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Filming yourself on your phone: A Guru Guide to recording video messages

I keep banging on about how important video is as a means of communicating with your people (like here, here, and here). Only last week, I wrote about how it can help with managing the return-to-site-after-Covid piece that so many companies are now experiencing.

A video message offers a personal touch, authenticity, and credibility, and a level of engagement that a written piece just cannot provide, no matter how eloquent and expressive.

The best news is that you don’t need an expensive set-up or a degree in Media Tech’. If you’re one of the 92% of the UK population with a smartphone, you should have everything you need to record a message that hits home with your people.

And so, without further ado, and for the first time, I would like to offer a quick Guru Guide on how to film on your phone like a pro. This blog is about the techniques and tips for the filming process, and not about the content or delivery style, much of which I have covered many times before.

GURU TIP 1 – Choose your location wisely

If you want to come across as professional and organised, then it’s not just your script that needs to be tidy and free from clutter. A plain background is best for a message that’s free from distractions. I find a tropical fish tank a soothing distraction, but a distraction, nevertheless. And nobody wants to see your DVD collection, dodgy kitchen cabinets, your kids’ school photos, or last night’s gym bag in the corner of the shot.

Consider the sound of your video too. Excessive echo (often from multiple glossy walls or surfaces) can spoil the professionalism of your video. Noises from neighbours, colleagues, pets, or traffic can all be distracting. If you can’t get the sound quite right, headphones with a built-in mic can be a good solution.

You’ll want to record yourself in a bright area, too. Facing a light source will give the best-lit and clearest picture and is almost always more flattering. But don’t go for too bright - you don’t want to be squinting as that will mask or distort your expressions and add wrinkles around the eyes!

Finally, if you are at any risk of interruptions, stick a homemade DO NOT DISTURB sign on the door and close it! We’ve all had a good laugh at clips like the one below but you may not want to be the source of such amusement if you’re trying to deliver a heartfelt message to your people. The alternative is having to repeat an otherwise perfect take.

GURU TIP 2 – Keep it steady

You are wanting to inform, engage or motivate with your video, not instil hurricane-level seasickness into your audience. A tripod, gimbal, or mounted “ring light” can be purchased relatively inexpensively and is a recommended buy if you’re going to be making regular appearances. (The latter, as the name suggests, helps with professional and flattering lighting too.)

But you can get creative with books, Lego, or whatever you have to hand. Blu-Tack or plasticine is great for holding your phone still and steady if you’re going for the improvised option.

GURU TIP 3 – The Frame Game

Here’s an important one: no matter how natural it feels to video yourself in portrait, don’t! Always film in landscape (i.e. with your phone lying horizontally) as that is how your video will be viewed on PC monitors and screens across the business.

Shoot close enough to get your expressions and mannerisms clearly on the screen, but get the whole of your head (chest up, and including the top of your head) in shot. Position your phone at eye level so that you’re not looking up or down into the lens. The latter is particularly important if, like me, you’re trying to minimise the number of chins that make it into the final edit!

And, talking of edits, if you’re likely to be recording a couple of takes and splicing them together, try to keep the framing consistent so that you’re not teleporting around the screen in the final edit. (Gridlines on the screen - check your settings - can help you centralise yourself and keep your position in-frame consistent.)


A few final Guru Pointers for you…

  • Check that you have enough storage space on your phone for a couple of takes.

  • Check your video settings. If you have different recording options, you want to be recording in a quality that will play well on a screen larger than your phone’s.

  • Put your phone in airplane mode to kill any distracting interruptions.

  • We advise recording a test run first and watching it back before committing your final masterpiece to digital memory. You can then adjust the set-up, the settings, or your delivery accordingly if needed.

Video really should be a part of your comms strategy in 2021 and you absolutely do not need to be Spielberg to create something that will authentically, engagingly, and credibly deliver your key messages. If you do want to go the extra mile and create something that really pops, then reach out to those who can help with text and visuals on screen, animations, infographics, and royalty-free soundtracks.

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