You can make professional-looking videos all on your own. In this course, Huw Collingbourne reveals the secrets that have helped him to become a top-selling online instructor. He takes you behind the scenes of his home studio to show you exactly how he makes videos - entirely on his own - with good visuals, sound and lighting. He explains everything you need to know in order to make a good quality videos without spending a fortune on expensive cameras. And if you want to take the next step towards really pro-grade video productions, he explains how to set up a dedicated home video studio
In this course you will learn about:
Welcome to the Lone Video-maker’s Guide to Making Videos At Home.
This course is exactly what the title says. It is a guide for people who want to make great looking and sounding videos but who haven’t a team of people to help out. This video gives you a quick overview of what to expect in this course. The topics we will cover include:
...and much more.
But you don’t need all that equipment to start out with. I will explain how to:Use natural daylight
No matter whether you have some previous experience or whether you are a complete beginner, I’ll explain how to make great-looking videos - all on your own. I’ve made a career as a lone video-maker. You can too. So let’s get started...
You don’t need an expensive camera to make good quality videos. Here I survey a few inexpensive options.
Dedicated video cameras are expensive. But you can make perfectly good videos with quite cheap cameras. Here I explain the essential features of cameras suitable for good making quality videos on your own.
Before you start shooting video you need to choose a location - that could be anything from a room at home to a dedicated studio.
Think about what sort of location you need. Here I explain how to select a room for shooting and discuss problems relating to lighting, sound and background.
You don’t need a video studio - you can shoot ‘on location’ in a room at home.
For my first five years teaching online, my ‘studio’ was just as small space in my house. Here I give you a brief tour of that studio to let you take a look behind the scenes.
What are the advantages of a dedicated video studio - and how do you go about getting one?
Take a look behind the scenes of my new studio. Here I’ll show you how I set up the and the camera on its tripod. Behind me, on the wall I have my backdrop. I leave everything in place ready to start recording at a moment’s notice.
A good backdrop can make your videos look really professional. But before deciding on which backdrop to use, you need to be aware of the problems.
For most straight-to-camera videos an absolutely plain backing is often the best. This might be a plain wall but it’s often more professional-looking to have some sort of photographic backdrop. I’ll show you how to use one of these in this video.
A pure white background can look very smart in videos. But it is a very difficult effect to pull off when you are a lone video-maker.
The problem is getting the lighting right. Here I give you a few tips to make your background look intense white even if it isn’t really!
A pure black background can create a professional look for your videos. But creating this effect is not as easy as you might think.
My backdrop is a single seamless piece of black cloth. Ideally it would be entirely smooth with no wrinkles at all. In practice, that is almost impossible to achieve. But the good news is, a few wrinkles here and there won’t really matter if you get the lighting right.
Before you can start making videos you need a camera and a location. Let’s look at some of the choices you have to make.
Do you need to buy an expensive dedicated camera to get started with videos? Or can you use one of the cameras you already have?
HD means High Definition - but there are several different HD formats and you need to decide which of these to use.
HD videos are in widescreen format so they are wider than they are high. That contrasts with full screen videos which are square like old-fashioned TV sets. The minimum definition to qualify as HD is 1,280 pixels across by 720 pixels down. Here I explain the main HD modes.
First let’s take a look at some HD capable cameras that you may already own. Or which, if you don’t, are quite cheap to buy.
Here I look at: pocket cameras and smart phones and tablets. Are they really up to the job of making good quality videos or should you invest in a dedicated video camera at the outset?
You may have a camera built into your computer. It turns out that this may be a very good choice for making some types of video.
DSLR cameras can take great still photos - and many of them can take great videos too!
If you decide to go to a more professional level you have a big choice of cameras. Some of dedicated video cameras are really aimed at professional film-makers and cinematographers. These can be extremely expensive and are really a bit too specialised for the sort of videos I’m making and which I assume you want to make. Though if you already have video-making experience and a large enough budget these are certainly an option. There are also some lower-cost dedicated camcorders that might be suitable.
These days some cameras are so small you can wear them on your hat! But are they the best choice for the lone video maker?
Action cameras can be worn on a helmet so are great for filming sporting activities. They can be in all sorts of inaccessible places. But are they really ideal for filming ‘talking head’ videos?
You need something to put your camera on. Here I look at some tripods.
