One of the very difficult aspects of working from home is getting accustomed to using video conferencing tools or suddenly being thrust into making instructional videos for your students. It’s scary to do at first but with a little bit of help you can do it and do these things well. Lighting, audio, and video are all easy to do once you get past the initial learning curve. If you’ve been here awhile you know that for many years I made art instructional videos before i went back to school, and if you’re new you just learned something about me. So I’ve collected a few resources to help you shoot better video with better audio.
If you work for a larger organization- like a college, university or school, you may have access to cameras and mics. Ask your school’s technology office, IT Desk, or librarian where these are located.
Otherwise use some stuff you may have around- old cell phones make great web cams, and you can adapt cameras to work with your laptop with a few apps downloaded. This video from Tested has some great apps and programs linked. A big shocker is that the comments are unusually helpful with additional apps and resources. For the first time in my life I can say, “read the comments!”
While this next video suggests some pricey lighting options, it has a great section on lower end lav mics- those little lapel mics the folx on the news wear. As for lighting, you can pick up a few cheap reflectors from either of the evil massive companies (links to follow) with a few 60 watt LED daylight bulbs. Placing them around strategically will give you decent light for most of your needs.
You can also use an old cell phone combined with a lav mic to create a wireless solution for audio capturing. Plug the mic into the old phone and hit record. Syncing it with the video can be a pain, but it can be totally worth it for the improved audio.
If you follow me on twitter, you know I’m not a fan of Zoom, but many companies and schools use it. Do yourself a favor and look at how to lock down some of it’s more invasive qualities, then use this guide to get better sound. Yes, part of that is going to be getting a better mic. If you are creating any sort of content that you hope to use in the future, please invest in the $30 lav mic suggested above or the $12 below, or when available again, a podcasting mic. At the very least look at getting a new pair of earbuds or headphones that you aren’t going to bundle up and take everywhere. Don’t use your daily commuter beater headphones to record your audio content. I guarantee they will sound terrible.
Another dead simple and useful thing to create while you are doing online classes, is a teleprompter. There are many tutorials out there, but this one is kinda funny. You can use a piece of class or even plexi (yes it will work) and an app plus a smart phone or tablet. For android, you can look up the app Elegant Teleprompter.
This video looks at some of the settings on a camera that you can address to improve the quality of your video. It also suggests $12 lav mic that sounds great in his videos. The $100 price tag doesn’t account for the camera or lens. Combine some of his lighting and mic suggestions with the camera phone and your video and audio quality will jump.
I recently watched a Zoom training put out by an Ivy League school, the content was wonderful, but it was destroyed by poor production qualities. The presenter used old headphones and mic that didn’t pic up his voice well, his camera was terrible and the other presenters sat with their cameras pointed at windows or lamps. Not only could I barely hear the content, but the video was painful to look at. Additionally, the presenters had a great deal of difficulty using Zoom. I was glad that I had not paid for the presentation, because the production quality was that bad.
I suggest before starting video conferencing, walk around your space and take selfies, adjust lighting until you look good. Sit in the chair or in the location where you’ll be presenting and adjust the camera so that it is at least at eye level, or better yet slightly higher. I like 6 inches higher than my eye level. Remember, no one wants to look up your nose.
Look at your background, is it busy will it detract from your content? Consider moving things around, taking down art or photos. turn of the light behind you, draw the shade closed. Turn on a light in front of you to offset any background light. You do not want things so bright in your video that it hurts to look at your darkened face against a super bright background.
In terms of audio, test record. walk around with your phone, record audio and listen. How does it sound? Is there stuff in the background? echos? You can soften a lot of echoes and weird noises with the addition of curtains and hanging some soft things up. You can also place pillows behind and around the mic (if your using a larger podcasting mic that ins’t directional) to soften some echos. Turn off fans and AC units. Liberal use of mute will help qality when you aren’t talking.