Digital Content

Day 3: Recording yourself

Written by Katie Freund and Karlene Dickens, ANU Online

In Part 1 of this coffee course in August, we discussed the value of lecturer-created videos as a strategy to build a sense of social presence and engagement within courses, and at how mobile devices can be used to create quick and effective video introductions. Much of the discussion involved the challenges of being comfortable on camera. In today’s post, we will build on these previous topics and look specifically at the practicalities of filming yourself, and share techniques you can use when presenting on-camera.

Planning your recording

As with anything, a bit of careful planning before can go a long way. Before you start recording, you’ll need to think about what you’re about to film and what is needed. Here are some of the key issues you’ll need to think about before you start the camera.

What will you say?

Depending on your presentation and speaking style, you may want to write a full script or notes with dot points. We’ll look at speaking style below, but in your preparation make sure you have sufficient information to cover all you want to say and stay on topic. It’s a great idea to practice at least once without the camera, and then once or twice with the camera, before attempting the final version.

Where will you film?

The environment, space, and framing of the video help set the tone for the type of video you are making. In previous coffee courses we’ve experimented with a few different styles for our videos, from more casual videos filmed in our offices (with notes as a helper only) to more formal videos filmed in a studio (using a teleprompter and a complete script).  When choosing a location, consider if it is appropriate to the context of your video. Also, a well-lit space (preferably with some natural light) that is quiet with limited background noise is essential.

How do you look?

Obviously none of us are professional actors, but it’s important to feel comfortable with your video so that you can use it in the future. Wear something comfortable and that is appropriate for the type of video. For example, if you are appearing “in the field” you might be dressed differently than if you were  in the office. Generally speaking, complex patterns or prints can be distorted on camera, and extremely bright colours can affect the camera’s colour balance. Jewellery or accessories can be distracting to the viewer. (There are great examples in this video: What colours to wear on camera.)

Using the right equipment

There are three dimensions to filming effective video: audio, video, and lighting. Here are a few things to consider before you film.


A quiet space is key. Reduce background noise by turning off fans or air conditioners, closing windows, and putting up a “do not disturb” sign on your door. The built-in microphone on your webcam or mobile device is acceptable if the space is very quiet, but consider investing in a separate microphone if you plan to do a lot of filming. Good quality audio can make a world of difference!


Most mobile devices and webcams usually capture high-definition video. Use a tripod if you are filming with a mobile device to prevent shaky videos, and avoid zooming in with the device’s camera as this reduces the quality of the image. Either move closer or zoom in during the editing process.


A brightly lit room is essential, and natural light is recommended wherever possible. Find a spot with clear and bright light near a window if you can. Try taking a picture of yourself in the spot where you want to film to see how well it is lit on camera before you start. Lighting from more than one angle can help reduce shadows.

A few small changes can make a significant difference to your video, as seen in the example below. These are all small changes made quickly right before filming.

Before After
 Katie appears in shadow, in a cluttered room.  Katie appears with a white background and good lighting.
  • Background is cluttered
  • Room lights are off
  • Face is in shadow
  • Too far away from camera
  • Dangling earrings
  • Microphone not close to mouth
  • Clean background
  • Combination of room lights and natural light
  • Face is well lit
  • Closer to camera
  • Removed earrings and changed hairstyle
  • Wearing microphone headset for better sound quality

Presentation and speaking style

In the video below, Karlene will talk about how to engage with the camera and provide tips on speaking style and body language.

View the transcript: Video recording.

Dealing with the awkwardness of being in front of the camera

It’s natural for many of us to feel self-conscious and awkward when we start recording on video and when we see ourselves on camera – as illustrated so well in this video:  The science behind why no one likes to be on camera.

Some strategies to help reduce the awkwardness are:

  • Practice – practice what you are going to say and how you are going to say it, practice with the equipment, practice in the location you plan to use. Record a few takes until you feel prepared, familiar with the equipment and what you are going to say.
  • Record more videos – the more videos that you do over time, the more comfortable you will be.
  • Smile and breathe.
  • Focus on the narrative, the story and your target audience rather than yourself – this video explains this concept well.
  • Keep hydrated.
  • Try some warm up vocal exercises – (yes really!) such as shown int this video: Warming up your speaking voice. Or for a more light-hearted view watch this Vocal Warm Up.

Further Resources

  • Read this for more ideas on how to present.
  • Watch this video for tips on what to do with your hands on camera.
  • Read this for tips to create engaging training videos.

