Recording Videos Using Available Resources

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Recording Videos Using Available Resources

Adequate lighting, resolution, and smaller techniques are some aspects that can differentiate between a professional and an amateur video. There are multiple ways creators can achieve excellent results using accessible and cheap resources, including borrowing a second phone, correctly placing lights, and using the resources available on their phones.

Best Practice #1: Setting Up the Proper Lighting is Essential

  • Lighting is a critical aspect of any video, especially when recording on smartphones, which are known for not working well in low-light settings. In professional videos, light is used to create the “mood” of the video, and to direct viewers to what creators want them to see. If the lighting is not set correctly, it can distract the audience.
  • There are several ways to light a video properly, and new creators should play with the lighting and background to discover their own aesthetic and what is better suited for their content (4:20). However, the first step is usually the same: determining the subject of the video, whether it is a person or a product, and using the resources available to primarily light the subject (1:21).
  • The lighting can be set using whatever the creator has available. If professional lights are not available, one can use natural light, ceiling lights, or lamps to set the mood, as long as they understand how to maximize that resource. For instance, sitting in front of a window provides better lighting than having his or her back to the window (2:19).
  • If there are no additional lights, even ceiling lights can be helpful. However, creators must be careful not to stand directly underneath the light (2:54), as it casts shadows that may look unappealing in the video. Ideally, one should position themselves slightly in front of the ceiling light so it is hitting the back of one’s head and around the shoulders (3:44).
  • Direct lighting is highly recommended. If only one direct source of light is available, it should be positioned somewhere near the direction the creator is facing, usually next to, underneath, or on top of the camera (4:58).
  • If two sources of direct light are available, creators should position the lights a bit further from each other, usually one to the right and one to the left, with the camera standing between them (5:15). Using at least two artificial sources is ideal to achieve a consistent lighting, regardless of the background or natural light available. (6:19).
  • Finally, when using direct lighting, the lights should be placed just above eye level (9:07) to obtain the famous “twinkle in the eyes” vibe.

Three-Point Lighting

  • Another possible lighting scheme is called three-point lighting (7:01); it is commonly used in broadcast, films, corporate videos, and documentaries. It can be used when creators have multiple sources of light available.
  • In a three-point lighting scheme, the brightest light is the key light. The intensity of the light can vary, but a great place to start is between 500 and 1000 watts. The key light should be positioned between 15 to 45 degrees to the side of the camera, with the subject standing between the camera and the key light.
  • The second light is called a fill light, and it is used to disperse the shadows created by the key light. Again intensity can vary, but it should always be less than the key light. For instance, if one is using a 500-watt key light, he or she can use a 250-watt fill light. The fill light is placed on the opposite side of the camera, lighting the subject from the opposite side to the key light.
  • The back light is used to create depth and separate the subject from the background. It should be placed directly behind the subject, usually a bit higher than the rest. The wattage of the back light should be similar or less potent than the fill light. The back light creates a more professional look.
  • One can use a clock to guide themselves when positioning the lights.

Best Practice #2: Choosing the Right Resolution and Final Touches Before Recording

  • Before recording a video, it is vital to set up the camera properly. The first step is to decide the resolution of the video. Most smartphones today have different resolutions and rates to choose from, and it is advised to record using the highest possible quality.
  • On Android phones, the settings are usually in the main camera app, while on iPhones, the option is available in the main settings menu (Settings — Photos & Cameras — Camera Section). From this point, the creator can choose among a variety of options. One standard resolution is 1080p at 30 frames per second; this combination provides a fluid aspect, which is closer to how a scene would be seen in real life.
  • Another usual resolution is 1080p at 24 frames per second (fps). With that framing, viewers will perceive the video as fluid, but with “enough imperceptible stutter that it creates a pleasing, cinematic look.” Anything shot at 60 fps or higher can be turned into slow motion footage.
  • Some smartphones today are capable of shooting 4K videos at a 3840 x 2160 resolution. Shooting in 4K is a great way to ensure the footage stands the test of time, as it is likely that in a few years almost every screen will display a 4K resolution or higher.
  • Important to consider the proper storage space while recording. When using a 1080p resolution, creators must reserve around two megabytes per second of video. For videos shot in 4K, that number goes up to around five to seven megabytes per second (13:40).
  • As previously noted, the camera or phone should be oriented horizontally, as vertical videos not only have inferior quality, but tend to look amateurish.

Final Touches

  • Some important and basic tips to remember are making sure the lenses are clean before recording (with microfiber cloth), and to lock the focus and exposure by tapping the phone’s LCD (Android).
  • Ideally, the camera should not be directly hold by the creator, as it increases the instability of the footage (a tripod is an essential and cheap tool). If necessary, both hands should used to mitigate the instability.
  • When setting the camera, the lens should be placed slightly below eye level.
  • When using low-quality cameras, the zoom feature may not be the best idea. Phones, for example, usually use digital zoom, which deteriorates the quality of the footage.
  • While professional cameras tend to blur the background, low quality and phone cameras do not. The creator must be aware of what is on the background of a video, as it will probably not be blurred out (4:50).
  • One possible way to achieve the blurred background using a smartphone camera is to use the rear camera, and increase the distance between the person on camera and the background as much as possible (6:07). Another tip is to position oneself as close as possible to the camera.
  • When choosing between the rear and the front-facing camera, one must consider quality and lighting. Although the front-facing camera may be easy to work with, it also has inferior quality, especially in low light settings (5:44).
  • One best practice to record using the rear camera of a phone is to set up a mirror behind the phone (facing the screen) and position the mirror in a way one can see the display through the mirror (3:11). Another idea is to mirror the phone screen on a computer or TV. The way to do that varies according to the device; for instance, Android users can use the Connect App.


  • Audio is a significant aspect of recording a good video. The first thing a creator should consider is the location of the device’s microphone. It should be clear of any obstructions and pointed at the primary sound source. The second step is to mute or put the device in airplane mode to avoid any interruptions.
  • One idea to increase the quality of the sound, without buying a microphone, is to borrow a second phone, place it in the subject’s pocket and record the audio. The audio can be sync up later in video editing.
  • The echo in videos is usually caused by the sound bouncing around the walls and being picked up by a second time by the microphone before it had the chance to dissipate. Generally, emptier spaces and louder sounds are more likely to produce echoes (0:28).
  • To reduce the echo, fabric can be placed behind the camera or the microphone to reduce the "bounce back." Duvets and blankets work well for this purpose, as well as cheap foam (1:26).

Research Strategy

In order to uncover best practices to record a video using the available resources, the research team leveraged multiple sources, including videos. We noticed that these videos contained details and didactic superior to what we found in other sites, especially for beginners and DIY content. For clarity, after each piece of information obtained from a video, the time stamp was provided.
For our second best practice, we gathered multiple “micro best practices” into one to compose an overview of how to properly set up for recording using phones or low-quality cameras, as well as some tips on how to make the recording look professional.