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7 Things to Check Before You Begin Recording Yourself

Jourdan Aldredge

Before you hit record on the next film or video project featuring yourself, be sure to work through the items on this checklist.

In today’s age of social media, YouTube vlogs, and DIY filmmaking, the concept of solo filmmaking has become less of a gimmick and more of revolution. Still, while technology has become more accessible and automated, this type of filmmaking is no easy feat.

Solo recording and filmmaking are tricky endeavors. A lot can go wrong after you hit record and jump into the frame. It requires patience, lots of takes, and attention to detail. However, it is possible — especially if you check these 7 essential things every time.

1. Frame Your Shot

7 Things to Check Before You Begin Recording Yourself — Frame Your Shot

Image by Dmitri Ma.

First off, you’ll want to frame your shot. If you have a friend handy, you could ask him or her to serve as a stand-in while you put on your director of photography hat. If no one is available, you can use a mannequin or a hat on a light stand as a stand-in. Try to choose a place with good lighting and an interesting background. Mind your edges and look out for odd lines or colors.

2. Set Your Focus

7 Things to Check Before You Begin Recording Yourself — Set Your Focus

Image by Chailalla.

One of the biggest mistakes of solo shooting is dealing with focus. Without a person behind the camera, you won’t be able to adjust focus in real time. To compensate, you have two options: one — if your camera has auto-follow focus technology, this is exactly what it’s meant for. Make sure it’s turned on, and adjust its settings; and two . . .

3. Make Your Marks

7 Things to Check Before You Begin Recording Yourself — Make Your Marks

Image by fizkes.

. . . If you’re forced to used manual focus, you’ll need to compensate for your natural on-camera movements. Jump in front of the camera and go through a rehearsal of all your movements. Mark your spots at the ends of your range of movement, both forward and backward (again with a stand or stick). Go back behind the camera and make sure you’re getting a depth of field that will keep both spots in focus.

4. Test Your Audio Levels

7 Things to Check Before You Begin Recording Yourself — Test Your Audio Levels

Image by lapandr.

Similarly, with audio, you also have two options. You can use either auto audio-leveling technology in your camera or your audio recording device. Or you can set your range manually by testing both your loudest and softest speaking voices.

5. Mind the Lighting

7 Things to Check Before You Begin Recording Yourself — Mind the Lighting

Image by lapandr.

Lighting is another concern. For those just starting off, remember that light is your friend. The more light, the better the quality of your footage. Try shooting near a window or bright light source set behind the camera and shining directly onto you and your face. However, if you are using natural lighting, be wary of changes in intensity due to clouds or the movement of the sun — and how that may affect continuity and changes in color tone.

If you’re looking for a more professional setup, consider using a standard three-point lighting setup. You’ll need your stand-in person or object again to make sure you have a good balance.

6. Take Test Video (or Photos)

7 Things to Check Before You Begin Recording Yourself — Test Video

Image by KAMONRAT.

The best way to check your shot before you record for good is to simply take a test video or photos. For photos, your camera should most likely have a timed photo option, which you can set and get in place. You can also just always hit record then hurry to get into place, then head back and review your footage. This can take up lots of card space, however, if you do it too many times, so be sure to delete your test footage right away.

7. Check Battery and Card Space

7 Things to Check Before You Begin Recording Yourself — Check Battery and Card Space

Image by RMIKKA.

Finally, before you hit record for your take, double-check both your camera’s battery and its available card space. You won’t be able to monitor it in real time, so your camera may fill up or turn off before you finish your take. Most cameras will give you a minutes and seconds remaining readout for both battery and recording if you check through the options.

Cover image by fizkes.

For more tips on solo shooting and DIY filmmaking, check out some of these articles.

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