V is for videoing yourself

Increasingly, teachers and materials writers are asked to video record themselves talking as part of creating language learning materials. For example, you might be presenting a piece of grammar to your students so they can watch it before the lesson using a flipped classroom approach. Or perhaps you are recording a lecture with a few slides to support an online course in which learners can watch it in their own time rather than attend a live lecture.

Recording you and your screen

This kind of video content is at the basic end of the scale when it comes to video content creation. It doesn’t need you to include lots of flashy graphics and transitions – though you may choose to add them once you get more confident. As a starting point, you just need to know where the record button is on your phone or on a  video-conference platform such as MS Teams and Zoom. Once you have decided how you are going to record yourself, there are few other things to consider.

Camera quality

Number one on the list is the quality of your camera. If the built-in camera on your phone, tablet or laptop isn’t clear, people won’t listen. Consider buying an external webcam if necessary; for example, a Logitech 4K webcam gives good quality and has a decent built-in microphone. 

Sound quality

On the topic of microphones, your device might be OK but check it. You might need to buy an external microphone such as a Yeti or Rhode microphone used by many podcasters and vloggers. 


As for lighting, a badly lit face is annoying to watch. Try to get the light even across your face. This might mean facing a well-lit window (and filming during the day). Or you use a couple of lamps either side of your face. Better still, if you plan on filming a lot, buy some basic professional kit such as Falconeyes LED-lighting for photography. 


These days, you would expect that we are so used to seeing ourselves on screens, that speaking to them would be second nature. But when it comes to recording our faces speaking, the natural tendency is to talk to the screen of your device. This means you are always looking down or away from the viewer when they watch the recording.  Speak directly into the webcam so that you are looking directly at the person watching you. If you need to refer to slides from time to time, then it’s fine to look down at them but remember to look directly into the camera from time-to-time in the same way you would if you were presenting to a live audience. 


There’s a tendency for people to speak with their face close to the screen so maybe sit back from the camera a little; you’ll feel more relaxed and so will the viewer as they watch you. Talk naturally to the camera and maybe gesture with your hands from time to time, bringing them into shot. As for what’s behind you. there are different approaches to the background. You might put a few books behind you to add gravitas. Or find a bare wall so there’s nothing distracting. If you are filming in a room with your laundry drying behind you, then blur your background or use a green screen and add a fake background. 


When you have a lot of information to deliver, you might want to use a script you prepare beforehand. That’s fine, but you will need to consider how you will read it and speak to camera at the same time. A useful tool is a teleprompter which is what newsreaders use. You cut and paste your text into the prompter. Then when you press play the script moves upwards at the speed you choose. If you position the top of the prompt screen close enough to the camera, you can make it look like you are talking directly to the listener. You can find free teleprompters online such as cuepromter.com.

Subtitles and editing

Increasingly, when you play back your video on a platform like You Tube, it can automatically add subtitles. But if you decide to add subtitles to your video, you can use a tool like ‘Subly’ which adds them for you. Check them as they won’t be 100% correct. As for editing, if you have to do it, then a basic free tool like Movavi or iMovie is good enough for simple editing. If you want something more professional, investigate tools like Camtesia or Adobe video editing (and be prepared to spend some time and money).

If you often record yourself for educational videos, what other tips would you offer? What’s your favourite go-to technology that’s low-cost or no-cost?

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