How To Make Your Webcam Videos Look Professional with Ryan Spanger
In the podcast:
00:48 – Episode Overview & Guest Intro
03:53 – Making Your Video Look Professional
06:29 – Get A Dedicated Camera and Work on Lighting
10:33 – Audio is Crucial
13:37 – Framing
17:28 – Composition
21:19 – Height of Your Camera
24:25 – Classic Errors
26:08 – Apps You Can Use for Scripts
30:15 – Quiet on the Set
33:13 – Learn More About Ryan Spanger
Episode Overview & Guest Intro
So welcome to today’s episode at Ryan Spanger from dreamengine.com.au. Ryan if you don’t know is a video creator and I guess we’ll I’ll leave you to explain who you are and what you do Ryan. So welcome to today’s show.
Thanks a lot, it’s really good to be here. And that’s right. I’m a video creator and I work with businesses to make videos.
And they might be, you know, it could be a video like something for your website, training, internal communication, social media videos, it’s basically videos that drive action, get people to do something, or to think something, you know, to change how people think, to, you know, change what they do, so that it might be about signing up for something.
It could be about, you know, questioning ideas, it could just be about training, but they are sort of purpose-based videos for businesses to make things happen.
Awesome. Well, I particularly wanted to talk to you today about video because as we were just talking, before we hit the record button, about what we’re currently going through in the current environment.
And if you are listening to this episode, When it’s sort of just published, we are in the throes of this terrible Coronavirus pandemic, which is really impacting everyone.
Many business owners are being forced now to work from home and go about their business at home, which is posing interesting challenges myself included.
And more and more businesses are actually turning to video to communicate with their customers and communicate with their audiences where they would otherwise have possible video setups in their office or, or possible better home video creation setups.
So what I wanted to talk to you about today Ryan is how you can improve the quality of the videos that you’re setting up in your home office, and how….
Yeah, I guess, a couple of tips and tricks that people can do when creating videos In their unfamiliar environment, or not unfamiliar, but an environment that they’re not used to creating video content and what you can do to improve that. So does that sound good?
Yeah, absolutely. Because it’s something that a lot of us are going through, like, I’ve just set up my home office, I’ve worked out of home for the, for the last 17 years, you know, I started my business from home, and within six months of starting, and I moved into an office.
So this is all quite new for me, but I’m going through what a lot of other people are doing, setting up home offices, and then you know, moving to online meetings.
So this will be really helpful. Whether it’s about videos that you’re recording to put online, or even just zoom videos, there’s going to be a lot of helpful tips here that are going to make you know how you look on video and on webcam and how you come across a lot better.
Making Your Video Look Professional
Awesome. Alrighty, so let’s get stuck right in. So what’s the first thing that people need to do? In order to set up their webcam video to look somewhat professional.
Okay, well, I think the first thing is just to think about why this is actually important. You know, why should it matter what your videos look like.
And you know why it really matters is because if your videos look good, or if you look good on webcams and on your zoom calls, of course, it’s going to make you look more professional, and more in control. And in this time of uncertainty and chaos, projecting that image of being in control is really important.
It’s also more flattering, you know, and we all want to look good, we want to come across well, so it’s the equivalent of really just dressing and grooming yourself well, and making a good impression.
So I think the first step is just to be conscious of why this is actually important.
How to get started is really just to get started with the equipment that you have already. I mean, at the moment Because everyone went nuts, you know, buying webcams, some equipment is out of stock.
But most people have things like a built-in webcam in your computer. So just get started with what you’ve got, this is going to become more like the new normal.
And over time you can start to build up, you can start to get better equipment and make your setup more professional. But for now, just get started with what you have.
Yep. And I think that’s really good advice and some advice that people have also been saying who you know, as you say, this is the new normal, not forever, but certainly, at least, we think for a couple of months, people working from home.
You know people do suggest to get out of your PJs and actually pretend like you are going to be leaving your house but you know, you have a shower for women out there if you if you do put your makeup on, get dressed, and actually prepare for the day work and get in the mindset of that.
And so, therefore, as you say, you know, you want to look like it’s a normal workday on your video that you’re going to be creating anyway.
