Needless to say, one of the many results of working from home in the last few months has manifested itself in all things videos: video meetings, video backgrounds, you name it. If you have a webcam or a smartphone, suddenly video meetings are possible with zero excuses. All at once, everyone is scrambling to figure out the best practices for shooting at home - from video backgrounds to more technical inquiries (am I on mute?). What once used to be the last resort for videography and exclusive to YouTubers, video home production has skyrocketed to an essential skill any young professional should have in their wheelhouse. Shooting at home, whether it be for a conference meeting or content creation piece, is here to stay regardless of tomorrow’s circumstances. With the help of our video experts, Janine and Charlie, from Keyring Media, we’ve rounded up the best tips and tricks to elevate your video production at home from basic to the pro level.
Let’s start with the basics: that means you square on, in the frame and remember, sitting in front of the camera isn’t enough. Shooting from home means it’s all about prep work and how you appear when you turn on the camera will speak volumes. Think of the space that’s around your face. Really assess how you appear in the frame before any kind of filming starts – are you centred or are we looking up your nose? Angles are everything. Charlie recommends that a good framing shot is about one-third of the top of the frame levelled with your eyes.
Speaking of eye contact, if you’re a bit short on your eyeline, simply use a stack of books for your camera to sit on. If you’re not a big reader, a simple shelf or that box of game boards you’ve collected might do the trick. Get creative to maximize your eyeline! You’re the Mona Lisa, and we as your viewers can’t turn away from your intriguing eyes.
With all this in mind, you’ll be able to get a clean shot of yourself even if you’re close or farther away from the camera. Not sure which shots to use for what? Rule of thumb for video meetings means you should be nice and close to the camera. However, if you’re presenting something that requires a bit more space, a long shot allows the viewer to see what’s happening. This works great for any type of instructional video content (cake, anyone?) Charlie suggests leaving some room to the side for post-production graphic elements.
Next video production factor: lighting! The best and most flattering kind of lighting is au natural directly brought to you by the sun. Even some of the best filmmakers swear by natural lightning (the Revenant, anyone?). Take stock of all the windows around you that offer the best light source. Once you’ve determined your optimal sunshine point, place your camera in front of the window or to the side of it, and then yourself in front of your camera. The sun will literally be shining on you and lighting everything else in the frame. Plus, this way the sunlight doesn’t blind you or your audience and avoids you squinting funny faces.
If sunshine isn’t an option, then your best bet is to try to avoid dark shadows from your designated shooting area. (You don’t want to look like a vampire in the shadows after all). Charlie suggests using a lamp as an alternative source and recommends placing it near your camera. If the lamp’s light is causing some dramatic shadows, try softening them with this nifty trick of placing a piece of parchment paper or dryer sheet over it. Another quick fix to dark shadows is aiming your lamp to a nearby wall or ceiling. Great lighting will do wonders for your video content!
Video backgrounds have become the talk of the town thanks to Zoom. But if you’re not planning on using a virtual background, then re-evaluating your home office might be in the cards for you. Rejigging where your camera will face is just playing around with space you’ve set up for yourself and looking at things from a different perspective. It’s all about your creativity so the sky's the limit. That corner of your office might just be the perfect spot for you to record a seminar or host a video meeting – it’s clean, it has some plants, and it’s near a window! You can return to your regular home office setup afterwards. Or if you’re extra adventurous, trying to film outside in a backyard or balcony are also options.
However, Janine also reminds us to take inventory of what else is in your video background. Make sure there’s nothing behind you that you wouldn’t want anyone else seeing in your video. A quick tidy up ensures no one is being distracted while watching your video and avoids embarrassment for you.
Another feature of your video background to consider is whether it reflects you and your brand. If you’re filming a video that discusses the importance of a clean space, then your video background should definitely follow suit. Match your background to your industry with some well-intentioned items that’ll get you a nod of approval from viewers. Last but not least, take one final look at your background. Is that plant you love sticking out of your head? Give it a slight nudge to the left and you’re ready to go!
We can’t emphasize enough that body language is equally as important in video. Even if you’re not in the same room with your audience, body language translates across the lens. So, sit up straight and forward in your chair because looking alert engages your audience with you. Plus you’ll be building that amazing reputation you have of not being a sloucher. Great posture? That’s your middle name!
Next up, eye contact. Here’s a simple but effective way to make sure you’re giving your best eye contact and really peering into the soul of your viewer. Place a post-it note beside your camera so you can’t help but look at it. Or upgrade it to a picture of someone that brings a smile to your face (pets included!).
Which reminds us, smiling in your video content is a guaranteed win. It’s a way of being expressive and other ways include talking with your hands or a simple tilt of the head. Try things out and see what you’re comfortable with. A genuine smile goes a long way.
With these tips for video shooting ready to go, we hope that your next video meeting or recording delivers not only your message but your innate ability to thrive under irregular conditions. Creativity sprouts under pressure and producing video content while working from home may no longer seem like an uphill battle it once was. You’re in the director’s chair now – get ready to film!