Udemy instructor, Huw Collingbourne, has cracked the code on professional lighting, sound, and video- for next to nothing. Huw has sold nearly $90,000 worth of courses of Udemy and taught over 4,000 students since starting on the platform in 2011.
Welcome, Huw; and thanks for sharing your great lessons on the journey to a high-quality studio!
VIDEO: How to Build a Great Recording Studio for Online Courses [Note: You must be logged in to udemy.com in order to view this video file.]
Welcome to my home studio. I’m getting ready to shoot a video and wanted to share some secrets from my studio so you can see you don’t need to invest a lot to create a really high-quality look and sound for your course.
Use Natural Light as an Initial Lighting Source
When you first start, natural light is a great way to keep your lighting investment down. For my early videos, I just sat in front of a computer and kept the background as plain as possible. Now that I’m more experienced, I’ve started making some investments in my equipment.
Lighting, a Worthy Investment
Notice that I’m no longer using house lights. House lights tend to give you a yellow/greenish look. Behind me is a plain black background. It’s not by accident. It’s hard to shoot against plain walls unless you have very white or very black walls. If you walls are not a “pure” color, you are going to get a grayish effect. I’m aiming for my videos to emulate the clean style of Apple.
Why a black background?
If you want to try white, you need a very plain, true white background; and you need to illuminate the wall with several special lights. The small room where I film is actually quite crowded. To make life a little easier, I opted for a black backdrop for my background. I just haven’t got the right color walls as well as the space or money for additional lighting. Additional lights also create a lot of heat.
I currently have 2 softbox lights with diffusers positioned on either side of me. (You can find these lights new or used on eBay for $70-$120 each, including stand.) I also have a softbox light positioned toward the ceiling. The lights are on stands that came as part of the set. Ideally, I would like another overhead light to give me a key light (better lighting) on top of my head.
My Starting-out Camera: Panasonic HM TAI ($85-$110). All my early Udemy videos were done using a pocket video Panasonic HM TAI camera. Flip cameras were another brand of this type of device. This camera is full HD and is great for doing course videos. The advantage of this type of camera is that it’s really simple. You just press a button, and off you go. Just be sure you get a full HD camera.
My Upgraded Camera: Panasonic DMC-GH2 Lumix ($850-900). The camera I’m using at the moment is a Panasonic DMC-GH2 Lumix. It looks like a normal SLR camera. In fact, it’s digital camera and does very high-quality videos. Canon also makes great cameras for this type of work.
A word about Cameras, Exposure and Self-recording
The easier-to-use cameras typically adjust automatically for light exposure. That makes life easy for you, but here are some quick tips if you’re using a black background:
- Wear light colors. Otherwise, you can end up looking washed out as the camera self-adjusts looking for contrast between you and the backdrop.
- Well-illuminate the subject, YOU. If there is more contrast between you and the backdrop, the camera won’t be as worried about finding contrast between similar colors.
Sound and Microphones
Sound quality is really important!
Blue Yeti ($120-$200) is my preferred microphone for general purpose use. It records directly into the computer (Mac or PC). You have to sync the sound, as it’s recorded separately. You need to use software to sync video and the sound. that record the sound separately from the video. Learn how to sync it together here.
- I sometimes use a little lapel (lavalier) microphone for audio. Right now, I’m using the Audio Technica ATR 250 ($25-40). The advantage of this is that it can record the audio directly on the video track so I don’t need to mix it in subsequently.
- I also use another microphone sometimes with my camera. This microphone is the RODE Videomic Pro ($150-240). It goes straight on to the top of the camera and is convenient if you want to record audio directly into the camera.
Sound tips for Just Starting Out
Although I’ve got four microphones now, I had only one microphone when I started. If you want one microphone, go for the Blue Yeti. It’s a great all-purpose microphone.
If you’re starting on a budget, go for an all-in-one HD camera. These are easy to use and high quality. Sound is not great, so it can be worth it to record sound separately and mix it in.
Tell Us about Your Studio
My studio is barely a small room- it’s more of a landing between rooms. I want my videos to look natural and for the background to look solid black- not covered in dog hair as it is in real life! To do this, I have to be quite careful about how I position the camera and lights.
I started out cheaply and added on as I became more comfortable with online teaching. My next step is to build a dedicated studio in my house to be a more permanent videostudio with better light and backdrop. I’d love to get a brilliantly illuminated white backdrop to do the Apple look.