[MUSIC, Title: "You're Ready for Your Closeup — Wait, Too Close!"] [David] You've probably had the experience of listening to a video or an audio book or something, and being aware that you can hear a lot of white noise or a buzzing in the background. Check out this difference. Right now, I've got my basement air filter running. Now, listen carefully... Isn't that better? Well, maybe not to you. One thing I've noticed about background noise is that how irritating it is, depends in large part on the speakers that the student is using. White noise is far more annoying through headphones than through speakers. But you don't know what your students are going to be using to listen to you, so we should try to cut it out as much as possible. When you can, turn off things like the air conditioning or an air filter. Move the microphone away from the computer itself. And make sure the mic isn't too close to any light bulbs, especially fluorescent lights, because they can emit a low hum. You might not always have much control over it, of course. The important thing isn't to cut out all white noise at all costs. But it might be one of those simple things you can do that makes a big difference. For that matter, acoustics in general are another thing to consider. Many offices have hard walls and ceilings, which can make the sound sound very echoey. If you REALLY want to get fancy, you can invest in things like wall tiles or rugs to soak up that sound. Or put a desk in your bedroom with a camera facing the wall: your bed actually soaks up a lot of the echo. But you'll also probably notice that a lapel microphone disguises background noise pretty well. So, if you're struggling with echo, a lapel mic is the way to go. Now, speaking of acoustical background, let's also talk about visual background. This is one where the answers aren't quite as objective. On the one hand, a busy visual background—like mine— can be distracting to students. You might want to try and film in front of a blank wall, or to you use one of the many tools out there for changing your background. These tools can work best if your background is still relatively simple, though. On the other hand, if the goal of the video is to connect with your students, oftentimes your background is a great way to let your students know more about you, without having to come out and say it. In fact, I've carefully constructed my background so that it says a lot about me. I've got, you know, awards and diplomas, sure, but you also see this nice picture of my kids, which tells you that I have kids. On my left you've got a nice little shelf of knickknacks I've collected, as well as some things my kids have made me. And if your screen is particularly high resolution, you might pause the video and notice that I own a share of the Green Bay Packers, that I'm a Lord of the Principality of Sealand, and I've been ordained by the Universal Life Church. So, if you need someone to officiate your wedding, give me a call. In a course I teach, I would never mention these things. I might find a reason to bring up my kids, but I probably wouldn't mention things like my collectible globes or the hour glasses that I've gotten, or that I own a Mini Museum. But through my background, you learned that stuff about me, and hopefully, you feel more connected to me as a person as a result. So, what you decide to do is up to you. You could use your background to communicate something about yourself to your students, or you could keep it simple to help them focus on the content. There's no one right answer. What's in your background has a strong relationship with our next topic, as well. Which is camera positioning. Camera positioning determines how much of your background is visible. But POOR camera positioning can have a lot of other negative repercussions as well. Common ways to poorly position your camera include the Frankenstein effect... Where the top of your head is cut off. In my case, that move just makes it look like I've lost even more hair than I already have. Although by the time you watch this, this might be accurate. Another effect is called the gopher effect. Where your head is so low on the screen, it looks like you're popping out of a hole like a prairie dog or a gopher. Other things can have an effect too. Some people tend to have their camera way too far out. No matter how much I want to show my background, this is too much. Plus, it can reveal things in your background that you're not comfortable with sharing. Or you can be zoomed way too far in. This might be appropriate for a telehealth visit with your dermatologist, but it's probably not a good way to record a course. And last, we tend to put too much focus on our faces. It's pretty normal to think that our face should take up a lot of the frame, but you can't even see my hands. So, if I want to make hand gestures I have to have my hands all the way up here, like I'm a Tyrannosaurus Rex, or something. This just feels weird. Hand gestures and body language can be key to communicating your ideas to students, so we want to make sure that those are available in the video. Right here is about where we want to be. There's some space above my head, but not too much. You can see my hands without me having to put them over my face, like I'm in the painting "The Scream", or something. And plus studies have also found that backing away from your screen reduces eye strain, which is a part of what can