How to Make a Reaction Video

You could become YouTube's next big thing

A surprised person staring into a camera

Christian Lechtenfeld/EyeEm/Getting Images

Reaction videos can bring fans more closely together and be a lot of fun, but if you're going to have a little fun watching something new, you can record yourself quite easily.

What Is a Reaction Video?

Reaction videos are simply people watching something they have a strong emotional reaction to for the first time and recording their responses, possibly including some first thoughts or analysis at the end of the video.

You often find reaction videos tied to big cultural events, like the first trailer for a highly anticipated movie or a viral video making the rounds, but there are all sorts of reaction videos to all sorts of products, TV shows, and ideas. The key is to choose something you care strongly about, one way or the other.

Copyrights and Reaction Videos

One point of concern with reaction videos are copyrights. Videos have been pulled down for showing copyrighted content as part of the footage, or included in the audio. Even if a song is recognizably playing in the background of the video, and is otherwise not a part of it, the video may be taken down by an automated system.

The most effective approach to this is to avoid showing the media. Represent it by using promotional photographs posted by the owner of the content online, like movie posters or album covers, and listen to audio over headphones, not including it in the audio stream of your reaction.

What You Need to Record Reaction Videos

Before you make your reaction video, you'll need to acquire a few things first, including:

  • A Room: You'll need a quiet space somewhere, preferably with a door you can lock or close, and one with a decent amount of lighting. It should also be a space you can pick up and clean easily, and can fit all your equipment and set up.
  • Camera: Use a high quality camera that can record high quality 1080p video. This can be a webcam, a smartphone, or a standalone video camera.
  • Camera Support: Don't just sit your camera on a table. A tripod or a similar stability tool will keep it in place. There are all sorts of small camera gadgets that will let you place cameras in surprising places, so take a few minutes to learn about them.
  • Lighting: While you don't need a professional lighting kit, you should have a few small LED lights handy to make your face visible. You may want to replace the lights in the fixtures with brighter bulbs to lift the overall amount of light in the room.
  • Microphone: A simple microphone from an electronics store, or a USB microphone, will be good for recording audio. Even if your camera records audio, you should record audio independently as a back-up, or for better clarity on what you're saying.
  • Headphones: Good quality headphones will help you listen to audio and ensure you're clear in the video. It'll also help you when reacting to media.
  • A Computer: Use a relatively recent computer, as you'll need to at least play back video and record audio, and possibly record video, audio, and play back from YouTube.
  • Video and Audio Editing Software: There are several options available to consider for both. Choose something that fits your comfort and experience level, especially since you likely won't be doing any complicated transitions or effects.

Test Your Reaction Video Equipment

Camera Setup

Before you shoot, you should test your equipment. Have a friend stand in for you, and place your camera in a few different places to get the best shot. Ideally, your face should be in the center of the frame, and there should be little to distract your audience from you in the background.

A well-framed reaction video shot

You should also place your camera so you have room to move; when you're recording, it's very easy to sit back or lean forward, so frame your shots so you don't get lost and move off screen.

Microphone Test

Plug in your microphone and test your voice. Don't worry about sounding like a radio announcer. As long as your voice is clear and other people can understand what you're saying, that'll fit this particular format. Speak loudly and softly to test that you're being picked up.

After Filming Your Reaction Videos

Even a simple video tends to benefit from proper editing. Watch some reaction videos on YouTube to see how they're edited.

One point in particular is YouTubers aren't shy about using "jump cuts," where footage is trimmed from a continuous shot and the subject seems to "jump" around the screen. This is done to eliminate spaces where not much is happening, so feel free to do the same on stretches of video where you don't feel it's relevant. Your reaction is what's important!

You also may want to sync the audio you've recorded to the video you've shot. The best way to do this is to put your hands in front of the camera and clap before you begin the video; the clap makes a nice loud noise, easy to match with the action of your hands.

Once that's done, watch the video to make sure you're happy with it, then upload to YouTube for fame and fortune, or at least a little shared geeking out over something special.