The professional world we inhabit at UD and elsewhere is increasingly remote and virtual. Online learning is the new normal and instructors must know how to produce high-quality instructional videos in order to connect with their students. While studios are available on campus, you can create your own simple recording studio at home for making instructional videos and media content for your online courses.
This guide will show you how you can easily set up a studio space at home using basic equipment that you likely already own.
- Arrange a consultation with a UD video professional
- Find a quiet, well-lighted space in your home
- Start simple and use the equipment you already have
- Look and sound good on camera
- Wear headphones with a built-in microphone
- Know your system sound settings
- Dress for the occasion
- Be aware of what’s in the background
- Choose an appropriate Zoom virtual background
- Position your camera so you look your best
- Be visible to your students
- Follow UD best practices for creating video
- Download video editing software (for free)
Arrange a consultation with a UD video professional
Not sure where to begin? You can arrange a consultation to speak with a video professional from IT University Media Services. Their team can arrange to speak with you and learn about your learning video goals, help evaluate your setup and make recommendations for improvements. You can request a consultation by contacting Bob DiIorio at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Find a quiet, well-lighted space in your home
Establish your studio in a quiet space in your home where you can be free from distractions, interruptions, ambient noise, foot traffic, and the general clutter of everyday life. Silence is golden.
Balanced lighting is key to picture quality – and a flattering on-screen visage. First, use the lights you have and experiment with the video display in Zoom (Settings > Video). If you only have one or two lamps or wall lights, position the lights in front on either side of you (or move your desk) to illuminate your face where you’ll be recording. Try to use newer LED light bulbs.
Always record video in a room with good natural light, and always face the light source so bright lights or windows behind you don’t wash out your image. Avoid having direct sunlight shining on you as it usually appears harsh on video and can make you squint. Also, try to avoid using overhead lights as they cast shadows on your face and dim the overall picture.
Pro Tip: For a professional touch, use a three-point lighting setup with a key light, a fill light, and a backlight positioned at approximately 90-degree angles. Read more about three-point lighting.
Pro Tip: Use ring lights or softbox lights with stands for a diffused lighting effect that looks more professional.
Tip: Run a short test video recording with friends or colleagues and watch the playback to determine the lighting adjustments you need to make.
Start simple and use the equipment you already have
When you’re creating a home studio on a limited budget, keep it simple. Video equipment gets expensive fast and you don’t need pricey equipment to make videos for online courses.
The webcam and microphone on your computer are sufficient for Zoom recordings. And you’d have to spend hundreds to buy a camera as good as the one you already own – the one in your smartphone.
Smartphone cameras have powerful features and effects that suffice for a start-up studio such as low-lighting enhancement, image stabilization, slow-motion and more. Smartphones also have the advantage of livestream functionality, video editing apps, direct upload to the cloud and social media, and other features that are unavailable with many traditional cameras.
Tip: When recording video with a smartphone, remember to clean the lens, record in landscape orientation (horizontally), and never zoom in on the subject as it blurs the picture. Use a tripod to stabilize the camera.
Pro Tip: You could use one laptop or phone to record video and another as a microphone. Set one phone or laptop in front to record visuals but place the other off-camera and closer for a clearer sound. The visuals from one device and the sound from the second can be spliced together during the editing process. Start with a short test video first.
Look and sound good on camera
As mentioned earlier, the webcam and microphone on your laptop or Macbook will get the job done for simple Zoom recordings, but certain equipment upgrades can work wonders – and they cost less than you may think. For enhanced picture and sound, start with an external webcam and mic.
You can buy an external webcam for $30 – $60 that will improve the sharpness of the picture, low-light performance, color and more. And you can vastly enhance your sound performance with a Bluetooth mic or wired lavalier (lav) mic for around $25. Professional microphones will produce crisper audio with less background noise, but even a cheaper external mic will outperform your laptop or phone mic.
For webcams, we recommend Logitech USB models with at least 720p resolution. Also, to run your webcam (and Zoom) well, your computer needs a decent processor – Intel Core i5 or better.
To take it a step further, you can buy a USB audio interface that connects your mic to the computer and converts the analog mic signal into a digital computer signal. They start around $100 and are guaranteed to improve your sound performance.
Read these tips from Zoom to enhance your audio and visual performance.
Tip: In Zoom, preview your video display (Settings > Video) and test your computer or device audio (Settings > Audio) before the meeting begins. Under Audio, select the options to automatically adjust your microphone volume and suppress background noise.