Special Event

Get expert advice and hands-on practice being on camera with this special training with ANU’s public affairs team, SCAPA. Join us Friday, 8 September from 12pm – 1pm in SCAPA’s professional media studio to learn presentation skills. You’ll get a chance to experience being filmed and get friendly advice on how to improve. RSVPs are essential. Please email to join us.


Share some examples of presenters that you admire, whether it is colleagues, television presenters, conference keynote, or TED Talk. What makes them a good presenter?

Like everything, practice makes perfect. Try filming yourself! How did you find the process? Share your experiences in the comments. Did these tips help? We would love to see your videos if you are comfortable, and encourage everyone to provide constructive, friendly feedback as part of our learning community. Otherwise, ask a colleague, family member, or friend to give you some feedback.

Presentation and speaking style – (Version 2)

A colleague viewed Karlene’s video above, and provided some constructive feedback which Karlene incorporated into a new video using the same script.

Take a look, and consider what differences there are between this video and the first one that Karlene presented – particularly in terms of presentation and speaking style.

Production Notes on Today’s Videos

As part of making the video process more transparent, we’re going to share some reflections on the videos we make – as we did in Part One. The two clips above were filmed in the ANU’s One Button Studio in Chifley Library and Karlene practiced memorising the script beforehand. The original footage was edited using Premier Pro on a PC, although Camtasia would be better for quicker editing and for new users. For each video, the whole process in the studio took about 40-50 minutes to prepare and film (with multiple takes recorded and checked before deciding on a final version), and then another 20-30 minutes to edit and put on YouTube (and we are relatively familiar with video editing).

24 thoughts on “Day 3: Recording yourself

  1. Really good post today, lots of ideas and links to other videos with even more information. This is just what I wanted. I also thought it was great showing the two video presentations back-to-back, to show what a difference some critical feedback can make — good on you, Karlene! That was super helpful. I’m going to spend a bit of time digesting all this before I try it on camera though.

    1. Hi Chris,
      I completely agree with you (including on not being ready to do a video of myself just yet!).
      My all-time favourite presenter is (obviously!) David Attenborough! I grew up watching him and love his easy laid-back style, as well as his clear knowledge of the subject and personability. I’d probably say he has my dream job tbh 🙂

      1. I love David Attenborough too Angela! He is very easy to watch – a good balance between being informative, clear and entertaining.
        Years ago I read his autobiography which gives a real insight into his early days in the field. Highly recommend it if you haven’t read it already!

    2. Thanks Chris! I’m glad that you found the ideas and links in this post useful.

      I found the critical feedback really helpful too – it’s not so easy to critique onself and I’m still learning how to record well on camera!

  2. I like Kerry Taylor’s “I don’t do Youtube, I don’t like cats much…” welcome video. It is short, direct, personal, firm but friendly and not overly produced.

    In a simian style, Bhuvan Unhelkar recorded a series of videos for the ACS’s Business Analysis course. When I took over teaching the course, I decided to keep Bhuvan’s videos. These show him sitting at his desk, talking about the course each week, with a mug in his hand (taking occasional sips).

    Also I like the ANU edX series of astrophysics videos with Brian Schmidt and Paul Francis doing a comedy duo, with planets spinning around their heads.

    What I really dislike are TED Talks, which remind me of TV evangelism. There is a place for such hard sell promotional videos, but not in education.

    1. That’s great Tom that you could use Bhuvan’s videos – that’s so helpful when preparing to teach a course!

      I haven’t seen the ANU edX series of astrophysics videos, but I understand they are popular. Paul’s space vest gets a lot of positive comments too from what I can see :-).

      The TED Talks are definitely in a whole different category to what we are aiming for, being such highly polished and slick videos and filmed in front of a live audience. Whilst I have personally enjoyed the few that I have watched, there certainly has been some criticism around them.

  3. A recent meta-analysis shows a strong, positive relationship between social presence and student satisfaction (see Richardson, J. C., Maeda, Y., Lv, J., & Caskurlu, S. (2017). Social presence in relation to students’ satisfaction and learning in the online environment: A meta-analysis. Computers in Human Behavior, 71, 402-417.

