Lights. Camera. Action.
Position your camera at eye level
A good practice is to make sure your camera is placed at eye level, or even slightly above eye level. What you want to avoid at all costs is looking down at a camera. It is typically not the most flattering angle.
Backlighting occurs when there is a major source of light behind you, such as a window on a sunny day or a lamp. The problem is that your camera will adjust to the light, which will make you appear as a dark, shadowy silhouette.
Close all unnecessary programs
We want our picture to be clear as possible, and we want our camera presence to be free from distractions. Close out your email and any other program that could either distract you with popups or compromise your computer's bandwidth.
Wear solid colors
Avoid stripes and patterns that may appear distracting to the viewer or which may complicate the picture. Most high definition cameras will be able to handle stripes, but sometimes the transmission is affected by bottlenecks in the bandwidth or video compression. The best practice is to go bold and solid with colors - or simply wear a white shirt.
Check your surroundings
A common theme in this list is to avoid distracting elements in your videos. Do a scan of the room and make sure that there is no clutter in the background, or nothing that could distract your viewer from the most important part of the video - YOU!
Control ambient noise
Similar to checking your surroundings, you also want to make sure you have control over the sounds that will be picked up in the video. Perhaps put a sign on your office door alerting people that you are recording. If you are at home then see if someone can walk the dog and make sure the kids know to keep the noise down and that you will need some time without interruptions.
Invest in a good external webcam and microphone
Most laptops come equipped with video and audio options these days, but with a little investment in decent equipment you can take your productions up several notches. The most popular webcam on the market for the past many years is the Logitech C920. Check with your department or IT to see if they have one for you. Amazon typically offers affordable external microphones, such as the Samson Go Mic. Mics can sit on the desk, but the closer you position it to you, the more clear and pronounced your audio will be.
Maintain eye contact
When you are recording a video, you are making very individualized correspondence to each of your audience members. If you are new to creating online video, it can be incredibly daunting - as you are essentially giving a performance to a tiny glass dot housed inside a small piece of plastic. But know that this small inanimate dot represents the eyes of your audience. Even though you will not be receiving feedback, know that your people are there. Maintain direct "eye contact", and have confidence.
Length of video
If you are recording a video, consider that breviloquence is a virtue for online videos. Consider scripting and chunking your content. Long videos are rarely seen in their entirety, and you will get more viewership the shorter your video is. A 2 minute video may gain more traction than a 4 minute video, and anything longer than 6 minute is likely not going to be effective. If you have more than one main idea in your video then you should create more than one video.
Creating videos may be a daunting task, especially for those who are new to the endeavor. However, they can be an incredibly helpful and effective way to engage with your audience and convey your message. Videos can be a personable way to present content and communicate information. Do not be intimidated. Simply practice and work to improve little by little and soon you will become a webcam champion.
Written by Dr. Sean Nufer, Director of Ed Tech for TCS Education System.