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How to Record Better Videos When Working From Home

May 22, 2020

Video has long been one of the most effective ways to foster connection to employees and customers. Suddenly, it’s essential, and we’re seeing executives using their phones or webcams to send out short video updates.

But when you’re at home with no video crew or IT support, how do you record high quality, professional but organic-looking videos?

With this guide, Laudable is sharing our secrets and best practices learned from the hundreds of remote shoots we've run and dozens of tools and tactics we've tested.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of a typical webcam recording vs. a phone recording using our guide.


Gather your equipment

First up, you need some supplies. A few simple tools work wonders for capturing your best selfie video. Would you spend $200 once to improve the quality of all of your videos, forever? You can purchase a pre-bundled video selfie kit that includes our favorite supplies and required adapters here, or you can find and purchase your own supplies online.

We recommend the following basics:

  • Your smartphone - If you have an iphone (7 or newer), Samsung Galaxy, Google Pixel, or other device purchased in the last 18 months, its camera is incredibly powerful and will outshine your computer’s webcam. Record using your phone’s video camera app (or an app like Camera +). Set your camera to 4k and 30 frames per second (fps). If you’re recording a long video (over eight minutes), you may want to reduce the resolution from 4k to UHD to save some space and reduce the file size. By the way, when you record over Zoom or Skype, the max resolution is 720p 🙅‍♀️.
  • A tripod: Instead of precariously perching your phone on a stack of books, a tripod will provide a stable base from which to film, improving quality and stability of your footage.
  • LED ring light - A ring light is effective at framing your face, giving you a instagram influencer-like glow, and minimizing shadows. We recommend finding a tripod that has an LED ring light attached.
  • Lavalier microphone - You can't really fix sound quality after filming, so trust us and invest in a small lapel or boom microphone to dramatically improve audio quality.
  • Adapters and connectors - You'll likely need two connectors to power your LED light and plug the microphone into your phone: 1) 3.5 mm headphone jack to lightning cable (for an iphone) and 2) USB brick plug.

Choose your Environment

Ok, so what’s a good background?

  • Natural *indirect* light - Find a room that has natural light that's indirect, meaning the sun won't cast hard shadows on you or your background. (I know, I'm always confused by this when it comes to plant directions. More info below.) We always love an overcast day for filming, but on bright days you can partially close blinds or shades to mimic the effect. More on this in the next section!
  • Background depth and streamlined decor - Ideally, you want 10+ feet of space behind you (read: don't sit against a wall). Remove clutter, like charging cords, loose papers, cups of coffee, and empty boxes. Keep some items that add personality, like company-branded mugs, neatly stacked books, and the always-photogenic plants.
  • Stable surface - Place your tripod on a table (coffee table, desk, end table, or other solid surface) that doesn’t wobble.  Pro tip: When filming, be careful not to bump up against your desk, because it will cause your tripod and camera to shake and will result in jumpy footage.

Find your (Natural) Light

Sunlight is your best friend. Seek out indirect soft light that comes from windows and is positioned behind the camera.

Do not sit with a window at your back. Instead, try to position yourself so that any windows are behind the camera.

Still not sure if you've got it right?

Do a DIY “exposure test” on your room’s lighting. Is the room is well-lit enough that you can read? Great, turn off any lamps or overhead lights, which are typically yellow-toned and will clash with cooler-toned natural light. If the sunlight is bright and direct, casting harsh highlights and shadows, diffuse it by lowering or closing your blinds or curtains.


Get the Sound Right

Before filming, turn off any sources of background noise, including fans, air conditioners, heating units, TVs, other appliances, and phone notifications. Turn it on airplane or do not disturb mode as even a vibrating notification can disrupt your video.

As mentioned earlier, an external mic will make your voice sound loud and clear while minimizing echo. The mic will also reduce room noise and any competing noises.

To avoid seeing a long cord in the video, string the lav mic under your shirt and attach it to your collar first, then plug it into your phone. If you have a phone without a headphone jack, you’ll need an adapter (iPhones 7 and newer take a 3.5 mm to lightning port adapter).


Frame the Shot

With your phone positioned horizontally in the tripod’s phone holder AT EYE-LEVEL (!), position yourself in the frame.

Use the “rule of thirds,” which says that you shouldn’t be exactly center, but over one of the imaginary lines if you were to divide your screen frame into thirds horizontally and vertically.

We like to cheat by turning on the phone camera’s grid lines. On an iPhone, go into the Settings app from the home screen, tap on Photos & Camera, scroll down and tap the switch next to Grid.

Frame your shot on the gridlines with "rule of thirds"


Nail Your Content and Delivery

Now that you’ve staged your setup, focus on nailing pitch-perfect content. Filming a message without an audience to provide real-time reactions can feel a bit awkward. We recommend pretending you’re speaking to one person via FaceTime. Use gestures that you might make in conversation or when presenting in person.

If you will be using a script or talking point notes, instead of trying to read from paper propped up behind the tripod, use a teleprompter app like PromptStart Pro, where you can simultaneously record and view text on-screen. This will allow you to speak into the camera, maintain eye contact, and feel confident to improvise a bit. Remember that you can always stop and start again, and small hiccups or pauses can even add to the authenticity of your video.


Plan Your Video Length

Depending on the content of your message, you’ll need to figure out the best length for your video. Wherever possible, it’s key to keep it short and sweet. Focus your message on a few critical points, with an emphasis on impacts, outcomes, or actions.

There are loads of guides to “the best video length,” but we’ve found that there is no silver bullet. Ideal length depends on your industry, audience, message complexity, video use case and channel. We like videos that are thirty seconds to two minutes long, but if you’re filming a more comprehensive update, a longer clip may be necessary.

Determine What Kind of Editing You Need

Depending on your use case, you may need little or no editing, you may be able to DIY with an easy video editor like iMovie, Magisto, Promo, or Biteable, or you may need a professional to use a tool like Adobe Premiere or Apple’s Final Cut Pro. Keeping it simple, we like to think of editing needs as falling into these categories:

  • Trimming footage: You may cut the footage down for length by cutting from the beginning or end, or making short slices in the middle to cut out certain parts of what you said. This is something you can do yourself in iMovie, or if you want more seamless cuts or advanced techniques like zoom cuts, you can enlist the help of a professional editor.
  • Cleaning up picture and sound: Some basic editing tools allow you to do minimal picture and sound cleanup, but if you want to get the most natural coloring and eliminate shadows or make any real sound tweaks, you’ll want to get a pro on the job. 
  • Adding animations and other design elements: Most of the DIY video editing tools allow you to add text overlays and basic intro/outro title slides. A pro can add more sophisticated techniques, like titles over blurred footage or logo animations.
  • Captions: Lastly, captions (text showing every word, as it’s spoken) are a best practice for accessibility and general viewing ease. You can use a tool like Rev to quickly and easily generate caption files (most common are .SRT files), which you then upload to any video platform or channel (YouTube, Vidyard, Wistia, or Vimeo) and it will automatically generate native captions.

We hope these tips are helpful in getting you started with creating high-quality videos from home. Good luck, and remember that done is better than perfect!

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Remote video selfie kits available

We have a limited number of remote video selfie kits available for purchase at $215 here.

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We have a limited number of remote video selfie kits available for purchase at $215 here.