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Tim Lorang Blog

What you should know about videotaping a lecture for online video

Posted by Timothy Lorang on Mon, Dec 13, 2010 @ 08:35 PM

Recording a lectureRecording a lecture is one of the easier ways to get video content up on the internet. Whether you are recording a lecture, a demonstration or inspirational pep talk the speaker is the talent and the speech is the content, you only need to capture it and post it to the internet.  There are however some problems to just setting the camera up at the back of the room and letting it roll. A big part of that is the way people listen to lectures and absorb content and the nature of video.

For starters video, even HD video and streaming video over the internet is a close-up medium. Video does not really handle panoramic scenes and long distance shots. Video likes close ups, video like people’s faces and video like bold simple graphics. Because of this some common videotaping mistakes can make it very difficult to watch a recorded lecture.

  • Setting up the camera in the back of the lecture hall or auditorium. The speaker is small and it is hard to see their face. This makes it very difficult for the viewer to connect with the speaker.
  • When the image of the speaker is small there is not much on the screen to keep the attention of the viewer.
  • In many cases the lighting is dark and this also adds to the impression that not much is happening on screen.
  • If the shot includes the speaker and a screen for the slide show then both the speaker and the slides are too small for anyone to see.

Many people have countered that a person in the auditorium has no problem paying attention while sitting in the back half of the auditorium. A person sitting in the audience has more control than someone watching the video stream. The audience member can focus on the speaker and then move their attention to the slide. They can scan the room and see the other attendees and gather in the entire scene with a simple glance. They are also surrounded by the event. In many cases it is dark with all the attention on the speaker on stage. The public address system and the speaker’s voice dominate what the audience hears. In contrast the video on a computer screen is only a few inches across and there are many distractions in the viewer’s peripheral vision as well as in their direct vision. E-mail pings, phone calls, other people in the room, all can distract a person from a recorded video. How can you help the viewer concentrate on the video?

  • Give the viewer something to look at. A good clear image of the speaker is a tremendous help.
  • Use lighting to illuminate the speaker so the image is not dark and muddy.
  • Get good, clear shots of the slides so they are easy to read. Having easy to read slides goes a long way toward achieving this goal.
  • Get a good clear recording of the audio. A muffled, hissy audio track makes it hard to concentrate on what is being said.
  • Add some variety into the video by changing camera shots and angles. Use a wide shot then a medium shot of the speaker. Get a full screen shot of the slides then a cut-a-way shot of the audience. The variety actually helps the viewer stay engaged.

The easiest way to get these shots is to use at least three cameras. One camera should be in the back of the auditorium getting a wide shot of the stage. The second camera is best placed directly in front of the speaker, somewhere between 15 to 30 feet away with the camera lens being at eye level with the speaker. Depending upon the set up in the auditorium the first and second cameras can get shots of the slides. A third camera can be up on the stage. This camera can get side shots of the speaker and shots of the audience.  Assuming everything went well all you would need to do is put some titles on the video and you can post it to the web.

You don’t have three cameras and a remote switcher? If you have an energetic camera operator and a simple editing system you can videotape a lecture with one camera and make it look like you had 3 cameras. My next blog will go into this in more detail or you can download the free video: Recording the One Camera Lecture now.

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Topics: Video