    However, I really liked the point that is illustrated by Karlene’s videos and that is we need to, in our videos, balance or regulate emotional expression, even though it is one of the really important factors that fosters social presence Garrison and Anderson (2003) [E-Learning in the 21st century: A framework for research and practice. Routledge Falmer, New York, NY] found that while too little social presence can hinder learning, “too much social presence may inhibit disagreement and encourage surface comments and social banter” (p. 53). Good teachers regulate emotional expression in face-to-face classes through the instant feedback they receive from those that are present. In on-line asynchronous settings one either has to be good at critiquing themselves or ask others to give some feedback… like what Karlene modeled.

    1. Thanks Glen for those thoughtful comments!

      I learnt a lot from the constructive feedback on one recording. I can imagine if I followed this process (record, seek feedback, re-record) consistently over time I would really hone my recording skills.

  4. I treied the one-button studio for the first time today (before looking at this day’s course). It was, as promised very easy to use and the lighting and sound were excellent — the video certainly looked high quality. It’s an excellent resource. However, and relating to today’s material — I found it a little lacking as follows.
    — I want some kind of teleprompter support so that I can look straight at the camer *and* remember what I had to say. Unlike Karelene, I might go so far as to write a script, in advance, but I am certainly not going to memorise it. Somewhere that I could put speaking notes near the camera (but so that I can read them too that far away) would make all the difference, I think. Even just a well-placed remote-controllable computer screen might be all I need.

    — I want a way of turning off remotely, so that I am not *forced* to post-edit a reasonable recording just to remove the bit where I have to walk up to the camera to turn off the one button. Surely a remote switch off is possible?

    — I’m not sure about the pc screen on thew wall behind. I would have liked to try it at least as a way of presenting desktop stuff (or conventional slides) without post-production editing – so that I can point to places on the course pages to give some more course context to what I am saying, but I could not make this work because I could not make the remote mouse work — I could scroll but there seemed to be no pointer and possibly no click either. Maybe it is supposed to work better?

  5. Hi again, yes, this has been a really great, practical session. The Science behind why no one likes to be on camera, and the Wistia videos within it, were especially helpful and engaging for me.

    Congratulations, Karlene – your first and second takes demonstrated the points you were making beautifully!

    I found the One Button Studio a great learning opportunity and felt enormously grateful for being able to trial it. Many of the points highlighted in this posting were really brought home to me when I viewed the videos I made that day. One of the biggest challenges, I found, was to maintain eye contact with the viewer throughout. Looking at the camera felt so unnatural but seeing the difference it makes when viewing the video, if I am looking at the camera compared to not doing so, has convinced me to try and ‘naturalise’ the process of looking at the camera as if they are the engaging eyes of someone I know and trust! So I will concentrate on that part of my development and play around with positions for my scripts [the Wistia video gave some good tips on this too]. I’ve only done one session there, as yet [at the end of the first part of this video in teaching course] and did not make those videos with any thought that someone else might view them. So, sorry folks – I’m tempted but not quite ready to share them yet!! It was all ad-lib and I waffled a lot – so a script is vital for me. It was a windy day and I was very self-conscious of my fly-away hair [it kept catching my eye on the screen] – I will probably tie it up next time so that I’m not using my hands so often to get it under control and off my face. It was also really helpful to play around with my positioning, on and off the steps provided, I tried the seated positon and with the backdrop screen up and down. By the end of it all, I felt a lot more relaxed and, when I have time, feel like I’ll be able to make my first teaching video. I didn’t use the computer provided but I have taken note of your comment, Kerry, about the pointer and, yes, a remote on-off device would also be helpful so that we do not need to edit. I’ve not done any editing yet but I’m looking forward to playing around with it. I certainly have a lot of material, from my first One Button Studio excercise, which I can edit out!

    1. Thanks Catherine – I’m glad you found the resources and links helpful! I particularly liked the Science behind why no one likes to be on camera – I felt it captured the self-consciousness that many of us feel watching ourselves on camera so perfectly – and which I certainly felt viewing each of my videos!

      I agree with you about the challenge of maintaining eye contact with the camera – its not something that I found natural, but instead was something I practiced a lot!

  6. That’s a great ‘before and after’ example you provided, Karlene. Thanks for putting it out there – it gives me hope 🙂

    Thank you for the colours to wear on camera video. I’ve been observing how certain clothing styles work and don’t work on camera (mine didn’t work in a recent video I captured in the One Button Studio) and I have lots to learn! I recently watched a colleague’s short video which she created on her iPad. Her tailored jacket and softer colour choices worked really well.

    Ditto for the tips for what to do with my hands video. I’m pretty demonstrative and watching back at my recordings, I need to tone it down and some of my movements appear a bit forced.