Tripods come in all shapes and sizes. And prices! From small, cheap, desk-mounted tripods to big expensive tripods with fluid-filled heads for smooth camera movement, you pay your money and you take your choice!
Cameras are everywhere these days - even in our computers and phones! So what sort of camera do you need to make good quality videos?
Microphones are built in to all sorts of devices from cameras to computers. But are these good enough for making videos?
You should never ignore the sound quality of your videos. While it may be easy to let your camera or mobile device record both sound and vision, it is often the case that the audio lets down the video. I discuss this problem in this lesson.
Before going any further you need to understand a bit about the ways in which microphones capture sound.
A microphone records sound from a particular region around the microphone. For example, it might record sound mainly from in front or from all around. In fact, most general purposes microphones record sound mainly from in front but also from the sides and even a bit from behind. This is called a sound pattern. The sound pattern is important so be sure to understand the basics before you buy a microphone.
Let’s begin by looking at a good, all-round microphone suitable for general-purpose recording.
Condenser, cardioid, bidirectional, omnidirectional or stereo? The options may seem confusing. Let’s simplify this to see what you really need in a good ‘all round’ mic...
What sort of microphone is best for screencasts and voice-overs?
If you are not videoing yourself. If you are doing screencasts - that is, recording what takes place on your computer screen; or if you are doing some sort of narration - a voice-over for some previously recorded video - you may want to consider a microphone that works optimally at a very close distance from the speaker. Let’s take a look at some choices.
When talking direct to camera, a lapel microphone is often a good choice.
A lapel or ‘lavalier’ microphone slips onto your clothing and may record straight onto the video being recorded by your camera. This is one of my favourite types of microphone. Here I explain why.
If you need to record ‘on the move’, a camera-mounted microphone might be a good choice.
There are all sorts of microphones that can be fixed onto the top of your camera. While this would not be my first choice, it is good to have as an option, especially if you often make videos ‘on location’.
For the ultimate blend of audio quality and portability, a dedicated hand-held recorder may be a good choice.
But what is a portable recorder? Put simply it is a hand-held microphone that lets you record audio without being connected to another device such as a camera or computer. Why would you want to do that and what are the advantages? This lesson explains.
The iPad has a great camera. But you need a better microphone to make the most of it.
There are some microphones that are made specifically for various types of phone or tablet. If that’s what you need, by all means get one. However, with a bit of work you may be able to use one or your other microphones. In this video I want to give you a specific example to show how I use my Blue Yeti and Zoom microphones with my iPad.
You may have a microphone, but how are you going to position it to record good audio? Maybe you need a stand?
You may already have bought a tripod for your camera. If you want to make best use of your microphone, you need something similar to hold it!
To get rid of all those annoying breathy sounds, use a pop screen!
Pop filter are filters that help to remove the ‘plosive’ P and B noises you make when you talk into a microphone. A pop filter is normally either a piece of material stretched over a frame placed in front of the microphone or a piece of sponge placed over the microphone. If you are talking directly into the mic, a pop filter can make a big difference.
How can a dead cat help you make videos out of doors? The answer is: a furry wind shield.
So called ‘dead cats’ are a bit like pop filters but aimed at filtering out the noise of wind blowing over the microphone when you are working out of doors. They aren’t perfect and they may let through some wind noise. Even so, if you are working outside, a dead cat is likely to be a necessary bit of kit.
Microphones. Which do you need for good audio?
In order to make video you need light. But is light from a window good enough?
You might think that the cheapest and easiest type of lighting is natural light - from a window, say. Well, yes, it is certainly the cheapest. But it is also definitely not the easiest. Even on a sunny day it can be difficult to find a window that provides good, all-over illumination. On cloudy days it’s even worse. At night, of course, it’s impossible.
Even so, I’m going to try to give you a few hints and tips on how you may be able to use natural lighting and overcome some of the problems associated with it.
Let’s first take an overview of lighting for video.
What sort of lighting can we use for videos? Let’s consider some options:
Studio lighting needn’t cost a fortune. Here I take a look at one of the best options for lighting on a tight budget.
Softbox light units are fluorescent bulbs that give a quality of light similar to daylight. They come with their own stands, hoods and filter screens to soften the lighting quality. These are good, inexpensive units when starting video-making.
If you can afford to spend a bit more, LED lights not only provide intense illumination but they are also more portable.
