This article will go over picture and sound properties and provide techniques to manipulate them so that your video looks good and your audio sounds good. Whether working with a professional in a studio, or on your laptop at home, when you capture "video" you are actually recording two main elements - light and sound. Light and sound are physical waves that are then interpreted and digitized into information stored on a CPU. They both can:
- be diffused and shaped by physical objects
- be reflected on surfaces
- lose their proximity power exponentially
Because sound and light have physical properties that means that your computer, your furniture, and lamps can be moved around to improve quality, and you can try different configurations to get better results!
Lastly, if you record light and sound when they are too loud or too bright ("hot"), your CPU will make errors and the quality of your end product will suffer. On the other hand if your light or sound are too weak, the capturing device won't get enough signal and you will get visual and/or sound noise. Sometimes this can be fixed by just moving closer or further from the lamp or microphone. Let's jump into some suggestions!
Composition and Lighting
When thinking about the visual component or what is in the frame, you want to consider composition and lighting. The visual part of your video is recorded by a built-in camera on your laptop or an external camera. Composition is how you and the other objects in the room look in the shot. This is based on where you've placed your camera in relationship to those things. Lighting is how the light in your space is landing on you and things in the background.
Here are some basic visual tips to get you started:
- Adjust your camera to be at eye level, setting your computer on books if needed. Your eyes should appear in the top half of the frame.
- Your background offers additional clues about you and your work and shouldn't distract the viewer.
- It's visually appealing to leave space in the frame for yourself. If you have something in the background that appears to come out of your head, it will be distracting.
- Film and TV lighting comes from the front or sides, not above, like in most offices. This allows us to see the subject's eyes and face better. Light from above can create shadows, especially around the eyes. However, if the overhead lights are not the only light source, they can be a good fill light.
- To improve visual quality, it is helpful to light up your face, this could be a window during the day or a lamp or two at night. It’s helpful to be facing the light source or have it come from the side.
- Whether it's a window or lamp, it’s best to avoid having the brightest light behind you.
- Do a test recording. Sometimes a slight angle change can make all the difference in how you are positioned in space, and how your face might look.
- If something looks odd, change it, or move!
- A setup like the one pictured above will give you good results.
If you break down what is happening in an instructional video, the majority of the content is delivered in the audio; therefore making the audio component the most important thing to get right. The sound of the video gets recorded by a microphone. You can use the one on your laptop or an external microphone. For educational purposes a USB microphone is fairly common and relatively easy to setup and use. It's important to identify what microphone you are using and where it is placed in relationship to your head and chest.
Once you have identified the microphone and tapped it lightly to make sure you are setup to use the correct one, you will need to set your levels. Levels are a measurement of sound loudness. It's important to make sure that you are not too loud as your CPU will record the sound with an error or what is called "distortion". On the other hand you want to make sure you are not too quiet; ideally your levels are somewhere in the middle. If in the middle, you can always adjust later, however, once you distort or record too quietly, fixing your audio might not be possible in post-production.
Familiarizing yourself with the following principles of sound will help elevate the quality of your audio:
- Quality of microphones can range, and USB microphones can sound better than the built in microphone on your laptop, however, you must make sure that you are not making other sounds that are getting into the microphone like pounding on the desk, shuffling your papers while talking, or typing sounds. Earbuds and the mic on them can also work for recording, but they tend to sound more tinny. Do a comparison test recording and see which mic sounds best for your circumstances.
- Proximity is how close you are to your microphone. It’s possible that your laptop microphone quality is fine, but it will sound much better if you are close it - about a foot away is recommended. If you have a microphone on a stand, you want to be about a fist’s length away from it. For USB mics that stand on your desk, just try to be as close as possible, perhaps propping it up on books.
- Plosives occur when air gets into the microphone from your breath and accentuates B’s and P’s. A pop filter can help with this or carefully making sure to not blow air into the microphone. If you are using an earbud or lapel mic, make sure you keep your chin up as that will prevent you from blowing air into the microphone.
- Clarity - If you feel like you said something unclearly, mumbled, or stumbled, you probably did. Pause, take a moment, and restate your sentence. Note the time on the recording. You can always go back and remove any unclear sentences. You’ll thank yourself later. Additionally, if speaking with a guest, try not to talk at the same time as them in case you’d like to make some edits. This does not apply to media you will not be editing, in that case, just correct yourself.
- Privacy - A quiet space where you will not be disturbed (pets included) and you can shut your door is best. If there are loud sounds coming into the window, please close it.
- Reverb - Carpeted, furnished rooms will sound better, than cavernous, empty rooms due to reverberations. You can bring boxes, rugs, comforters into the space and they will help absorb the reflections on hard surfaces. Just make sure they are not visible in your shot.
We recommend doing a test recording and listening back to how you sound before you record your final content or give a live lecture. All of this information is to start you on the path to getting higher quality picture and sound. Recording and performing are skills that take time to learn and improve. Carve out some preparation time before you start recording so that you can look and sound great and focus on your performance.
If you need support with your setup, or have questions about sound, contact us!