You've seen the pandemic ads, we all have. Sentimental music and smiling faces encouraging you to stay strong during this time. But before they ask you to buy a Toyota at the end, we'd encourage you to notice how good everyone looks on camera! This is no small feat when filming yourself. Even CNN's Sanjay Gupta struggled to generate passable footage while recording himself from home. The truth is, anyone can look and sound great on camera from home, you just have to follow a few basic steps:
1. Location, Location, Location.
There isn't a video production company in the world that can save footage shot in the wrong location. So when filming yourself at home, you have to select the right location. Make sure there is no noise in the background first and foremost. This means no air conditioner running, no beeping, no conversations in the next room (if possible)... nothing. Additionally, choose an area with a plain, simple backdrop without any major light sources. You don't want light blowing out your background and making your face difficult to see. Be sure to put real thought into where you want to film.
Now that you've selected the perfect location, it's time to frame yourself properly on camera. You've seen the FaceTime videos where you can count individual hairs within the speaker's nostrils... and you don't want to be this person. This means setting your camera (computer, webcam, phone, etc) about an arm's length away, and AT OR ABOVE eye level. The resulting frame should look something like this:
Once again, be sure to set your camera AT OR ABOVE eye level. Once you've gotten yourself properly framed, adjust your camera settings to create a nice even image. This means no areas that are too bright (usually happens if a window or light is behind you) or too dark. You can use a computer, phone, camera, or other recording device, as long as it's set up properly. Using a tripod will also help get the best angle possible. If you don't have access to a tripod, you may need to get creative when placing your camera.
Lighting is easy to forget, but it's a huge part of what separates professional productions from amateur work. You're not expected to have access to a professional lighting package, but there are steps you can take to optimize your lighting environment. The biggest way is to ensure you are lit from the front more than you are lit from behind. You don't want any major light sources behind you as this will dilute the lighting on your face, and ultimately create a worse image. Use three point lighting if possible, or have a natural lighting source IN FRONT of you.
If you do it right, no one will notice, but if you do it wrong, it's THE ONLY thing anyone will notice. That's audio in a nutshell. Before going live or recording ANYTHING, you need to test your audio. This means setting everything up and recording a few seconds... then listening back to it. Most of you will be using on-board microphones in phones and cameras, which work okay if you're within an arm's length and in a quiet environment. But if you want to take audio to the next level, you'll want to position a mic as close to your mouth as possible. There are many options for external microphones, so take some time selecting the right microphone for your phone, camera, or computer if you're going to be recording a lot. And make sure to get audio 100% right!
We hope this quick overview was helpful in getting your at-home footage to the next level. At JJack Productions, we help clients film from home all the time (and especially now... more than ever) and would be happy to create a more personalized guide for your purposes. Just shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org! If you think you've got it covered, be sure to take our more detailed Remote Filming Guide to go, and remember to check that audio!