Updated: Sep 22, 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic propelled the world into being more virtual. We've become more sympathetic to untidy backdrops, kids running around, dogs barking, cats walking across our laptops - all these distractions are now part of the norm. Even the way we work has changed.
Video is still one of the most powerful tools for engagement. Technological advancements have made creating authentic videos even more accessible than ever before. Many mobile devices nowadays have excellent cameras and microphones - you just need to know how you can get the best out of filming with them.
We've pulled together a list of advice from various sources and our own experience to help you make the most out of filming. More informal filming can certainly save time and money, and make the content more authentic and accessible, but quality can be a compromise. You may have specialist support at your organization for more advice and kit you may be able to use - ask your PR/Marketing/Comms teams for support.
Peer Review Week YouTube channel has some really good examples of filming done in a more informal environment where in some instances, branded front and back slides have been added: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbmYfn4oBs5a084aOu-ph-g
You'll also see how we film our hints and tips videos on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLzZ3BrpL2eGso7yhy-x-Aiq6Th6mQ5Vny
1. Video questions
When creating your questions, ask open-ended questions in a way that makes you or the person being interviewed answer and include the question to frame it. Don’t worry if you make mistakes – take a deep breath, start again and you can always edit the raw footage if you need to. Here are some example questions:
Why did you enjoy submitting to xxx journal? I enjoyed submitting to this journal because...
Tell me why open research is important to you? Open research is important to me because...
How is the peer review process...? The peer review process is... because...
Tell me about your experience in editorial production? My experience in editorial production...
What would you say to your early career researcher self? I would tell my early career researcher self...
2. Filming kit
You don't need a professional studio, but you do need some basics:
A smartphone, laptop with camera, webcam or DSLR camera
Something to stand the recording device on to so it is a face level like a stack of books or a tripod
A chair to help you sit upright and look comfortable and engaged in the 'conversation'
A bullet point list of what you want to talk about to use as a cheat sheet
We can easily replace the camera with a mobile phone but the ring light makes a great difference with the lighting. We also have additional lighting and a green screen. There are lots of videos on sites like YouTube to help with setting up and lighting should you need.
We also have a Huawei P30 lite as it's a great price to buy outright and has a 32MP front-facing camera which currently far exceeds even the higher end mobile phone models on the market.
Why is front-facing important for a mobile device?
When you use a teleprompter app like Oratory on Android you can easily see what you look like and your script on screen. If you can drag and drop the script box to the camera lens then you will be looking at the camera and eye movement is less noticeable when reading.
3. Shooting location and set up
Choose a quiet, well-lit room or outside location
Avoid a window or light behind you as that creates a shadow unless you have appropriate lighting - face the light
If using a ring light, have it directly in front of you so it does not cause shadows on your face
Dependent on where your footage appears, we recommend filming in landscape however Instagram, for example, prefer portrait. You can always crop video to fit portrait should you need
Ensure the camera is on a stable well-supported surface but do not hold it by hand, as this can result in shaky footage and you won't enable you to relax
Green screens can be used to add a solid background - rather than you having to tidy up or blur the background and you can edit the background in the raw video footage
I personally like to have something interesting behind me, just to set a stage or screen like vintage lights and suitcases as props - though nothing too distracting. You may decide to have a clear background behind you.
Sit roughly one metre (three feet) away from the camera
Have the camera directly in front of you
Mid-torso shots and close up shots look more natural
Decide whether to speak at the audience directly or as if you are being interviewed, looking to the side of the camera as if an interviewer is there
Film in thirds - be on the right or left of centre - you want to take up one to two thirds of the screen from either edge. This can help with putting some text beside you
Have a natural stance to help you feel more comfortable e.g. don't pin yourself into a corner, tight space or against a wall - allow yourself to breathe and give your video some personality
If filming outside use a quiet location that does not have lots of distractions in the background
Consider your dress code and what might be distracting or not be picked up well on a camera e.g. close check and stripes
5. Recording and delivery
Check out our Media Training - Top 12 Tips blog post to give you ideas about what to do when filming and download our The Secrets of Media Training infographic to share with your team on Figshare.
If you use your camera as a webcam, you can create higher quality recordings with services like Zoom that also create an audio version of recordings automatically for podcasts. Mobile phones have great microphones for podcasts.
When thinking about the accessibility of your videos, include the transcription of your video when uploading to sites like YouTube. Think about which online video platform you want to load to and who you want to target. YouTube is not accessible to those in China for example.
Add captions to videos where you can - especially on social as 85% of videos are watched without sound.
If you are interested in using the same kit as us, you can find the Amazon Affiliate links to the products below:
Coupler for LP-E17 - dummy battery for Canon EOS 250D so you can plug your camera into mains electrics and use as a webcam or for long recordings
Huawei P30 lite - reasonable to buy outright and later version has a 32MB front-facing camera
Ring light - to provide additional light when filming
Padcaster teleprompter - phone size so you can read script and record on your camera at the same time. It sits on your lens and prevents too much eye movement
Deity V-Mic D3 Pro Location Kit - great microphone, a competitor to RODE
Foldable balance card to help with setting up your camera
Microphone boom holder for stability when holding a boom/selfie stick
Boompole for microphone
Ultra 4K HDMI Mini to HDMI cable - to connect your camera to your computer to use as a webcam if connections are correct