Before you invest in new cameras, mics and lights for your home studio, we show you how to test and optimize the gear you already have on hand.
In Part 1 of Your Best Online Self & The Ultimate Desktop Studio we call out why it’s necessary to create a professional home studio setup, and share best practices we’ve refined over thousands of broadcasts to help you avoid common mistakes. We level-set on the need to prepare and rehearse, how to overcome virtual stage fright and, most critically, how you can connect to your audience.
In Part 2, we take a closer look at your current setup and how you can optimize the tech you already have before investing in new gear.
Use the Gear You Own
Buying new technology to outfit your ultimate desktop studio is expensive. Before you buy new cameras, mics and lights, we recommend you first test and optimize the gear you have on hand, and try your best to make it work before you replace it. Worktank producers often hear presenters say their camera doesn’t work well (“I look grainy and dark”). Yet it’s often lighting or camera angle, not the quality of your camera, that make you look less than sharp.
Worktank starts home studio evaluation by considering four basic components: camera, lighting, audio, and production setup. In a previous blog, our Senior Director of Technology Solutions Brian Snyder shared How To Look Good in a Webcam Video, which covers a baseline setup, including camera angle, backgrounds, wardrobe, and using natural and artificial light. Here, we go further and show how a few tweaks in setup can make a huge improvement in the way you show up to your audience.
Look Into My Eyes
Cost-of-entry for any home studio is having a workable camera and microphone combo, and most of us have that out of the box with our laptop. The problem with this setup is that the camera is embedded in the laptop lid, so if it’s not positioned correctly, you can end up with unflattering angles. The good news is that you can correct the angle simply by bringing the camera to your eye level with a stack of books or similar prop.
We recommend positioning your camera like a newscaster. Set a level and direct your eyeline to your camera lens. Sit up straight in your chair, with feet on the ground, arms by your side and shoulders back. If your eyeline is straight to the lens and you are centered in the frame, you’re there. You can also adjust the height and placement of your chair to meet the eyeline of your lens. Now, test your setup. Begin recording a sample clip and read from a script on your screen and look into the camera lens.
Looking directly at the lens feels unnatural at first, but if you rehearse, record, rewatch, and repeat, you’ll see improvements in your delivery. Eye-to-lens connects you to your viewers and you’ll convey confidence, trustworthiness and sincerity.
Come Into the Light
The most transformative dynamic of your home studio is light. In fact, it’s light, not the camera, that makes you look your best and most natural. Worktank producers are frequently called on to help clients set up their home studio ahead of a broadcast, and we always maximize available light. Here’s where we start:
- Avoid backlight and overhead lights. Never have your back to a window, period. Your camera aperture opens to the brightest light source and without artificial light on your face to counter the backlight, your image appears dark and grainy. Similarly, an overhead light source will spill light unevenly causing an effect similar to how Marlon Brando was lit in “The Godfather,” where the top of the head is bright and the face is darkened.
- Position your desk facing or parallel to a window. Filmmakers obsess about mimicking natural light because it’s simply the best light source. Although daylight shifts dramatically morning to early evening, you can use shades or blinds as a tool to dim and brighten your space. Record a few test clips throughout the day, and note or tape your molding or wall so you know shade and blind positions for morning, afternoon, and early evening, and can quickly adjust ahead of your online presentation.
- Tap everyday lighting. Most webcams are highly sensitive to available lights like a desk or floor lamp. Every office space is different, so experiment by setting two light sources – one directly on your face (key light) and one in the distance behind and slightly above you (hair light) that will help create space and dimensionality on even the most basic webcams. Now record a test video, mark your light setting with tape and repeat to see how the placement affects your video. Remember, lighting is as much art as science, so go with the setting you think looks best.
Can You Hear Me?
For most broadcasts, everyday Bluetooth or wired headphones work surprisingly well. As most of us have a couple of headphones around the house, try out what you have, and record and review the test videos to see if your headphones do the trick. Also, many laptops out-of-the-box have a decent onboard mic and speaker. Test this option as well.
Things to consider:
- Are your headphones easy to sync with your computer, and do they stay connected through the workday? If you need to reconnect often throughout the day or experience outages during a meeting, you may want to switch to a wired option or a headphone that is known to work best with your computer.
- How do you sound? Is your voice consistently crisp and clear?
- Can you clearly hear participants in your meetings?
- Are your headphones comfortable to wear throughout the day?
When to Upgrade
If you’ve tried these tips and tricks and feel your current gear still isn’t cutting it, it may be time to invest in better equipment. Likewise, if the sheer volume of online presentations is exceeding your in-house resources, you may want to consider hiring a professional video production and virtual event management company, like Worktank.
In the past year alone, we’ve produced hundreds of complex virtual events for audiences across the globe, and helped thousands of executives look and sound their best. To learn more about Worktank’s virtual meeting management and video production services, contact us online or give us a call at 877-975-8265.
Next: Your Ultimate Desktop Studio
In Part 3 of Your Best Online Self and The Ultimate Desktop Studio, we’ll dive into three models (and budgets) of studio setups for you to explore. With help from the extended Worktank team, you’ll learn about the latest tech, and what we consider the must-haves and nice-to-haves.