Recording video (for podcasting, YouTube, or anything else) adds several layers of complexity over standard audio. Here are 6 tips for getting better video from your “studio.”
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1. Choose your video style(s)
The styles you choose for your video drastically affect your needs. For example, how many hosts you have could influence how many cameras and microphones you need. Also, one kind of microphone may be adequate for solo shows, but the same kind of mic won't work for cohosted shows.
You may need a green screen for background effects, a counter-height table for demonstrating a product, a separate or overhead camera for special product shots, and so on.
Your “studio” may not work for every kind of style you can imagine, so decide on what's important before you start adjusting the studio space for your video podcasting.
2. Optimize for audio
Audio is the most important quality factor for video. If people can't hear you well, then it won't matter how good your video works because they can't receive your message.
Review all of the points from my previous episode, “How to Optimize Your Podcasting Studio for Good Audio“:
- Move away from noise
- Move the noise away from you
- Stop using noisy things
- Point your microphone(s) away from noise
- Reduce reverb
- Consider your in-studio cohosts
Video podcasting in your studio may require extra work on your audio because the needs are usually different. When recording audio alone, it's okay to have a large microphone close to your mouth. But this same setup may be distracting and hinder the viewing experience for video.
Going back to my first point, the video style you choose influences the kind of microphone you need. Shotgun mics often produce the best audio when placed well, but a lavaliere microphone may be more versatile (and affordable) for your style.
Almost anything else will be better than the microphone built into your camera.
If you can't get a microphone made for video, then consider using your standard microphone and framing your shot tightly. This would let you get the microphone close for good audio, while keeping it out of the shot. You could also try to hide the microphone behind a prop.
In this video, I used my Heil PR40 microphone barely out of the frame:
Here, I used two Heil PR40 microphones out of frame:
In the following two videos, I used lav microphones.
(In the second video, we forgot to turn something off and my microphone had some interference.)
Does your audio need to be perfect? No. But do try to make it as good as possible, and avoid using the built-in mic on your camera.
3. Give yourself enough space
You can record an audio podcast with even the tiny space of a closet. But video needs more space.
Cameras, backdrops, lighting, props, backgrounds or backdrops, and a table or counter all take space. Also, if you want a nice depth of focus effect (where the background is blurry while you remain in focus), you need at least several feet between you and the background.
The lens and camera you use can also affect this. 50 mm lenses are very popular for their size and wide aperture, but they're also very close to the focal length of the human eye. But put a traditional 50 mm lense on a cropped-sensor camera (usually any camera under $2,000), and there may be a magnification factor of 1.5× or 1.6×, thus making the 50 mm lense function like a 75 or 80 mm lens. Being that zoomed in means either very tightly cropped video, putting even more distance between the subject and the camera.
Don't forget about your vertical space! Lights, shotgun mics, and overhead cameras may need 8 feet or more clearance to keep them out of your video frame. Some homes may have fixtures or ventilation that either hangs so low that it's visible in your shots, or it gets in the way of the gear you want to use.
4. Work with lighting
While audio is the first important quality factor for video, lighting is the second factor. It's possible to get great video from a cheap camera (even a webcam) with good lighting, as the following video demonstrates.
If you need a cheap starter lighting kit, consider one of these:
- Fancierstudio FL9060S4 3800 Watt Softbox Video Lighting Kit Light Kit With Carrying Case—this is the kit I use and I chose it for the overhead light instead of a third softbox
- ePhoto Pro Studio Video 4500W Digital Photography Studio 3 Softbox Lighting Kit Light Set and Carrying Case H9060S3—this is essentially the same kit as above, but it has three softboxes instead of the above kit's two softboxes and overhead light
But if you can't afford even these, get creative with what you have.
- Face a window on a sunny day.
- Angle yourself near a window on a sunny day, and use something bright to reflect light from the other side.
- Use as many house lamps with the bright bulbs safe for use.
- Use work lamps you might have in your garage.
In the following video, I had an open window to my right (diffused with a white sheet or shower curtain) and a few very bright daylight-temperature CFLs in a regular house lamp to my left.
Lighting is a science all to itself. But the general idea is that the more light you get pointed at the subject, the better your videos will look.
Also look at a cheap reflector (or something else large, flat, and white) to have more control over lighting.
5. Make it comfortable for your needs
Different video and presentation styles come with different needs. For example, product demonstration videos often work best if you can stand behind a counter, conversational videos may work best with your sitting down, or promotional videos may work best standing with nothing in front of you.
Here are some examples.
This video was a promotion for my SEO for Podcasters course, and it was shot in the more conversational format of the whole video series.
In this video, we're both sitting (because I didn't have any surface high enough for standing).
In this video for Podcasters' Society, it was more directly promotional and I was standing with nothing in front of me (great for using hand gestures).
In your videos, it might be important to you to have relevant items visible in the background. There are plenty of styles, and you need to ensure your space is comfortable for that style.
6. Consider future expansion
Can your video studio grow with you? Maybe you'll want to start recording a new style of videos, or you want to add a cohost, or you want to leave your equipment permanently set up.
If possible, keep these things in mind and work with your space in a way that will allow you to expand and try new things in the future.
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