Top 3 Video Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Author: Emily Goldberg

Everybody and their cat are making videos these days, but I’m sure you’ve noticed that some look (and sound) a lot better than others. Why is that? More often that not, less-than-great video quality results from one or more of these three common mistakes:

  1. No! Don’t film with your phone in the vertical position!

  2. Argh!!! Save me from that blinding window light!

  3. For the love of g*d, please use an external microphone!

Let’s look at each of these blunders one by one.

First, it seems to be instinctual to hold your phone vertically when filming, but if you do that, your video won’t fill the screen properly and you’ll be left with those ugly black stripes on either side of your image.

All you have to do to avoid what is technically called filming in the wrong aspect ratio is to remember to ALWAYS FILM WITH YOUR PHONE IN THE HORIZONTAL POSITION. That’s it! Problem solved.

Next, many videos feature the person on screen sitting near a window, which seems like a great way to use natural light, but that only works if the natural light is coming from exactly the right angle. If it’s not, the person on screen can look blown out, like this:

Or the daylight works great to light up everything BUT the person’s face, like this:

There are some simple ways to prevent these less-than-pretty scenarios: First, if you’re able to, position yourself near a window in such a way that the light source is in either a 7 or 5 o’clock position and is above your subject. This will create a nice effect called ‘Loop Lighting’.

Note that you can also use a white card -- that’s just a largish white piece of poster board -- to bounce some of the light from the window back onto your subject to balance the light out even more if you need to.

Now keep in mind that even if the light is coming at your subject at the right angle, it still may be too harsh, in which case you’ll need to put some not-too-thick material over the window to diffuse the light. This could be a white bed sheet, an old t-shirt you can cut up and spread out, or even wax paper.

Okay, now you know how to get your visuals to look a lot better, so let’s move on to the other thing that often keeps videos from reaching their potential: Sound. It’s easy to just rely on the mic built in to your phone to record your audio, which can work okay if you’re super close to the sound you’re recording. But if you’re not? Yikes. Not to worry, there are a couple of easy fixes for this. One option is to mount an external microphone on your phone, like this:

This is the Rode VideoMicro shotgun microphone, which is great if your phone camera is not going to be too far away from your subject, or if you’re following people as they move around talking. You can get the bundle from B&H here: Rode VideoMicro w/adapter for phone

The other option is to attach a lavalier microphone (we recommend the PoP Voice Lavalier microphone) to your subject, like this:

The lav option is probably your best bet for interview or direct-to-camera addresses, but do make sure that you hide the mic cable under the person’s clothing, so you don’t create the dreaded Top Video Mistake #4:

  1. Don’t distract me from your great content with the sight of that ugly mic cable!

So now we’ve covered the main mistakes and how to avoid them. Remember, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and angst by just remembering these three basic rules:

  1. Horizontal, horizontal, horizontal!

  2. Control your lighting.

  3. Use an external mic (and hide that cable, please).

If you need any more tips, Vidguru is here to help. Meanwhile, Happy Video Recording!


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