Yeah, I think that’s really important from a psychological point of view, and then visually sort of projecting that right image. So we have people talk about this 50-50 sort of look.
And so it’s like the newsreader kind of style where the top half, you know, needs to look good. And I’m also enjoying being barefoot today at work as well. So, you know, it’s kind of an advantage there as well.
Get A Dedicated Camera and Work on Lighting
Yeah, there’s definitely, definitely advantages. All right. So we’ve, we’ve sort of done that aspect, what’s the next thing that we need to do?
Okay, so over time, you can start to look at updating equipment.
And, you know, the first thing that you might do is get a dedicated web camera. Because usually the one that’s in your computer’s not that great. I mean, the ones in new Macs are actually fairly good.
But you could go to the next level and get a dedicated web camera which is going to look better, it will be sharper, it will look more flattering because they have some kind of clever stuff inside the camera, which actually just makes things look better.
And you can get things like a dedicated microphone, and that kind of thing.
But I think let’s go through step by step, some of the key parts that you can improve, the first one would be lighting.
So when you’re sitting in your new home office, if possible, try to set up your desk so that you’re facing a window so you can make the most of natural light.
Because like most people know if you’re filming with a window behind you or a bright light behind you, the camera has this automatic function where it’s sitting the exposure based on the light that it’s seeing.
So you have that look, you know, we’re all familiar with your face looking dark, and then the exposure is correct for the light behind you. So the obvious thing is to make use of the natural light coming through the window.
Of course, you don’t want that to be too bright either. So it looks overexposed. The key is that we want the light to look nice and soft. So if it can be filtered, it can come through some kind of blinds, if it’s not, you know, coming through the window directly onto you and looking really bright and strange.
And then the other thing that you could do is supplement that with some, you could get some cheap LED lights, you know, which can look quite flattering. And just add a nice soft sort of look.
So using the light from Windows, adding some additional lighting if you need to.
Like I said, if you don’t have to get that professional setup straightaway, but just start to be conscious of the lighting in your space, because if things are well lit, it’s going to feel more bright, more positive, and just come across as more professional.
Yeah, I personally and this is not really relevant to everyone or appropriate but I like to feel outside where possible, so if I don’t have to be on a computer, if I’m just recording a face to camera, video, maybe some like I do quick tip episodes, etc.
I like to go outside, you know, next to it just to use the natural light bother than indoors if possible. I mean, if you have to be indoors on your desktop, then of course, then you’ve got no choice. And those tips are absolutely helpful.
But if I can film something outside, I personally find from a lighting point of view, it just looks much better.
Yeah, I like that idea as well. And of course, if you’re going outside, then there’s potentially more issues to do with noise and to do with changing life.
But then on the other side, it’s more interesting and we’re at this time where we’re getting more of an insight into people’s home lives, which is actually quite cool, you know, because we’re dropping a little bit of that professional facade and people now you know, we’ve been thrown into this environment of actually, you know, needing to be more vulnerable, be more personal and call the mask is lifting a bit.
And I think, you know, through doing that, whether you’re in your, in your garden, or in the park or somewhere that has some kind of meaning to you, that’s giving an insight into you. But it’s also visually more interesting.
So, you know, obviously, for things like zoom calls, you will probably be at your desk. But for you know, other videos, yeah, I think it really does make sense to mix it up and get outside and make it feel more natural.
Audio is Crucial
Yeah, awesome. I’m sure we’re gonna talk about audio that I think is actually so crucial.
I because I’ve watched videos before where the audio is feels really distant and scratchy. Can you I’m sure you agree with me on this? Do you want to give us some tips on how to improve your audio?
Yeah, definitely. Because you know, we’re talking about making videos but actually the audio is more important than the video.
I think you know, when you think about this idea that if you’re watching something like a YouTube video, you’re trying to solve a problem, as long as you can hear it, clearly happy to stick with it.
But even if the picture is great, if you can’t hear properly, people are just going to click away. So the audio is actually the most important thing. And the classic error that people make is to use the built in microphone.
So if you’re using something like a web camera, to use the built in microphone on there is pretty poor.
Actually, even the built in microphone on your computer is really not that great. So if you can use an external microphone, something like a podcast microphone, if you’re in the office is awesome.
