MY SIMPLE VIDEO PRODUCTION SETUP
I know that many of my friends from the Zentangle community want to learn more about this topic. There are many questions that I get, so it made sense to create a blog post to share my video production setup and my experience.
My small creative business was launched in 2019 and at the end of it I published my first video class through a teaching platform that I left in the mean time. After Covid hit, I started teaching live online classes. Finally, in the summer of 2020 decided to work on video-on-demand classes that I would offer through my website. I use a specialized platform for content creators to host my classes (Podia), but it is connected to my website. There are several topics of interest to cover, but people mostly ask me what I use to produce my videos. So, here are some of my experiences.
Video filming setupA picture is worth a thousand words, so I will start with a photo of my setup.
On the photo above, you can see the simple setup that I use. Now that I am working on the 100 day project, it is especially important for me to have a handy and simple solution, because I publish videos daily. Due to the fact that I’m not using narration in these videos, my setup is in my living room, where I normally draw. When I work on my video-on-demand lessons, I need to be in a quiet space, and it’s not the one where my husband and dogs hang out.
I will try to cover the basic things you need, piece by piece.
Phone / camera
People seem to be surprised when they hear that I use my phone for video recording. However, today’s phones have really good cameras, so you won’t need a pro camera to show what you’re creating to the others. Up until recently, I had an iPhone 12 and iPhone X and I actually used the older one for most photos and videos. So, you don’t even need a new phone model. You do want to produce high resolution videos (1080p is a standard, 30-60 fps), but you will be able to do that with most phones.
Here is an important tip:
- Before you start filming, lock the focus of your camera. On your iPhone, you will do it by holding your finger at a place on your screen where the object (paper tile) is. That will prevent the camera to shift the focus to your hand or pen while you draw.
There are two more things to mention regarding the filming process. Depending on how you hold your pen, you will need to be mindful about not covering what you are drawing i.e. about not holding your hand directly above what you’re drawing. The second thing is the sound. I have an USB mic that I sometimes plug into my phone, but mostly I just use my phone.
You can see that I have a very simple long arm holder above my working surface. In my experience, simple phone tripods are not as good as this for what I do. I rarely film myself (talking head scenes), so the usual content creators’ setup (a tripod and a ring light) is not the optimal solution. My tips regarding the phone holder are:
- Having it fixed to something next to your table is the best option, especially if the table is not totally stable. The slightest movements of your working surface will cause your camera to move, and you want it to be steady. You can see that this holder is fixed to the windowsill.
- Place it right above your working surface. If you are right-handed, you can tilt it slightly to the left, but it’s best if it’s in at least almost horizontal position.
I prefer natural light for all my photos and videos. We recently changed the living room arrangement, so now I have this small dedicated working space right against the window. However, if you live in an area where there is not enough light, during the winter time or if you want to make sure that your lighting is always clear and consistent, you will need to have a good artificial light source.
You can see two artificial light sources on my table. One is a big Daylight lamp. It dates back to the time when I was making jewelry and I really don’t use it that often. The small one on the left is actually a Lumie SAD lamp (against seasonal affective disorder). While I didn’t buy it with this intention, it turned out to be a great compact companion for filming videos. It mimics sunlight, so it doesn’t emit the cold light, like the bigger one. It’s bright and it’s healthy to use. So, it’s a win-win situation. 😀
I actually have a more professional LED panel on a tripod in another room, where I film videos with narration and host live online classes. It has variable color temperature (3200-5600K) and adjustable light intensity. It can even be used for a light show if there’s a party. 😀 But, mostly I use it for live online teaching. If you have serious intentions with your teaching and video-making, I’d recommend investing in one of these, but you don’t need it to start with.
The single most important tip that I would like to share with you is this one:
- If you are right-handed, place your light on the top-left side, and vice versa. You don’t want your drawing hand to cast a shadow over what you create, so be mindful of that.
You can see that I have a small table easel that I draw on. It lifts my surface up (I’m short-sighted) and also enables me to tilt the surface and ease the pressure on my upper back and neck. Additionally, it’s big enough that my forearm can rest on the right side, which for me is a must. The easel is not something that you need, for sure. However, there are many tanglers who eventually ended up having health issues because of the sitting position that we draw in, so I’m trying to prevent that.
I know that many people use photo and video props when they create content. Flowers, ornaments, whatnot… I am very simplistic in that sense and I believe that nothing should take attention away from what we create. So, I don’t use any, but it’s really a matter or a personal preference. When it comes to the background, I choose the color depending on the color of the tile. Mostly I just use some thicker paper below my paper tiles, but I also have a table mat with a kind of a faux-wood structure that I love.
Before I start describing what I use, I just want to point out what my goal always is. This job requires social media presence and a lot of tech work. Therefore, my goal is always to make everything except the creative process as simple as possible. Especially the tech stuff. I want it to serve me, instead of having it the other way around.
When I draw and film lessons, I do the narration at the same time. I believe that it comes out most naturally this way. It did take me some time to be confident enough to be able to do it, but now it’s easy, or certainly easier than adding the voice over. I try to stop the recording process as little as possible. When I record longer classes, I usually make logical pauses. My videos classes are divided into shorter sections, so I have that in mind while I’m making the recording. This is what helps the editing go smoother, so that’s why I’m mentioning it here.
I’ve been an iPhone user forever and I also own an iPad. That’s why I use iMovie for most of my editing. All my video classes were edited in iMovie. However, the shorter videos for social media don’t have the traditional 16:9 video formats, which is what iMovie supports. And for those, I usually want to keep all the workload on my phone, so I use several apps. They have many more editing options, so I’m able to make the movies a bit more dynamic and visually appealing, too. There is only one (cheap) paid app that I use – Perfect Video. I also use CapCut, which is free. For some prep work, I sometimes use Canva, and also Snapseed and Layout for photos. That’s about it. It does not seem simple now that I look at it. 😀
If you feel overwhelmed after reading all of this, you should remember the following: there is not a single “proper” way to create video content. I started publishing short videos in 2017 (I guess), and what I’m describing here is a result of what I learned in the mean time. I started with a phone and a tripod and you don’t need more than that. But, if you are thinking about buying some new stuff, hopefully this post will be helpful. I certainly purchased my fair share of things that turned out not to be the best choice. So, perhaps you can consider my experience before making any decisions about your own video production setup.
Written by Anica Gabrovec CZT
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