Best Practices with DIY Video: ACTION!

Posted on: January 25, 2016 | By: Michael Vaughn | Filed under: Instructional Technologies

Young woman holding a camera.Do you record your own videos for class? Do you want them to look better? This is the third and final part of a series on recording great videos. The first section, LIGHTS!, focused on setting up your lights to make you look even better. The second, CAMERA!, offered a brief overview on setting up your camera and background. This final article, ACTION!, covers ideas and approaches that help with the actual process of recording.

The process of finally recording video of yourself can be uncomfortable. We’re not used to hearing and seeing ourselves speak in a recorded format, and it’s easy to be overly critical of our performance. The following advice will also help improve the quality of your recordings (and how you feel about them).

Use your voice

Vary the tone of your voice, as well as your rate of speaking to avoid sounding too monotone. But try not to go overboard; it’s easy to push a microphone too far. Your goal is to not be Jacob Silj.

If you’re using an external microphone to record your audio, try to find and use a pop filter. A pop filter is a small screen that rests between you and the microphone. It dampens “pops” from sounds like the “t” and “p” in the word “type” (these are usually caused by glottal stops, if you happen to be a linguistics nerd). These sounds can create “pops” that go outside the normal range of the audio recording, and decrease the quality of your audio. This YouTube video briefly covers the benefits of a pop filter (and has a pretty cool demonstration of the impact they have at around 1:15).

Don’t shout with your hands

If you tend to talk with your hands a lot, which I call “shouting with your hands,” try to slow down your gestures. Some movement is great, but too much can be distracting.

Those swift movements don’t translate well in recorded video, and can make your hands appear blurry due to their motion. This advice also applies to any objects you may be physically demonstrating or showing in your video. If you’re recording yourself holding an object, try holding it near the camera and moving it very slowly.

Be prepared

Keep your script or outline nearby. If you can, keep it open on the screen in front of you. Doing this will make it much less noticeable if you need to reference it, since you won’t have to look away from the screen-and the camera-to do so. It also helps to do a few dry runs a few hours (or even a day) ahead of time, which can prime your mind and help you deliver a great performance.

Take care of your voice

Keeping a glass of water nearby will help keep your vocal cords nice and lubricated. If you’re recording a lot at once, your throat may go dry and affect your ability to speak clearly and consistently. Drink water frequently, before, during and after recording. While you’re at it, avoid caffeine and alcohol. Both can dehydrate your body and dry out parts of your larynx. Finally, take frequent breaks between recordings. A five to ten minute break every half hour or so should help your voice rest and recover.

Relax and embrace your mistakes

You will mess up your recordings. Many, many times. This is normal, and should be a part of the process that you (eventually) expect to happen. The cool thing about recording video is you can cut out the “bad” parts.

When you mess up in the middle of a paragraph, don’t follow your first instinct to stop the recording and start the whole thing over. Instead, leave the recording running. Pause and note where the event happened on your script or outline. Recollect yourself, and begin that part again. Your recording can be edited later to remove the section with the mistake.

Oh, and when those mistakes inevitably happen: Laugh at them (and yourself). If you start beating yourself up over every little inevitable mistake, you’ll wear down your confidence (and  your on-camera performance).

Finally, make a serious effort to relax on camera. This will help you seem more approachable to your audience. Wistia has a funny video and helpful blog post on how to get loose for the camera. It’s worth a look.

Final thoughts

Video can be an amazing medium for communicating thoughts, concepts and ideas to your students. Doing video well takes some extra effort, but it’s well worth the work. Some strategies, like setting up proper lighting, are very easy to implement. Others, like learning to relax on camera will take more time and practice. And that’s your final lesson to take away from this series: Video takes time to get right. You’ll have to do multiple takes. You’ll have to learn several new skills. But if you follow the advice in this series, you’ll give yourself an excellent chance to produce something that’s pretty awesome.

Michael Vaughn

My name is Michael. During the day I help Elon faculty, staff, and students find new ways to use technology to enhance their teaching and learning. I've also collaborated with SMEs, faculty and instructional designers to design and develop fully online courses, presented for high school and college audiences on social media and educational technology, and have a background in faculty training for elearning technologies.

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