But it doesn’t even have to be that it could just be a headset, it could be headphones that you use for your phone, anything that’s going to bring the microphone closer to you.
Because the closer the microphone is to the source of the sound eye your mouth, the more it’s going to focus on that and then and the more it’s going to filter out background sound so just using an actual dedicated external microphone will have a huge impact on the quality of your audio.
Yeah, definitely. I’ve obviously got a podcast mic which I use but most people don’t have that if you don’t have that, as you say that I find the Mac or not the Mac the headset that comes with your iPhone is actually pretty good audio or better than the built in audio.
So that’s sort of the worst case scenario if you if you do have an iPhone but one of the things that I’ve also got when I record on my mobile phone is like a lav…lav mic which I just a lapel mic, I think they call it whatever it is attached to my to my shirt, my top and that the audio is is fantastic for that as well.
Yeah, they are really good. You know, even the most basic plug in microphone is going to get you to 90% and a lot of these tips are about getting the quality to 90% which is Pretty good, and definitely good enough.
And then there’s a whole lot of things you can do to go from 90 to 95% to 98%. But even just getting up to that 90% is a really easy win. And that’s what all these tips are going to do.
Exactly. The rule of 80-20 or 90-10, doesn’t it?
Alrighty, so lighting and audio, I would totally agree with you and probably the most important things that you got to think about when you’ve got that sorted.
What’s something else that people should think about to make their videos look good?
The next thing to think about is framing, which is basically like if you think of the picture like you like a picture frame, how you frame things up and the classic error that people still often make is to put their head too low in the frame, so leave heaps of space above.
Sometimes there can be this inclination. to frame it up so that people’s eyes are in the middle of the frame, but there’s all this wasted space at the top, and it just doesn’t look good.
So you know, if you look at portraiture, photos or paintings, they always frame people up in the same way. And that’s, you know, using what’s called the rule of thirds.
So if you divide the frame up into thirds, so horizontal line at the top, third, and horizontal line at the bottom third, you’ll notice from looking at portraiture, that people’s eyes always appear at the top third, which is just it just looks more flattering, and it looks more normal. It’s the best way to frame things up.
So when you’re filming yourself for someone else, just have a little bit of space at the top of the frame, and then the eyes will appear at the top third, and it’s going to look really good.
On the other hand, don’t put people’s heads so close to the top of the frame that there’s no space there at all because then it has a cramped, you know, sort of feel to it. You know what I mean?
Someone once told me and that’s sort of stuck in my head and something I’ve never really forgotten is that to pretend I’ve got an apple on my head, and the Apple is sort of the top of the frame. So it’s like there’s a bit of space, but not a huge space. So that’s, I don’t know what….
I like it. I haven’t heard it before. But that’s, you know, I think that’s sort of the perfect way of looking at it. As the frame gets wider.
You’d have more space at the top. But yeah, that’s the apple rule, we can add that to the rule of thirds.
I’ve also seen people intentionally offset themselves like to the side and especially sort of for YouTube videos, where they will put themselves to one side of the frame to allow for them overlaying text in the other side of the frame as well.
So I guess you got to think about it. What the end product of your video is going to look like.
And if you’re going to be overlaying text or some kind of imagery next to you next to you, or, you know, if you’ve got adding those additional editing elements to it, then you want to leave that space for it because you don’t want those elements to be over the top of your body.
That’s a really good point. And there are some classic sort of rules with this.
So generally, if you’re making like a face to camera video, generally you put yourself in the middle of the frame.
Whereas if it’s an interview style video, so you’re talking to someone just off camera, then you would put yourself to one side of the frame and have you know what’s called a looking room.
But like you say, if you’re doing a video where you can have text appearing, it’s nice to have space there. And the way that we work with something like that is that we’ll shoot the video in 4k.
So it’ll be a really high quality image and we’ll film that quite wide. So there’s lots of space for text to come in.
But It also gives us the ability to zoom in when we need to, and then zoom out when the text appears because we’re delivering the video in HD. And we’re shooting in 4k. I hope that all makes sense.
