet on YouTube (watch "Seaside Heights 2017" here), it dawned on me that I've never taken the time to explain the gear I use to create my vlogs. While my camera rig doesn't compare to the bigger YouTubers who have millions of subscribers, it has certainly come a long way in recent years.

In other words, gone are the days of using a camcorder to vlog. Going the DSLR route has dramatically improved the overall quality of my videos — in not only video, but audio as well.

To make things easy, I've created a new kit dedicated to my vlogging gear. It's simply called My Vlogging Gear. Click on anything that interests you and Kit will automatically take you to the respective Amazon product page.

So, what makes up my vlogging gear? Just five items. Yep, that's it. Five. Let's go over each of them.

Canon EOS 80D

Simply put, the Canon 80D is the best camera I have ever bought myself. Really, it's that good. The video quality it produces is amazing, it's compatible with hundreds of lenses, and my favorite of all — the autofocus is surprisingly fast. I'm talking camcorder-like speeds.

Of course, some of this comes down to the lens that I am using (more on that in a bit), but the camera in general is just incredible. It's easily worth the $1,100 price tag, and that's only for the body alone. Yeah, it's a little pricey, but I can assure you the investment is more than worth it. I don't see myself upgrading to another DSLR any time soon.


Canon EF-S 10–18mm f/4.5–5.6 IS STM Lens

I'm not one to obsess over lenses, mainly due to the fact that I have only used a few in my time. However, if there is one lens you need to give a try, it's this one. The Canon EF-S 10–18mm IS STM lens puts out stellar wide-angle shots and uses STM (STepping Motor) technology to produce an ultra quick autofocus without creating noise.

And finally, the price isn't bad. Selling for around $270, there is no better lens in this price range. I think you'll be impressed.

Watch an example video of mine here.


RØDE VideoMic Pro

Before I praise this microphone, it's important to note that RØDE has recently released a newer version that I do not yet own. I plan on buying it at some point. Okay, with that out of the way...

The RØDE VideoMic Pro is an excellent mic that plugs directly into the camera's mic-in jack. Powered by a 9V battery, you can typically expect around 70 hours of run time. Because it uses its own battery, this takes some stress away from the camera itself.

Audio quality is exceptional, just as long as you're attempting to capture anything that is directly in front of the mic. Shotgun mics are designed to work this way, so keep that in mind when recording. Also, be sure to properly configure your camera's settings. It likely will not be set up by default.


Manfrotto PIXI Mini Tripod

I often say this is the best $25 you can spend as a video creator, and I still stand by these words. The Manfrotto PIXI Mini Tripod is so simple and reliable, you'll end up asking yourself how you never owned one to begin with.

The PIXI Mini is a miniature size tripod that can be easily opened and closed whenever needed. It features a push button ball head, allowing for flexible adjustment in camera angles. And of course, the PIXI Mini comes in a variety of colors — hence why I already own four of them. What can I say? It's an addiction.

Just buy yourself one. You'll be glad you did.


Transcend 64GB SDXC-UHS Memory Card

Don't let all that mumbo jumbo mess with your head. This is simply a high-speed SD card that does its job well. There's really no other way to describe it.

Although, I will say that Transcend is my preferred brand for SD cards. It has been for years now, ever since I started creating YouTube videos.


And that's it! Those are the five items I cannot imagine myself without, at least while vlogging. My other style of videos can sometimes require different gear, but nothing too out of the ordinary.

Do you have a question about anything I featured today? Don't forget, you can find all five items on Kit, as well as many other products that are featured in my videos regularly.

My First Impressions of the GoPro HERO Session

Just this week, I had the opportunity to purchase my first ever GoPro HERO Session. As someone who has been a big fan of the GoPro brand since owning the GoPro HERO3, I've always been curious about the small cube-like camera. And did I mention it sells for just $149? Considering this is a GoPro product we're talking about, that's a great price.

Throw in an Amazon Prime Day deal and you've got me convinced. I ordered the bundle and eagerly awaited its arrival on Thursday. You can check out my unboxing video right below.

I have only had the GoPro HERO Session in my possession for about 24 hours, but I've noticed a few things that I think are worth sharing — especially if you're in the market for a more affordable action camera. Believe me, you'll want to go the GoPro route. Having recently used two GoPro knockoffs, the difference in quality is like night and day.

