A good-quality webcam can be a versatile, cost-effective tool for creating quality learning videos – if you know how to use it properly. If you want to record high-quality webcam video, follow these four steps:

Step 1: Set Lighting

When using a webcam, make sure the main, or dominant light source in the scene is somewhere behind the camera and facing your subject. The webcam’s automatic controls will expose the shot for the brightest area in the frame. If that bright area is behind your subject, your subject will more than likely be underexposed. It’s distracting and amateurish. Unless, of course, you’re going for that ‘anonymous interview’ look.

Step 2: Adjust Camera Angle

Whenever possible, put your webcam at eye level. Being eye-to-eye with the viewer builds an instant, more intimate connection. Avoid looking down at your laptop webcam. The low-angle makes you look a bit arrogant. Besides, no one wants to see what’s going on up your nose.

Step 3: Capture Good-Quality Sound

Good-quality sound can make your webcam video feel way more professional. The webcam’s build-in microphone can get you by in a pinch, but it’s far from ideal. Invest in a good external microphone. You can get high-quality, inexpensive, external lavalier microphones from companies like Rode. You can also use an external, desktop USB mic, like the Blue Yeti.

Step 4: Take Control of the Webcam

The webcam’s automatic controls are constantly adjusting, or “hunting” for the best possible exposure, white balance, and focus. Which is helpful, sometimes. In most cases, this constant “hunting” is distracting for your viewer.

You can solve this problem using the software controls that came with the camera. You can also get third-party webcam control software. The webcam software controls allow you to manually set and lock things like exposure, white balance, and focus. This stops the webcam from “hunting,” so your viewer can concentrate on the content.

The 4 steps described above can really elevate the quality of your webcam video – to the point where you could create the majority of your learning videos with just a high-quality webcam, like the Logitech C920.

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  • Great read. I’m a big fan of your tutorials and work. Do you think the webcam on a MacBook air is sufficient for good quality videos?

    • It should be sufficient. It may not be as good as an external, high-quality webcam, but it can give you good results. The key to good webcam picture quality is plenty of light. Additionally, you can tune the quality of your webcam video using an application like Webcam Settings. You can find it in the Mac App store. MK

  • I heard one well course creator saying the following about Logitech C920: “Apparently, for many Windows users, it’s impossible to record at full resolution and frame rate with this webcam and Camtasia. I’ve never had this problem myself, but some research online shows that many users have experienced this and there’s apparently no solution. Because of this, I recommend upgrading the Razer Kiyo or Microsoft LifeCam Studio instead, if you need to upgrade from your built-in webcam.”

    Now I am a online course creator and a windows + camtasia user. Can you let me if it’safe to go with Logitech C920?

    • Hi Bibhash, thanks for your comment. Techsmith says Camtasia CANNOT record webcam video at full 1080p at 30 fps. Here’s the link: https://support.techsmith.com/hc/en-us/articles/115001000652-Camtasia-Windows-Webcam-Compatibility I have a Microsoft Lifecam Studio Webcam and tried it with Camtasia. It DID record at 1080p at 30 fps. Problem: the picture quality was really bad, very pixelated, especially when you moved around in the shot. Not a scientific test by any stretch. I can’t speak to the Razer Kiyo, I don’t have one.

      I think Camtasia sacrifices either the resolution, or frame rate, or data rate (quality) of the webcam video to keep Camtasia running smoothly. I guess the developers figured you’d only be showing yourself in a small window in the corner of the screen for screencasts. Shame. Screenflow on the Mac can record full HD at 30 fps with the C920 no problem.

      If you want to include full 1080p video at 30 fps in your Camtasia videos, you can always record it using the Windows Camera App, then edit it into your Camtasia project. That’s what I do.

      Hope that helps.

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Michael Kinney

Michael is an award-winning media creator with 30 years of professional production experience. He's written, produced, directed, hosted, recorded, and edited a variety of media projects - from TV documentaries to interactive learning.

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