First, making videos is fun. For me it’s something new to learn and I always love learning new things related to photography and technology. Plus, I love gadgets and gear! Second, though if you keep it simple it can be easy, making videos is not a piece of cake. There are lots of things to consider and if you want to do more than just a talking head or shooting scenes, it takes planning and requires a variety of good equipment. Although there are some things in recording video that are similar to taking stills, much is different and you need to adapt.
I started some years ago experimenting with recording video on my Canon 60D. I got sidetracked though, and only got back to it a little over a year ago. After experimenting with audio, lighting, where I could shoot in my house, and thinking about what I wanted to actually record, I began getting more serious about video recording in February of 2016. This is when I started to formalize three series: (1) Video Updates was to be periodic - weekly or a couple times a week - "video journal" entries, mainly to document for myself what I was learning and doing; (2) Photography and Technology Tools I envisioned as a series in which I could share a description and demonstration of just that, photographic and technological tools, equipment, or software I use; and (3) Learning Photography would be a series in which I could pass on to viewers what I teach in my tutoring sessions.
The series have come back to life in the past month or so after I once again got sidetracked and let video production languish. Now, however, I'm re-inspired and plowing full steam ahead. For example, in the past five weeks I've recorded, edited, produced, and published fifteen episodes for the Learning Photography series! In the past eight weeks I've also produced seven episodes of my Photography and Technology Tools series. I actually started this re-entry into video process in early December with my first Video Update in nine months! Since then, I've produced ten more episodes. I feel I'm finally getting the hang of the process and how I can make it work with my retired lifestyle. Most importantly, though, I'm feeling much more comfortable making the recordings, standing in front of a camera and talking to it. As one "Lessons Learned," that's a big one. That is, if you're not comfortable presenting, 'performing' really, then this is not for you. I have been a teacher, thus a 'presenter,' throughout my whole professional career.
However, there are several more, perhaps helpful, Lessons Learned I'd like to share with you. I have also discussed these twenty-three Lessons Learned in a two-part video in my Video Updates series. Check those out on my YouTube channel or click on the links in this post.
- Make sure your batteries are fully charged and you have lots of room on your memory cards
- If recording on smartphone, make sure you have storage space to accommodate your recording.
- Test your audio. Then retest it. Do an audio loudness check - both too loud and too soft.
- If recording indoors, avoid rooms with hardwood floors or tiles that aren't covered - otherwise you'll get echoing.
- When recording inside in a room with no echoing, I like using an external mic hanging directly over me and plugged directly into my camera.
- Since seeing how good audio quality is when I use a lavalier mic plugged into my iPhone or my Tascam DR-40 recorder, I may start using this when recording inside.
- If recording outside some distance from the camera, consider using a good lavalier mic attached to a smartphone or dedicated voice recorder and syncing the audio in post.
- If recording with a smartphone, remember to put in Airplane mode so alerts don't creep into your recordings.
- Pay attention to lighting yourself.
- LED lights are getting better, more powerful, and less expensive. Consider a couple of these on stands or clips, even if outside.
- I prefer strong CFL (constant fluorescent light) bulbs in soft boxes when recording inside on my "set." The small LEDs work fine when I'm recording myself sitting at my desk.
- If recording in sun, try to avoid days where sun is intermittently bright and blocked by clouds.
- It is difficult to record while holding a camera in one of your hands. Avoid if possible. Gimble-type devices can help with stabilizing the camera, but simply holding, say a smartphone in one hand tends to produce shaky video.
- I avoid wearing clothing with lines, dots, and similar designs that will cause the camera to produce a strange-looking wavy pattern that will cause a moiré pattern effect in your video.
- Unless it's the look you're going for, avoid cluttered backgrounds.
- Record things you know something about and about which you can talk without a script.
- Even so, plan out each recording, review it often, and practice.
- If you are going to read from a script, do look into making a DIY teleprompter you can use with your camera. There are lots of videos on the web to show you how.
- If you plan to speak "off the cuff," don't! That is, unless you are talking about something that you know a lot about and are used to talking to people about!
- A happy medium between the last two points is to make a list of bullet points of things you want to cover that will both remind you of what you want to say and, perhaps, keep you on track.
- If you go with bulleted lists, make them so you can read them from around 5 feet and place the list (on poster paper, white board, mobile tablet, or smartphone) close to or above your camera so even as you're glancing at the list, it appears that you're looking into the camera lens!
- Vary your presentation with occasional b-roll, footage you use to illustrate what you're talking about
- Plan and sketch out your b-roll. This is an area I'm still working on a lot!
In a future post, I will list what I see as a "beginner's equipment list" for someone wanting to test the waters and see if recording videos is really something they want to do. In addition, I will make a list of what I think are desirable pieces of equipment if you want to step up your game.