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Time to Upgrade My Video Quality!

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Patreonlogo-300x68.png   If you are interested in learning more about YouTube, Screencasting, Webcasting, Webinars and Podcasting then join our MasterCaster Mail List. Steve Dotto here. I’m glad you’re joining us today. Today, we’re continuing our journey towards 100,000 subscribers and we’re going to stay in the video space for this episode. Last episode, we talked about lighting and I gave you all the feedback on improving the quality of lighting that I have here in my home studio. Well today, I want to take on the camera settings, adjusting the color settings of the camera so that we can go from just good light to great quality video out of just a simple high definition webcam. So as soon as I posted the last video on lighting, I got a lot of response from the people that were giving me lots of advice on different aspects that I actually reached out kind of asked for advice, if anybody had any suggestions for me and one of the subscribers of our show contacted me and said, “Steve, I’m willing to help you out. I’m a video professional.” So I took Aaron Johnson up on his offer. He’s recently moved to Vancouver from New Zealand and before that, Bellingham, Washington. Aaron, are you there? Aaron: Hello! Steve: Hey, how are you doing? Aaron: Doing great. Doing great. Steve: Good. I have to thank you. So yesterday, Aaron and I walked through configuring my camera. Aaron’s a broadcast professional. He’s got vast experience in audio and video. So you basically helped me tune the camera and kind of bring it into and just to adjust the color calibration so that the video looks a lot better. I have to thank you for that. So let’s recreate that and walk through the process that we went through. Aaron: All right. Steve: Okay, so now the camera that I have is the Logitech C920 which I think around $120, maybe $140 retail. It’s probably the best of the high definition web cams that are consumer-focused and in the Windows world it’s got a great set of tools. It’s got a great driver that allows you to adjust everything from color to allowing you to focus and all sorts of things. On the Mac, they’ve also got drivers for it but they’re pretty anemic so I found a tool called Webcam Settings which was $8 or $9 in the Apple Store and I installed it. And so Aaron and I are going to kind of walk through the settings or walk through the decision points that you make after you’ve set up your lighting as you configure your video. Now I will point out that the video today is going to somewhat more choppy. That’s because we’re asking the resources that I have here on my little editing computer here to do so much more than normal. So Aaron and I are on a Skype call, I’m screensharing with Aaron so that he can see the color and I’m trying to record it all at the same time. It’s kind of overtaxing the capabilities of my now, I think, five-year old iMac a little bit so if the video is a little bit choppy you’ll just have to bear with me. The key here though is not the smoothness of the video; it’s the color that we’re going to see, it’s the image that we’re going to see and you should get a really good idea of that from this video. So Aaron, you basically agree with me, don’t you, as far as setting up the hierarchy for this type of screencasting work. Number one is to make sure your audio set up is great. Number two would be setting your lighting and the third thing you’ve got to really concentrate on is the camera and the color. Do you agree with that hierarchy? Aaron: Yeah, I completely agree with that. I mean, audio first and foremost, right? If people can’t hear you—and I get frustrated with the poor videos that I see on YouTube where people haven’t taken the time to invest, getting proper audio setups to do their shows and it’s— Steve: It’s irritating. It’s almost grating. Now that’s not for all video. A viral video that’s shot in the field, there are issues around that but if you’re trying to teach somebody something, if you’re trying to communicate a message, it really behooves you to make sure your audio is awesome first and foremost because people often, even when they’re watching YouTube they’re not watching the video. They’re listening to it almost as a podcast and then referring to the screen from time to time. So the audio is number one but today we’re talking video. Let’s kind of walk through what we started with. We’ve got the camera set up right now to the default settings so the video looks the way it did after I configured the new lights. It was a dramatic improvement, but it’s still not very good, is it? Aaron: But the key is you need to have good lighting. You can make all the adjustments in the world but if you don’t have good lighting, it’s not going to look good. Steve: So we’ve got the good lighting set up but it was an inexpensive kit. I’ve got links to it on the website so people could take a look. It’s not expensive to set up decent lighting. Around $100 what was I spent on this lighting kit which is just fine and it’s an investment well worth making I would say. Now the one thing that we noticed, we had a lot of comments on in the community, was even though I had fixed the lighting that when I was moving my head back and forth or when I was doing things on the computer screen, the color was shifting. It was changing back and forth. You identified that in our very first conversation and you said to me what? Aaron: Turn off the auto white balance. Steve: So if we take a look here at the Webcam Settings panel—this is what we’re going to work our way through, all of these different settings—this auto white balance was the culprit in the color shifting and the reason it was shifting so much