We’ve previously talked about the value of lighting in your live and pre-recorded training sessions. This is a similar discussion on cameras and visuals, and the same few principles apply:

  • Your equipment is secondary to your content – Better equipment helps you enhance and strengthen the presentation of your ideas, so you must start with your foundation of content first.
  • If you’re a beginner, start with free – In the post about lighting, we suggested you reposition yourself near a window and work with natural light. In the case of cameras, start with the best camera you already own, which will probably be your smartphone camera.
  • Stand out with advanced camera setups – Once you’ve gained experience in crafting your message, advanced camera setups and better gear can help you stand out and differentiate yourself in your training and facilitation.
  • Think in terms of experiences, not sessions – As you get more advanced, you stop thinking about your video as sessions and more as experiences. What will enhance these experiences?

What is the importance of visuals?

If you think of your training and facilitation as ice cream, then visuals are the chocolate sauce on top of it. The ice cream is good enough on its own, but the chocolate sauce adds a layer of dynamism, variety, and excitement. It encourages someone to participate more enthusiastically in its consumption.

In a live video session, poor visuals are forgivable. Audio takes a far higher precedence in importance, and people will generally not pay attention to the video quality.

In a recorded session however, good visuals are game changing. With a high-quality camera, you can tweak the level of light, the shadows, the color highlights and muting, the bokeh, the separation of foreground and background, the camera movement, and more.

All of these create aesthetically significant moods and tones that can hook your audience. You will keep them engaged long enough to listen to your message.

How can I improve my visuals without a high-quality camera?

If you’re a beginner, start with the best camera you have. Laptops are not media devices. They were never meant to be, so the webcam in your laptop isn’t a great option. However if that’s all you have, make do with it.

You do own a better camera though. Your smartphone camera will always be better than your laptop webcam. Simply set up your phone on a tripod, or even on a stack of books, and you’re good to go.

You could join your virtual meeting from both your laptop and phone, using the laptop for presentations and phone for audio and visuals. Make sure you mute your laptop and set the volume to zero to avoid echoes and audio feedback.

One step beyond would be to connect your phone to your laptop, and use the phone camera as your webcam. See this full guide from wired.com.

What is possible with an advanced setup?

If you really want to get nuts, you start looking at multi-camera setups and additional visuals.

If you set up a single static camera, sit in front of it and talk, you create what is called a “talking head” video. Talking head videos are fine, but can be boring.

Some options to improve talking head videos are:

  • Presentations and B-roll
  • Manual zoom and jump cuts
  • Camera cutaways

Presentations and B-roll

Without purchasing additional cameras, you can improve talking head videos by using presentations and B-roll. We covered those in a separate blog post.

Manual Zoom and Jump Cuts

The problem with talking head videos is that they are static. You want to introduce movement in some way.

For live training sessions, you have the option of some sort of manual zoom. This means that you either set up your camera so that you have a physical or digital control to zoom the lens in and out, or you have a cameraman helping you with camera movement and zoom. While this is an interesting element, I don’t recommend it. Doing it yourself can be finicky and distracting, and having a cameraman is an extra expense unless you have a family or team member to do it. For live training sessions, I recommend the next section: camera cutaways.

However, for pre-recorded training material and videos, manual zoom and jump cuts are a super easy way to create dynamic visuals with lots of movement. Using these two techniques, you can make it look like you have multiple cameras, even though you may only have one.

These are both basic skills in video editing. Here is a simple video that shows you how to do both together.

 

A healthy use of zooming and jump cuts help you make your videos look more professional and retain the attention of your viewers.

Camera Cutaways

Camera cutaways require a little bit of setup, but they can make your videos and sessions look ultra professional.

A camera cutaway is nothing but a switch to another view. You can use multiple cameras at different angles and set up multiple views. This can make your video look like a traditional documentary, a YouTube “Let’s Play” style video, or even a cinematic feature. You can use this effectively in both live sessions and recorded sessions.

If you want to experiment with a simple setup for live virtual training sessions, look at our Getting Started with OBS guide.

Do I need an expensive camera just for training sessions?

So suppose you bit the bullet and set up a great camera system. Are you worried about the ROI?

If so far, you’ve only done live classroom and virtual sessions, it’s time to expand your scope. This blog talked a lot about pre-recorded material, and you have the capability to create that too.

There are dozens of platforms in the world that you can take advantage of. You can:

  • make free content on YouTube, Facebook, IGTV and Vimeo videos and develop an audience for your expertise and personality.
  • make MOOCs and training programs that you could add to Skillshare, Udemy, and Linkedin Learning.
  • repurpose your training material into slide decks on SlideShare, and make clips out of your live training which you can upload to your platforms.

Start thinking about what is possible. You’ll be astounded by the opportunities available to you. If you’re considering investing in a camera and other equipment, make the most of it by expanding your value offerings.

If you’re ready to make the leap into equipment, see our recommendations: https://dextr.io/equipment/. Or if you would like consultation on getting started, reach out to us at abhilash@gentlebamboo.com.