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How To Record Video At Home

Today, I want to share details on the specific tools and processes I use to create videos.

I have blogged for years, and more and more, I am understanding the power of connecting with others via video. There is such a personal connection when someone can see your eyes as you speak, hear your voice, and get to know you as a person, not just a lump of text.

In the past, I recorded videos in a variety of ways:

  • Flip cam
  • An older digital camcorder
  • iPhone
  • My computer’s webcam

And over the years, I keep investing in more and more tools to up the quality of what I shoot. Here is my latest video, an 8 minute description of an online course I teach for writers:

Is this video perfect? Nope. Definitely not full professional quality, but I do know it’s miles better than videos I have shot in the past.

Here is a shot of me in “production” at home:

my video setup

This is the full list of tools I used:

I bought these items over the course of two years, slowly increasing my understanding of what I needed to improve the quality of my videos. Previous videos were shot in a spare bedroom, and LOOKED like they were shot in a spare bedroom. With my latest video, I wanted to present a clean image to match the overall feel of my brand.

Changes I made to give things a more professional look:

  • I enlisted help during the planning and shooting process, my brother Andy who also works for my company. It was an immeasurable help to bounce ideas off someone else, and have him provide feedback after every single take. An “extra set of hands” is definitely the best investment you can make in most anything you create. But luckily, he was so much more than that, helping to hone things at every step of the process.
  • Background matters: This time around, the background was the big addition. I had already used a three-point light system, but the background gave more of a studio feel. I didn’t go fancy, just a clean white background.
  • Practice makes perfect: In the past, I shot one long video. This time, I shot many takes, and edited the best takes together.
  • I shot at night to control natural lighting causing inconsistencies between takes. If you go to a professional studio, they are situated so natural lighting can’t affect things.
  • Editing helps tell a story. I spent more time editing the video – adding text slides – playing with the order of different components, and focusing on detail such as fading audio and changing the contrast of the image.
  • I bought royalty-free music to provide a light mood to the video. It’s a detail that is small, but really made a difference.
  • I also shot with a second camera to get “b roll” footage of me speaking at a different angle. I have seen this used effectively in others’ videos, breaking things up. But when I edited it together, it just looked strange, so I didn’t end up using it in the final cut.

Even though I am happy with the video, there is a lot I would do differently next time:

  • Better audio: The audio doesn’t sounds as crisp as it should, likely because I am in a small room with a lot of hard surfaces. Next time I will experiment with a lavaliere microphone that I have, and with positioning the Rode VideoMic closer to me when recording. I may also try recording in a different room, where reflective sound may be less of an issue.
  • Create a script: I would have a completed script prior to shooting the video. This time around, I just had an outline, which meant we wasted a lot of time trying out different wording, and just rushing to squeeze in a few takes of each element.
  • Allow for more time: I would schedule more time for shooting. We were a bit rushed, a 2-hour window is all we had to work with.
  • Shoot multiple videos at once: I would shoot multiple versions of the video for different uses. Instead of just one long video, I could have created shorter videos for different purposes, all with the same look and feel.
  • Get B-roll footage: I would try a different setup for the second camera.

And of course, there are dozens of details that could be even more polished: from slight changes in lighting, to smoother audio transitions between the music & voice, to me learning to speak more slowly and clearly during shooting.

For editing, I used Screenflow, which worked really well. I have Adobe Premier Pro 5.5 installed on my computer, but was reticent of the learning curve. Luckily, Screenflow provided all the editing capabilities I needed.

For hosting the video, I use Wistia.com which captures detailed analytics as to how viewers interacts with your video. In this screenshot, the green represents the parts of the video people watched, which would allow me to optimize future videos based on this data:

my video setup

(Note: the blurred out area is location and IP address, nothing that is personally identifiable.)

In the end, so much of this is about establishing a process of refinement. That with each video I create, I analyze what is working, and take another step forward to improve quality and effectiveness. Have you tried recording video at home? What works best for you? What challenges do you find difficult to overcome?

Thanks.
-Dan

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  • http://twitter.com/sarahjbray Sarah Bray

    That explains why my closet is such a GREAT place to record audio…all those clothes! :) 

    • http://www.wegrowmedia.com/ Dan Blank

      DEFINITELY! Also: it’s cozier that way. :)
      -Dan

  • http://www.turndog-millionaire.com/ Turndog Millionaire

    great post, Dan. You have some really nice kit, but like you say, you always feel you can do better

    I have some friends who are into photography, and i’m blown away by their cameras and set ups. Yet they always want more. a bigger camera, or a better zoom, or a piece of kit that will allow for a slightly better edge. It’s all beyond me of course, but the better you get at something the more you desire to go that little bit further

    Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

    • http://www.wegrowmedia.com/ Dan Blank

      Photography is one of those gear addictive hobbies. Luckily, I’m not bitten by that bug, but many others are!

      • http://www.turndog-millionaire.com/ Turndog Millionaire

        it sure is, i have a few friends who love photos and they all have a never ending pursuit to get bigger and better. An expensive hobby (or profession)

        Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

  • Linda Parriott

    Adding video is definitely on my list of things to learn. This overview of what and how you produce yours, along with ideas for improvement, is definitely helpful. Gives me hope that this may not be an unrealistic aspiration. I love that you keep things both simple AND professional.

    • http://www.wegrowmedia.com/ Dan Blank

      Thanks Linda. It’s a process, for sure. 

  • http://www.erikaliodice.com/ Erika Liodice

    Great tips for me to keep in mind as I explore creating my first video. Thanks, Dan!

    • http://www.wegrowmedia.com/ Dan Blank

      Thank you Erika!

  • http://twitter.com/Rosenblumtv Rosenblumtv

    Dear Dan
    Nice post but your techniques are…. well, archaic to say the least.
    Take a look at http://www.nyvs.com
    If you think it’s interesting, get in touch.
    Clearly you want to do this, but I think I can show you much better ways.
     

    • http://www.wegrowmedia.com/ Dan Blank

      I like to think of it as “old school,” instead of “archaic.”  :)
      Thanks for the link to the resources, I’ll check it out. The toughest thing about video for a lot of people is that it is tacked on to the end of a product. So for me, I went through loads of work to develop the course, the stuff around it, and then had a few hours to really sketch out and record the video. Clearly – it needs to be a primary part of the process, with more development happening much earlier in the process.

      Much appreciated.
      -Dan

  • Leigh Clark

    Thank you for sharing these helpful tips Dan. Trying to get this right is a big challenge for most of us with a limited budget.

    • http://www.wegrowmedia.com/ Dan Blank

      Leigh,
      I totally understand. I have found that education is the biggest asset you need, even though I have all this gear! Things like understanding the importance of lighting – even that can mean that you choose the proper room using natural light as the light source. So maybe instead of buying a lighting rig, you just selectively choose the placement and time of day that you shoot. There are also endless super-cheap tricks, such as using a big piece of white posterboard as a reflective surface to bounce light off of. There are also plenty of videos on YouTube about creating softboxes on the cheap. 

      The details are what really do it. Even with all that gear, you can tell that there is LOADS AND LOADS of room for improvement for my videos. Even something so small as the way I speak. It’s too fast, the script isn’t tight enough, etc. Learning to speak better on video is free, other than my time to practice.

      Anyhow – thanks for the comment – good luck!
      -Dan