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Creating Your Videos, Part 2: Set Up

- February 9, 2010 - 5 Comments

In part one of this series, I detailed the first step to creating your business videos: the script. In step two, it’s all about the setup.

While Hollywood directors can afford to spend days building a set, you likely don’t have the luxury of a cast, crew, and a big budget to create one. Luckily, there are a few easy steps you can take to make a great-looking video before the camera even starts rolling.

Here are four tips to setting up your video.

1) The backdrop
What’s behind your subject sets the tone for your video – and a bad background can be a huge distraction. If your CEO is talking about quarterly earnings, placing him or her at a loud trade show isn’t the most appropriate venue. Likewise, if you’re announcing a new product or service, doing so in a staid conference room may put your audience to sleep. Choose a set that’s appropriate to set the mood, but not so distracting that your viewers will only be watching what’s behind the subject.

Taking care to manage what’s directly behind your subject will make a big difference in the final video, too. I cite the classic example of filming in front of a plant or a tree and it looks as if the plant is sprouting out of the subject’s head. Plants and other props are fine, just make sure to place them to the right or left, not directly behind, the subject.

2) Background noise
If you can’t hear the subject, your video is essentially useless. Your camera’s onboard microphone is omni-directional, meaning that it doesn’t discriminate and will pick up any and all sounds in the background, not just your subject.

On the other hand, uni-directional mics, like lavaliers (the ones that clip to a lapel) or a handheld mic, will pick up sound from one point and isolate it rather than picking up all of the background noise.  These are the types of microphones you’ll want to use in a crowded space or to capture crisp, clear sound.

If you don’t have a mic, just finding a quiet corner with little background noise and filming close to your subject will help capture usable audio.

Here’s a video that was captured at a conference in a noisy room. It would’ve benefited from moving outside or into a quieter spot.

Here’s a video filmed at a noisy conference. The lavalier microphone I wore helped dampen the conference noise so my voice is the thing you hear most clearly.


3) Placement

The placement of your subject relative to the camera is another consideration. Do you want your video to be set up interview style with two subjects talking on camera or just one person talking to the camera? Thinking about this before the camera starts rolling will avoid this awkward conversation:

Subject: “So where should I sit?”

Director: “Uh, I don’t know.”

The best way to get better is to make mistakes and I’ve learned from many of my missteps. Here’s one example of a video I filmed last year with social media guru Charlene Li. In hindsight, I should’ve closed the curtains so and turned on some lights — and moved the camera closer so the mic could’ve better picked up the audio. I also would have had us face the camera rather than be in profile.

Here’s a better interview setup and, this time, I’m using a handheld microphone to interview another social media expert Will McInnes.


4) Lighting

If no one can see your subject, the video might as well be a podcast. A common misconception (and one that I, too, had when I first started) is that you should film into a light source.  But that creates what’s called “backlighting.”

Backlighting works fine for spy videos and those entering the witness protection program, but most likely not the look you want for your videos. Here’s a shot that’s completely backlit and you can’t see the subject very well.

There are many other tips and tricks and I cover some of the nuances of shooting video and offer some additional filming tips in this blog post. Watch for the next part in this series where I cover directing and filming tips.

More video tips and information:

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  1. this all tips and tricks are just great for someone like me who is a simple noob and making first steps in creating my films

  2. Nice job hitting what is easily the most common mistakes we all make in these situations. It is very helpful that you took the time to provide examples that drove your point well and I always appreciate people who are willing to use themselves in highlighting what did not work. Humility is a fantastic trait! Thank you for sharing.

  3. Thanks to Tom and Social Media Expert for the comments. Tom, my shoe goes as far as wearing shoes and being a bit of a shoe hound. But I can say that videos do bring ideas (and products) to life, so making a couple of videos to show off products may help sell shoes.

  4. hey therewe sell petite fashion shoes for womenwould a product demo be a good idea for that kind of thing?many thanks

  5. These are all good notes and helpful for those who loves video editing as profession.