The Gear Guide for Producing Your Online Course at Home (For Under $1,000!)

Kyler Nixon
March 28, 2022
5 min read

There's a common misconception that online courses *must* be these professionally-filmed, super-flashy, big investment productions.

While I am a big fan of investing in your course production and paying experts to help you.

Sometimes that's not always realistic.

In this blog post, I'm going to give you a rundown of the essential equipment and gear you need to film a high-quality course at home—all for under $1,000.

Yes, seriously.

Voice-Over vs. Talking Head

Depending on the format of your course, you’ll have to decide if you want to do a voice-over or what's referred to as a "talking head" video for each module.


Voice-overs are typically where you have a slide deck or another graphic element to assist in your course content. Here, the audio quality is paramount because a vast majority of your course is your voice.

Here's a quick screenshot from on of our workshops, 100 Email Subscribers in 7 Days.

Notice how most of the screen is consumed with the slide/graphic and I'm in a tiny thumbnail in the corner?

This is a voice-over-style production.

The key gear you'll want to make sure you have covered in this type of course are:

  • A good microphone
  • A webcam (the one from your computer or laptop is sufficient)
  • Lighting (whether natural from your windows or something additional)

You don't need to worry much about anything else, again, because the focus is the voice and the content of the course.

Talking Head

Talking head is likely what you think of when you think of online courses.

It's the style where you are on camera for the majority of the course and your slides and/or graphics appear at certain points to break up the content.

It's called a talking head because, well... your head is talking and that's what's in the shot.

This style of production is a little more involved because you're relying more on the quality of the video which has some additional layers.

Here's a screenshot from another workshop we have where we leverage this style.

Here, you'll notice I place more emphasis on the lighting behind and in front of me and the quality of the video is a little more impressive.

The key gear you'll want to make sure you have covered in this type of course are:

  • A good camera (more on this below)
  • A good microphone
  • Lighting (environmental and subject)

Keep in mind, you can also blend these two styles of courses. So maybe your intro module is a talking head while your actual educational content is voice-over.

Make sense?

Okay, let's break down some of these items and give recommendations.

The Four Pieces of Equipment to Consider

When producing your diy online course at home, we're going to focus on four main pieces of equipment (in this order):

  1. The camera
  2. The microphone
  3. The lighting
  4. The tripod

The Camera

One of the more important pieces of equipment you'll need for filming your course is a camera.

I'm going to give three options at varying "levels." Please find the option that's best for you, and know you can always increase the level over time.

Option 1: Your computer's webcam.

Yes. I know. But you can absolutely use your computer's webcam to film your course. In fact, most of our content and workshops are filmed using my iMac camera and nothing more. If you go this route, you may be able to adjust some settings to optimize the quality, so be sure to Google your brand of computer or laptop along with how to improve the camera quality.

Option 2: An external webcam.

If you want to up the quality a bit, you can always purchase an external webcam.

I personally love the Opal ($300) because it's like a professional camera packed into a webcam. It's compact, works with most computers, and is easy to use and adjust. If you want the best external webcam out there, this is what I'd recommend. (Use code "opalverge" for access)

If you want something a little more budget-friendly, you can try the Logitech C920 ($70). This camera works with most computers and has some adjustable settings. It won't be as amazing quality as the Opal, but it will still get the job done well.

Most webcams by Logitech are a fairly safe bet, FYI.

Option 3: Your smartphone.

Nowadays, the quality of a smartphone camera (like an iPhone) is pretty remarkable. I've even found that my iPhone can go toe-to-toe with even thousand+ dollar cameras.

There are a ton of different types of phones out there, so I'm not going to get too in the weeds here, but Sean Cannell is a great YouTuber who has this gear guide for a studio setup for your smartphone.

Option 4: A DSLR camera.

If you want to upgrade your production even more, you can use a DSLR camera instead of an external webcam. DSLR camera are more of the "professional" quality cameras you would think of when you see great photos or videos.

Now, I want to be clear here: the learning curve for a DSLR is much steeper than the other options. You'll need to have some understanding of how to operate the camera or a willingness to watch some YouTube videos and play around with it. This is not a great out-of-the-box solution. But if you're looking for a longer-term investment and are willing to learn this a good place to start.

If you go this route, your setup is likely to be over $1,000, but I still think it's important for you to know. Here are a two entry-level DSLR cameras I like:

  1. Canon EOS T7 ($600)
  2. Sony a7iii ($1,800)

For a huge library of recommended video, audio, and lighting gear from someone who uses this stuff on a daily basis, I'd recommend looking at Sean Cannell's gear guides here.

The Microphone

Another key piece of equipment you'll need is a microphone—preferably one that will capture clear audio without picking up too much ambient noise from your surroundings.

On the Her Digital Brand© podcast, we use the Blue Yeti X Professional USB Mic ($169) and love it.

If you're using your smartphone, you can also consider getting a lavalier mic that clips onto your shirt or jacket. This wireless one is good ($34) or can explore others on Amazon.

A few quick notes I want to make here:

  1. Don't. Go. Cheap. on your microphone. Unclear and muddled audio is a surefire way to distract your audience and make your course feel cheap. You could have a great quality camera with a crappy mic and it will still make your course feel cheap.
  2. When exploring microphones, make sure you get one that either 1) connects directly to your smartphone or 2) has a USB connection. Professional, studio-quality mics like the Shure or other mics you might see on major podcasts require additional compressors and condensers to work. One that plugs right into your computer is sufficient.
  3. If you're recording with multiple people in the same room, make sure your microphone has omnidirectional recording.

The Lighting

Good lighting is essential for any video shoot—especially if you're filming indoors. Natural light is always best if possible, but if you're filming during winter or at night, then you'll probably need to supplement with some artificial lighting.

One affordable option is this Neewer Ring Light Kit ($129), which includes everything you need to get started with ring lighting.

Another step up would be a softbox light like this one ($179).

Here's the setup I typically use:

  1. Face a window for 80% of the light
  2. Add the ring light (I have the one linked above) to highlight my face and warm things up a bit
  3. Place a Neewer RGB light behind me for some color and separation from the wall

The Tripod

Last but not least, if you're not using a webcam, be sure to have a solid tripod! Even if your camera has image stabilization capabilities (like many do these days), there will be times when using a tripod just makes things easier, especially during a talking head. A tripod will also help ensure that your footage is nice and steady—which is always appreciated by viewers. I like this simple tripod by Amazon Basics.

My Exact Recommended Setup

Okay, so here's the exact setup I recommend if you're looking to produce a DIY online course at home and keep it under $1,000:

Camera: Opal Camera ($300)

Microphone: Blue Yeti X Professional USB Mic ($169)

Lighting: Neewer Ring Light Kit ($129), Neewer RGB Light ($35)

Tripod: I don't use one

And lastly, there are a few different recording softwares out there, but I like to use Loom for voice-overs and Zoom for talking heads. Both are free or next to free and are easy to use.

For graphics, I just use Canva and for the actually selling of the course I use Kajabi.

Wrapping Up

As with anything in life, starting something new can feel overwhelming at first. Hopefully, this blog post has given you a better idea of what equipment and gear you need to film a professional-quality course at home–without breaking the bank or spending hours learning how to use the equipment.

And when you're ready or need a little extra help, schedule a call with our team.

You've got this!

**We may get a small affiliate commission from Amazon if you buy any of these products. It's at no cost to you and we're only recommending the products we've used ourselves.

Kyler Nixon