in the last video I created is because as I went from dark screen to light screen, actually the color that was being reflected back to me from the monitor was changing the white balance and the camera was adapting. It was doing what it was supposed to do, right? Aaron: Yeah, exactly. It’s trying to make sure the whites stay white and it’s not smart enough in the sense when it’s in auto mode to know what’s skin tone, what’s a background and all that fun stuff. That’s why we need to get in here and adjust it. Steve: So as soon as I turned that off, how do we go about, what’s the best way to adjust it? Now as soon as I turned it off, I even got uglier. Holy cow! We really managed to get it worse. When we did TV all the time, they were looking for this. They were always looking for a piece of white paper to hold up in front of the camera and that’s still the best way to do things, right? Aaron: Yes, exactly. The one thing, I just saw you when you held up your paper, the other thing we need to do before we get done with this white balance is we need to put that auto exposure into manual mode because that will adjust the white balance as well. Steve: Okay, so I’ve set that as well into manual mode. Okay, now we can go and we can adjust the white balance. Now in the TV studio, they used to do it with a scope. They’d actually look at the scope but we don’t have to do that. We can just adjust it by trying to change whatever that color there is and trying to make it white. Is that close? Aaron: Well, no, I’d take it down just a little bit. Steve: Yeah, it’s a little bit too much. Aaron: It looks a little too yellow. Steve: Yellow, a little jaundiced. And a little bit lower. How’s that? Aaron: Yeah, right about there, right at the middle of the road. Steve: Okay, so that’s okay. So now we’ve set the white balance and we don’t want to turn that back on. Now the cool thing is we’ll be able to save this as a profile so that we don’t have to go back and do these settings each time we set up the camera. We can save them as a preset, as a profile. So once we’ve set up the white balance to start, that gives us a base to work from. What’s the next stage? Aaron: All right, well let’s have a look at that exposure time. Steve: Okay. What does exposure time do for us? Aaron: That’s just the amount of refreshing and the amount of time the lens is open. Steve: Okay, and with all of these things, in a slide like this, if you don’t know what it does, slide around and see what happens, right? Aaron: Yeah. Steve: So there I slide it up and oh, it just washes me out completely. So we probably don’t want to change it too much from down there now. It looks like it’s doing almost the same thing as a brightness would do. Am I wrong? Aaron: Yeah, I mean I don’t get exactly what they’re meaning by exposure time because there could be a number of different things that it could be adjusting. But like you said, if you don’t know what it is, slide it around and see what it does. Steve: Okay. So do you think that’s good there? That looks pretty good. Aaron: Yeah, it’s a little bright but we’ll adjust the gain and we’ll see what we come up with. Steve: So I turn the gain up, I get again brighter. I turn the gain down… Aaron: There we go, a lot less noisy. There we go. Steve: Okay, so I look good to you? Aaron: Yeah. That’s looking good. Steve: Now brightness, overall? Aaron: I’m kind of happy with the brightness level, to be honest. Steve: Yeah, it’s not bad. Now I found that when we were in the auto mode, it was washed out. It was too bright. But now that we’ve set up the exposure time and the gain a little bit, and adjusted just the white balance, it has changed to me in the brightness for a bit. Aaron: Yup. Steve: Okay, so once you’ve set those first settings, you’re getting close to where you want to be. Now let’s go into the Advanced Settings and see what the advanced ones are. Now this Power Line, this is really for international distribution of any product. It’s changing the frequency of the camera. So if you’re North American 60 Hertz, if you’re elsewhere in the world it’s probably going to be 50 Hertz. Aaron: Yes, and then that’s dependent on the voltage that comes out of your wall sockets. So there are really long articles online if you want to read all about that. Steve: I don’t want to do all that. The next thing we want to look at is the backlight compensation. Now in the lighting kit that I set up, it’s a three-point lighting system. It’s got two umbrella lights and then it’s got, they call it, a rim light or a backlight. Now I’ve got that set up against the wall behind me. Now for the people that don’t know or are kind of neophytes to lighting, the light against the back wall will basically remove me from the background. It makes me stand out and gives me kind of depth of feel as far as the image is concerned. Now if I didn’t have a light behind me, would I then use that backlight compensation? Aaron: It’s okay. I mean yeah, turn it on there. It’s washed everything out because it’s trying to separate you from the background but the key is you want that bit of light in the background to separate you so you’re not becoming one part of the wall. Steve: I guess if you were in a difficult environment, too, where you’ve got a lot of light behind you like if you were backlit with a camera when you are taking a picture and the light source was behind, you might play with that at that point there. It might change things and it might allow the foreground image to pop out a little bit more if you’ve got too much light behind you. Aaron: Yes. Steve: That might work there. Now the focus is another one of the auto tools. Now I’m going to turn it off. I think these cameras are kind of set for infinite focus when it’s down to zero and then as you move it up, it starts