Build quality is exceptional

Like any GoPro camera, the build quality of the Session is simply incredible. Despite its small form factor, the camera feels solid in the hand and the onscreen menu is easy to navigate. The sides of the Session have a rubber texture, making the camera easy to grip. It's also quite light, weighing just 0.16 pounds.

If you are looking for a camera that is both compact and well built, the Session will not disappoint.

For a $149 GoPro, video looks great

Whenever you're buying a less expensive version of something better, you can typically expect to find a few shortcomings along the way. While this certainly applies to the Session, I think you'd be surprised by the results.

My first impressions of the recording quality were very positive. I'm actually amazed at how good the video looks for a camera that costs $149. The wide-angle lens captures plenty of information within frame, colors appear bright and vibrant, and white balance performance seems adequate.

It is worth noting, however, that the Session does not feature video stabilization of any kind. This means that your footage is prone to shakiness, so you might want to invest in an accessory or two that can help stabilize the motion. Either that, or consume less caffeine. But I prefer to not think about the latter.

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For a $149 GoPro, audio sounds good

Continuing to focus on the low price tag, I'm not going to knock the audio too much. However, I will say it's better than expected — at least when compared to my $299 GoPro HERO4. The audio may not sound as defined as to what I'm used to, but it actually sounds pretty damn good.

For an example of how the microphone performs, check out the video above. I plan on doing a more in-depth comparison at some point in the future.

Waterproof made easy

Using a camera with waterproof capabilities is nothing new. The idea has been around for years now. However, doing so usually requires some kind of waterproof housing — much like what's included with most GoPro cameras. But who wants to worry about carrying around another accessory? That has always been a huge turn-off to me. I simply want a product to work as advertised.

The Session is the first camera from GoPro that is completely waterproof right out of the box. Yes, you read that right. If you want to take the Session underwater, you won't have to worry about bringing along any accessories.

Of course, this kind of convenience has its limitations. Without an external housing, the Session is waterproof up to 33 feet below. If you ask me, that's plenty. I don't see myself going any deeper than 8 feet any time soon.

Seriously, just buy it

You'll be glad you did. I recommend going with the Deluxe Bundle, which includes the following:

  • GoPro HERO Session
  • GoPro Headstrap Mount + QuickClip
  • AmazonBasics Carrying Case
  • Samsung 32GB MicroSD Card

Do you have any videos that were recorded using a GoPro camera? Feel free to share them in the comments below!

30 Holiday Introduction Titles for Final Cut Pro X

The name Pixel Film Studios might sound familiar. I referenced them a while back, when I originally created a trailer for my patrons-only vlogs — as seen here. That trailer was made possible by a video walls pack called ProWall: Volume 1.  The price of admission is $30, but it was easily worth it for the kind of work that I do.

Fast-forwarding to today, which just happens to be the launch day of 25 Gadgets of Christmas (I promise, this is related), I'm excited to talk about yet another product from Pixel Film Studios that I have been finding to be incredibly useful. It's called ProIntro: Christmas Volume 2 and it has been blowing my little Christmas-obsessed mind.

ProIntro: Christmas Volume 2 is a set of 30 self-animating winter-themed titles that can be used exclusively in Final Cut Pro X — much like the rest of Pixel Film Studios' products. Each title includes the ability of editing not only the text, but also adjusting a variety of elements like snowflake animations and background gradients.

All the controls are presented within an intuitive window, blending in seamlessly with the rest of Final Cut Pro X. The experience as a whole is very straightforward and easy to understand. And I'm very pleased with the price. For just $30, you're getting 30 unique title presets and a ton of options to play around with.

For an example of what ProIntro: Christmas Volume 2 has to offer, check out the first video in my new series, 25 Gadgets of Christmas, right below. Both the intro and outro were created using this title pack. 

Because Christmas videos are a large focus of mine this time of year, I definitely plan on putting these titles to use in future uploads. Gone are the days of boring white text on a black background. Sure, my typical title style is simple and to point, but there's no harm in trying something new. 

To get an idea of all the presets that are included in ProIntro: Christmas Volume 2, check out the official trailer below. I think you'll be impressed, especially if you are a Christmas freak like myself.

5 Killer Ways to Record Better Videos on Your iPad

No matter what anyone tries telling you, there is nothing wrong with using your iPad to record videos — especially if it means getting the right shot. The cameras in Apple's popular tablet line have certainly come a long way. Pair them with an extra large viewfinder and you've discovered a creator's paradise.