The future of video lighting is LED. These lights provide intense white illumination. They are small, portable and in most cases they provide ways of changing the intensity of the illumination. They are a bit more expensive than softbox lighting but, if you can afford them, they are a far superior option.
You have a decent camera and microphone. The next thing you need is good lighting.
Should you script or should you speak ‘naturally’ to camera? Here I discuss this and other questions about presentation.
Some people have no problems remembering what they want to say then just sitting in front of a camera and saying it. Other people don’t feel comfortable unless they are reading from a script.
Both speaking ‘off the cuff’ and from a script have advantages and disadvantages. When everything is scripted, you may come across as very stilted and unnatural. Worse still, it might be obvious that you are just reading the words.
But when you speak without a script, you may forget to say everything you had intended and you may also hesitate and mumble.
Here I consider the merits of various ways of talking to camera.
If you really want to script everything precisely you might decide to use a teleprompter, also known as an autocue.
If you really want to script everything precisely you might decide to use a teleprompter, also known as an autocue.
This is similar to the teleprompter or autocue that newsreaders, anchor people and chat-show hosts often use on television.
The advantage of an autocue is that it ensures that I always stay on script. I never need to worry that I will forget to say something and, if I stick to reading the words shown by the autocue. And with an autocue system, even though I am reading my script, I am nevertheless looking directly at the camera.
A TV monitor or a portable ‘field monitor’ lets you see yourself as the camera sees you.
This is tremendously useful to a lone video-maker. It lets you check that your lighting is right, that you are centred in the shot, that your camera is focussed and that you haven’t got things unintentionally showing up behind you. A field monitor is not an essential. But if you can afford one, it is a great tool to have.
How can you appear relaxed and confident when talking to camera. And can a teleprompter or field monitor help?
Once you’ve recorded your videos you will need some software to edit them.
Typically, you will need a timeline based editing program. With this sort of video editing software you will be able to cut bits out of clips without actually cutting the original video file itself. Clips can be dragged around to change their positions and you will usually also have the ability to perform other actions such as add transitions to fade one clip into another or add animated effects where clips are joined together. And you may also be able to speed them, up, slow them down, change their colours, zoom in and out and do all kinds of other operations to create your final video from multiple video clips.
When you’ve edited the video you need to ‘produce’ it to create the final version.
When you produce a video, all the video and clips, soundtracks and graphics, from the editor are rendered as a single video file. These are the videos that will be watched by your end users or students.
If you want to use multiple cameras or record audio separately from video you will need to synchronize the audio.
Shooting with multiple cameras is very useful, but how do you synchronize the two videos so that if someone is talking their lips match the audio no matter which camera is being used? The answer depends on which video editing software you are using. You may need to synchronize tracks by visually aligning the ‘waveforms’ (the graphs of the audio). Or your software may be able to do that automatically.
That’s what I want to explain here.
What if your videos are huge but your Internet connection is slow? A little optimization can help before uploading.
By optimizing videos, you may be able to reduce the file sizes so that they not only take up less space on disk but - more important - they also take less time to upload. Uploading huge video files can take a very long time, especially if you have a slow Internet connection. Luckily there is some free software that can make those videos smaller.
Once you’ve recorded your videos you need to edit them and publish them. That’s what this quiz is all about.
Now we’ve come to the end of this course, the time has come to go and make some great videos!
Huw Collingbourne is the technology director at SapphireSteel Software, developers of programming tools for Microsoft Visual Studio. He is author of The Book Of Ruby from No Starch Press. He runs Bitwise Courses and teaches courses on a range of programming topics.
Huw has been a programmer for more than 30 years. He is a well-known technology writer in the UK. For over ten years he wrote the Delphi and Java programming column for PC Plus Magazine. He has also written numerous opinion and programming columns (including tutorials on C#, C++, Smalltalk and Ruby) for a number of computer magazines, such as Computer Shopper, PC Pro, and PC Plus.
In the 1980s he was a pop music journalist and interviewed most of the New Romantic stars, such as Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Adam Ant, Boy George, and Depeche Mode. He is now writing a series of New Romantic murder mysteries.
At various times Huw has been a magazine publisher, editor, and TV broadcaster. He has an MA in English from the University of Cambridge and holds a 2nd dan black belt in aikido, a martial art which he teaches in North Devon, UK. The aikido comes in useful when trying (usually unsuccessfully) to keep his Pyrenean Mountain Dogs under some semblance of control.