But basically it means that you’re able to zoom the picture in without losing any quality. So you get the best of both worlds, you can have that zoomed in shot when you’re just talking to the camera, which makes it feel you know, more intimate and connected.
And then you can zoom out and add your text.
Cool, that sounds good. Are there any other things that people need to consider?
The next thing to think about is composition, which basically means the arrangements of everything in the frame. So we’ve talked about framing now we’re talking about what’s actually appearing inside that frame.
Because when you first get started with making your own videos, there’s a tendency to just focus on who’s appearing there and not think too much about the background.
But when you think about it, everything inside the picture is helping to tell that story. So like, you know, you were talking about taking the camera outside and filming outside.
And then that background actually becomes part of your story. Because, of course, your story is what you’re communicating the sounds that you’re making and the meaning that that has.
But a lot of the meaning is coming across from the visual, in fact, a lot more of that meaning is coming across as partly your body language, you know how you’re coming across, and then what’s in the background.
So it’s good to have something in the background that’s coherent with what you’re talking about, and what it says about you.
So you want to make the background look interesting, but not so interesting that it’s going to distract from the person that’s actually talking.
So if you’re in your home office, you want to make sure that things look neat, you know, we want to sort of eliminate a bit of the domestic environment. You don’t want the laundry basket in the background.
It’s nice to have something personal as well. You know, it’s nice to have something Little bit unique, you could have some of your branding in there as well. You know, try to make it look interesting.
And something that’s quite important that sometimes people don’t think about is don’t have something like directly behind your head.
And the classic thing is, you’ll see someone being filmed, and they put a plant in the background and the plant looks like it’s kind of sprouting out of their head, because the videos are really flattening that image.
So I would say avoid using plants that are kind of like the classic go to people do or just often doesn’t really look that good.
But avoid having something directly behind you know, whether it’s behind your head or your shoulder so that we can get a clean shot of you and it doesn’t have that odd sort of look.
Yeah, I always say people seem to use a bookshelf behind them. What are your thoughts on a bookshelf?,
Well it’s actually what we’re doing is set dressing. You know, like with my Professional production crew when we go to a shoot, we think about essentially, you know, how are we going to dress the set?
How are we going to make it look good, that can actually help to convey the meaning of what we’re talking about.
So, for instance, if we’re interviewing an academic, then we might have a bookshelf behind them because it’s coherent.
And it’s helping to tell their story and add meaning, you know, this is a learned person, it’s someone who’s well read, it’s someone who’s involved with ideas. And so then a bookshelf would be quite coherent.
If I’m filming a yoga instructor, well, then the bookshelf may be coherent, there might be something else that goes in the background that helps to tell the story a little bit better.
So I would say make it appropriate for you know what you’re talking about, rather than just some elements that go in the background and other classics go to is people put a lamp in the background. It’s nice to have something there. You know, it’s nice to dress it up a little bit and have something that looks interesting like I’m in my new home office now.
It’s looking pretty bare behind me, I need to think about just dressing it up and making it look nicer. So, yeah, that I guess the rule with that is a background that seems appropriate and coherent for who you are and what you’re talking about.
Height of Your Camera
Yep. Yep. Sounds good. Okay, so what else do we need to think about?
The next thing to think about this really important is the height of your camera.
And I’m sure you’ve noticed, this era where people either have the camera too high or too low. So if it’s about a webcam, often people have a big screen these days, and they’ve got the webcam up the top, and it’s really looking down on them.
And where the cameras are placed creates a psychological impression. And classically, if the camera is too high, it can psychologically diminish the authority of the person that they are filming.
So it’s like the cameras looking down on them. It makes them look small. And it can look just a little bit odd.
On the other hand, if the cameras are too low, then that can look strange as well and also quite unflattering. So the classic rule…
Looking at people’s noses.
Yeah, you want to have the camera at eye level or just slightly higher. And that’s pretty easy to do.
So if you’re using the webcam on your laptop, and you can, you know, put your camera, put your laptop on a few books to raise it up. If you’re using a tripod, then you can easily adjust that. But that’s like an easy win. And a mistake that people often make is that something you’ve noticed?
I’ll totally especially like the camera being too low and sort of looking at, as I said, looking at people’s noses, which is not that interesting.
