Whether you are a professional television news broadcasting company looking for a webcast-friendly production set for special webcast projects, or you just want to create your own set for a non-professional web broadcast, there are some fundamental technical and design elements to consider which will help make your webcast a visual success.
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Think small, simple, and "tight." Most viewers of your webcasts will watch on a computer monitor screen, sized anywhere from 24 inches diagonal width, down to as small as a iPhone browser screen. The typical "talking head" shot will be framed tight, usually from just above the chest to the top of the head. Long shots on webcasts can be so small as to make facial features almost impossible to discern on very small screens, so limit their use. In general, the kind of camera work and other production methods commonly used in regular live TV broadcasts are not usually found in webcast productions. For example, webcasts are usually shot with one camera, and are nearly always edited before uploading to the Internet, eliminating any need for floor directors, and two-camera set ups with switchers.
Design a plain, neutral-coloured background set. Fancy graphics, rear-projected slides, and "Chroma key" or green-screen projections aren't necessary. Since the shots are usually very tight anyway, there is no point in wasting time and resources on very elaborate background sets.
Avoid white or black backgrounds: white backgrounds will practically glow on line, and persons with dark hair or dark clothing will disappear in front of a black set. Ban striped or herringbone wardrobes: they will appear to "move" on camera due to moire effects.
Create a neutral-coloured "news desk" for a webcast host to use during the webcast. Avoid shiny surfaces like glass or stainless steel to prevent glare from lights. In most webcasts, the desk is framed out of the shot anyway, so an elaborate desk isn't necessary.
Determine how many cameras you will use in your webcast production. A single camera is standard for most webcasts. Again, webcasting is usually more simple, technically, than a regular live television broadcast production. You can certainly use multiple cameras to film an event or report simultaneously and then edit the shots together in post-production. But switching from camera shot to camera shot, "live," isn't necessary for a simple webcast production.
Light the set carefully. Strong halogen lights should illuminate the host from the front and both sides of the face, as well as the top of the head. A back light will help make the host "pop" away from the background as well. Make the lighting on one side of the host's face, and from the top, a little stronger than the lighting from the front and the other side. This is called "key and fill" lighting and it produces a pleasant 3-D effect. Inadequate and incandescent-based lighting will create shadows, yellow skin tones, and a dulling of colours. Fluorescent lighting should never be used on camera: it produces a sickly, blue tone on everything.
Use professional microphones on your webcast set for best results. Wireless or wired lavaliere microphones, routed through a mixer console for quality before being fed into the computer, are best. Microphones mounted on desktop stands don't "follow" the sound coming from a moving narrator as well as a lavaliere microphone will and can visually clutter the scene.
Create a stable web camera mount. A tripod with a fluid "head," and one that is mounted on high quality casters, is best if you need to move the camera at all during the recording. "Steadicam" rigs should be used for any hand-held mobile camera shots to eliminate camera "shake."
Make sure all the web camera controls, such as focus and angle, can be operated by a remote control: you don't want the live camera to be bumped whenever camera adjustments are necessary.
Set the camera at an interesting angle, rather than "dead on" in front of the speaker, if you are using only one camera. A position just to the side of centre is most pleasing.
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