Articles on video creation are usually content and brand message related. After all, if you don’t have good content and your brand isn’t well presented, viewers are likely to tune you out and click on something more interesting. But this time, I want to focus on a really deep subject – the video background. People often spend so much time on script writing and light placement they forget to look through the lens and analyze what viewers will see behind, or next to, the subject.
Backgrounds can have a profound influence on how your video is received. We’ve all seen videos where background objects seem to be growing out of a person’s head, or a backdrop consisting of wildly patterned wallpaper that makes you dizzy just looking at it. In each case the viewer is so distracted by the background, the actual content isn’t being absorbed. Suffice to say, proper stage setting can be the difference between video success or a ruined effort. The good news is, it’s fairly easy to create a professional looking background, and it doesn’t require a lot of money or a dedicated studio. Try these tips:
Use Available Props
Check the items you have on hand that relate to your business and/or the video topic. Use desks, tables, bookcases or shelves as display pieces. Take advantage of plants, lamps and wall decor to add warmth and a sense of your style and personality.
Jettison the Junk
Organize desk clutter into 1 or 2 small, neat stacks. Clear away open food and packaging, and remove or hide unsightly, tangled cords. Put away sweaters and jackets slung over chair backs and keep trash cans out of view. Avoid hodgepodge displays and random collections on the walls behind your subject.
Create Some Depth
Unless space is highly restricted, maintain some distance between the subject and background for added depth and definition. This allows the subject to be part of the overall scene without blending into the backdrop. Deep backgrounds can be used in larger spaces where multiple people are working at least 10 feet behind the subject. Their presence adds professional validation without diverting the viewer’s attention. One caveat: background staff must ignore the camera and maintain their normal routines.
Focus, Close Ups and Curtains
If you are stuck with an unattractive or distracting background, disguise or minimize it. Most video cameras allow you to change depth of field, bringing the subject into sharp focus while blurring the background. Some web cams have a close-up feature that let’s you tighten the viewing range more closely around the subject, diminishing background negatives. If all else fails, hang a curtain over a clothes rack and place it behind your desk. Choose a single tone, non-white curtain thick enough to completely hide the offending background.
Scout a Location
When possible, shoot off-site videos to change up your background. Choose locations that emphasize your video’s message or are visually attractive. Location sites can be urban, rural, tropical or mountainous but consider noise levels and background activity during site selection.
Keep It Simple
The old adage “less is more” applies to video backgrounds. Attention to video content dwindles as background ‘noise’, both audio and visual, increases. Make your background an extension of the message, not a direct competitor. If none of the other tips mentioned above work for your circumstance, having a neat, clean and simple background is a good start.
Shoot a 10-20 second test video, with the subject in place, to preview your background before shooting the final product. Check out item placement for awkward positioning or clutter. Adjust props or camera angle to correct any issues you find, then shoot your video with confidence!
If you haven’t paid much attention to your video background, now is the time to take a closer look. The right background will let your video message be the star!
Ready to take on more advanced background techniques? Coming soon: Green Screen (Chroma Key) software, all-white and all-black backgrounds.
Related articles: Lighting 101: Give Your Videos a More Professional Look; The Basics of How-To Videos
Jamie Bidwell is a team member at www.covideo.com. Covideo provides video email software that helps companies build relationships quickly and reinforce their brands more effectively with easy-to-make video emails that truly communicate. email@example.com.