Essential Tips for Using Audio and Video at Home: How to avoid common mistakes

Understanding how to get the best video and audio quality at home has never been more important.


We’ve all experienced that call when a colleague’s audio makes it impossible to have a productive conversation, or that unflattering camera angle looking up your client’s nose during a video catch-up.


Virtual communications requires every participant to understand and manage using their own recording technology. Without a basic understanding of camera and audio, it can be easy to get into embarrassing situations with colleagues and clients alike. Training staff in the basic essentials of using a webcam and microphone at home is a quick and scalable way to present a professional company image in this new world of virtual communications, and impress clients with innovative virtual communications solutions.

As PRCA’s Studio and Production partner, Access Studios is supporting businesses to produce high-quality virtual content, and has published essential tips on creating the best quality home video and audio, including a free online video series.


Light


For your camera, light is information; it is an essential component of improving the quality of visuals. As a rule of thumb, the more light you give your camera to work with, the more detail it will be able to pick-up from your shot and the higher the quality of visuals it will achieve. Most people will not have studio lights in their cupboard, but everyone will have access to the most powerful light source possible: daylight through windows. The aim of the game is to use daylight to your advantage.

Essential tips:

  • Avoid sitting with your back to your windows (or any powerful light source). It might be a temptingly plain backdrop, but you will end up as a dark shape silhouetted against a light backdrop.

  • Face your windows - allow the natural light to brighten your face and give the camera more information to work with. On a particularly sunny day, you might need to dampen the light with a blind as the direct sunlight might be a little too powerful - if your face turns completely white without any detail.


Understanding how to get the best video and audio quality at home has never been more important.

Ambient Noise


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Once you’ve spent a few days at home, it’s amazing what noises you stop noticing: the whirring of the fridge or buzz of traffic on the road outside. Unfortunately, your audience on a call will not be accustomed to that noise and will notice it immediately. Audio is as important as the visuals in any video; loud background noise is incredibly distracting and will pull focus away from what you are saying no matter how good the camera is making you look.


Essential tips:

  • Take a moment before a call or recording to sit and listen to the noises around you, is there anything that can be turned off?

  • Keep a distance from windows and doors. If there is a lot of noise coming through, try closing curtains or covering floor gaps in doors with books or towels to help dampen the noise.

  • Using a Towel - the audience can’t see you in audio recordings, so use that to your advantage. Recording with a towel over your head or under the duvet in your bed is a really effective way of achieving good quality audio at home. It might look ridiculous, but it dramatically reduces any ambient noise, with the added bonus of providing a sound-dampened recording environment for your microphone, which removes any echoey sounds in your voice recording.


Eyeline


Probably the easiest of the tips: keep your camera at eyeline for the most complimentary view of your face. A lot of people hunch over their laptop at a table during video calls. Not only does this present an unflattering ‘up the nose’ shot, but it also shows a disproportionate view of your face to your audience.


Simply raising your laptop or phone to eye level solves this problem. While there are many companies that sell purpose-built laptop stands, just placing a few boxes, books or anything that is stable underneath your laptop or phone will work just as well and give an evenly proportioned view of your face. If you are also using your internal device microphone, it also provides the additional benefit of clearer vocals by having your microphone on a similar level to your mouth.



The Little Things


‘Little things’ are the details that are not immediately obvious to think about when starting a recording but can have a huge impact on the outcome. Imagine you have spent the whole afternoon conceptualising, scripting and recording a series of video messages for clients. It’s all gone incredibly well, until you watch them back and notice the tomato sauce around your mouth from lunch. Or the crinkled shirt from spending all morning on your hands and knees retrieving a book that’s fallen down the side of a cupboard. All of a sudden the whole afternoon of recordings are unusable.


As you’re working from home, it is a lot easier to fall down on one of the ‘little things’; you’re likely working alone without any second pair of eyes to check on the details. This is why it is so important to take a moment after every break in recording to look in the mirror and check yourself over. It’s tiresome, repetitive and often unnecessary, but can save you from hours of wasted time and content.


The Power of the Phone


While your computer might seem like the obvious option to use for your next work call or remote video, it’s important not to forget the power of modern phones. While considerably smaller, most modern smartphones will have impressive quality cameras which can deliver higher quality results than your computer. Similarly, modern smartphones are used regularly by podcasters, news reporters and production companies for audio recording because they can deliver a good enough quality sound. Try using your phone to record a short video or audio message and see whether it seems better than your computer-based alternative.


With Wetransfer, Google Drive or iCloud, there are many ways easily to transfer your recording from your phone to computer for editing, so don’t let that stop you from utilising the power of your best recording kit.


Preparing for Home Working: Delivering high-impact communications


Much of what we have covered is about getting the ‘basics’ right, but when producing high-impact communications using content recorded at home, the possibilities are endless. Across newsletters and social media news feeds, there are many examples of organisations harnessing the capabilities of virtual production to share multimedia messages, such as DeHavilland’s Weekly #COVIDー19 Update on Twitter. Good quality editing and creative post-production can transform ‘standard’ home recordings into eye-catching, engaging content.


With essential training and a good quality virtual production solution, communications professionals can prepare for the realities of home-working ahead. Training can provide essential skills for staff to present a consistent professional company image in this virtual-only communications world,and help prevent any embarrassing ‘slip-ups’.


Alongside good quality home recordings, professional production solutions can also step in to complement and enhance home-made content, and provide the adaptable tools and content necessary to stand out and deliver the high-impact communications still required by clients.


Access Studios provides professional production solutions for clients to get the best from their home-produced content. This includes conceptualising new content, video and audio editing, producing infographics, which are often an effective way to support key messaging in home-recorded videos, and training for teams on using audio and video at home.



Access Studios are PRCA’s Studio and Production Partner: www.accessstudios.co.uk


A free support video series on getting the best quality video and audio from home is available here: https://www.accessstudios.co.uk/support


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