Apps to make movies, workflow, and music for YouTube videos

Thanks Chris! I’ll answer here as these choices have some background and interesting consequences.

The only app I use to make movies right now is iMovie. But that isn’t a strong endorsement. I think it’s a great tool to get started with, but it has some limitations as you get further along. If you’re looking to start making movies I’d begin with iMovie (or equivalent on Windows), since it’s pretty easy to figure out most things on it.

One thing though that trips you up as you get along in the movie making effort is the fact that the iMovie library itself contains an archive of all the movie clips you import. So let’s say you have 1GB of movie clips in some folder, then import them into iMovie, now you have 2GB of movie clips on your hard drive. This makes doing any kind of workflow around your movies and hard drive space difficult.

My iMovie library is so large I had to move it to a separate 1 terabyte external SSD drive. The move brought a noticeable slow down to doing things inside iMovie.

I’m not an expert in other apps, but I’ve read things like Adobe Premier only holds pointers to your clips in other locations. So 1GB of movie clips remains 1GB of clips. And they exist in the location you stuck them in. Though of course that will have cons too if you move them, since the pointers will all break.

But the movie projects themselves aren’t that important to me once a movie is finished, I’m fine trashing the project and whatever pointers it has, as long as I have backups of the original, raw footage.

This is the external hard drive I’m using:

I’ve been happy with it.

Though I’m still trying to figure out what my long term storage workflow is going to be. Am I going to just collect a bunch of these SSDs over the years? Or get a big NAS type device? Not sure.

One thing I do plan on exploring is Amazon’s unlimited storage solution. $60 a year for unlimited movie storage.

Sounds like a great deal if I can use that as cloud backup of all this movie data I’m collecting. I don’t need the cloud storage for streaming, I really just need it in case of fire and other emergencies.

That’s about all I use in the workflow. Pretty sure I’ll move to Premier or Final Cut Pro here soonish, though they have their own issues. I’d also like to color grade my film a little so will explore other tools to do that too.


As for sound, yes, it’s all GoPro onboard microphones these days. The Session 5 is definitely better than the Session 4 on this front. 3 mics vs 2 mics help with that.

You also want to be real careful about how you hold the GoPro so it isn’t rubbing on your hand or clothes.

There are folks who do attach better mics to their GoPro setups. And some people use separate sound capture hardware all together. I’d love to have much better sound right now. But I just don’t have the patience for more equipment. My DSLR already has the shotgun mic, and that’s noticeably better sound than onboard mics, but the convenience of using a GoPro really trumps the quality most of the time.

As for other sound, I really enjoy adding music to these vids. A good song can make all the difference of making something mundane something interesting. YouTube has a free audio library with a bunch of decent and interesting tracks that you can add to your videos:


I’ve used a bunch of those. I’m starting to explore more though. The YouTube library just doesn’t have enough of what I want. So I just started using tracks from Music Vine. They’ve got affordable and flexible licensing. And another option which I’d like to explore is just reaching out to folks producing cool music on Soundcloud. I think that’s a channel many of the better known YouTubers have pursued. Soundcloud makes it super easy to reach out to people producing music on there:


Lots of new music producers on there would love some extra publicity and links to their work, if they were asked and gave their permission. Just need to create some relationships.


I’d love to hear more from anyone out there about video editing and finding/licensing music. Any new video editing apps worth a good look? And interesting places to find people producing great music they’d want heard in up and trying YouTube channels 🙂 ?

P.S. You should follow my YouTube channel, where I share more about how history, psychology, and science can help us create better businesses. And if you find yourself overwhelmed while starting your own small business or handling customer support, check out how Highrise can help!


Most important vlogging advice?

One of the most popular and rapidly growing YouTube channels today is a “vlogger” (video blogger) named Casey Neistat. A big reason for that growth is Casey is a filmographer, not just any random citizen with a camera. He brought to YouTube the skills he honed while creating award winning feature films, a series for HBO, commercials for Nike, etc.

So when he offers advice on how to film or edit, I take notice. But there’s one piece of advice I feel he hasn’t directly called out to his audience, but subtly has made apparent over and over again.

In one episode, Casey is stuck in meetings all day and asks his wife to film the vlog. He hands her a camera and tells her:

Hold the camera steady. That’s the most important thing. No shaky camera.

He says these exact words to a bunch of people he hands his camera to.

You even see this priority in his mode of travel. He’s obsessed with his Boosted Board, a motorized skateboard he rides throughout New York City.

I think most people just see it as a toy perfect for a thrill seeker. But it’s far more than that. Casey has discovered the perfect camera dolly for filming the type of movie he films where he is the star and also the entire crew. By filming on a moving skateboard he gets to film himself going through life in a much smoother manner than when he films himself walking.

If you pay close attention, you’ll see the interesting lengths he takes to make sure that camera is as stationary as it can get. Here’s an example from his latest vlog post:

Notice anything? Look in his glasses at the reflection.


You can make out the camera he’s holding. It’s a point and shoot. He’s holding it without a tripod. But he’s got it resting on the edge of a door or wall panel to help keep the camera steady.

He treats the world as his tripod.

Of course this is a goal more than a rule. There’s plenty of shaky video even in Casey’s work. But you’ll notice the shaky stuff is often kept to very short shots and surrounded with very stable shots.

And sure, sometimes shaky camera movement is perfect for the story it helps tell. Movies like the Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield were all about regular folks holding and running with a camera. Steady cameras wouldn’t have told the story as well. But even in those cases, people were turned off:

Some theatergoers experienced nausea from the handheld camera movements and actually had to leave to vomit. In some Toronto theatres, ushers asked patrons who were prone to motion sickness to sit in the aisle seat and to try not to “throw up on other people.”

As I watch a lot of amateurs and even find myself getting started, this is far from obvious. We think “vlogging” and we think we need to capture ourselves doing something interesting and moving, and since we’re holding the camera it has to move with us. It doesn’t. Spend the time figuring out how set it down on something.


One of the things I’ve added to my filmmaking is primarily using a GoPro Session.

I’ve started wearing one around my neck so I can pull it out quick and capture something. In a recent vlog, you can still see far too much shaky video, but it’s interlaced with a lot of steady shots.

And the GoPro Session made it really convenient. Since it’s square, I can drop it on a table, a cup, even a roll of paper towels to create a stable tripod while I film something. And since it’s relatively cheap compared to my phone or a DSLR, I don’t mind if it falls off of some situation I thought was stable.


P.S. You should follow my YouTube channel, where I share more about how history, psychology, and science can help us create better businesses. And if you find yourself overwhelmed while starting your own small business or handling customer support, check out how Highrise can help!