The best way to create professional videos that look and sound great is to hire professional videographers and sound recordists. As you can see from the images below, they come prepared with the various tools of the trade. Their talent, experience and equipment does come with a price tag that is sometimes more than your budget allows or your project requires. If you are creating videos that are scenario based, with more than two people talking, I would always recommend hiring a professional video production company to film and edit the videos. The extra cost will pay off in the end with videos you can be proud of and will stand the test of time.
In this blog we will be discussing video projects where there is one to two people speaking directly into camera. We call these 'talking head' videos: an interview-style video that features an instructor or subject matter expert who talks directly into the camera as though they are addressing the learner directly. This is the style used to great effect on Tiktok, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook.
The best and least expense way to begin filming your talking head videos is to film them using whichever smart phone you have. (We will be discussing DSLR and Mirrorless cameras in another blog). The cameras on the phones are great for these types of videos and for where the videos will ultimately live. There is no need to shoot them on 4K cameras as the sites where you will be posting them don't support 4K videos.
The two important things to consider when filming your videos are the audio quality and lighting quality. Let's talk lighting first.
LIGHTING FOR TALKING HEAD VIDEOS
Lighting can make anyone look good or bad! The most tried and true method to lighting for a talking head video is the 3 POINT LIGHTING METHOD. The three points are:
KEY LIGHT: The key light is primary source of the scene. It is the most intense and direct light source which is used to illuminate the subject. The key light is most often placed in front of your subject, at an angle, and thus illuminates one section of your subject.
Methods to Manipulate a Key Light:
FILL LIGHT: The fill light does exactly what it sounds like it does-it fills in gaps in light created by the key light. It eliminates shadows created by the key light and doesn't create any of it's own. It's less powerful than the key light and is placed opposite from it. The fill light determines the feel and style of the shot.
What does fill light do?
BACKLIGHT/HAIR LIGHT: The backlight lights the subject from behind to help separate them from the background. It's generally placed higher than the subjec that it's lighting. When a backlight hits a subject at an angle it is referred to as a kicker or rim light.
What is backlight used for?
Resourced image from https://www.videoschool.com/three-point-lighting/
Now that we know where to place the lights, the question is what type of lights should we be using?
METHOD 1 - NATURAL LIGHTING
This is exactly what it sounds like- the use of natural light for the KEY LIGHT. Perhaps your home, office or home office has a nice big window- perfect. You set up facing the window with the camera in front of you and use the natural light from the window as your key light. You can then use a reflector from the natural light as your FILL LIGHT and another reflector as your BACKLIGHT
METHOD 2- LED LIGHTING KITS
LED lights are lighter and cooler than other types of video lighting and can be plugged into any household outlet. LED’s are extremely efficient. You can use batteries to power them. That makes them portable and sleek - no messy cabled needed.
Some suggested lighting kits:
Neewer 660 LED Light Kit at Amazon
GVM LED Video Lighting Kit at Amazon
VILTROX VL-200 Kit at Amazon
AUDIO FOR TALKING HEAD VIDEOS
The sound of your video is crucial. We can forgive a wobbly camera or lighting that isn't perfect, but we can't forgive bad sound. People will turn off any video that has bad sound. The mic on most smart phones are good in perfect conditions ie; in a quiet room with no outside noise (street sounds, people in other parts of the office/house), or no inside noise (air conditioners, fluorescent lights, running refrigerators) and with a single subject. When another subject is added, or the conditions for filming are not perfect, the smart phone mics are not adequate. An external mic source is required.
AUDIO FOR TALKING HEAD VIDEOS
The first thing to consider in terms of audio is location. There are two locations to consider: INSIDE and OUTSIDE
INSIDE: Inside is the easiest place to shoot as there tends to be less noise to interfere with your video. Some things to consider when choosing an indoor location:
1- How busy is the location? The busier the location the longer it will take you to film and the more heartache you will have in post when you realise you can't use the footage due to noise issues. Unless you can lock down the whole building while you are filming, it's best to chose a location that is as isolated as possible.
2- How loud is the room? Yes, empty rooms can be louder than other empty rooms. Stand in the room you are planning on filming and listen for sounds like: air conditioners, fluorescent lights, fridges, elevator sounds, sounds emanating from outside like trucks. If the room is noisy, try to find another room. If you have to use a noisy room- at the end of your filming record 30 seconds of the room tone so that it can be used in post when cuts are made from one take to another. A good note to be on the safe side:if you can hear it, your phone can hear it, so stop and wait for the noise to end.
OUTSIDE: Outside has many challenges when it comes to audio. Not only do you have to think about how busy your location is for the same reason as you do for when shooting indoor, you also have to take into consideration the weather, especially the wind. If you do not have a way to block the wind from your phone mic, your audio, and therefore your video, will be unusable. It is why, when filming outside, it is imperative to use an external mic with a wind sock.
Some suggested External Mics
Maono 2.4 GHz Dual Lapel Mics
Sabine Tek Official SmartMike
Saramonic Blink 500
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Is a playwright and screenwriter and founder of Moxie Productions