As a video production company with quite a few active clients, since the Covid-19 lockdown began, we have had a lot more enquiries from folks about how they can produce video content for themselves, and indeed with a little bit of help from us.

In fact, we have found ourselves answering these questions so many times, that we thought it about time we wrote some of it down. Many of the tips we have to share will give you the starting point for filming your content. Editing, of course, is another matter… which leads me on to my first tip:

Have your videos edited professionally

Once filmed, it is our recommendation that you send your content to be edited professionally. Be it us, or your already-incumbent video supplier, having your content edited professionally will always result in a higher quality of output.

Of course, we would say that, and there are exceptions. Little snippets of content quickly filmed (using the tips below) and thrown out on social media are fine. In fact, we would encourage such activity!

But, if you’re looking to put out slightly longer-form content, then there is nothing worse from a viewer’s point of view than a horrible, wobbly, poorly lit and low quality sounding video. And frankly, with very little extra effort, and a tiny financial investment, you can do so much better.

Use the highest quality camera you have available

This might sound obvious, but there are a few things to think about. Your smartphone might be the first choice, and it might be the best choice, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider other options.

Do you have a “proper” camera in the house/office that does video? A lot of consumer stills cameras also do video. If you have one, depending on how old yours is, it might be worth testing the video quality compared to your smartphone to see which is better. If you are unsure, seek advice either from us or your video supplier. Depending on the camera, we should be able to give you some tips about which setting to use too.

My personal vlogging setup – a Sony A6400 and a basic lav mic mounted on a tripod

Is your camera the best in the house, or does your partner, child or cohabitor own a better one? Technology moves quickly, and the cameras in smartphones have got a lot better in the last few years. Use the latest one you have to hand.

If using a smartphone, use the front camera rather than the one above the screen. Yes, the selfie camera will let you see yourself, but the cameras on the back are higher quality. Just make sure you are framed well – this is, of course, easier if you have someone else who can set up the camera for you once you are in the position you want to film. Keep reading for framing tips…

Wipe the lens

Before you press record, for the love of everything, please, please(!) wipe the lens. The amount of video I see being broadcast even on TV at the moment that was shot with a camera with a greasy/dirty lens leaving the image all hazy looking is unbelievable. So yeah, clean your lens – you will be amazed at how much better quality the image is.

A soft cotton t-shirt will do, but a lens cloth is better. If you don’t wear glasses, one might have come with those sunglasses you just bought for working out in the garden in all the nice weather we’ve been having…

Think about framing

Whatever camera you use, it is advisable to use one of the more telephoto (zoomed in) lenses if you have a choice as they will help you frame better and are more flattering to the shape of your face. If you are using a smartphone, don’t pinch to zoom though, as quite often this will lower the quality.

If you only have a wider-angle (zoomed-out) lens on your camera/phone, just move slightly further away from the lens. You might be smaller within the picture, but you will notice the shape of your face looks more natural.

Don’t be too far away from the camera though, as being closer can help your viewer feel more engaged by the video. Here are some examples of good framing and bad framing:

Bad:

how to film yourself wrong framing example

Better lighting, horrible framing. Everyone knows shooting below makes your neck look odd – but don’t be tempted to shot from above either. You might think its more flattering, but it looks very unprofessional!

Good:

how to film yourself correct framing example

Better framing and lighting – though, do try and look a little more cheerful than I mustered whilst trying to direct my 8-year-old daughter to take a photo of me

Location is key

Assuming you are reading this from home, you might be a little limited as to where you can film, but there are still going to be better locations than others, even when the options are limited.

Both images above and the one below were taken from the same spot just spinning on my chair, in one room, in one place. With very little effort, much can be achieved.

A tidy uncluttered background is a must too. If you want people to engage with your video, shooting it with some sort of distracting background is not a good idea. That being said, something professional or even just intelligent-looking like a bookshelf or your office works quite nicely.

Think about the light

It is also very important to have a higher volume of light in front of you rather than behind you. If you are backlit, the quality of the image will be markedly lower than if you are front-lit.

Hamish stood in front of a window showing correct lighting setup to film yourself

Back-lit and poorly framed – the window light throws the cameras light meter casting me into shadow

Daylight is best, but the light from a lamp is ok too. Just bear in mind, a combination of daylight and a lamp can make the colours of your video look strange. Also, direct sunlight is not ideal.

If you are bald or wear glasses, it’s also worth making sure that there isn’t too much light reflecting off your shiny head or front of your glasses.

