By Mark Egan
The Covid19 lockdown forced lots of people to go camera from their homes. Whether you are on a Zoom call or making a video, here are some tips for looking and sounding more professional when making videos from home.
Your home is not designed as a recording studio. That can mean any video recordings, live Zoom calls or audio recording can sound echoey. The trick is to avoid too many hard surfaces that may reflect sound. Sofas, beds, clothes and blankets can all help reduce echo. Even a towel on a desk can mean less sound bouncing around. If you are looking for something more permanent, you could order a mini portable vocal recording booth or some panels of noise reduction foam.
Get A Decent Microphone
Do not rely on internal microphones on your phone, camera or laptop. I normally talk about smartphone mics, but lots of people are asking me about mics for their laptops. If you are using a laptop then a simple usb mic will make a huge difference. There are very affordable usb mics. Just decide how portable you want your setup to be. For a laptop mic that fits in your pocket I carried the Samson Go Mic with me on my travels. It is tiny and can clip onto your laptop screen, but the audio quality is good.
If you are willing to spend a little more you can get something like this Samson Satellite usb mic. It has connectors for phones and laptops. It also has fold out legs so you can stand it on the desk in front of you.
If you are using your phone or a camera, then a lavalier mic will help give you quality audio. Smartphone mics often come with a 3.5mm TRRS jack connector. If your phone has no earphone socket, you’ll need an adapter to connect those to your lighting or usb port.
Naturally with microphones, the more you spend the higher quality you are likely to achieve.
Lighting plays a massive role in making your videos look good. You can use natural daylight, but avoid shooting towards windows that may result in a silhouette effect. A small LED ring light can be useful to add a bit more light to your shot. If you want a more professional setup then two or three LED standing lights can transform your location. Aputure do some good portable LED lights. I also like Viltrox for budget standing LED lights. Remember to think about lighting your background, not just your foreground.
Consider your background
The things that will make your background look better are depth, detail, balance and lighting. With depth you want to avoid filming yourself right up against a wall. It can look claustrophobic. Where possible, film into a room with some space behind you. Detail is about avoiding blank walls, a neat bookshelf or nicely staged props will look better than a plain wall. Conversely, messy backgrounds can be distracting and should be avoided. With regards to balance, try and think about the composition of the video shot, if you have something tall on one side, try and have something similar the other side. Finally, again think about lighting. Is there a lamp you can turn on or an uplighter for a bookshelf? If you have smart bulbs, you could change their color while you are shooting, so your background has a more studio-style look.
All these minor changes together add up to a nicer looking background. Alternatively you can get affordable backdrops for green screen etc.
Whatever camera you are using, make sure it is set at eye-level. You do not want to be looking up or down at the camera. This may mean putting a laptop on books to raise it. If you are doing Zoom calls remember to look at your camera and not yourself on the screen. Try and put your eyes two-thirds of the way up the frame. Following the “rule of thirds” will make your shot composition look more professional.
So, with a little bit of creativity and some affordable equipment, you can go live, record video or create audio content from the comfort of your home.
About the Author
Mark Egan is an experienced mobile-video consultant and trainer. He formerly worked for the BBC, where hew as one of the Corporation’s first self-shooting video journalists. Mark has trained major broadcasters, brands, and NGO’s around the world to create high quality content with smartphones. His client list includes the European Broadcasting Union, World Health Organization, the UN, BBC, SKY and the Finnish Prime Minister’s Office. Mark also delivers online training at markeganvideo.com. He has spoken on stage at major events in places like China, France, Finland and Malaysia. Over the past few years Mark has helped newspapers, businesses, charities and government departments implement mobile video strategies.