Tip: Zoom offers built-in video enhancements that can improve picture quality including filters, backgrounds, the “Touch Up My Appearance” feature and more.
Tip: Always shoot video at 24 or 25 frames per second. The trained eye will notice anything different as that’s what we’re used to watching for movies and TV shows.
Wear headphones with a built-in microphone
Headphones are an easy way to improve sound quality as they minimize the chance of transmitting background noise and echo from your mic picking up the audio from your speakers.
Start by recording with your earbuds. Most newer earbuds (such as AirPods) are noise-cancelling and have a built-in microphone with adjustable volume.
Ideally, you should buy USB or Bluetooth noise-cancelling headphones with a boom microphone. Larger headset models tend to provide higher sound quality, while earbuds make for less obvious headwear in your video image. Consider this headset made by MPOW.
Tip: Make sure the microphone on your headphones/headset is not rubbing against your clothing during recording as it introduces noise or feedback.
Know your system sound settings
Get to know where the input volume settings are for your device (or in the app you’re using). For instance, if you’re sitting farther away from your laptop, you may need to turn up the input audio level to make sure your listeners can hear you.
On MacOS, go to System Preferences > Sound > Input. In Windows, go to Sound Settings.
Remember to record a short test video so you can make adjustments to your settings.
Dress for the occasion
Be careful of your clothing choices. White and light colors can wash out your face. Also, repeating patterns such as small stripes, herringbone, and even some types of sweater weaves can cause your camera to have trouble focusing.
Test your choices ahead of time to see what looks best. You may also want to have a variety of pieces to change into if you are making multiple recordings during a single session.
Tip: The color of your background will determine what colors you can wear to be seen properly during recording.
Be aware of what’s in the background
The background helps to set the tone of the video so it’s worth taking a minute to see what’s visible in the frame behind you. Ideally, you should find a spot where the background is fairly minimal, perhaps with some understated decor. Clear any visible clutter and don’t record in front of open doors or uncovered windows. If you’re not in the mood for cleaning your studio space, use a backdrop or a virtual background.
Choose an appropriate Zoom virtual background
There’s an easier way to set your background – use a virtual one. Rather than showcasing the chaotic inner sanctum of your home on every Zoom meeting, you can present a constant, picture-perfect image to all of your viewers. Choose an aesthetically pleasing, work-appropriate background that is content-related – and not distracting to your viewers – such as a picture of the UD campus or a scenic landscape. You can also use a green screen or another solid-color background.
If you’re recording a series of instructional videos, consider using a different background for each topical group of videos. This makes videos easily differentiated by topic in a larger list.
To set your Zoom virtual background, go to Settings > Backgrounds and Filters.
UD offers branded virtual backgrounds for a variety of situations.
Tip: Don’t use backgrounds that are too busy or contain complex patterns as they divert the viewer’s attention and can cause cognitive overload, leading to less successful learning outcomes.
Position your camera so you look your best
Generally speaking, you should be sitting close to the camera, looking directly into the lens, and positioned in the center of the frame or slightly off-center. Make sure the lighting is optimal and that your head is fully visible on the screen.
For the most flattering shot, place the camera lens at face level and turn your face slightly to show your most photogenic side. If you’re recording with a smartphone, use a small tripod to ensure your camera stays stable and in the perfect position. Or, if you’re recording with your laptop, stack a few books or boxes to elevate the laptop webcam to face level.
Tip: Use a teleprompter so you can face the camera while speaking without looking away. Several free or low cost teleprompter apps are downloadable via a simple Google search.
Be visible to your students
To achieve a genuine instructor presence in your online courses, record yourself in your instructional videos as if speaking directly to your students in a classroom. Don’t simply narrate off-screen as you click through a series of PowerPoint slides. Being visible in your videos helps you to recreate the classroom experience and make a stronger connection with your students.
Follow UD best practices for creating video
For tips on making great videos – recording introductions, breaking longer videos into shorter segments, recording voice annotation – and for ideas to help you increase student engagement with your media content, read our Best Practices guide.
Tip: Write a script for your video and rehearse it before recording.
Download video editing software (for free)
To trim the beginning and end of videos, you can try using the Kaltura Video Editor that is built into My Media in UD Capture and Canvas.
Your videos are automatically captioned when uploaded or migrated to My Media in Canvas or UD Capture. Be sure to complete all video edits before proceeding to review and make corrections to your closed captions. Always review your automatic captions and make edits to improve them further.
To learn more about video editing software, visit the UD Library’s Multimedia Literacy page on videos.