Self-recorded video

Follow these simple guidelines to produce a self-recorded video that looks good and works well.

Plan ahead

Know what you want to say

Prepare key messages you want to share. A script is fine, but should be for reference only.

Dress the part

Dress professionally from head to toe (or at least from head to waist). Avoid tight patterns or stripes that tend to ‘strobe’ on camera. All white and all black are also poor choices. While some colour is a good idea, avoid distracting colours like neon green. Lapels or collars are also good. Please don’t wear jewelry that makes noise when you move or shift.

Prepare your surroundings

Pick a quiet indoor or outdoor place to record without an elaborate backdrop. This ensures you are the focal point on the screen. Remove anything distracting behind you and keep it neutral. Adjust your backdrop. Decorate if needed to make it look clean, uncluttered and professional. Try to avoid any backgrounds with busy patterns. If you’re standing in front of a wall, please stand far enough way to avoid creating a shadow behind you.

Example of neutral background.
Example of a distracting background.


Turn on a desk lamp over your laptop so that it shines on you, or sit facing a window. Experiment until the light illuminates your face in a flattering way. Make sure you’re not back-lit—you don’t want to appear as a shadow.

Example of good lighting at left vs. bad lighting at right (with poor background!)

Select camera

For best results, use a smartphone, tablet, or video camera. With these cameras, it may be easier to ask someone to assist with recording. If assistance is not available, consider recording in Zoom. Review instructions on how to record in Zoom, and customize further using a custom SFU Zoom background.

Camera height

Elevate your computer and camera to head height so that you can speak and look directly into the camera. To help with the camera angle, use books, a box or a small stool to raise the laptop or screen.

This picture demonstrates how to elevate your cellphone or laptop to achieve the proper height.
When properly elevated the subject (you) is properly centred.

Close other programs on your computer

If self-recording with Zoom, turn off all notifications during your recording. Make sure all other windows on your computer are closed (especially if they make noise).

Use notes or a script

A benefit of recording at home is that you can have a cheat sheet or script in front of you so that you don't have to memorize everything you want to mention. These can be loaded right onto your computer. But don't rely too much on your notes, use sparingly. They are primarily a reference.

Avoid interruptions

If you are recording in a house with other people or pets, be sure to let everyone in the house know ahead of time that you will be recording. Yes, even the pets.

Shoot wide (landscape)

When shooting, remember to turn your camera or tablet to the side. This ensures a horizontal video. Use vertical (tall) framing only if your video will be presented in a vertical orientation, ie. Instagram/Facebook stories or Tik Tok.

Test your audio

Wired headphones with an in-line microphone are preferred, although the headphones or earbuds will be visible on camera. If possible, use a quality external mic (like a podcast mic or lavalier) and no headphones.

If a wired microphone is not available, use your phone’s, or computer’s, default built-in microphone as a last resort, as they pick up extra noise. Test the audio ahead of time to make sure you can be heard without difficulty. (Record a short test video and then play it back for yourself.)

Tips while recording

Look at the camera, not the screen

It’s very tempting to watch yourself during a recording session, but looking directly at the video camera is the only way to maintain direct eye contact with your audience. If necessary, put a small happy face or picture just above your webcam and look at it—it will look like you are talking to your audience through the camera.

Watch your body language

Be sure to have good posture and relax your shoulders to avoid stiffness.


Take your time, there’s no rush.  The recording will be edited later, so feel free to do another take or start over.

Relax and Enjoy!

Transferring your video file

SFU faculty and staff can transfer videos via SFU Vault. If using SFU Vault, please email the link to the file recipient. (Note that starting April 2021, SFU OneDrive will be the preferred file sharing method at SFU.) Those that are not SFU faculty or staff can use their own preferred file transfer software.


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