Framing and lighting are two of the core elements of a good setup for video production.
In fact, just getting these two aspects right, can mean the difference between a crisp, professional video and a quickly forgotten dud.
Most business owners have simply never been shown how to professionally frame their videos or the secrets to timing their shoots to get the best natural light.
So, that’s what this post is for.
Let’s start with Framing
You have to put everything in context when shooting videos. Before picking the right frame style, first think about what your video content is:
“Cross Table” Interview
When shooting an interview style setup, imagine there is a grid with three equal sections in front of you. The left third, the right third, and the center third.
Then, line up your camera so that one person takes up the left third, and the person they are interviewing with takes up the right third.
This leaves you with a clear middle third of the frame which gives viewers space to separate the two individuals and change their gaze from one to the other.
This is the visual setup viewers have been trained to associate with interviews. As soon as we see this style of frame, we instantly know what it is.
Because this is what we watched on TV for years. All the big news channels have always framed private interviews and cross table talks like this, opposed to putting a person right in the center of the screen.
Talking Head Frame
This is when a single person looks directly at the camera and talks to the viewer 1-on-1. The biggest mistake I often see people doing is putting their head right in the middle of the frame, in the middle square on the camera’s screen.
This cuts out any opportunity of adding supplementary images or text in post edit.
Instead, set up your shot to have the subject (or yourself) again in that right third of the frame and line up their eyes to be just above the grip.
By only using the right third for your subject, you still have the other two thirds for text or supplementary media (such as images, or logos) when you need it.
If you want to create a sense of intimacy, close-in while maintaining this positioning.
Off Camera Interview
A blend of the Interview and Talking Head styles are when you have a single person in the frame, who is interacting with someone out of the frame.
This is often used when you have a two camera interview set up, with one camera focused on one of the individuals in the interview. In this case, they edit together the footage to swap from one camera to the other during the conversation.
Good examples of this framing technique are movie promo tour interviews. Whenever a new movie comes out, the main actors are interviewed by a broad array of media outlets to discuss their recent project in the hopes of boosting ticket sales.
Most of these are framed using two camera setups in an off-camera interview style.
In this case, you would place a space between the front of the subject and the second person, sitting out of frame.
(Having space opposite to where the subject is looking wouldn’t make sense visually.)
For example, if they are talking to someone out of frame to the right of them, line up the camera so they are in the left third. This gives you the impression that someone is just beyond your field of vision.
A quick tip: This style of framing is useful for people who are too shy to speak to the camera and who would prefer to talk to someone off camera while maintaining a focus on them.
Stay Focused On The Eyes
As human beings, we connect emotionally with people through their eyes. We don’t feel the same connection when looking at their body or areas of the face (as much).
For this reason, make sure that – no matter what frame you choose – your subject’s eyes are visible to the camera, preferably looking straight at the camera.
This will keep viewers engaged with your video, and encourage an emotional connection with the subject.
Let’s talk about Lighting
Lighting is important. It alters the mood of the video and significantly affects the look of the subject in the frame.
Most people rely on natural lighting for their videos. The problem with this is timing your videos to make the best use of the sunlight. Counterintuitively, the brightest time of the day is not the best time to shoot.
If you’re going to shoot outside or use natural lighting, the best times to do so are close to sunset and sunrise.
This doesn’t mean that you have to wake up at the crack of dawn to shoot your video before your morning coffee or at the end of the day when your eyes are red, and you are too fried from the days work to focus on filming.
It just means that the best times to shoot are those when the natural light creates a softer, balanced lighting effect. That’s the best lighting.
Whereas shooting at noon is awful. The intense light will create a lot of strong shadows on your face and neck giving you dark bags under your eyes and pale skin. It’s not good. Plus it’s hot.
However, the problem with shooting in the mornings or afternoons is that there is often not enough light to brighten up the shot.
This brings us to:
Even with the perfect natural lighting, you will often still have a little darkness under the neck and eyes areas. So you want to make sure you get some kind of light to supplement the natural light and fill in the darker areas. Especially around the eyes.
So what kind of lighting should you buy?
Let me tell you a little story about how I figured out what lighting worked for me. The first time I started shooting videos, about four years ago, I realized that I needed proper lighting to supplement the natural light at my studio.
So, I started looking at specially made photography lights, thinking that’s what I needed. I thought they would only cost like 40 or 50 bucks.
As it turns out, professional lighting can cost you over $1,500 dollars!
Are you serious?!
So, not having a bar of that, I went to Home Depot and bought construction floodlights for just under $40 each and placed them on the floor in front of where I was shooting.They worked great and got rid of the shadows under my eyes and neck.
The problem with floodlights is:
If you put them too close to you, I’m pretty sure you could get a bronze tan within seconds because of the intensity.
(So, make sure they are placed a few feet in front of you unless you want an orange glow.)
With just two of those floodlights, you can have professional video lighting for $79.
Not bad, right?
My suggestion is to try Home Depot, instead of wasting money on photography lighting (unless you’re starting a modeling studio).
The best place to put the lights are on the floor or somewhere lower, pointing up to you on the side where the natural lighting is coming from.
This will help get rid of all the natural shadows on your face when filming indoors.
What lighting do you use? Let us know in the comments section below.