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Video: Time for an Upgrade!

Author: Curtis Sparrer
September 16, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has redefined what a meeting is. “Meet me on Zoom” has become 2020’s ad hoc catchphrase, and because teleworking and sheltering in place will likely continue into 2021, online video will continue to be an integral part of the “new normal.”

Video’s prominence means that people can and should upgrade their approach. Thanks to Zoom culture, we’ve all now seen the home offices and dining rooms of our favorite pundits, talks show hosts and reporters, not to mention those of our colleagues. Rating virtual backgrounds has become a pop-culture sport, while at the same time, more serious  explainers have popped up all over the internet to help.

Being a former TV pro, it pains me to see substandard video – whether on Zoom or for promotional purposes. Following are some tips and tricks for improving your videos, whether they’re for online meetings or for creating ads, promo videos or b-roll.

Video Calls

Our days, consisting of logging on and off of various online meetings, often give us a peek into the homes of our colleagues – including their bric-a-brac collections and kitchen ceilings. If you’re tired of showing off your own greasy ceiling or inadvertently sharing old family photos with the world, a free virtual background can change things up, as can picking a background image from your own photo library, which most video conferencing software allows.

However, the coolest background or nicest home office can’t hide poor camera framing or bad lighting. Investing in a simple video light will improve your appearance and enable viewers to better see your facial expressions. Professional grooming and attire are still necessary, and so are pants…most of the time. To improve audio quality, headsets and microphones can be cheaply upgraded.

The next key is framing your shot to improve the quality of your finished product. Best practices include:

  • Dividing the screen into three vertical sections, and positioning oneself near the inside edge of the left of the frame is a good start. Left is recommended most often, because graphics can be positioned over the right shoulder.
  • To keep eyes and body language focused on the audience, it helps to imagine someone standing to the right of the camera, as if they were there with you, asking questions.
  • The most common framing is a medium shot, showing approximately the lower ribs to just a few inches above the head. The close-up shot is better for more personal or technical content, showing the presenter from roughly the armpits to just above the head.
  • The reason to have a few inches of space above the head is because it prevents the top of the presenter’s head from moving offscreen during conversation.

Overall, achieving a more pleasing background and framing your shots more effectively are fast and easy tricks, and they cost nearly nothing.

Promotional Video and B-roll

For b-roll or promotional video or even online ads, better results are available through simple techniques. Steady and static wide shots using a tripod are useful for video editors and should not include zooms or pans. Over-the-shoulder shots are useful for demos, and video segments that show how software works provide effective detail for promotion. More footage is always better than less, and framing should be horizontal rather than vertical.

Improving video quality is quite easy and can help companies achieve more “bang for the buck,” whether it is to increase the professionalism of online meetings or to make more visually pleasing promotional content.

Video has become integral to our “new normal,” so striving to make it excellent should be a priority.