Video is one of the hottest things on the Web right now, and everyone is racing to create quality video content. While it may seem difficult to create professional-looking video content without a budget, developments in technology have made it easier than ever to record video that looks and feels professional.
While it may not look like a Warner Bros. production, there is a lot you can do to film great DIY video content. We've spent a lot of time testing various methods at Software Advice, and have identified a set of best practices to guide the video creation process. Here are six key areas to focus on to help you create great Web videos, on a budget.
1. Get the studio ready
When you're recording video that focuses purely on yourself, or on demonstrating something, it's important to carefully set up your surrounding studio. Think about your shooting area as the studio, and consider its various components: the camera, microphone, background, and lighting, and how you will account for each. While you're setting up your studio, it's important to limit the framing of the video to yourself and a solid background as you don't want other items in the room entering your shot.
2. Pick a quality webcam
Today, you don't need to purchase a fancy studio camera to shoot DIY videos in high definition. Instead, you can use a webcam. While it may be tempting to stick with your computer's built-in webcam, chances are that your webcam will shoot low quality video. Since most people out on the Web expect high-definition video, it's a good idea to go out and get a webcam that can shoot in HD. If you don't have a built-in webcam that can shoot in HD, we recommend checking out Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920 for Windows and Logitech HD Pro Webcam C910 for Mac. One advantage of these webcams is that they also record decent audio.
3. Get the right sound
There are several options available for getting a decent sound for your Web videos. The first is to use a good HD webcam (like the Logitech models recommended above) that can record audio. If you want to go with this approach, pick one that has dual microphones as it will capture the audio better. Your second option is to use a USB microphone, like the one pictured below, that connects to your computer to improve the sound. We like Blue Microphone’s Snowball ($68) as it offers great sound for the price, or you can upgrade to their Yeti ($106) for even higher quality sound. If that's not your style, you can always go the route of a headset or lapel mic. One thing to note, however, is that these will likely be visible in your video.
4. Great DIY videos need good lighting
Lighting is a big area of focus when trying to get your video to appear professional. If you don't have the right lighting, colors will appear dull and there will be shadows in your face. Neither is desirable.
At Software Advice, we rely on two small desk lamps that cost $23 each and use copy paper diffusers to light our foreground. We also use a three-piece lighting kit to light our backdrop (see the diagram pictured below in step 5). One side note about lighting: dim your computer screen as much as possible to avoid getting lighting from your monitor into the shot. Below you can see examples of good lighting versus poor lighting.
5. Set up the studio properly
You can use Skype to preview your shot (#1) and adjust your lighting as needed. You’re looking to evenly light your face. The main light (#2) is your primary light source, while the fill light (#3) comes from the other direction, generally less intense, to bring down the shadows created by the main light. Two desk lamps ($23 each) with copy paper taped in front of them to act as diffusers (as shown below) are highly effective at providing additional soft light for your webcam, just keep an eye on heat. You may need up to three back lights (#4) to light your backdrop (#5). Other backgrounds can be used but avoid too much activity as it can negatively impact video quality.
6. Frame your shot
The last thing to consider is the framing of your shot. There are two generally accepted framing options that you should adhere to. The first is to center yourself in the shot (left) and the second is to use the "rule of thirds" (right).