Make sure your device is still

There are many ways to hold your camera steady, but holding it by hand is probably the last one we would recommend. Yes, it’s fine for a quick selfie video, but if we (or your video production company) are going to be editing your video, holding it by hand is not going to work.

Wedging it on a shelf or your desk is slightly better, but really, for the sake of a very small amount of cash, you can do a lot better by just buying a basic tripod. If you are going to use your smartphone, a simple smartphone tripod clamp will allow you to attach the smartphone to the tripod.

Vertical video syndrome

I have nothing more to add than what these guys say – clearly experts in the field, it’s only a couple of minutes long, so just watch this video.

 

Sound is just as important as picture, if not more.

Avoid any location with large amounts of background noise. If you can hear the radio or tv even just quietly in another room, then either turn it down or move somewhere quieter.

Indoors is better than outdoors. Tweeting birds are lovely, but they can be a distraction on video and you won’t notice the wind blowing on your mic until you have recorded the perfect take and listen back just to hear that horrible crackly noise over your perfectly delivered message.

Closing the window helps too. A distant motorbike or car going past a closed window is fine, but have the window open, and you might find these sounds can ruin the audio.

Smaller and more heavily furnished rooms will produce a nicer sound too. Your shiny kitchen might have nice light, but all those hard surfaces can make the audio echo or sound too bright and harsh.

For a very small amount of cash, you might also want to look into getting yourself a microphone. The one we recommend is the Rode Smartlav + – this lavalier microphone will plug straight into most smartphones and clip onto your shirt or lapel.

Just bear in mind, if you have a recent smartphone without a headphone socket, you might need to hunt down that little adapter that came with it in the box.

iphone with microphone attached

Don’t over-prepare

This feels like a topic that I could write an entire article about in its own right. But, just for now a few basic tips:

If you are not used to public speaking or talking to a camera, a script will kill your video. That’s not to say you should make a few notes, but even writing complete sentences down might throw you when you try and deliver them to camera.

The goal is to speak as naturally as possible. If you write a script or try and read sentences it will sound exactly like that’s what you are doing. At best this can make you sound insincere, and worst if you don’t sound like you know what you’re saying fluently your viewers are much less likely to trust what you say. You know this stuff, so just say it as it is as if you’re saying it to someone in the same room.

If you are going to have us (or your video production company) edit the video, you don’t even need to say it all in one go. In fact, you can have multiple goes and let us edit it together to cut all your stutters and waffly bits out. We are professionals, and as long as you have followed the instructions above, there is a very good chance we will be able to edit something together out of all your various cuts and takes even if they sound rubbish to you when you send them over.

This might all sound a bit abstract as far as tips go, but there is one solid tip I can give you and that’s to do your introduction at the end. Starting by saying “Hi my name is…” can often be the most difficult way to start, and can actually end up throwing you and making you lose confidence with the rest of what you say have to say. Get the meat of what you want to say out, then say you’re intro at the end and edit back to the beginning – honestly, it’s much easier this way round!

The same can be said for the ending. When you are recording and are in full flow, try not to think about how you are going to end the video. Just say what you want and need to say, pause, and then shoot the ending. That way you can also take a moment to think about how exactly you want to say ‘bye’ and what the call to action needs to be.

Think about the message

The chances are, if you’re making a video, there is a story you are trying to tell. All good stories have a beginning, middle and end. In the context of the sort of videos we are talking about here, it might be that you want to think of that as stating the problem you are trying to solve for people, the solution to that problem, and then finally the result.

If you are trying to sell a product or service, then thinking about basic marketing principles such as the ‘AIDA’ principle can help. AIDA stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. Put across your message in that order and you have a higher chance of success. We have written about this before in the context of designing a flyer here.

Something else we talked about in that article was keeping it simple. I appreciate that I’m saying this toward the end of what has become quite a long article, so yes, the irony is not lost… but really, the shorter and more concise a message the better, especially when it comes to selling.

Here’s one I made earlier

I’m not trying to sell anything in this video, just tell a story. I shot it on my blogging camera setup (pictured above) with very little preparation. I then sent it to Will, our in-house video editor, who topped and tailed it with my blog logo, and got rid of a load of my “erms” and waffle.

Get some more tips (talk to us)

Finally, talk to us (or whoever you normally use for video). As much as I have waffled on in this video, there are loads more we can talk about to help you get the best out of your home-shot video. In fact, even if you don’t know what sort of video you might want to put together, but feel like it’s something you should be doing, please just pick up the phone or drop us an email and one of us will be able to help!

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