31. 12. 2022 Charles Callaway Documentation

Making Your Own Video (Tutorials), Part 11: Recording Day

So you read the advice I wrote in parts 1-9, you think to yourself “Oh why not, I’ll try to make a video”, and you then plan everything out: where to film, what to say, how to dress, the equipment you need, etc. You’ll pick or reserve a room somewhere in your office building (we’re always on a budget!) and at some point the day you’ve selected will be today.

At the appointed hour you haul everything to the room and it’s now sitting there on the floor. What exactly are you going to do with all that stuff now? Do you set up the lights first? Hold on… is that right?

Below I’ll detail my entire setup procedure, which I hope you’ll find helpful. First though just a few general concepts:

  • Have a set procedure. If you go through the same setup procedure every time, it will soon become second nature and you’ll get much more efficient at it.
  • Also try to reuse the same space. Not only will you know where to route the cables, but you won’t have to re-check the lighting every time if the lamps are always in the same place pointing in the same direction.
  • Remember that what goes up must come down. Unless it’s your exclusive space, you’ll have to take it down so someone else can use the space. Become efficient at the take-down procedure, too.
  • If you know you’re going to be doing a series of similar videos, try to do them all at once to minimize the amount of time you spend getting everything ready.

I’ll divide our setting-up checklist into (a) before the day arrives, (b) room setup, (c) equipment setup, and (d) after you turn the lighting on.

The Day Before

  • Be sure to recharge all your batteries. Laptops, microphones, headphones, mobile lighting. Whatever needs batteries, make sure they’re ready. Recharging the same morning is too late.
  • Make sure your scripts and shot planning are ready. I can’t count how many times I’ve wasted 2 hours of shooting time because I forgot to write a paragraph or rewrite because of a change someone requests. Shooting the video already takes a long time as is, what with retakes and everything.
  • Reserve the room. Don’t be stuck and have to reschedule everything. Maybe even do this 2 or more days in advance…
  • Be sure you know where electrical outlets are. Lighting isn’t the only thing that needs electricity. especially if you plan on filming for 4 hours or more, you’ll want to worry about your computers and cameras.
  • Do you have all your equipment ready to go in one place? Do you know how to use it? You don’t want to be reading manuals on filming day.
  • Make sure you have enough data cables, extension cables, power cables, etc.. Is everything USB? Will your audio cable be long enough? How does your camera connect to the external microphone? Is your backlight near an electrical socket?

Room Setup

Yes, the great day has arrived! Time to show your boss you can do more than plan things.

  • Lower the room temperature. Why is this first? All that lighting and other electrical equipment will heat up the room. And since you can’t have fans or air conditioners on during filming (they generate awful background noise), you want to pre-chill the room.
  • Make sure the physical environment is prepared before you touch your equipment. Remove any unwanted items: clear off the table, position chairs where you want, get trashcans out of the camera’s field of view, put props you want in the right place (plants are always nice).
  • Close windows and doors, and check the ambient noise. If you’re not sure, just record 20 seconds of silence and then play it back with headphones on. You may be surprised at what you hear: airplanes, trucks, water pipes, colleagues. You name it, I’ve heard it. During COVID when I was filming in my home office it was all dogs and tractors.
  • Make sure your chair is the right height and in the right place, and you’re not too close to the background so that you have room for backlighting.

Equipment Setup

Here’s where your setup procedure really shines. You don’t have to do everything strictly in this order; feel free to customize so that it makes sense for you. This is just the order that I like.

  • Set up the audio
    • Place the microphone, a feedback headset if you want, and their wires.
    • Position the content (recorded script), whether it’s audio via a headset and an accompanying laptop, a teleprompter, or whatever you prefer.
  • Set up the lighting
    • Place the key, side, and background lights (I’ll assume “above” lighting is not possible/allowed). These are often placed on tripod stands where you can regulate the height. You did get stands for your lights, right?
    • For the background light, I prefer it on the floor pointing up, and a flat LED panel is great for that
    • Route the power cables to the lights so that you won’t trip on them, and don’t put everything in one socket (check the wattage ratings for each socket, typically the sum shouldn’t exceed 2,000 Watts).
    • As part of routing the power cables, I try to put a master on/off lighting switch near me under the table so that with a single button I can turn everything off. If you don’t have softboxes to diffuse the light, the sheer amount of light in your eyes can start giving you headaches after only 30 minutes.
  • Videocamera
    • The camera should be at eye level of the subject in the video (probably you). Make sure it’s level in the X and Y axes. Make sure it’s in front of the lights! Remind yourself to learn about F-stops, zoom and camera angle in the future so that your video contains the things you want it to contain at the right depth of focus.
    • Set the focus. I hate autofocus because it invariably visibly changes the focus if I get excited and move around too much. So I put a focus target where I’m supposed to go (a cardboard box in my chair, the microphone, a coat rack with my jacket on it) and then fix the camera focus to that object.
    • If you use an external microphone, connect it to your videocamera if possible so that you don’t have to synchronize them later in software.

After Turning On Lights

Great, you’re mostly there! Let’s turn on the lights now.

  • Check your light meter reading at the background and where the subject sits. I’m happy with 700 lumens on the background and 1000 lumens for me. If you don’t have a light meter, record 30 seconds of you sitting there and check it’s not to dark on the computer before continuing. Unless you’re an expert at color correction, trying to bump up the brightness later will just result in washed out colors.
  • Balance the videocamera’s color temperatures and brightness. This will also keep you from having to do color correction in software later.
  • Reposition and fine-tune any lights if necessary. Shadows due to your lighting are evil, whether on your face or cast by your props. If it’s partly cloudy you may notice it getting brighter and darker in your video unless you close the curtains (if you do, recheck your lumens!)
  • Take a practice video. I usually read 2 paragraphs or so. Then immediately check it on your computer before recording actual video. Is your subject centered (if not, it’s because you want it that way, right?) Is the table at the right tilt angle? Are the brightness and colors the way you wanted? Check again quickly for background noise or shadows. I know you’re eager to get started filming. But do it anyway, with this 5 minutes you might be saving yourself 2 hours of work.


Yay, you’re finally filming! At times this may seem to be the only “serious” work you’re getting paid to do. But the setup and take-down counts too. At least the take-down takes a lot less time. Some final notes:

  • Do multiple takes. Did I mention setting up and taking down takes a lot of time? If you garbled some words without realizing it, or you didn’t know airplane passed overhead because you had headphones on, you can always mix and match scenes from different takes.
  • Protect your investment, even if it is budget-oriented. Make sure your stuff has cases or covers so they don’t get scratched or broken, even if they never appear onscreen. Who knows, your red headphones may become iconic. In any event, it’s good practice for when you decide it’s time to make a real investment.
Charles Callaway

Charles Callaway


Charles Callaway

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