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At Home Production Guide for ATS Faculty

This guide details some best practice guidelines for creating video and audio content at home. There are also some equipment recommendations at the end that could be used to improve production as well.

Use an External Webcam (when able)

If you are recording using a Seminary supplied laptop, it is likely that it only has a 720p webcam (most laptops these days are this way).  Most webcams you can buy on the market will be 1080p which can boost your recording significantly.  In the final section of the guide you will find some recommendations for webcam upgrades that you can buy.


Lighting is one of the most important elements of your video.  If you (the subject) are not properly lit, you will be competing with anything else in the video (either in the foreground or background).  Lighting is all about “control” and there are lots of little things that you can do to control the light in your shot.

Example of poor lighting

No front lighting and too much backlight

Good front lighting and reduced backlight

In the above images I accomplished this drastic lighting shift by simply turning on a desk lamp behind my laptop, and turning off a light that was shining on my wall.

You don’t need to go out and buy a light kit to achieve good video lighting (though if you are in a room with no windows and no installed lighting you will need to get creative).  Try to think creatively about using windows, installed lighting, or floor and desk lamps to cast adequate lighting onto yourself and to remove unnecessary light elsewhere .

Pro Tip: Never record a video with a window in the shot behind you unless you are extremely well lit or it is overcast or dark outside.  The camera will adjust the overall lighting based on the light coming in from the window and you will be very dark!


How you compose your shot is also very important.  You don’t necessarily need to follow the Rule of Thirds (LINK), but I would recommend checking out this basic principle of photography and keeping it in mind. 

One thing I see a lot of faculty do in their home video recordings is to leave themselves too much headroom (room above their head in the shot).  Unless you’re trying to hide something lower in the shot, or there is something extremely interesting above your head in the shot, I would recommend keeping headroom at a minimum.  The images below provide examples of what I am talking about here.



Too much headroom


Too little headroom


Great headroom


Another aspect of composition is how close or far you are from the camera.  The images above represent a good standard frame for a talking head presentation or lecture.  Being too much closer or too much farther away could be awkward or distracting for the viewer.  Not that you should never play with your distance from the camera, but you should have a good reason for doing so (for instance, if you have something very interesting in the background or next to you to show the audience).

Eye Contact, Camera Placement and Stabilization

Here are a few final tips that can really make a difference!

Try to maintain eye contact with the camera lens as much as you can.  While it is great to use a script or outline (in fact I highly recommend it) you want your viewer to remain engaged and they won’t be if you are staring off of camera the whole time.  And try to be comfortable and personable in your recording.  It’s not easy presenting to a camera but try to imagine your students in the room with you and present to them.  Remember to smile!

Where your camera is located in relation to eye-level is something to be aware of.  Here is an article that explains a bit more about some of the psychological implications of looking down or up at the camera.  I would always recommend using a tripod or stable object (like a desk, table, etc.) to get your video device (camera, laptop, phone, etc) to eye level.

I would also never recommend that you try to record yourself while holding your video device.  This includes trying to balance your laptop on your lap or other unstable surfaces.  You want a stable, locked down shot to remove any additional distractions for your students.