Teaching with Technology

Computing & Information Services

Video recording tips

Below are a few tips for recording your videos. For a longer read, MIT has a study on how video production affects student engagement, which has some interesting findings and recommendations on the effectiveness of producing video. 

Keep video segments short. Shorter videos are more engaging and retain student attention better than longer videos.
  • If you are recording a longer video, consider using chapter bookmarks (aka annotations) that are available as a tool in Ensemble, our media server. Annotations can help your viewers find content they may want to review after the initial viewing.

Focus on audio quality. If your audio is not clear, is too quiet, or is hard to hear due to competing noises in the background, students will not be able to understand you. For the best audio quality:

  • Record in a quiet environment.
  • If possible, use a lapel microphone, headphones with a microphone built-in, or a usb mic connected to your computer. If none are available, position yourself near your computer, in a quiet environment.

Note the difference between these two different microphones, one using a laptop's built-in microphone 2 feet away; the second sample is with headphones with a microphone

Focus on lighting. Make sure your face is clearly visible so that your students can pick up on facial cues. Try not to position yourself in front of a window, as this will affect lighting (footage may be over- or under-exposed, or change over time as weather shifts).

In the before-and-after example below, note how an additional light source, just off camera, brings more clarity to the face. A lamp or a ringlight positioned behind your laptop can help illuminate you better.

Frame your video. Remove any unnecessary objects in the video frame and reduce visual clutter. Help avoid distraction by only including visual elements that will focus attention on the topics being discussed.

Note the before and after image below; see what distracting elements have been removed by an adjustment to the position of the camera.

  • If recording yourself, remove any distracting elements within the video frame.
Keep eye contact with your viewer.
  • Keep your eyes focused on the camera as much as possible. If you are using the computer’s webcam, try not to look at a second monitor for notes, but have the notes on your main computer. 
  • Try to keep the video camera or webcam at eye height.

Remove visual distractions on your computer. If you are recording your computer's screen, try to remove visual clutter that may distract your viewers:

  • Turn off computer notifications that may pop up when you are recording.
  • Hide your tabs/bookmarks, if you are using your web browser for presentation.
  • Quit any apps you are not using.
  • Hide your dock temporarily (on macs, command-option-d will toggle it on/off). 
  • Temporarily hide your computer desktop’s files (if you plan on having your viewer see your desktop).

Here's a before-and-after view of sharing your screen. Note how simply making the browser full screen immediately hides a lot of the visual clutter.

Laura Leibman has a video on suggestions on how to setup your computer for Zoom recordings (below). Laura's tip #1 suggests clearing off the desktop, mentioned above. Watch the video for Laura's other tips.

Editing tips

Here are a few quick tips that can help improve your videos and keep your students focused on your content:

Edit out the beginning/end of your recording. Reduce your video length and retain your viewers' attention while also making your video presentation more professional. Remove areas such as:
  • the beginning of the recording, as you are preparing your computer workspace for your presentation
  • moments when you are realigning your camera to better frame yourself
  • the end of the recording, when you reach out to click the stop button on your camera
QuickTime can allow quick trimming of the beginning or end of your video. Read how to trim videos in QuickTime.


Break up your video with different video framing shots. Use wider shots, which show more of an environment, and close up shots, which may show a detail of an object. Additional options:

  • Start with a video of yourself, then switch to a slidedeck and voiceover, then switch back as you introduce a new section or conclude your lecture.
  • Break up sections with titles, or go back to the full video of yourself. Breaking up the video makes it easier for a student to review a particular section of a video.
Bring in different visual elements. Keep yourself in the video frame, but bring in different visual elements that you are discussing. For example, Laura Leibman's video keeps herself on screen while displaying several images at different times:

Questions? Contact ITS@reed.edu