So I’m interested though in with the camera on the top of the big screen how you can if you don’t have a tripod, how you can I guess you could prop your seat up a little bit more so that you will actually hire rather than having to move that camera.
Because I’ve also seen some people who have tripods move their webcam, put it on the tripod or put it in the middle of their screen. So that they don’t have to, but I guess you could just adjust your seat to make yourself higher.
Yeah. All right. This is on a pillow or some phone books if anyone still hasn’t. Did they?
Do they exist anymore?
I think they’re just collector’s items.
Totally, or doorstops. Like that? I think that’s, that covers, like pretty much what everyone needs to think about.
But of course, you know, as you say, this is all about getting to the 80 or 90%. And the last thing you want to do is to stop creating content and not create these videos because you’re worried that you don’t have a good enough set up. I think, these days.
My mantra has always been taking imperfect action and The last thing you’d want to do is people, especially these days, people are not expecting the perfect set and video and audio and as long as your content is really good, and then I think that people will be a lot more forgiving to other elements not being I guess, in the highest quality that it could possibly be.
And it’s an ongoing, you know, learning process. So, when you make your videos, watch them back and in a kind way, you know, critique them to yourself and think about what did I do really well? What are some elements that I can improve? The first thing you’ll notice is habits and tendencies that you have that you probably weren’t even aware of.
And then the other thing you’ll start to notice is the technical visual side to do with lighting or sound and slowly but surely, you know, improve them.
And there’s these two more rules, you know, that I have Four suggestions for video. And these are things that I’ve noticed that are classic errors and easy to fix.
The first one is eyeline. And it’s about looking directly into the camera. So, I’ve noticed that happens a lot when people are doing phone videos because they’re actually watching themself on the phone rather than looking at the camera, and it’s something that I do as well.
That’s a habit I’m trying to break with those videos. So I guess it’s tempting when you’re filming yourself, you want to look at yourself and check how you’re coming across.
But just remind yourself to look directly into the camera because it’s a lot more engaging, and connecting and intimate when you’re doing that.
And then on things like zoom calls, sometimes people are looking right off camera because they’re watching the video of the person that they’re talking to might even be on another screen.
And that can be off putting, you know, so I guess you want to make these videos on zoom calls mimic reality.
So think to yourself if you’re sitting across the desk, from someone, you’d be making eye contact, and we want to try to do the same thing with video.
Apps You Can Use for Scripts
That’s a very good point. I’ve definitely noticed that and especially with the recording of the videos, I have recorded some videos before which I have actually written a script for because it was like a seven minute video for an ad actually.
And I used an app called teleprompter. I think it was a paid app. And you can still read the script until you can move it.
So it’s like basically right in line with where the camera is. And it was also a really good reminder to, as you say, like the temptation is to look at yourself to not look at yourself to look at the camera, because that’s how the person is viewing you. Yeah, that’s a really good point.
Yeah, those apps are great. We use one called Teleprompt+ 3, which is awesome.
There’s a few good ones out there and define when you’re using that because the text is so close to the Camera, it actually looks like you’re looking into the camera.
Hundred percent fantastic, because before I found it, I was sort of memorizing, I guess some of the bullet points and I would look across to my whiteboard that had my notes on it.
So I didn’t forget something. But this way, it’s so good and I don’t have to think about what I’m talking about. I don’t have to worry while I’m talking or not to forget the next thing.
And then the next thing I can just sort of really focus on not doing my habits as you say that when you play the video back, you realize the habits that you didn’t realize that you had.
So do really focus on clear communication and doing the best possible video that you can without having to worry about forgetting things. I’m a big fan of that.
And do you just put bullet points or full script?
So the problem with the bullet point method is that because it’s scrolling that it’s hard for you to know, if I’m finishing a point to know how long and anticipate how long that’s going to take.
So I do do a loose script, just purely to account for the time that I want to take on something so that for the next point, that kind of makes sense?
It does. Yeah, I like that idea of a loose script because I imagine you’re then improvising a little bit and changing words here and there.
And as opposed to just reading it word for word.
Yeah. And that’s just because I’m just so used to making videos that I kind of can do a lot of ad libbing. Actually, I really quite like ad libbing.
