Though 2020 may be the year where nothing goes as anticipated, we have indeed managed to make it to October. In North America, this month brings with it weather changes and giddy excitement about a holiday filled with spooky stories, costumes, and sugar-fueled mayhem for people of a certain age.
In this blog post, we’re going to stay in the spooky spirit and overview three tips for creating great (instead of ghoulish) videos. Though it may be Halloween, spooky happenings should be (hopefully) kept to non-working hours and accompanied by lots of candy!
Tip 1: Elevate to eye level
As the evil queen in Snow White will gladly endorse, magical mirrors will only reveal their secrets when you maintain steady eye contact. It turns out the same truth (well, perhaps somewhat the same truth) holds for online classrooms of distance dispersed learners. It is essential when recording video content to place your webcam at eye-level height.
The good news is that you most likely are already close to having a webcam at eye level height if you are using a desktop computer. To test, extend your arm or hand at eye level. If you are pointing at or near your webcam, you are right. If you need to adjust, you can usually do so by raising or lowering your chair.
If you are on a laptop, things get slightly more complicated. If conducting the same arm test above reveals your webcam is significantly lower than eye level, you can purchase a stand to elevate it safely or go a more DIY route and use books, boxes, etc. to raise it. Just be sure that your setup is stable—a shaky camera or one that falls mid-session hints a little too much of the paranormal.
Tip 2: Don’t be ambushed by what’s lurking behind you
Every good thriller movie has at least a few scenes where tense music plays, fog fills the screen, and the heroine or hero has the eerie feeling they are not alone. This paranoia causes them to continually look back to see if anyone (or anything) follows or watches them. The message is loud and clear: the danger is indeed lurking just behind you.
When making a video or holding a live session with your webcam on, it is good to learn from thriller plot lines and look back before beginning your session. Though most likely the only actively dangerous thing around might be a bored pet, partner, there may be passive danger lurking in the form of clutter, distracting objects, etc. just waiting to hijack your audience’s attention.
It is nice to have a background that looks interesting, welcoming, and academic in video content. These human touches add atmosphere and ambiance to content. However, it is best if you keep it simple. A room that is overly cluttered, overly intimate, or excessively busy background can distract viewers. Do yourself a favor: before each video session, check first that the coast is clear and nothing is lurking to ambush you.
Tip 3: Follow the light!
The Halloween season is one of smoke and mirrors, and nothing is quite as it seems. This elusiveness is in large part due to lighting. Light has the uncanny ability to cast mood and capture emotion. Light’s power to both conceal and reveal always leaves us all guessing what might be going on.
When using a webcam for video, lighting can be your best friend or worst enemy. If you are oddly backlit and appear as only a silhouette, you look like you’ve inadvertently become a sinister villain who doesn’t dare show their face. On the other hand, if you have a harsh glare from too many fluorescent lights all around you, you will look more like Frankenstein or the walking dead than is optimal.
Reaching a lighting middle ground between these two extremes is best. If possible, surround yourself with soft, indirect lighting. Natural light is the best and easiest way to achieve this. Position your computer in front of a window to catch the light and limit yourself to working only in daylight hours. If this is not available, consider the location of the lights around you. Avoid overhead lighting if possible and opt instead for lamps with shades and insert bulbs with warmer yellows instead of colder blue temperatures.
In closing, do all you can to delay the monsters, ghosts, and overall haunted moments to post-work hours. When working with your webcam, whether in synchronous sessions or recorded instructional content, be sure to elevate to eye level, investigate your background, and, most of all, follow the light. Attending to these three tips ensures that work from home never turns into working from a haunted house!