Tips from a Video Voice

image of shadow against starsI’m a reluctant video star. I’m sure I’m not the only one. Once we face the camera for the first time, our uncertainties arise. My comfort with my video voice has increased with exposure and experience due to some #HumanMOOC work. The first task for this open, online course was to create a video introduction. The second task had each participant creating a video to introduce their online course to their students. Then more video capture using Flipgrid where our face and voice was recorded while answering some focus questions. After each of these experiences, and with encouragement and feedback from the course instructors and participants, I became less reluctant to face the camera.

So, with culminating projects for my own course to mark, I decided to do a video for each of the students to provide feedback on their digital stories. I sat facing the camera, notepad with jot notes at my side, green screen behind me, and I recorded a message to each of my 34 students. At the end of this process I felt that I had shared a personal message and connected in a small way to each of my students.

From my experiences creating these feedback videos, and watching videos from other #HumanMOOC participants, I have collected some thoughts about video creation for teachers and online presenters.

My background matters – Make sure you are aware of the background in your video. Consider where you are to make sure it doesn’t negatively impact the message in the video. While clutter can tell viewers what your interests are, it can also distract your viewers if there are too many things to look at e.g wondering what’s on your bookshelves rather than paying attention to your message. While recording video feedback, I used a green screen and then embedded images from the student’s work behind myself to highlight some of the key elements from their assignments.

Be still …. or not! I became very aware of my own hands since they tend to move around while I was talking. Making a decision to include my moving hands, since I rarely talk without them, allowed me to strategically communicate additional information. Sometimes moving side to side, forward or backward, leaning or reaching can be distracting or it can add the human element of movement to the video. The choice is yours, but be aware of motion that you don’t want happening.

Face it with eyes wide open! This became evident as I watched myself and others using video. Know where the camera is located and keep your eyes on the green light. Imagine the student at the end of that light. Since I work with two monitors, I frequently found myself looking the wrong way. I had to prop my laptop on some books to make sure my eyes were looking straight at the camera, not up or down. If I looked away, to peek at my jot notes, it appeared to be ‘thoughtful pondering’ rather than looking way. It became part of the message.

Sounds abound! I don’t have a particularly noisy workspace but I became aware of every interfering sound as it was captured on the video recording. I had to remember to turn my cell phone onto mute to make sure the notification chimes didn’t interrupt a sensitive or difficult feedback statement. I also became very aware of every ‘um’, ‘ah’ or ‘but’. While some of this tends to happen naturally, the overuse of these verbal ‘burps’ began to detract from my message.

Lighting it up!  Having a good light that illuminates your face from the front helps. It reduces shadows, enhances facial expressions and makes you appear ‘alive and awake’. I stopped recording when it became too dark for natural light since the lamp I was using flickered from light to dark, creating a strobe-like effect on my face. Investing in a better lamp will be necessary or I’ll record in daylight to make sure lighting doesn’t detract from the message. I also became aware of the glare that the light created on my glasses so rather than remove them, which is another option, I kept my head slightly tilted or repositioned the lamp to remove this effect.

image of microphone

Blue Snowball

Microphones come in all shapes and sizes, but my snowball works best.  For most of the videos I created, I used a blue snowball mic since it gave the best sound quality and wasn’t tapping on my necklace or getting tangled into earrings. I have tried a variety of different mics in the past and keep coming back to the snowball for quality and tone. You’ll need to find the microphone that gives the best sound quality so your voice is consistently clear and audible when recording your videos.

Pace yourself!  My goal was to create a video that was just around the 2 min mark. I jotted notes about all the items I hoped to mention, rehearsed a few times to see how many points I could fit into the message without talking too fast or repeating myself. I chose to do this feedback in one take rather than several smaller clips because I wanted it to feel like I was talking directly to my student. I also had to realize that I couldn’t say everything, so focusing on key points was important. This was a conversation, not a rant, so I had to redo videos that revved through the points too quickly.

To script or not to script – that is not the question.  I made a conscious decision to create notes about the assignment I was marking. Scripting in the truest sense was not my focus. Once the notes were made, I practiced a few times without the camera running. This helped me shape the message with an interesting statement at the beginning and a logical conclusion to wrap it up at the end.