    At the risk of putting it out there, I enjoy some TED videos (usually for the topic or content, rather than slick production.) Two well know ones I have enjoyed for different reasons are:
    *Amy Cuddy’s Body language presentation (
    *Melissa Marshall’s Talk nerdy to me

    Someone who does intimate with the camera very well is Nigella Lawson. Not really in the teaching and learning video genre, but certainly educational in other ways hahahaha

    Thanks for the ongoing thoughtful and practical content, team.

    1. Hi Imogen,

      Thanks for your post — I just wanted to say I love Nigella! I think part of why she is such an effective presenter is because she seems very natural and comfortable in front of the camera. We can never really know what ends up on the editing room floor, but at least it appears effortless!

  7. Hi Kerry, thanks for your comment on the One Button Studio (OBS) and sorry getting to this Coffee course so late. To answer your questions on the OBS:

    – OBS was built using the ANU Teaching Enhancement Grant that was just enough for us to get the existing setup. When designing the OBS, we have aimed to create a facility that easy, no fuss and quick for the user. That is why things are kept to the minimum. Putting in a teleprompter with not only blow our budget but also complicate the user experience. As to using the speaking note near the camera will work, I personally feel that your audiences will not mind even if you are having note cards in your hand and look at them once in awhile.

    – a remote button. Can someone out there let me know if there is one that we can use? What we need is a button, when pressed send a “spacebar” or “enter” keystroke to the computer.

    I know a remote mouse will do the job. But we feel that it might be too much to handle when you have a remote mouse in one hand, a ppt clicker on the other and still need to worry about your presentation. Also, someone got to maintain the batteries in the mouse.

    – The remote clicker is for ppt presentation, it will not work as a mouse. We have considered installing some sort of screencast software in the presentation PC so that user can screencast their iPad or Android to the TV. But we could not make it work, the reason being that ANU network is so secure that it blocks the screencasting. If someone can help us to get the network security unblock, we are happy to work the screencast into the facility.

  8. Thanks for the tips today – will keep in mind when I plan my next video – Someone I found natural and comfortable in front of the camera is Virginia Haussegger – her body position was also always very relaxed and natural. Could the One Button Studio have a tall table and tall chair (moveable) to allow for space to have notes or ipad to read from and allow for the same positioning as Virginia as when standing sometimes tricky to know what to do with your arms!
    Sorry I could not attend the tour by ANU’s public affairs team, SCAPA – however I have registered to attend their 3 hr session at the end of November (hopefully a quieter time at work).

    1. Yes I agree with you re Virginia Haussegger – she is a very natural presenter in front of camera and in front of a live audience.

      In the coffee course Video Part 1, the first day videos were filmed using an IPAD teleprompter in the One Button Studio – with the stool placed just below the camera and the IPAD propped on there – you can check out the recording here.

      As I tended to use a lot of gestures, I found it useful to hold my hands loosely together, and that helped me only use a hand gesture in a more conscious fashion, rather than just waving them around unconsciously :-).

  9. Thank you this was a really practical session. Thank you Karlene for the double take. It was interesting to see the differences between the two recordings, and notice that the time for the second video was shorter but the messages all seemed so much clearer. I am surprised to see that these ~2 min videos took around 1.5 hours to make, and you were experienced with the technology. I had forgotten that when I did my first recording it took many takes and much time. Now, I am wondering where I am going to find the time to prepare and record the all videos that I would like to do… 🙂

    1. Hi Emmaline! It is a serious challenge, and one that I think often gets forgotten when putting classes online or asking academics to record content. Even with professional videographers, presenting to camera is a skill that takes significant time to develop. It’s a major challenge I think – what are your thoughts around how we might address the time required in relation to the benefits gained?

  10. I really enjoyed today’s session. I agree with Emmaline, and others, that it was very useful to see to two videos back-to-back to illustrate how making some seemingly small changes can really increase the watchability of the video. The choice to rephrase the aim of the presentation as a question was really effective. I was surprised at how much of a difference this made!

    1. Hi Alison, I agree – seeing the videos back to back makes a real difference! As with most things, practice makes perfect for filming. There are lots of strategies and techniques that you can pick up over time that can improve things significantly. While it can be painful, watching back recordings is the best way to make improvements. Or getting a friend or family member to watch and give you some feedback!

      1. Yes, I always find it a bit painful to watch myself back. Getting a friend to give you feedback sounds like a good idea!

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