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Social Media Spotlight: Top 10 Tips for Setting Up the Perfect Video




So, we’ve covered how to get started in social media. We’ve offered you blogging tips and a video walking you through how to craft a great blog entry. Now it’s time to help you put together polished, professional videos that you can feature prominently on your website to help amplify your company’s message and entice customers.

Our expert on this topic is Andrew Phillips, co-anchor of our Partner Update newscasts and our Cisco Channels go-to video guy. Andrew knows his way backward and forward in Final Cut Pro. And, he’s staged and filmed countless videos that we feature here on the Cisco Channels blog and elsewhere.

According to Andrew, nothing can ruin a video more than poor setup. If you invest some time and thought in lighting, staging, and audio, your video will come out so much better than if you just shoot in front of a window without regard to your light source, or if you film outside with loud cars driving by that drown out your audio.

Want to put Andrew’s tricks to use in your videos? Here are his Top 10 Tips for Setting Up the Perfect Video.

1. Visit other video blogs to gather inspiration.

You should find successful video blogs—a few of my favorites are Sometimes Daily, freddiew, and ChurchMediaDesignTV. Study your favorite blogs to see what works, and what doesn’t. For instance, look at where is the subject sitting, how the lighting set up, and what color clothing is the talent wearing. Does it work?

When looking at videos, pay attention to the pattern of the subject’s clothing—for instance, checked shirts with a small design look weird, often creating moiré patterns, and some colors can conflict with a background. If your talent is standing in front of a white wall, you wouldn’t want them wearing a white shirt. Conversely, if you have a dark background, you want the talent to wear a lighter shirt.

2. Never place the talent in front of a window.

Placing the talent with light coming in from behind can cause harshness on the subject’s face or back of the head.

3. Lighting is key.

In fact, 3 key lighting, or lighting that comes in from three sources is best. See the diagram below for the best setup. Remember, the fill light must be half as strong as the key light, otherwise the lights will compete, causing the video to look really washed out.

4. Set up your tripod at your talent’s eye level.

Let’s face it, no one wants the focus on a forehead.

5. Tripod levels are your friend.

If your tripod has a leveler, which is essentially similar to a bubble leveler that’s used in construction, use it. Fixing a crooked shot will only eat up precious editing time.

6. Invest in lavaliers, if possible.

Lavaliers, wireless microphones that clip on to a shirt, will ensure quality audio for your video. While they require a bit of an investment (they can range from US$150-$600), they can help your talent’s voice come in loud and clear.

7. Run lavaliers under clothing.

Lavalier cables look tacky if you can see them, so have your talent run the cable through their shirt and clip the back onto a belt loop. (Obviously, female talent will require a female to help them. No pervs!)

VideoMaker offers tips on how to diplomatically mic a subject.

8. Monitor your mic feed.

Sometimes lavaliers can scrape against clothing or hair, and there is nothing worse than not monitoring audio and realizing there was an issue when you’re already home (or at the office) and editing. To avoid that problem, plug in some headphones and listen carefully while you’re filming to make sure you have placed the mic properly and adjust accordingly.

Also, by monitoring audio, you can check for interference. Devices like cell phones can create buzzing sounds and interfere with audio, so ask subjects to turn off their phones before filming.

9. Make your talent comfortable.

Sometimes putting the camera at a slight angle will make the talent less conscious than if you were to place the camera facing them directly. You can also ask someone to sit next to the camera and ask your subject to talk to that person. It can feel more comfortable talking to another person than looking into an unfeeling camera.

10. Use a teleprompter.

If the option is available to you, invest in a teleprompter set up. Reading off of a teleprompter can greatly help your video subjects sound crisp and rehearsed, even if they haven’t practiced their material extensively. We here at Cisco Channels use the Pro Prompter HD with the first-generation Apple iPad.

So those are Andrew’s top tips! Got any special video set-up tips that you rely on? Any filming or social media questions we can answer? Be sure to share in the comments.

And next up in our Social Media Spotlight series: How to get the most out of Twitter.

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7 Comments.


  1. 10. Use a teleprompter. Sounds so good

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  2. I’ll add some emphasis that cell phones need to be truly “off.” Vibrate, or even completely silent are still enough to mess with wireless audio.

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    • Kalpana Ettenson

      Thanks David, that’s a good point, thanks for bringing it up.

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  3. Thank you for sharing links to video blogs you respect. Doing your research certainly makes sense. Do you think that with a company like Cisco all of your videos need to look professionally produced? I ask because I hear again and again that people aren’t looking for the best looking videos as much as good content delivered naturally. That’s not to say that lighting and sound aren’t important – they are – but that an adequate set-up actually puts more of the focus on the presenter rather than the production.

    I know this post is more about the technical side of video creation, but I’m interested if you have thoughts on this other aspect of it. Thanks!

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  4. Oh, one other thing. The lighting diagram wouldn’t show up for me. I’m viewing this post with IE9. Thanks.

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  5. Alexandra Krasne

    Hi Michael,
    Thanks for your comment. All great points!

    While our videos don’t need to look polished like they were created in a studio (see our You Tube channel), the lighting and audio need to be good enough to see and hear what’s happening.

    But there’s a happy medium. You can certainly get a few studio lights, but you can make do with a more basic setup — like a photographer’s reflector and natural light. Hope that helps.

    We’ll look into the diagram in IE9. Thanks for reading.

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  6. Thanks for the great comments, everyone! What topics would you like me to feature next? Editing, in depth set up, or something else?? All ideas are appreciated!

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