Video production has a chance to adapt in profound ways right now. But it won’t get anywhere if communicators don’t start with prioritizing some basics. Scouting. Lighting. Audio. Shot Design. Editing. Let’s do this!
Most likely, your first forays into video production in this time are going to center around people talking while looking at a camera. Start your process by scouting the location in a video call with your talent. Have them show you the room in which they’re thinking the recording can take place, and consider asking them what else is available if you don’t find the room is going to work for your needs. Include outside as a possibility, although audio is harder there.
Audio – Location
Your first stop on quality is audio. Yes, before picture. There are two pieces to consider here: the interference of location audio and the quality of the recording device. And they can interact. Usually your talent has already picked a location because it offers the least amount of potential audio and visual interference. Make sure that’s the case. Consider shipping simple sound absorption elements (here are some options) to them to place in front of their computer. These help absorb mid and high-range frequencies, sharpening the audio. Productions regularly use sound blankets to muffle audio in good ways: if you don’t want to ship a baffle, try a blanket.
Audio – Recording
Elevating audio recording quality provides enormous lift to the overall quality of an experience you’re producing. The microphones included in our laptops are worlds better than they were, but they capture wide ranges of audio, including keyboard action and room noise. One first option can be simply high-quality earbuds – Airpods and Samsung Galaxy Buds both offer strong voice recording options that are superior to laptop microphones. Have your talent place them on something like a small inverted glass at the laptop and use their computer for listening. This will transform their audio without being distracting for your viewers. A good gaming headset is also an option to consider like this Razer Nari. Another option to consider for improving audio that is more discrete is a simple wired lavalier microphone (this wired Rode model is popular and easy to use). Standing microphones are the next level and maybe a little too hard to ask talent to set up on their own.
A great way to begin your scout is to understand what natural lighting options exist. Daylight is cool which can sometimes seem distancing in film but its natural reflective qualities make people’s faces really glow. It’s a great first option: where are the windows, and how can we create a frame that uses a window to light your speaker. Note: this means the window is lighting the speaker, not that the window is in the frame. You need light in front of the speaker. You want to avoid backlight. If a bright window isn’t an option, consider small ring lights that attach to computer screens. Here’s Amazon’s top picks. These lights provide warm glow for faces and can transform how we focus on and relate to a speaker on video. They’re also super easy for your talent to use.
Shot Design – Camera Angle
Elevate the camera. It really doesn’t matter how – it can be on a bunch of shoe boxes and no one will know. But make sure your talent’s eyeline is straight and not looking down at the lens. In fact, most DPs know to place the camera slightly above the eyeline of talent. On set we regularly know not to ever feel like you’re looking into someone’s nose. So work ahead of time with your talent to get the camera elevated, whatever it takes. Also consider using your streaming software’s automatic tools for softening backgrounds. These are super fiddly and often don’t work. But when they do (and that will require testing with actual wardrobe because clothes affect these algorithms), they can drive major attention towards your talent. Here’s a list of applications that offer background blurring tools.
Shot Design – Background
What’s behind your talent? One powerful option is to provide a very clear and clean surface, like a simple collapsible backdrop. This can transform your location scout because you can look for the right light without worrying about the background. It also means you aren’t emphasizing the at-homeness of the conversation. Audiences may be growing tired of homes and home visuals. Anything you can do to step up the unhomeness of a talent location may be to your advantage in deepening engagement. Another option is to look for depth of frame – deep frames where we can see far into the background suggest a certain cinematic quality.
Our POV on adaptation is that quality and innovation are going to become the major differentiators in content. When you finish, get recorded files to an editor and/or a simple graphics support. Let the content begin to be shaped into a better story by opening yourself up to realizing that these interviews are really just the very tip of the iceberg in thinking about how content needs to adapt.
These are really just the beginning. What’s down the line? New kinds of recording and storytelling that leave behind the office studio environment. New kinds of self-capture. Outside content. Radical incorporation of stock imagery and other pre-recorded content. New forms of capture and sharing.
New forms. And that’s where this is really going to get interesting.