Good morning bloggers!

Today, I have a special treat for you. Derek Singleton of Software Advice, is a guest author who prepared this article specifically for you here at Blogs By Heather!  It is a how-to article on creating a DIY video, which so many of us do, with the proper studio setup including sound, lighting, framing, cameras and more!  

This article discusses the use of Skype, but for many of you that video step-by-step paper crafting videos, this article still relates to you in many ways in regards to lighting, sound, framing in general, and overall studio setup. So it's a little bit of everything for everyone creating DYI videos!


Video is probably 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 create great DIY video content. We've spent a lot of time testing various methods of Software Advice, and I'd like to share our best practices with you here.Here are five key areas to focus on to help you create great Web videos, on a budget.

1. Getting the Studio Ready

When you're recording video that focuses purely on yourself, or demonstrating something, it's important carefully set up your surrounding studio. Think about your shooting area as a 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 video 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, pic on that has dual microphones as it will capture the audio better.


Your second option is to use a USB microphone (see below) that connects to your computer to improve the sound. We like Blue Microphone’s Snowball ($68) as it offers great sound for 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. 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 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 figure 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. Studio Setup

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).
There you have five areas that we focus on to create great, professional-looking Web videos without breaking our bank.

Do you have any tips you'd like to provide? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.


Derek Singleton

Software Advice

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