This is the third instalment in the series of articles on using video in the private studio. You may like to read part one and part two before reading this article.
If you’ve tried out making videos in your studio using your phone or tablet and have decided you’d like to take it to the next level, here are some equipment options you might like to consider.
Your equipment requirements will depend on why you are making the videos. Your smart phone is fine for recording short snippets of a lesson, or maybe even a whole lesson, but may not be adequate (especially with regard to audio quality) for videos you want to upload, and won’t be adequate for online lessons.
A high definition webcam is an essential purchase, especially to conduct online lessons. Some laptops have HD webcams built in, others have poor quality webcams, which don’t show enough detail. This will result in blurring of the image in fast passages.
An external webcam also gives you greater flexibility with the positioning of the camera than the internal webcam in your laptop. My favourite webcam is the Logitech c920 HD webcam. It has the added advantage of a mounting that can attach to a tripod.
Make sure when you are purchasing your webcam that it is compatible with the platform you use (Windows or iOS). The c920 works with both, but not all Logitech webcams will.
A boom microphone stand is almost a ‘must have’, as it enables you to suspend your webcam above the piano keyboard for a bird’s eye view of the hands.
The webcam can be attached to the boom stand in a number ways. The quickest is to use Blu-Tack and/or masking tape. An adapter is available (see the inset photo) from On Stage (CM01) which fits on to the end of the boom, giving great flexibility for angling the webcam very precisely. This also allows for the possibility of placing the boom behind the piano stool, looking over the player’s shoulder or even over their head.
In the previous post in this series I looked at some ways to use your phone or iPad. If you have purchased a tripod, you can easily take the glif from the end of your selfie stick (the unusually shaped attachment that holds your phone) and use that to attach your phone to the tripod. If you are not happy with the security of using a music stand for your iPad or tablet, a variety of universal tablet stands is available, including ones that can attach to an existing microphone stand.
Lighting is a very important consideration for making great videos or for working easily with students online. The most vital rule is to ensure that the light source comes from behind the camera and shines onto you or the keyboard. If the webcam is facing the light source, glare will be an issue and any auto focus settings will be compromised. Shadows on the keyboard may also present problems. Diffused studio lighting can be very effective; you can often purchase photographic lights quite inexpensively, or workshop lights from an auto shop can also do the same job.
Try experimenting with the lighting to see what works in your context. Natural lighting is not always the best, especially if the window is facing the webcam. You may find you get a better result if you close the blinds and use artificial light.
Once you are taking fabulous videos, you may find that you need an external microphone for better audio quality. The next post will provide some information on microphones and more. Let me know if you have any other suggestions for video equipment in the comments below.