Once you have the equipment you need, the next step toward video domination is staging and recording. Part 2 of our Vlogging For Musicians series focuses on setting up for a professional result.
In “Vlogging For Musicians: The equipment you’ll need,” I listed a variety of video equipment and accessories you need to start producing videos and vlogs that look and sound professional. Now let’s address how to set up your video equipment for whatever type of video you hope to produce – video songs, talking head videos, etc. Once you get it right, it makes shooting videos easier later down the line.
I’m writing this with the DSLR camera in mind, so some adjustments may be necessary if you’re using a pocket camera or smartphone. But most of this applies to whatever video source you’re using.
Staging your video shoot
Find a good place to shoot your video. Pick an area you feel comfortable in. Avoid plain backgrounds, they are boring and any flaw your video has will stick out like a sore thumb. A few places I would suggest are your home recording studio, a living or family room area, or your kitchen. Spaces with uncluttered, but not plain, backgrounds work well.
Make sure there’s nothing in the background that shouldn’t be there – or that you feel is too distracting. Once you’ve picked and set up your area, view your stage through the lens of your camera. How it looks through the camera is how your audience will see it, so take the time to do this pre-setup work and get the angle and background right.
At the end of the day, it’s up to you how you want to present yourself and your environment, but just as your genre of music might dictate the type of image you present and clothing you’ll wear, the location and artifacts in your stage area should fit with the vibe and content of your vlog.
Position your lights
After you find a good recording location, shed some light on it. Things tend to look a little different once lit, so experiment a little. The most common lighting setups are the two-point and three-point lighting arrangements.
Two-point lighting. This is what I use for my videos. One light is the key light, which emits the most light, and the second is the fill light, which is used to erase shadows created by your key light and smooth out the shot.
Three-point lighting. As you’ve figured out, this setup involves three lights: the key light, a fill light, and a backlight, which is used to separate you from the background and add a little dimension to the video. The backlight is positioned on your hairline (top of your head) or the background of your recording area.
These are typical lighting positions, but depending on the dimensions of the room or the area you’re using to stage the video, you can experiment by bouncing the light off the ceiling and walls to get the lighting that works best for your specific environment. This is why it’s necessary to test – otherwise you won’t know what works best for you.
Position your microphones
Studio mics. A studio mic (e.g. dynamic, condenser) goes in front of and is pointed toward you or the audio source. In a video setting it’s OK and probably necessary to have these in frame.
Lapel mics. Also called a lavalier, these mics are clipped onto the talent (i.e. the person doing the talking or singing). You can choose to hide or leave them in plain sight. I like to clip mine on my shirt similar how it’s done in this picture.
Shotgun mics. These a generally kept out the camera’s frame. You want to position the mic directly at your mouth or chest depending on what sound you want to capture.
Shoot test footage before every video
I’m going to assume you understand your camera’s functions, but here’s a list of the basic elements you should be familiar with:
- Video mode
Once you’ve set up the lights, camera, and mics, it’s time to shoot some test video footage. Although you have your lighting set up, you still need to test how you look in the light. This can be a little tedious depending on your camera, skin complexion, and what you’re wearing. For example, my glasses get in the way a lot because of the light reflections. Rather than adjust my lights, I just remove the glasses. If I play with the lights, I run into the possibility of casting harder shadows in my room. It’s just an easier fix.
So get a test script and take some video. This is pretty easy to do solo if your DSLR has a screen that flips out and you have a remote control. The flip screen will allow you to see how you look (positioning), and the remote will allow you to focus and record. See the remote in my hand?
If you don’t have these at your disposal, use a prop – a stand-in, stuffed animal, whatever – focus on him/her, hit record, and then take your place and run your test. Review your footage, make necessary changes, and repeat the process until you get the look and sound you want.
Remember, it’s important to get mic positioning and gain staging correct from the start, just like getting the video angles and lighting. I find that recording at night is best. Everyone is sleeping, outside noise is reduced, and my dog is generally calm. My project studio is the best location, as it blocks most noise. My mics of choice are the H1 Zoom and a shotgun, but if I’m recording outside (by myself), I find a lapel mic is my best option.
These are all things you’ll have to figure out so you can get the most out of your time and gear.
Here’s a vlog we posted back in 2014 featuring Greg using much of the equipment listed here.
This post originally appeared on Greg Savage’s DIY Music Biz Blog. Greg Savage is an entrepreneur from California who makes a living producing music and sound designing for various companies without the use of a record label or manager. He started DIY Music Biz because he wanted to create a reliable resource for musicians, producers, composers, and artists that would be useful regardless of their success or skill level. Reposted with permission.
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