Tuesday, 14 September 2021

Filming yourself on a smartphone - a handy guid

Nowadays, most phones can shoot high quality video with great sound. Here are a few tips on how to get the best footage. Most of these principles also apply to using a computer's webcam as well.

1. Video Quality
As a good rule of thumb always try and shoot the highest quality video possible. Most newer phones can film in 4K, but if yours doesn’t simply go for the best settings (usually HD). Be aware, however, that your phone storage may be affected so make sure you have enough disk space first. If you don’t think you have enough room, either delete other videos to free up some space (as long as you don’t want to keep them!) or opt for a slightly lower quality video recording.

2. Framing
Try to frame the shot landscape (not portrait) ‘chest to head’.

Centre Framing
Framing to the side
Here are two good examples of how to frame your shot. If you are talking directly to the camera, it is best to position yourself in the centre. If you are talking off camera (e.g. to someone who is asking you questions in an interview style), then it is best to position yourself either to the left of the right side of the frame. Make sure the direction you are looking is where there is most ‘empty space’ in the frame.

Placing yourself a bit further away is fine, but any closer might be too much. If you are too far away, it can be more difficult for the audience to ‘connect’ with you.

3. Positioning
Put some thought into where you position the camera. What is in the background? Is it relevant to what you are talking about? Is it distracting? Keep your phone level with your eyeline - you want to make sure that you are not looking up or looking down too much at the lens. Avoid having shaky video as it can put people off. Try not to hold the phone if possible but use a tripod or selfie stick instead. Alternatively, a shelf, pile of books etc. can be just as good.

4. Sound
Sound is just important, if not more so, than visuals. Most microphones on smartphones are pretty decent but check the quality before recording. If you have earpods, a handsfree kit or similar you might get better quality. Be aware of external sounds that could affect the recording. Don’t film next to noisy machinery, for example, or outside on a busy street. If there is noise, move away to a quieter, more secluded location – preferably inside where you can close windows, doors etc.

5. Lighting

A simple lighting set up using a desk lamp
Simple lighting can help avoid your video looking too dark or gloomy. You don’t necessarily need complicated lighting kits. The sun is a great source of light, which you can make use of either outside or inside. Just don’t shoot with the sun directly behind you. This will create a silhouette effect which will make your face difficult to see. Instead, always make sure the sun is in front of you when filming. This can be done outside easily enough by adjusting your position, and indoors by simply facing a window and using that as your source of light. Alternatively, use artificial lighting – as much as you can to illuminate your face. For example, you might want to position a table or desk lamp facing you. Don’t overdo it, though. Too much light and your face could look washed out. It could also be too bright for your eyes – you don’t want to be squinting either!

6. Don’t use digital zoom
Some cameras enable you to digitally zoom into the image (usually by spreading two fingers at once on the screen). This is best avoided as the picture quality decreases and can become much shakier.

7. Film with editing in mind
When filming, it’s important to think about the final product. Some form of editing is usually needed so it’s best to bear this in mind. Typically, this just means pausing for a couple of seconds before you start talking. What this does is allow the editor to briefly ‘fade in’ before you start. And when you’ve finished, pause for a couple of seconds maintaining eye contact with the camera. Similarly, this makes it possible to ‘fade out’ smoothly. It also avoids having to include the often-inevitable camera shake and noise when turning off the camera.

Finally, if you make a mistake, stumble on your words or are unhappy with your recording you can either:
- stop recording, take a deep breath and start again
- keep recording and go back to the start
- keep recording but go to an earlier part of your speech and carry on from there

Just make sure you take a deep breath and pause for a couple of seconds before talking again.

8. Additional tips for presenting to video

- Smile and be yourself. Overcoming the odd feeling of talking to a smartphone, computer screen or camera is probably one of the biggest challenges if you haven’t done it very often before. If it helps, try and treat it more as a conversation with a friend as opposed to a formal lecture. As with anything, practice helps – and remember to try and be yourself, relaxing into the talk. A dull and monotonous delivery will turn people off.

- Don’t self-deprecate or draw attention to nervousness etc. Even though you may feel very different internally, it’s important to convey confidence when delivering to camera, otherwise it can be very off-putting and distracting to viewers. The beauty of video is that it is not ‘live’ (unless you’re livestreaming of course!) so you can always re-do sections if you are not happy – also, you can deliver your talk one section at a time if doing the whole thing in one go feels overwhelming.

- Maintain eye contact. Try not look away from the lens too much. Having notes is fine, and if you have to look at them occasionally during your talk it is acceptable. Looking around in all sorts of other directions all the time, however, can be distracting to the audience.

If you require training or support in producing videos - feel free to get in touch with Farsight Films to see how we can help. We offer bespoke training both onsite or online tailored to your requirements. Find out more here: https://farsightfilms.com/consultancy-and-training/

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