- Posted by Jackie Labrecque
- On December 8, 2020
Video is here to stay, and many law firms and other professional services businesses are taking the opportunity to build in-office video production studios for virtual depositions, hearings, mediations and even trials, as well as for media opportunities and virtual presentations. Many law firms are converting extra offices – perhaps those vacated by professionals deciding to work from home – into video suites, while others are equipping already-built private courtrooms with video capabilities.
Making the extra space is a worthwhile investment, and there are important considerations to maximize a successful space.
- Technical considerations: Invest in a high-quality camera. While laptop cameras work well (especially those on newer models), for virtual home setups, consider investing in an external camera for your video suite. HD cameras also improve the quality of the audio and some even do a good job of filtering out background noise. Purchasing an external microphone will only enhance the quality. We really like this option, which can easily be placed out of frame.
- Background: Less is more. A simple bookshelf and plant are great, and don’t forget to add in your firm’s logo, perhaps in a framed picture in the background. Step and repeat banners are another common solution – we see this often with universities and health systems – and can be placed in part of the shot on an angle. We would encourage this setup so that the subject doesn’t look like he or she is sitting at a post-game press conference! (The one exception would obviously be if your firm is actually hosting a press conference.)
- Create depth of field: We don’t want our presenters to be too close to the wall or up against a bookshelf, because that creates an image that feels tight and uncomfortable. A great tactic is employing the corners of rooms. Angles add nice depth to shots and are a great way to maximize a small space, too.
- Subject positioning: The subject’s eyes need to be even with the lens, looking straight into the camera. Create both standing and seated options so the attorney or other professional can choose his or her preferred posture. The easiest way to accomplish this is to purchase a standing desk that can be raised or lowered depending on the person’s preference. Once in position, the person’s head, shoulders and chest should be center frame and there should be a maximum of two inches above the head, or “head room.”
- Lighting: Subjects on camera need to be evenly lit from the front. A standard 8- to 10-inch ring light on a tripod is adequate to light the face. We recommend the Dracast Halo light and stand used by professional productions, including The Oprah Winfrey Network. If the room offers natural light, then the subject should be placed facing the windows – but not too close. Be careful of overhead lighting, as we don’t want to create shadows. It can be used but should be utilized in conjunction with a light directly on the subject’s face. More professional lighting includes higher-grade, engineered professional equipment that is more in line with a studio setup, including backlighting and backdrops. We are happy to consult on that process.
- Mark the spot: Consider putting tape markings on the floor where you want the subject to sit or stand so that he or she remains in the perfect space you have created. Keep a mirror nearby for touchups.
What Do Reporters Want? Not Virtual Backgrounds
We surveyed several TV journalists with whom we regularly work, and they unanimously said that they prefer expert sources to have a backdrop where there is depth of field – meaning that they’re not sitting right up against a blank wall – but with limited distractions. A number of companies are now using virtual backgrounds, but the journalists we interviewed say these are a hard “no” (some even used the words “loathe” and “boo”). We typically counsel against them because the second the subject moves, his or her image pixelates and causes disruption for the viewer.
Journalists also typically do not care for the step and repeat banners, as mentioned above, which further underscores why it may be best to consider a couple of different shots to use depending on the purpose of the meeting. TV producers prefer a well-composed shot that they would themselves create if interviewing someone in the studio.
Video is a Winning Strategy
From connecting with clients or prospective clients to conducting virtual trials, video is a big part of our lives, and will be even post-pandemic. With clear cost savings for many settings, a dedicated in-house studio is a logical step for firms and companies eager to up their professional game.
Jackie Labrecque is the executive producer of Poston’s Video Division, producing stories and compelling content for clients. She is a seasoned television broadcast journalist with 15 years of visual storytelling experience. She is also a member of Poston’s Crisis Communications and Litigation PR Division, helping clients with high-stakes issues. Contact her at [email protected].