5 Tips for Producing Professional-Looking Video Content at Home

Here’s how to put your best face—and footage—forward during video conferences, Zoom meetings, and more.

2020 04 15
Photo: Matheus Bertelli from Pexels

As webinars, Zoom meetings, and virtual events become commonplace, everyone’s home office is now turning into a makeshift video studio. But you don’t have to be an audiovisual expert to create professional-looking footage. Here are some easy tips, tricks, and budget-friendly product recommendations for recording video and live streaming from home.

How do you look?
To look your best on-screen, avoid overhead lights and go au natural. “I prefer natural light,” says Judith George, owner of New York-based To Be Reel. “But if that isn’t an option, I would purchase a couple of reasonably priced LED lights.” She recommends the pocket-size Aputure AL-M9 Amaran ($54.99) and the small but mighty Genaray Powerbank 96 Pocket LED Light ($79), which includes a mini tabletop tripod and a cellphone mount.

If you’re directly facing a window, diffuse the light with a curtain so that it hits your face symmetrically and isn’t too bright. And although many folks have started using influencer-friendly “ring lights,” George explains that the light reflects on your eye, creating a tiny circle that can be distracting. But if you prefer that setup, try UBeesize’s Selfie Ring Light ($62.99) with a flexible phone holder and three lighting modes.

Using Zoom? Select the “Touch Up My Appearance” option in the Video Settings menu for an instant digital retouch that smoothes out skin tone.

How do you sound?
If you’ll be broadcasting from home on a regular basis and want clear, crisp audio, consider investing in a lavalier mic that easily attaches to your shirt or blazer. George, who creates video business cards for clients, recommends the affordable Boya by M1 Lavalier ($19.95), which replaces your device's built-in microphone. Or splurge on the Rode smartLav+ Omnidirectional Lavalier Microphone ($74.95), which is designed to be used with smartphones and requires an app to use. Also, keep in mind that you’ll likely need an adapter to use a lavalier mic since most feature headphone jacks aren’t available on newer model smartphones.

For longer, more advanced shoots, George suggests the Rode VideoMicro Compact On-Camera Microphone ($56.94). This is a good option if you are recording more than one person (while maintaining social distancing policies, of course) because it attaches to the camera as opposed to the person. 

What’s that behind you?
Funky Zoom backgrounds might be appropriate for your virtual happy hour with friends, but for work-related calls and virtual conferences, keep your setting minimal. George says your background should be “as simple and neat as possible, so people can focus on the subject.” She also adds that folks should “stay away from walls that might have scuffs and very visible electrical cords, and make sure that if there are any plants that they don’t look like they are growing out of someone’s head.”

And if you’re positioned in front of a bookcase, try to sit or stand a couple of feet away from it; you don’t want the book titles to be so obvious that people start reading them and not listening to you, she warns.

Where do you put the camera?
Position the camera slightly above eye level and make sure to look into the lens, not the screen, George says, adding that a tripod allows for steadiness (if you’re shooting with a camera or smartphone) but it’s not necessary. She recommends the Arkon iPhone Tripod Mount ($12.65) for iPhones. Also, if you’re using a desktop computer or laptop, you might need to upgrade its webcam for a clearer picture. Designed specifically for business pros, the Logitech C930e USB Webcam HD ($129.99) boasts a 90-degree view with tilt and zoom capabilities, which works well for showcasing products.

Did you do a test run?
"I always suggest doing a 10-second test beforehand to double-check that the background looks clean," George says. "This is also good for checking that the audio is working as well." She also suggests warming up ahead of time by doing some exercises like push-ups or jumping jacks to get your energy up. Other tips include turning on airplane mode, so you won’t get incoming calls while shooting; using bullet points instead of a script so you sound more natural; and try standing rather sitting for a more commanding presence. And remember to clean your lens.

Further Reading: See BizBash's coverage of how COVID-19 is affecting the event industry at bizbash.com/coronavirus.

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