Of course, recording videos on your iPad may be useful and convenient, but that doesn't mean the process is as simple as tapping the record button. Okay, for most people it is, but wouldn't it be nice to stand out?

Below are five tips that I've picked up on over the years. They will not only help you dramatically improve the quality of your shots, but you'll also save some time in the process.

1. Get a steady shot

Recording stabilized video on an iPad is not always easy, but it's certainly possible. While not all iPads feature cinematic video stabilization (exclusive to the 9.7-inch iPad Pro), you can still achieve similar results if done right.

Firstly, let's get the most obvious method out of the way. When recording videos on your iPad, you need to hold your hands as steady as you possibly can. The slightest shift in motion will be noticeable, thus risking ruining your presentation.

It's important to keep calm and focus on getting the shot. If it helps, try propping yourself up against a wall. Doing so can dramatically cut down on the amount of camera shake that is present.

And secondly, it doesn't hurt to look into getting a tripod. Yes, that's correct. You can actually find a variety of tripods that are built specifically for iPad use. It may seem silly, but to serious creators, going this route could be the right choice.

After searching around on Amazon for a bit, I can recommend the following tripods, mounts and adapters : Kross 41-inch Lightweight Tripod | ChargerCity Vibration Free 360° Tripod Mount | Accmor Tripod Adapter

2. Lock the exposure and focus

A fantastic way of capturing video that appears consistent is to lock the camera's exposure and focus. This method works wonders and is incredibly easy to pull off on the iPad, as well as most iOS devices that feature a camera.

To do this, open the default Camera app and switch to the video recording mode. Tap and hold your finger on the subject you want to record. Holding for about two seconds will display a yellow box that enlarges and flashes. This confirms that you have successfully locked your camera's auto exposure and auto focus. You will also see "AE/AF LOCK" at the top of the screen.

Now that the exposure and focus are both locked, this means you can record a video without having to constantly adjust your camera's settings. This is especially useful if you are looking to record a time-lapse where getting a consistent shot is important.

3. Use an external microphone

Recording quality audio can often be overlooked when creating videos on an iPad. While it may not be as exciting as visually capturing what's in front of you, it's still critical that you put some thought into how you plan on recording your audio.

Because iPads don't feature a dedicated USB port, it's easy to assume that you cannot connect microphones of any kind. This could not be further from the truth, as Apple allows all kinds of accessories for users to experiment with.

Let's begin with the standard 3.5mm headphones jack. While this isn't my preferred method, this jack can be used to connect a variety of adapters to work with different types of microphones. For example, this adapter from Griffin enables the use of XLR microphones, which could prove to be quite useful for a specific demographic.

And then there is Apple's Lightning to USB Camera Adapter. This is probably the best option for most iPad users. Simply plug in the adapter to your iPad, connect any microphone that uses USB, and you're set. It's that easy.

Finally, let's talk about microphones that are designed specifically to make use of the Lightning port and nothing else. These are microphones that plug directly into the iPad and don't require any kind of extra adapters or cables. And let me just say, this is the route to take.

Look no further than the Shure MV88. Having recently purchased it for myself, I can say with confidence that this is my new go-to microphone for podcasting and recording audio in general. Not only is the quality incredible, but the compatible ShurePlus MOTIV app for iOS makes the recording experience a breeze.

Once the Shure MV88 is connected, you are presented with a variety of options to customize to your liking. From adjusting mic gain to enabling wind reduction, everything you will ever need is right there. And of course, exporting your recordings is just as easy.

The Shure MV88 is currently available on Amazon for $150.

4. Record time-lapses

If you are looking to improve the overall style of your videos, then you might want to record a time-lapse or two. This can be a nice way of further engaging your audience and creating something to be proud of.

Recording a time-lapse on your iPad is easy. Open the default Camera app and scroll through the different capture modes until you see "TIME-LAPSE" in the list. Once selected, be sure to lock your camera's exposure and focus. This ensures that the final video will remain consistent from beginning to end.

When everything is set up and ready to go, simply tap the record button. Your iPad will then begin to capture sequences of time for as long as you prefer. Assuming your iPad is okay to be left alone, this is your chance to walk away and attend to something else.

Once your iPad has had at least 10 minutes to capture its time-lapse, feel free to stop the recording and take a look at what was captured. Sometimes you'll be pleasantly surprised with the results. And if not, then try again. Mix up your scenery and try new ideas.

