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How do I film my lessons?

Lights, camera, action!

People are often asking me how I put my lessons together - and it's not as easy as you might think!

My very first lesson was recorded on my iPhone4 which I carefully balanced on a bookshelf, praying it wouldn't fall over!

Since then I've upgraded my set-up a great deal, and while I'm always trying to make each video look better than the last, I'm pretty happy with my current arrangement.

Since buying a Canon EOS 70D camera, my videos have looked better and better. I really recommend it for people who are trying to make good quality YouTube videos at home. It's easy to use, has a lot of functionality, and as long as your ambitions aren't too crazy you'll probably be able to get it to do pretty much whatever you want it to.

However, it wasn't until I started messing about with lights and lenses that I started to really get my videos to the next level in terms of how they look.

The first lens I bought was the Canon "Nifty 50" lens - a 50mm lens that gives that cool blurry background effect that you get on a lot of top YouTuber's videos.

This is ideal for close-up shots (e.g. bloggers or people who want to put something really close to the camera, such as my shot of the piano above).

If you see my pic at the top of the screen, I'm using the Nifty 50 for that shot of the piano. The keyboard is absolutely crystal clear, and covers the foreground of the picture, and then the floor lights and guitars in the background are nicely blurred out making the image seem almost movie-like.

However, for my lessons I found that the Nifty 50 wasn't ideal - because I need my whole upper body and head in shot, so that you can see what I'm doing when I'm playing the ukulele! Also a blurry background can be distracting.

So I ended up buying this great wide angle lens from Tokina after seeing it mentioned on a couple of other blogs.

It's been great for letting me sit right up close to the camera, so that when I'm filming a lesson you still get my entire upper-body in shot so you can see what my arms and hands are doing.

And in the shot below, you'll see that I can stand really, really close to the camera and still get all of my upper-body in, but also lots and lots of great background detail as well if I need it - ideal for my lessons!

Playing with the wide-angle Tokina lens

So both of those lenses have really improved the visual quality of my videos a great deal, and I'd recommend either of them, depending on what you're after. The Nifty Fifty for close-ups, or the Tokina 11-16mm Wide Angle Lens for those big wide shots.

I also bought this brilliant LimoStudio 18" ring light, which you sometimes see in the background of my videos too.

This is really cool as it means the lighting is consistent throughout the video, so even if there are clouds and things passing by outside, it won't affect the quality of my lighting. It's also fully adjustable, and can give you a great 'warm' look or a very natural 'cold' look, depending on the settings you use.

I'm still playing around with the settings to find out which is best for me. I do like the warm look, although I have a tendency to overdo it sometimes and make things look a bit too yellow!

I've also recently bought a couple of these nifty little Stagg Ukulele Stands so that wherever I am I can put my uke down without it taking up my entire desk, or getting scratched on the floor.

These are super cheap and only small, but I've really loved them, and they've certainly saved a couple of my ukes from a nasty fate!

I still haven't quite perfected the sound quality of my vids yet. I've experimented with a few different set-ups, but I haven't quite found the perfect blend of convenience and good sound quality. I'm going to be experimenting with clip-on mics soon, and I'll let you know how that goes.

But I did recently buy this Rode microphone that just clips straight into the side of your DSLR camera. So far I've found it works pretty well for indoor recording (I haven't tested it outside yet). It also saves me hours syncing up audio, which is always a plus.

Paquirri, my playful chihuahua!

And finally...

I find it's very helpful to have a playful chihuahua around when I'm filming - even if he has a tendency to get in the way, or demands to be taken for a walk just as I'm about to start recording.

I wouldn't swap him for anything and he always cheers me up, especially when I'm not really in the mood for working.

I'm afraid Paquirri's not for sale though!

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