I find that ideas just spring to mind that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise thought or thought of, and it feels more natural. And that’s what I want my video to be.
I want it to appear natural and it to be natural, rather than scripted. Like, like it is natural. But at the same time, then I can’t be completely off script and off topic, too.
Just have bullet points even though I could create a video with just bullet points with the teleprompter, I kind of can’t.
So I kind of found that happy medium in between just sort of having a very loose script of which I have the complete freedom to deviate somewhat from it.
So that I can still stay on track with the main bullet points that I want to talk about.
Yeah, I reckon that’s a great way to do it because I find it challenging to just fully ad lib. And so having the structure that I can return to is really helpful for me.
And then if I need to improvise a little bit like you said, it makes the video better because it just feels more engaging, feels more natural, feels like a real conversation rather than being too scripted.
Yeah. And I just yeah, that’s just my personal opinion. I just didn’t want them for my videos to be scripted and you couldn’t do the whiteboard and have the bullet points but then you’re looking away and that so I used to do that.
And it was just more editing work for my editor as I sort of would stop speaking, look away.
Okay, that’s I’m talking about quiet, right? Look back at the camera, and then you’d have to edit that out. And this way, it’s just faster editing, then.
Quiet on the Set
Quiet on the Set
yeah, that’s a really good way to do it.
Well, my final tip is what’s called Quiet on the set. And when you’re working on a professional film or video production, before the camera starts rolling, the assistant director will call out Quiet on the Set, and it’ll just wake people up to the fact that you’re about to start filming.
Now, I’m not suggesting that during this time that we’re all based at home, you call that out, or the other members of your household because they might not appreciate that, but I think that it’s important, you know, the idea that while you’re sharing with everyone, just to let them know, Hey, I’m going to be doing this video, you know, I’ve got a zoom call for the next half hour. So just so that they’re conscious of that.
That’s partly so you can reduce the amount of background noise, it’s going to make the video more professional. And also so that they don’t burst in particularly while you’re on like a live zoom call and there’s some awesome videos, we might even be able to link to one where there was a British politician. I don’t know if you saw that one where his kids burst in halfway through. I love that video.
And the best part is, I suppose, in that English sort of culture, he kept calm and carried on and just, you know, the humor just escalated from there.
That video is priceless. Then I literally had tears running down my face but that, for me, is the best part, and we can absolutely link to that video in the show notes.
The best part of that video was, I guess the wife sort of crawling in to retrieve the child. And the whole thing is, I mean, it’s, it’s priceless.
Because we could all relate right?
I have actually seen a spoof of that video of this woman who the child comes in and instead of dismissing the child like in that main video, she sort of welcomes a child to sit on the lap, starts feeding it and someone hands her a roast chicken.
She starts like basting the roast chicken. Someone heads, like dismantling a bomb, you know, it’s very funny!
I’ve gotta check that out. Yeah.
So funny. Awesome way of actually doing the math here we’ve done 10 tips to make your video look good, which is awesome.
Of course, you know, people shouldn’t put pressure on themselves to have to do all of these 10. It’s all about good enough. At this point in our lives, we’ve got plenty going on on our plates.
So don’t feel like you need all these 10 things and if you don’t have the 10 that you don’t do the video, it’s very important to still create content and get up out there, Ryan, you’ve been so generous with your time before we go, where can people find out more information about you and the work that you do and how you can possibly help them?
Learn More About Ryan Spanger
Well, if you check out dreamengine.com.au, you can find out more about me and my business and what we do.
But also, there’s a lot of resources there. So if you head over to the blog section, there’s a lot of videos and blog posts about improving the quality of your video where basically I go into each of these topics into more detail.
So that’s, you know, if you’re just getting started on your video journey, whether it’s making you know, your own videos or working with a production company, there’s some really useful information in there.
Awesome, fantastic. Well, I am mindful of your time, so I won’t take up any more of your time. But thank you so much for coming on to TeachTraffic, we will make sure that show notes are available on this episode and we will have your details in there as well for people to find you if they want to get in touch.
And yeah, thank you so much for taking time out of your day and coming to talk to me. I really appreciate it and it’s awesome.