to actually change the way it’s focusing. Aaron: Yeah. Steve: This might be a good look for me. If I do this, I don’t have to worry about makeup or anything like this. It’s like having the Vaseline on the lens a bit. But I’m going to leave that turned off because just like I don’t like the auto white balance changing, being kind of distracting as we’re speaking, I don’t like it when cameras try and focus as you’re moving in and out. I’d rather be slightly out of focus by a physical move and then kind of get back to my home position than have the camera trying to catch up constantly, have that zooming in and out. We all know that. Especially with video cameras or DSLRs that people have on auto-focus. If they’re using those for a feed, we see lots of the cameras. You can almost hear the motor running, can’t you? And the other, again this isn’t anything to do with the lighting but this has to do with the composition, it’s the zoom. I like the fact that I can zoom in a little bit on the image here and just kind of frame myself a little bit better. Now you have to be careful with your headroom and stuff when you do this because holding the position. Now I sit on a ball chair so I tend to bounce a little bit and sometimes I pop in and out of frames. I also notice often when I’m recording my demo of I’m too tight then my chin drops below the horizon of the video. So that’s something that you have to be a little bit careful of but you can play with that framing and composition here. Aaron: Yup. Steve: And the LED is just there’s a little tally light on the camera telling me when it’s recording. It just turns on and it’s kind of like the On Air light. That’s really all that we need to do, isn’t it? Aaron: Well, no— Steve: Pretty much the settings. Aaron: Last up, you’ve zoomed in, you’ve done all this stuff, I’d still check my white balance. I’d still hold up my little white piece of paper and make sure it’s still white. Yeah. Steve: Still looks pretty white to me. Okay. Aaron: Yeah, still looks pretty white. I mean and your skin tone’s fine. For people that don’t have a buddy or anything to help them adjust it, I’d recommend just getting a mirror and having it next to your monitor while you’re doing it. Steve: That’s a great tip. I never thought of that. So just comparing it so that what you’re seeing is what the camera sees. Aaron: Yes, because… Steve: Oh that’s a good idea. Okay, without being too artsy. Now the next thing that you want to do is you want to save the profile. I’m going to save this as Our Little Demo. So that allows me to then load this profile in. And you could have different profiles like I’ve got in my office here, we’re shooting on a rainy day today and I don’t have a lot of light coming in but I’ve got a fairly reasonably sized window with shutters kind of over here but if it’s a sunny day and I notice that looks a little bit different, I might tweak my settings, save those settings as Sunny Day settings so I know. Then also if I’m shooting at night and I find that maybe it’s a little bit dark, I might tweak my settings at night, too. And then I’ve got a couple of different profiles that I can quickly go back to so I’m not spending time configuring the camera each and every time and I’m spending more time recording content and less time setting up gear. Does that sound reasonable? Aaron: Yeah, I know. I’m all about presets in that way. Steve: So let’s see what we’ve got here. I’ve got this profile so let’s take a look. This was the camera default. Let’s go back to it. I think everybody can now see immediately that that is pretty bad but when you think about where I came from, it’s actually pretty good. But it’s pretty bad compared to where we can get to. Now let’s compare because this is something that I wondered about. This is the one that we just did now, Our Little Demo. Let’s compare that to what you and I set up yesterday which is called Aaron’s Profile. It’s kind of like Annie’s Song. There we go. Pretty similar. Actually, I think we did a little better job yesterday, don’t you? Aaron: Well, yeah. Steve: We had a little more time and we weren’t trying to record and we didn’t have all the lag on the computer and stuff. There we are. Yeah, I like the one that we set up there. What do you like better? Aaron: Yeah, I like the zoom out just a little bit more. It’s not having it as tight. Steve: Color looks a little more natural to me. That’s good. Aaron: Yeah. Steve: Aaron, I’ve got to thank you so much for helping me out here. It’s been great. If anybody in the British Columbia area is looking for a top notch broadcast professional, Aaron, you’re looking for a job, aren’t you? Aaron: Yes, I am at the moment. Yeah. Steve: I hate to embarrass you but if there is one out there, drop me a note and I’ll put you in touch with Aaron. He’s a great guy. He’s certainly knowledgeable and really video’s your strength but audio is your passion. You love sound. Aaron: Yes, as well. Any media format, how about that? Steve: Well next, when we do another one of these videos and we start talking about sound systems and we start talking about mikes and set up, maybe we’ll have another conversation if you have time. Aaron: Sounds great. Steve: I appreciate it. With that, I’m going to wrap things up. Remember, please subscribe to our channel. We are on a journey to 100,000 subscribers and for that we need you. Join in the conversation down below here. If you’re on YouTube, down below is an active community that’s asking questions and answering questions so if you have comments or questions, please join in on the conversation. We’re all on a journey of learning about this whole business of YouTube publishing. I’m Steve Dotto. Thanks so much for spending time with me today.

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