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Tips for Filming Videos at Home
During COVID-19
Lighting, Locations, Angles, Settings, and More

Tips for Filming Videos at Home During COVID-19

Tips for Filming Videos at Home During COVID-19 1920 1080 Ryan Northcott

The blown out window. The noisy under-lit shadows. The weird angles that aren’t flattering. The dark circles under our eyes that aren’t from lack of sleep. These are just a few of the things that make us hate shooting video with our devices at home. “This looks like garbage” you think, “do I look like that?” You don’t, but the wrong conditions can make it look that way.

A few of our clients and friends have asked us how to improve the video they’re shooting at home for social media, blog posts, website content, and more. In the age of COVID-19 that’s turned our lives upside down, we think about video in a different way. Gone – temporarily – are the days when companies like ours would film a beautiful looking video with the right lighting, equipment, audio, and crew.  The campy, underproduced video that we’re seeing right now is absolutely acceptable because everyone in the world is doing it right now and somehow we love it.

With our iPhones, Androids, and tablets we don’t get the dynamic range of a RED like we shoot on or the high data rate that makes professional production look and feel amazing. Video that comes out of these devices are highly compressed, but in our world today that will have to suffice.

While you probably don’t have access to the greatest and best, there are a few things you can do to make your at-home video production look the best it can.

1. Location, Location, Location

Picking the right spot is essential for getting a good picture. Too noisy and your audio won’t sound clear. Too messy and the viewer will be distracted. Use these tips for finding the right spot.

  1. Don’t film with a window behind you or with one in the frame.
  2. Avoid spots that have direct sunlight even in the background.
  3. Avoid or clean up clutter in the background, make it presentable.
  4. Find a spot that’s relatively quiet and free of pets, family members, dishwashers and televisions.
  5. If you absolutely need extra light, use a lamp or ring light at a 45 degree angle to your face.

Cluttered

There's clutter around, clean up and have a clean frame.

Direct Sunlight

Too much direct sunlight blows out the highlights.

Good Frame

No clutter, clean frame, good lighting.

2. Lighting

Lighting is perhaps the most important aspect to filming at home. Cameras love light, they drink it up, but not all light is the same and some types of light make you look, well, not-so-great.

  1. Use natural light from the outside, but make sure it isn’t directly hitting you or your background.
  2. Turn off overhead lights, they create dark circles under your eyes and create an unpleasant look.
  3. Shoot during the day.
  4. Watch out for beams of sun in the background.
  5. It bears repeating, never shoot with a window in the frame!

Backlit is Bad

Shooting against a bright background makes the subject very dark.

Overhead Lighting

Overhead lights cause ugly shadows and weird lighting color.

Good Natural Lighting

No clutter, clean frame, good lighting.

3. Cameras, Mounting & Settings

So the lighting is good, the location is quiet, you’re ready to set up the camera. We’ve all been there when we turn on the self-facing camera…that moment of shock, but don’t worry, read these tips for the best angles, mounting options, and camera quality settings.

  1. Go into your device’s video settings and choose the highest possible setting. (Apple, Pixel, Samsung) Aim for at least 1080p at 30fps or 4K at 23.967fps.
  2. Mount the camera on a tripod (we recommend this one) or a stack of books or basically anything you can find to set the camera on. Get creative if you have to!
  3. Make sure the camera is at shoulder or eye level, don’t be too low or too high.
  4. Frame yourself in the centre of the frame if you’re talking to the camera.
  5. ALWAYS shoot horizontally.
  6. Make sure the camera is clean, give it a wipe with a screen wipe if it appears dirty.

Be Creative

Smartphone Tripod

Angle Too Low

This angle is too low, you see the ceiling and the face is too close.

Angle Too High

If you're looking up at the camera it's too high.

4. Everyone’s Favorite: Zoom

If you’re worried about data or storage limitations on your iPhone or device of choice, Zoom is another option to record your meeting, talk, or video. Like the camera settings in the previous point, you want to make sure you’re camera is at eye or shoulder level and you’re nicely framed. A laptop on a desk in front of you looking up at you – as we all know now – is not a flattering or professional looking frame. Here are some important tips related to recording with Zoom.

  1. Enable HD, if you’re computer camera supports HD, use this setting.
    To verify, go to Settings > Video > Tick “Enable HD”
  2. Remember all of the same lighting and camera position settings as mentioned previously.
  3. Remember to press “Record” (I’ve forgotten this and had to redo all of it)
  4. The video of your Zoom recording will go through compression after the Zoom “meeting” ends, make sure you’ve got enough space on the drive you’ve selected as your video destination.
  5. Forget about Zoom when this is all over.

5. Audio

Sometimes you can get away with poor video quality as long as the audio is stellar, but bad audio makes for a bad experience for the viewer. You may have a mic or even earbuds, those are great but if not follow these guidelines for the best audio.

  1. As mentioned find a quiet place to film.
  2. Ensure your device is recording stereo audio if applicable.
  3. If you have AirPods use them! They have a decent microphone. Earbuds can be used too, but the cord can be distracting.
  4. If you don’t use either, make sure you’re close enough to the camera so it can pick up clear audio.

6. Other Recommendations

There are a few other things to consider when filming at home. What to wear, the beauty of time, being “off script”, and if you want to get really crazy – the rule of thirds.

  1. Don’t wear patterns, solid colors are great. If you can avoid black and white even better.
  2. If you mess up, don’t worry, even the pros mess up. You get as many takes as your device can hold.
  3. Don’t read or overly script – it’s obvious to the viewer and can come across as disingenuous. If you need prompts, have them near the camera, but speak from what you know.
  4. Go by the image below for a solid framing look.
  5. Test your setup. Record a few seconds of your video, look at it, make any adjustments.
  6. Upload your video for your editor via Dropbox, WeTransfer, iCloud Drive (in iOS 13.4 and above), or Google Drive.
  7. Have fun.

Solid Frame

Great frame. No direct overblown sun, natural lighting, uncluttered area, angle is in between shoulder and eye level.

These tips will help you get the most out of filming at home – follow them and you’ll get great content for your social media, blog, website, or wherever else your audience will watch. The most important part is this: while it may seem silly, think to yourself that Stephen Colbert, SNL, and other TV shows are doing the same thing.

If you have questions or need help, CONTACT US and we can guide you through the process and professionally edit your video.

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Ryan Northcott

Ryan Northcott has been in the film industry since 1997 first as an actor and then as director/producer with MEDIAPOP. He serves as company Creative Director. He loves coffee and cookies. Chocolate chip ones to be precise.

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