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Video content tips

How to achieve better framing and focus in your video content

With modern-day phone cameras, it’s really easy to achieve high-quality video and with just a few quick and easy tips, you can really start to make your content look and feel even better. It’s harder than ever to spot the difference between professional and amateur video footage these days. The difference usually lies in how an interview is lit, or maybe the quality of the sound. These can be tricky elements to master and a lot of the time, have a monetary value attached to improving. Framing and focus are two areas where you can, in some cases, vastly improve your picture quality and it won’t cost you a penny.

Framing

Good framing is something that can start to make your content look and feel professional, and once you know the fundamentals it is something you can start to have fun with. Good framing looks like this:

1. Headroom

This is the amount of space between the top of your subject’s head and the top of the frame. The great thing about this is that you can give as much, or as little as you like depending on your personal preference. What I would say is to keep this consistent across your project. If, for example, you need to cut together multiple interviews, then make sure you’re giving the same amount of headroom in each shot.

2. Objects in your frame

Be very deliberate about what’s in the foreground/background of each of your shots and if you have the time, think about the symmetry and balance of what’s inside your frame. If you have a coffee cup in the shot, then make sure it’s clearly identifiable whilst not obstructing your subject. Place objects left or right of frame and experiment with how close/far away from the camera they are.

3. Lighting

Use whatever lighting you have available to you to help pick out your subject. This will help you draw your audience’s attention to where you want it. If you’re filming outside, take a moment to consider the angle your shooting at. The sun is a great source of natural light and a slight change of angle can make all the difference. If you’re filming inside, then experiment with all light sources and if you have a panel light or light ring, then experiment with distance/intensity. You really do notice lighting if it’s wrong, so it’s definitely worth taking the time to get right. 

On the other hand, this is what bad framing looks like…

1. Headroom

At first glance, leaving a ton of headroom doesn’t look that bad, but it can throw off your eye line if this isn’t consistent between shots. If you do decide you want to negatively frame your shots, make sure that that’s a running theme throughout your project as this is something that is really noticeable if not consistent.

2. Objects in your frame

Make sure that there’s nothing in frame that distracts from the story you’re trying to tell, i.e an open bag on the table behind, or a plant that’s obstructing your subject a little too much. Like I stated previously, make sure the things in your frame are an improvement, and are identifiable without being a distraction.

3. Angle

This is something that becomes more obvious when viewed on a laptop or a TV, a slightly skewed angle on a phone screen or camera monitor can look a lot worse when viewed on a bigger screen. A really easy fix for this is just to turn on the gridlines in your phone or DSLR camera settings. This really helps with making sure you’re shots are lined up properly, but also helps identify what works/doesn’t work within the frame itself. 

Focus

Focus is something that phone cameras are great at doing automatically but if it’s not right, you really notice so it’s always good to check this before you press record! It really does affect how professional your content looks and if your subject is ever so slightly out of focus, it can bring down the quality of your project quite significantly.

With these quick and easy-to-apply steps, the video quality will really start to improve. This can get a lot more complicated depending on what you’re shooting though, so if you’re looking for someone to come shoot and edit professional-quality digital video, then check out our work

Categories
Video content tips

Best settings for recording through Zoom

We’ve all had to contend with dodgy Zoom video quality in some way shape or form over the last year. Whether that be through a bad internet connection, a terribly framed shot, or just some bad lighting. These are usually just inconveniencing at best, but that all changes when you need to use Zoom to record video content and there are a few really simple steps you can take to optimize recording through Zoom that I’m here to share with you… 

Zoom is a great tool for recording multiple people at once, but depending on how you have it set up, you’ll get massively inconsistent results when retrieving any footage you’ve recorded through there, so we’re going to layout the best settings to have turned on, along with some general tips that should improve your Zoom recordings. There are different best practices depending on whether you’re going to edit the footage or just upload it straight away and hopefully, this article helps you decide the best settings for exactly what you need.   

Video Quality

So there are a few really easy options in setting for you to get the best possible video quality back out of Zoom while using your built-in webcam. The first being to make sure Enable HD video is ticked in your options. You can find this by going to Zoom > Settings > Video > HD and making sure it’s ticked. While you’re here you might as well make sure your other video setting are right for what you need i.e. if your video seems a little dark, try ticking ‘adjust for low light’ or if your subject is appearing a little shiny, you can enable the ‘touch up my appearance’ setting which then gives you a slider so you can choose how much to apply. 

I’d say the main thing to think about before changing/applying any of these settings is what do you need to get from the footage? Do you want the participants’ names to be visible? This is easily changed by ticking the ‘Always display participant name on their videos’ and can’t be removed later, so it’s important you get this right up-front. Another setting in here that you might want to have a play around with is ‘Hide non-video participants’ which will change how your Zoom looks from a formatting perspective. This can help you manage participants that either don’t want to be on camera themselves, or that you don’t want/need on camera yourself. If you’re editing the footage, you probability want to have your Zoom in gallery view as this format allows for greater flexibility when editing. If you’re putting the footage straight online then you’ll probabily want to have Zoom set to paticipant view. I’d say just have a play around with this until you find the right format for your content. 

There are a couple of other settings that you might want to have a look at if you’re editing the footage you get out of Zoom. Firstly, if you go to Zoom > Settings > Recording: you’ll see an option to ‘Add a timestamp to the recording’. I’d suggest unticking this unless you need this information burnt into the footage. Next go to Zoom > Settings > Recordings: and tick ‘Optimize for 3rd party video editor’. This just lets Zoom know that you’re planning on editing this footage and makes it easier to export out in a format that will be acceptable in most editing software. 

Lighting 

Now lighting is something that even the most experienced video producers have a hard time getting right, but there are some really simple tips you can use to get better natural lighting on you or your subjects through Zoom. 

Firstly, have a play around with locations around your house (or wherever you’re setting up) as some rooms/angles will just naturally have better light sources. I’d suggest trying to use all-natural light or all artificial light as a source as I find it’s quite obvious when you have a mix of both. I’d suggest experimenting with the direction you/your subject is facing as even just a slight change of angle can make a huge difference to how you’re lit. 

Alternatively, if you’re experiencing problems with not having enough light on a subject, you can go to Zoom > Settings > Video > and tick the ‘Adjust for low light’ box to see if that helps. If your video is still too dark and there are no easy lighting options to hand, try turning your laptop screen to its brightest setting and try changing your ‘Adjust for low light’ setting from ‘auto’ to ‘manual’ as that will give you a slider which allows for more control. 

Sound

Now, sound is probably going to be the most inconsistent thing you get back out of Zoom, so it’s definitely worth taking the time to get this right. Consider how many people are on the call. Is it appropriate to ask everyone to wear headphones? This way, you eliminate any background noise/feedback which can be difficult to work around in post-production. 

Depending on what you’re shooting, wearing headphones may not be an option so make sure you go to Zoom > Settings > Recording and tick the ‘record a separate audio file’ box. This gives you full control over each participant’s voice e.g if the subjects are all speaking at different volumes or talking over each other, you’d have the ability to edit this later on. 

Remember, some of these settings will work better if you’re planning on editing the footage and some will work better if you’re just uploading it straight away. I’d suggest taking the time to plan out exactly what you need before you start recording anything. Don’t let yourself get to overwhelmed with this either. We’ve edited a lot of Zoom content here at Studio 91 Media, so don’t hesitate to get in touch if you need help with your project.

Produced properly, and edited well, Zoom recordings can be dynamic and engaging. Here’s one we edited for the Institute of Engineering and Technology.