What did I discover about myself?  I’m human. I made mistakes. I had to re-record many times because one or many of these elements didn’t work out right. But I also learned that connecting and conversing this way has meaning and purpose. I wondered if this was the first time I had spoken to some of my students in such a personal way.  In a face-to-face class, time slips quickly while students focus on tasks and learning, without a lot of one-to-one time from the teacher.  After this experience I’ll look for ways to use video in my classroom more often.  I’ll work toward answering some of these questions.

  • How can I make sure this personal connection can happen early in the course rather than at the end?
  • What can I do to make sure that each student feels they are important to me, as their instructor and teacher?
  • Where can I use my video voice to build relationship and enhance communication within physical and digital spaces?

References and Images

Iko. (Oct. 18, 2012). Made of stars. Retrieved from

Nebraska Library Commission. (Nov. 27, 2012). Blue snowball USB microphone Retrieved from 

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5 Responses to Tips from a Video Voice

  1. Nicole B says:

    I definitely love how this blog post gives so much information about videos and including voice recordings. It is relatable to me, as you seem to have had the same reservations as I am about recording my voice and posting it, but you also show how to get over the initial shock. Personally I have had very limited experience with actually making videos or even voice recordings, but from what I do remember, the tips are very good. The one I relate to most is the background and reducing clutter. If I’m watching a video on YouTube and the background has a lot going on, I find myself focusing on whatever else is around instead of the person in the video. I have only made one video recording, and it was a very long time ago, but I do remember sitting down with my microphone headphones and recording a story for my little cousin’s Christmas present. I do not remember much about it, but it was a very scary experience that I’m sure would have been easier if I had had any expertise with it before that moment. Reading through this post, I was just wondering if you had any specific things that were one major issue for you while doing voice recordings?

    Nicole B.

  2. Ruby T. says:

    As I am reading this blog post it reminds me of myself as I started filming myself not too long ago. I started vlogging on Youtube just to capture memories for family and friends to look back at. I was also uncomfortable in front of the camera the first time. It was very awkward talking to a camera by myself, but as I vlogged more, it became more comfortable. I totally agree that when you look back at your videos, you notice weird things you do that you don’t even realize.

    I think using video or audio to give feedback as you mentioned is a great example! As a student myself, I prefer audio or video feedback over just paper feedback. It makes me feel connected and get a better understanding of the feedback. A question I have is that didn’t it take a very long time to record 34 messages?

    I can absolutely relate making mistakes in videos and re-recording parts. Lastly, I would like to ask what video was your favourite or most memorable video to film?

    Ruby T.

  3. Payton J. says:

    I really appreciate the information that you share in this post. You are definitely not the only reluctant video star. As a first time blogger I am extremely nervous about having to share my voice. That being said, this post has relieved some of the anxiety I am feeling due to the fact that it brought some aspects that I didn’t even consider. For example, you mention that the background that you have is important when recording. I could only imagine what would have ended up in the background of my recording had you not mentioned it (probably a messy desk or an awkward family photo). Continuing on this point, I believe that when recording you should not just be aware of the clutter or objects behind you but also the people and pets that may wander into the frame and cause a distraction. Additionally, I agree that the lighting that is used is an important feature as it can greatly influence how you are perceived. Depending on the lighting used, you can either end up looking like someone telling a ghost story around a campfire or as a professional. Overall, each tip you provided has provided me with a little bit more confidence in my ability to share my voice.
    I personally feel that all of the tips you mentioned are important when recording, is there one tip that you believe to be one more important than the others or do you believe that they are equally important?

  4. Andrew says:

    I can relate to this blog post in so many ways, from being afraid to being videos to voice recordings. I’m so exited that you give so much useful information about how you overcame these barriers. Personally, I have little to no experience in blogging in general let alone voice recording or videos. In my class this week, we were assigned the task of creating a video blog or vlog. I kept referring back to your key tips. I really liked your tip about scripts. For my assignment I really focused on my script and making it very fluent and calm. I remember when I was younger I had to record a bio for hockey and was extremely nervous, flustered and awkward. I wish I had your helpful tips a few years when I was stuck creating that video

    • HJ.DeWaard says:

      Thanks for leaving this comment Andrew. I’m glad the tips are helpful. The more you do and record video, the more comfortable you’ll get at ‘seeing’ yourself on screen. Some people don’t find it daunting but I did. Good luck with your vlog assignment. Just remember to look at the camera light so it appears you are talking to your viewer.

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