Tips to Improve Home Recording Quality
Many variables play into the quality of video recordings. This page shares discusses some of these variables and what you can do to affect them. Keep in mind that there will always be exceptions depending on what you're recording. These tips are primarily focused on the concept of recording a person speaking into the camera.
Lighting is one of the most important factors in determining video quality. Digital cameras will usually try to adjust picture brightness based on the scene lighting, so having an appropriate amount of light will give you the best results in terms of detail quality.
- Make sure you have enough lighting!
If your video is too dark, your camera will try to adjust in an attempt to brighten the image, but this will usually lead to blurry picture quality and jittering "static" artifacts covering the video. The less your camera has to adjust for low lighting, the higher quality your picture will be. The amount of lighting you'll need will depend on the brightness of the subject matter, e.g. your clothing colors and skin tone if you are recording yourself. Natural daylight tends to be one of the best light sources, especially midday when the sun isn't directly beaming into the window. A ring light placed around the camera can provide an evenly lit light source for "talking head" style videos.
- ....but not TOO bright!
If a large portion of your video frame is overly bright or dark, the camera will compensate by shifting the exposure of the entire image to adjust for it. This may cause the subject matter to glow white or turn into a dark silhouette at extreme situations! At home, most of your lighting concerns will likely result from the room being too dark or sunny windows being too bright.
- Don't shine your primary lightsource into the camera
To follow up the previous point, avoiding pointing your main lighting into the camera. A bright light being shone directly into the lens will cause you or your subject to be underexposed since the camera has to adjust for the intense lighting it's absorbing. This is most frequently an issue with standing in front of a window where bright daylight is shining through. Try to position your camera & subject matter where your lighting can be behind the camera, adjacent to the camera, or off to the side out of frame. This most likely shouldn't be an issue if you're relying on ceiling lighting in a home setting.
- Use your best judgement for lighting!
Videos, especially home recordings, don't need to be perfect! You can usually look at your video preview on the screen and immediately tell if your video's subject is too dark or too bright. If you or your subject matter looks abnormally dark or bright, try adjusting the brightness or position of your lighting!
When you're recording from home, chances are you'll be recording with your webcam or cell phone. Here are some of the things to keep in mind when deciding where to set up your camera.
- Prop up your camera (or use a gimbal if you have one)
You will want to make sure that your camera is on a flat, solid base while recording. Holding your camera while you record will usually make the video somewhat shaky, if not blurry. If you're going to use your phone for numerous recordings, you may want to consider a small, cheap phone tripod. If you happen to own a steadying gimbal for your phone, using this will provide additional stability for handheld video clips.
- Place your camera around eye level when recording a "talking head" video
Have you ever noticed how news broadcasters, internet streamers, and most career YouTubers tend to be "looking" at you when they're sitting at a desk in front of the camera? Not only does the angle provide a more professional feel, but it's more engaging to your viewer since it gives the appearance of talking "with" them rather than just "at" them. Ideally your camera would be near eye level and facing you, either straight on or at a slight offset angle. However, as with all recommendations, there will be exceptions to this depending on what the primary focus of the video is.
- Phone users — Record in widescreen format
The universal standard for video has been 16:9 widescreen format since the mid-2000s. When you're recording with your cell phone, be sure that your phone is sideways so your video will be in landscape orientation. Having the phone in vertical orientation will negatively affect the video playback in one of two ways: the recording will either be rotated 90° to the side or the video will play at a fraction of its original quality since the recording has to be compressed into a much smaller resolution to fit vertically within a widescreen player.
A microphone can be a useful tool for recording your audio, but webcams & cell phones will usually get the job done. Here are a few things to consider to help minimize audio disruptions.
- Check your audio levels
Always confirm that your device is detecting and recording your audio. Nobody wants to record a video only to discover that there's no sound afterwards! Just about every streaming and capture program we use at Parkside will have an on-screen indicator of how loud your audio is. The indicator tends to be the microphone icon itself that you would click to mute and unmute your microphone. When it's working, you should see the microphone icon lighting up in some fashion when you speak or make noise.
- Consider the time of day you record
If you can clearly hear your neighbors mowing their lawn or if there are screaming kids playing just outside your window, you may want to try recording at a different time.
- Silence your phone
You may want to put your phone on silent mode if you aren't expecting any important calls, especially if you're using your phone to record. If you have a landline on your desk and you really want to cover your bases, you may even consider unplugging the landline phone cord while recording.
- Keep the camera/microphone clear from sources of noise
You'll want to think about what is placed near your microphone. For example, fans can be anywhere from minor annoyance to completely deafening depending on where the microphone is in relation to the fan. Your desktop computer's fans could also be picked up by the mic, especially if it's an older computer. It's very common for the audio indicator to light up when you're not speaking because of ambient background noise. As long as the indicator isn't constantly maxed out or spiking while you're not speaking, then the background noise shouldn't be a problem.
- No need to be a perfectionist for lectures!
Everybody stumbles on their wording once in a while. If you can speak for class lectures, then you can record a video no problem! Messing up the occasional word is a natural part of speech, so you can simply continue as you normally would as if you were speaking to your class in-person.