make long recording sessions feel exhausting. And here's the best part of this approach. It allows you to lean forward conspiratorially, toward the camera, so you can appear to be talking ONLY to that one student, with special information just for them. Notice, for example, how I'm speaking with you. I'm leaning in, I'm smirking, I'm hopefully making it seem like I'm talking to JUST to you, Alex. Your name probably isn't Alex, but it's worth it to startle all the Alexes in the audience. Now, depending on your setup, some of these things might not be yours to control. If you're on a laptop camera, how close or far you place your camera is dictated by little things, like needing to reach the keyboard. But no matter what your setup is, there are some small tweaks you can make that can make a big difference. Especially if you're recording video that you want to use again and again. [MUSIC, Interlude: "Take a Little Time with Your Lights and Camera"] [David] No matter how often you might teach, even from the exact same spot, it's always a good idea to check your equipment before you get started filming. You'd be amazed at how something as simple as a cat tugging on a wire can actually make a big difference to your camera angle. Lighting is another thing you might want to think about, though. You might notice that I have a ring light up here. But the truth is, I don't use it that often. The reason is, as you can tell, it can cause this really irritating kind of ring-shaped glow in my glasses. I can sometimes mitigate that by lowering the camera and raising the ring light. But for day-to-day recording it's just not quite worth the benefit that it brings. I use it for teleconferences sometimes, but usually for video recording I won't bother with that. Instead, you might notice that I have a couple of desk lamps above my desk that are shining at the wall, that gives kind of a more diffused, gentle light. And also reduces eye strain to have light behind your monitor. Depending on where the glare is coming from, you can try some other things as well, like raising or lowering the light, lowering or raising your camera, or just taking your glasses off. Maybe you can take your glasses off. I can't see a thing without them. Now, depending on where you're filming, you might also need to pay attention to different things that can happen at different times of day. For example, if I'm filming during the day, I might need to make sure I have my blinds closed or else I could look like Giovanni or Dr. Claw or Blofeld, or whichever pop culture evil genius you prefer to imagine, who only ever exists in backlight. Now with this camera I've not yet had that problem, but with my previous camera, I did. So that might be something that you want to pay attention to as well. Here you can see Barb demonstrating a truly horrific version of what can happen when you have too much backlight. We've seen all too much of this thing in web meetings, so try to take care. Another challenge ably demonstrated by Barb here is the jiggling-laptop-on-the-lap-syndrome where your camera feed bounces around, because it's hard to hold your laptop stable on your lap. Another important idea when you're setting up to film for your students is the angle of your camera. Now there's three possible options. One, you could have it even with your face, so you're looking directly into the camera as you talk. You can still see my hands, but you're level with my face. Or you can have the camera set too high, so you're looking up at it. This distorts your view and makes your brow look too big. Or you can have your cameras set to low, so you're looking down at it. This also distorts your face and can make your jaw look too big. You might even prop up your laptop on some books, or something like that, to get it up to eye level, so it's more comfortable to use. Which can be a great use for all those promotional copies of your book that you can't get your family take anymore. Regardless of your setup, just keep these best practices in mind. Make sure the camera is far enough away to show your upper body that you're keeping your head positioning so you don't look like a Gopher or Frankenstein's monster, And that you're looking directly into the camera as much as you possibly can. These will help students develop an as if feeling that they are connected with you. And that can strengthen your ability to teach and motivate them. That connection is much harder to establish if you don't appear to be looking at your students. Finally, if you find all this overwhelming, don't fret. Take a deep breath and don't worry. You don't have to get everything absolutely perfect the very first time you record. Making mistakes is better than not trying in the first place. My recommendation is to get started, and then revisit this course occasionally, once you're more comfortable recording. Once you get into a routine or cadence with recording, you'll find it's easier to incorporate things, like checking your camera angle. Once you're ready for that, you'll find little tweaks can make a big difference. But those little tweaks might not feel little until you're more comfortable. And that's totally okay. Have fun, make mistakes, find what works for you, and then come back to see some ideas on how you can tweak things and make them even better. [Barb] I'm Barb Oakley. [David] I'm David Joyner. [Terry] I'm Terry Sejnowski. [All] Learn it, link it, let's do it!