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Tips for getting good video at home: on calls or for filming

With many of us now isolating or working from home; keeping in touch with colleagues and clients has become a vital part of our everyday work routines.

Since video is the most powerful alternative to face-to-face meetings, we’ve called upon our resident Video Producer, Jamie Parry-Bruce, to gain some top tips on how to get the most from your at-home video setup, so you can be confident in your calls or filming activities.

Let’s get started!

Laptop tips

Location, location, location: Where you film is almost always as important (if not more so) than what you film on. Whether you’re using a laptop camera or a webcam, if you’re not in the right location, you probably won’t get the best results.

Aim for lots of light: Whether it be natural or artificial light, being well-lit is absolutely key to getting a great picture. If you’re struggling to find somewhere adequately illuminated, don’t be afraid to get some help from desk/floor lamps (you might have to remove the shade) or even your phone torch to help you achieve a nice, bright image.

That being said, make sure the lighting isn’t too harsh: Having a bright spot right in the middle of your face (or, for certain gentlemen, right on top of your head) will make that area look completely white on the other side of the video call, giving you a ‘ghostly’ appearance.

Don’t sit in front of a window: Yes, it’s probably a great source of light but if the window is behind you, you’re likely to be in complete shadow.

Think about the background: For video calls, a neutral background is best – try to avoid visual clutter that you might get lost in. Webcams and laptop cameras have a very wide depth of field so you won’t get separated from your background with some out-of-focus blurring.

However, if you’re filming for a webinar or something else, have a little think about what, if anything, might give the background some more flavor. Again, don’t clutter the frame but if there’s anything interesting around that might add something relevant to the image think about positioning yourself so it’s visible in the picture.

It’s all about the angle

We’ve likely all had a video call with someone who wasn’t paying full attention to what their camera was pointed at; so all that’s been visible is a forehead or a chin. This isn’t the best look, so to avoid this, you need to give some thought to both the position of your camera and yourself.

Do a test shoot: You should always aim to test your camera before you get on a call. For Windows 10 users, just click on the magnifying glass (usually located on the far left of the taskbar) and search for ‘camera’. Open the Camera app and look – it’s you! From here you can experiment with the position of your laptop or webcam to get the most effective angle.

If you’re struggling to get it right, hop on a video call with a friend and ask them to help you with your positioning. Almost all video chat apps have a preview window so that you can view yourself and see what you look like for others on the call. This is also a good time to check your microphone levels. It’s a wise idea to get into a practice of doing this before you start or join each video call.

Too low? Rise up: Books are great spacers to pop under your laptop if you find your head being cut off.

Don’t forget to alter the tilt of your laptop, too. Ideally, the top bezel should be level with your eyes (so that you’re not craning your neck to look up at the screen or hunched over looking down at it!).

Are you sitting comfortably? Some video calls can last a while, so it’s important to make sure you’re sitting properly to help look after your back and avoid any troublesome aches and pains in the future. Try to sit upright in a comfortable chair with suitable lumbar support. Not only will this prevent back pain, but it also helps you look more alert and engaged.

The next level

Using your laptop for video calls or filming is all well and good but there are some things you can add that will make the experience (and results) so much better. Bear in mind that these aren’t a necessity for video calls but you should definitely consider each and every area if you’re going to be recording a webinar, vlog or piece to camera.

Webcam 

This may come as no surprise to you but external webcams are a lot easier to set up and manage than an in-built camera and will, generally, give you better image quality.

You don’t need to break the bank either, as entry-level models will often outperform in-built cameras. Have a look through what’s available and make the choice based on what you need from a webcam. Do you need one on a stand? One with lights? A wireless one? There are webcams to suit all needs!

Headphones 

Using a pair of headphones instead of your computer or laptop speaker means that you cut down the possibility of feedback and delayed echo. You’ve probably all heard it; that high-pitched whine that happens when a microphone picks itself up through a speaker? That’s feedback, and when you use headphones the microphone will no longer be able to pick up the sound.

A delayed echo is a nightmare for other people on the call since trying to talk when you can hear yourself back is practically impossible – headphones will resolve this, too.

Microphone 

If you’re hosting a webinar this is the most important piece of equipment you can bring to the table (or desk). In-built or headset mics aren’t the best – they tend towards a flat, lifeless (but perfectly serviceable!) sound that isn’t necessarily going to grab and hold someones’ attention. An external mic will let your voice’s personality shine through but, just like with webcams, there’s a huge range of options available so you need to know what your requirements are before you buy. Most of us will need something called a ‘condenser’ microphone with a ‘unidirectional’ pickup.

Getting the look 

So you’ve got the perfect lighting and background, a great webcam and an amazing microphone. What else can you do? For webinars and filming – as well as for client or important calls – dressing well and popping on a little makeup can help out; this goes for the guys, as well!

Makeup, such as a matte foundation, can be used to help eliminate glare and shine. While avoiding high-contrast colors such as black & white, or intricate patterns (especially thin stripes), will help to avoid camera strobing and visual distractions. Opt for plain or block colors, instead.

Want to learn more? 

If you have any questions or tips of your own to share, why not Tweet us @Moneypenny? Or, explore our blog for further tips, such as how to set up and host your own webinar.

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