On Cam Tips - Improve the look of your Personal Videos

………………………………The…Power…of……B L I N K 

BLINK Lens - On Cam tips

B  Background

L  Lighting

I  In Position

N  Natural

K  Keep Focused

  Emmy Award Winning 30 yr TV news veteran
 

BLINK says it all…a mnemonic memory device, an acronym, that helps you remember the basic elements to produce a quick, quality video anywhere, anytime.  

These tips are for one person positioned in front of a webcam…a fairly close-up shot of you talking, explaining, selling, marketing, spreading information or making an appeal.  Let’s face it, this is THE most popular form of videos on YouTube: one-on-one, you directly in front of the camera. 

This is NOT a rant on quality or choice of cameras.  There’s a jillion web-cams/videocams, hand-held cams, USB flip-cams, and phone-cams out there.  The following suggestions will improve the look of any shot regardlesss of WHAT camera you use. (I offer suggestions, though, at bottom)
 

BACKGROUND:

Simple, undistracting, not a lot of movement.  Not too dark…not too light…contrasting in color with what you’re wearing…preferably a solid color.  Logos, banners OK, but not overpowering.  A splash light across your background is a nice accent.  Consistency of background material and texture will draw attention to you, not what’s going on in the background which may be distracting to some viewers.  Unless you really want the background to be a point of focus, keep it fairly bland.

LIGHTING:

Ask any photographer/videographer anywhere in the world, and you’ll hear the same thing: it’s all about the lighting.  No light, shaded light, deferred light, reflected light, ambient light, harsh light, soft light.  Do what you want with it, but at least experiment with light, ’cause it’ll effect your look more than any one thing.

Use a side light, a white light, a “warm” light, a light shining on the back of your head, a filtered light, a color-filtered light.  Try different things, and you’ll be amazed at the results.

I consider the basics to be one soft diffuse light directed on your face, and some sort of back-light — meaning a light that shines on something in the background to bring out the texture of whatever it is (see above: Background).

IN POSITION:

In Position - On Cam TipsLook I’m not gonna be “Monk” (OCD) on ya here, but really, the human eye WANTS to see you centered in the shot.  You may have a specific reason to stand off to either side, but when you’re done with whatever-that-is…go back to center.  You may find turning your body slightly to the camera accents your better side. That’s OK.  Looking straight-on at the camera is good for most viewers.  Don’t get to close FILLING the frame, and don’t be back too far…leaving too much side space.  Use the zoom control on your camera to get the right aspect, OR try what the pros do:  physically move the camera or yourself close or farther to get the right shot.

NATURAL:

I’ve spent 30 years on camera in the TV news business, and I can tell you unequivocally that when you are naturally comfortable on camera, your viewer will be comfortable too.  Be yourself.  That sounds trite, but, look…YOU are the only one who can offer that unique person you ARE to the world.  So don’t try to emulate anyone else or anyone’s else’s style.  Now, having said that, you also gotta speak to be understood, not pick your nose, and try to avoid peppering your speech with “and…uh”, “you know”, “like” and other repetitive verbal crutches that will have people switching to the next video.

KEEP FOCUSED:

Another word for this might be: PLAN.  Maybe you’re excellent at extemporaneous.  ‘Could be you’re lively when ad-libbing.  Most are not.  You could do 30 takes to get it right, or you could plan, find your focus, and deliver your schpeel in one or two takes.  Keeping focused means delivering on the message for attention-fickle viewers.  Be engaging.  Use visual and verbal devices to draw people in.  Word like “watch this”, or “right?”…even “understand?” keeps checking with the viewer on whether they’re paying attention, and draws them back in.  When you prove minute by minute that you know what you’re talking about, that you’re focused — you will keep the viewer following along with you.


Oh, and one more thing:  BLINK?  Besides acting as a handy mnemonic to remember the basics of shooting with a webcam, it’s also a reminder not to….blink.  Excessive blinking is a sure sign that you’re nervous on camera, and it is VERY….repeat very distracting to the viewer.  Force yourself to not blink beyond the norm.  Admittedly it may take some work, ’cause most people are not even aware they’re doing it until they watch the video replay.

One other thing: don’t you get a bit unnerved by the steady stare of someone who never breaks his gaze at you while talking?  This deer-caught-in-the-headlights visage is uncomfortable for most people.  In real life, almost no one does this.  People look away, look past you, look to the side, look down, or look up as a normal gesture of the eyes.  

While reading news on-camera…I have to force my eyes away from the teleprompter to do this.  It’s actually quite disconcerting, ’cause when I look back up at the teleprompter, the words have moved from the place where I last saw them.  Over time, most anchors learn well the knack of scanning copy to find their place immediately.  I say all that to underscore how important it is to break your gaze when talking on camera.


RESOURCES:

Need more?  Try these sites: (Know of others? please send me the links by commenting below)

WebCam Review
Another WebCam Review
Yep, one more WebCam Review

WebCam Lighting
WebCam Lighting, II
WebCam Lighting, III

Framing Video Shots
Part Two, Framing Video Shots
Part Three, Framing Video Shots

YouTube’s Video Toolbox
Better YouTube Videos
Optimizing your YouTube Videos
Making Sure Your YouTube Video Gets Watched
Ten Tips to Better Video

 


WebCams used in the making of the above video:

I’ve tried a lot of webcams, and there are certainly many on the market at all prices.Logitech Quick Cam

My preference is the Logitech QuickCam Orbit AF (list $129, right)

…and probably the better deal for the price/feature package,
the Logitech Webcam Pro 9000 (list $99, below)

Logitech Webcam Pro 9000

Comments

  1. says

    Awesome! This could not have come at a better time. I saw you post this blog post on Twitter and I read it today. I’ve been kicking around some ideas about podcasting and also video. So this is a great starting point for me. It is always nice to pick up some good habits before starting.

    As it turns out, one of my clients just did her first Periscope today, so I sent her to this blog post.

    Thanks, Dave!
    You’re the best.
    Pam

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