5. Edit in post-production

Once you are finished recording your video, you will want to import it into your favorite video editing application. If you're working on a Mac, I recommend using Final Cut Pro X. For iOS users, definitely check out iMovie. And finally, for any Windows uses reading this, I've heard good things about both Premier Pro and Vegas Pro.

Aside from the obvious splitting of clips and joining them together, your top priority for any video project should be adjusting its color grading and applying any kind of filters that work. How you go about this is completely up to you, so don't be afraid to experiment with different looks and see what works best.

Going back to a previous tip, it's important to not forget about audio. Some adjustments may be required, such as tinkering around with audio levels and adding noise cancellation — especially if any scenes were recorded in a noisy environment.

And finally, adding a soundtrack may help improve the style of your video. Of course, this can vary depending on what kind of video you are producing.

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While these tips apply to iPad users who are looking to create better videos, they can certainly help iPhone users as well. That's one of the many reasons why I enjoy Apple products so much. The creative experience is typically the same across the board.

Do you have tips that you would like to share with the Di Franco University community? Feel free to post them right below!

Video Editing on the iPad Pro

With the recent introduction of the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, Apple managed to fit inside of it a 4K-capable camera. Not only is this a first for the iPad line, but it opens up a ton of possibilities for its creative user base — myself included. Check out "Surprise Snow Storm" below for an example.

That video was entirely recorded and edited using only my iPad Pro. It truly is an amazing device that enables me to express my creativity. Drawing and painting with the Apple Pencil is one thing, but creating video content is an entirely different experience. And as someone who has been making YouTube videos since 2006, I feel right at home with Apple's newest tablet.

So, what is the video editing process like on the iPad Pro? Firstly, it's important to mention that the selection of video editing apps in the App Store is severely limited. There aren't many choices as of today, but thankfully iMovie ($4.99) is pretty much all you need when getting started. It's also developed internally at Apple, so you know it's guaranteed to be reliable.

Creating a new iMovie project is simple. Opening the app presents you with three options, but you'll want to tap "Projects" and then the large plus sign. Tap "Movie" and then choose your theme. I prefer "Simple" because it's a basic approach and not overly flashy. Once you select your theme, tap "Create" in the top right corner.

This is where things get interesting, especially if you are new to video editing. The user interface is fairly easy to understand, but if you need help, simply tap the question mark icon at the top of the screen. This displays a handful of hints that can help you quickly navigate and get the hang of how to use iMovie.

Once you take a few moments to familiarize yourself with what's available, you will want to begin dropping in your video clips. If it's not already selected, tap the "Video" icon in the media browser and find the clips you want to use.

Selecting a clip will present several options. For now, focus on simply using the icon that resembles an arrow pointing downwards. Tapping that automatically drops your clip into the timeline, which is where the majority of your work will reside. Continue to do this for each clip as your project grows.

Once all your clips are in place, you might want to consider improving the style of your project a bit. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways. What I usually like to do is go for a clean presentation. Something that helps achieve this is by inserting cross dissolve transitions between clips. This simple approach can be quite effective and it really helps tie the project together.

To add clip transitions, tap the small line icon between the clips in your timeline and make your selection. iMovie currently gives you six to choose from: None, Theme, Dissolve, Slide, Wipe and Fade

Another way of dramatically improving your video is to add a soundtrack. Similar to selecting and dropping in clips, this can be achieved by once again accessing your media browser. Tap "Audio" and you are presented with all audio files that are on your iPad. Find something you like and drop it into your timeline.

Repositioning music files in your iMovie project can be very restrictive, but with sound effects you have complete freedom. Apple even provides a library of effects to have fun with. Of course, you are free to import your own.

Once you feel like your project is complete, you'll want to export it as a regular video file. Tap "Done" in the top left corner to go back to your project's main screen. In the bottom are three icons. Tap the middle icon to display your share options.

As you can see, you have plenty of choices. If you prefer to keep things simple, then tap "Save Video" in the bottom left and the video will be exported into your Photos app. Otherwise, you can upload your video to a variety of platforms. This includes YouTube, Facebook and even iCloud Drive.

Considering how well integrated everything is, editing with iMovie on the iPad Pro isn't bad at all. If anything, the experience is actually quite seamless. Sure, it's not the go-to solution for all editors, but going this route can certainly be convenient.

Finally, it's worth noting that iMovie is available on other iOS devices. I simply chose to use the 9.7-inch iPad Pro as an example for the fact that it includes a 4K camera. And as a creative, that just seals the deal for me.