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Uncommon Sense


By Liz Covart · July 07, 2020

Tips and Tricks for Recording: Video

Ben Franklin's World 10 min read

Images of sound-absorbing wall materials in Liz Covart’s home

By Liz Covart

I’ve seen a lot of questions about mics, lighting, and sound floating around on Twitter as more museums and institutions move their public programming online and as educators move their teaching online. Many people want to know how they can record the best audio and video for their projects.

Today’s post is the second in a three-post series about how you can record the best audio and video for your public programs or online courses. In yesterday’s post we explored how to capture the best audio recordings for your events and classes. In this post, we’ll investigate how to record the best video.

Plus, if you want to go deeper or have specific questions answered, I’ll be hosting a Zoom conversation where we can talk about your specific needs on Thursday, July 9 at 5:30 pm Eastern time.

How to Record Great Video

Capturing good video comes down to lighting, camera placement, and recording the best audio you can.

Recording Environment & Lighting

Before you record audio and video, you should think about your recording environment. You want a space that has a lot of natural or created sound absorption and a space that has soft white lighting.

If you record in a space with a window, make sure you place yourself either away from the window or so that your camera is facing away from the window. 

Windows are great for light, but if you record with a window at your back, you will need to figure out how to moderate the light coming through it. Recording with too much sunlight at your back will make it hard for viewers to see you. You will appear as a dark shape as bright light shines all around you. So if you need to record your presentations with a window at your back, make sure you lower your curtains or blinds or arrange your schedule so you record during periods with less sunlight.

While you don’t want lots of light at your back, you do want a fair amount of white light at your front. An ideal recording situation would be for you to record with a bookcase or other sound absorbing material at your back and with a white light facing you while you record. 

You can create a well-lit recording environment by facing a window and recording during the daytime. You may find you need to moderate the light a bit so you can see while recording, but you can do this with your curtains or blinds.

Ring lights are another great lighting option and there are all sorts of ring lights you can use. For example, if you use a webcam to record your video, look for a ring light that will sit on a stand so you can place it just behind or just to the side of your desk or computer. If you record video with a smartphone or tablet camera, look for a ring light with a holder in its center that can hold your phone or tablet while you record. Ring lights range in price, anywhere from $30-$250.

Lastly, do think about your recording area. You want to record in a clean space without a lot of distracting aspects behind you. Bookshelves make a wonderful backdrop for recording as they both absorb reflected sound waves and show off your areas of expertise and interest.

Camera Placement

There are many different tools you can use to record digital video. Smartphone cameras, SLR cameras, and webcams make up three of the most popular video recording tools.

Regardless of which camera you use, you’ll want to pay attention to placement. Make sure you place your camera at a comfortable distance away from your face and body and so that your face appears in the center of your recording screen. 

Many apps like Skype and Zoom offer virtual “green rooms” where you can test how you look on camera. These virtual rooms are private places where you can play around with your video and audio settings. In these “green rooms” you can move your camera around to an optimal position. You can also see how you and your space will look to those who attend your class or event. Testing in a virtual green room will also help you see whether the camera picks up the laundry you left off to the side or the chews your dog decided he must chew in the center of your recording field.

Webcams versus Smartphone Cameras

When you record video, you want to make sure your camera is still. Webcams have a slight edge over smartphone and SLR cameras in this respect in that they are often built into your computer or are designed to be placed on top of your monitor. This means after you place them, you won’t have a need to touch them again.

With smartphone and SLR cameras, you’ll want to invest in a tripod or stand that can hold them steady and at an appropriate height while you record. Whenever possible, do not record video while holding your camera. Humans aren’t perfectly still and holding your camera will add jitteriness and movements that may cause your viewers to become motion sick. It’s best to mount your camera so it is stationary. Plus, being able to set up your camera and leave it while you record will free you up to focus on your material, students, and attendees.

Best Video Recording Practices

Here are some other tips that can help you record the best video possible.

  1. Dress comfortably and for the occasion. You want to be comfortable in your clothes as you will need to sit or stand in them for the duration of your recording. 
  2. Avoid clothing with patterns and lots of colors. Solid color clothing appears best on screen. 
  3. Remember that your camera is always watching you. While you are recording your camera will be on and broadcasting all of your movements and actions while you are recording.
  4. Be sure to smile and make eye contact. Try to interact with your host, guests, and students as you would if you were in the same room with each other. As your camera is always watching you, try to look into the camera and into the eyes of your hosts, guests, and students.
  5. Use a good headset or USB microphone to capture your audio. Audio can really make or break a video recording so be sure to capture the best audio you can while you record your video.

When I asked for specific questions you wanted answered in my series about mics, lighting, and sound, you asked me to address how you could record interviews with remote guests. That’s what we’ll cover tomorrow in our last post in this series. 

Also, in just two days, on Thursday, July 9, 2020 at 5:30 pm (ET), I’ll be hosting a live Zoom chat where we can talk about some of these tips and tricks and answer your specific questions about equipment and recording techniques. To attend this discussion, sign up here.

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