Director Mark Arellano on the set of Lovers & Others.

3 Easy Steps to Shooting Better Video Today

In my 10+ years as a professional filmmaker there’s one question I’ve been asked more than any others, it’s how to shoot decent quick, videos for yourself. These inquiries would often be for someone wanting to launch a Kickstarter campaign video, post a video blog, or even simply to put a new video on their website.The following is a quick summary of what I tell folks.

Lights. Absent conventional production lights, the ideal situation is to video record yourself at the right time of day. No form of illumination’s more visually pleasing than daylight, so I suggest either sitting or standing obliquely towards a window that gets good sun at the right time of day and using that as your key light. Ideally you’d also prop up some inexpensive white poster board or foam core (available at any dollar store) on your other side for a nice Rembrandt-style lighting (see this link for a diagram). Make sure you’re not right up against a wall or that there aren’t any distracting elements behind you.

Camera. When correctly lit, focused and exposed, almost any properly functioning camera—even a smartphone or tablet—is capable of capturing perfectly acceptable images. The key is to make sure you have your settings correct, at least as much as your camera will allow, as most smartphones are almost fully automatic. Ideally the camera would be on a decent tripod, but absent that, a table with the right height of books could also serve as a makeshift tripod in a pinch. The important thing is to make sure that your camera is steady, and at your eye level. If you’re looking directly into the camera (recommended for this type of shooting), centering yourself in the middle is fine; otherwise, follow the rule of thirds and make sure your eyeline is correct.

Sound. This is at least as important as the first two elements combined, yet is the most frequently overlooked. The built-in microphones on videocameras, DSLRs and smartphones aren’t very good when capturing sound from a subject more than a few feet away, so if your camera has a mic input, I suggest investing in an inexpensive wired lavaliere such as this one. You can also make sure you’re in a room that is reasonably quiet and not too echoey.

If you can keep these three basic elements in mind while you’re shooting your own videos, you’ll be well on your way to creating content that people will want to watch. When you’re ready to take your game to the next level, that’s when you call us.

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