Webcams, videos and Going Live!

Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time in studios, having my hand filmed as I fold. However, the amazing leaps in cheap technology now allow me to produce videos in-house to a high standard. While I still consider diagrams to be the purest form of recording a folding sequence, using them on conjunction with a video will open your models up to the widest possible audience. Here are a few pointers to consider if you want to try this yourself. Later on I talk about live broadcasting.

Equipment
A webcam of some kind is perfect for this type of project and the resolution of a modern device is more than adequate. I bought a USB Logitech Webcam with a resolution of 1920 x 1080px and a built-in Microphone for under £20 (new) on ebay and it covers all kinds of needs, including Facebook video messaging, Skype, Zoom etc. I use an old version of Adobe Premiere for editing, but there are plenty of free packages out there.

You’ll need some kind of stand to hold the webcam over a desk for filming, I use a battered old microphone stand with some gaffer tape to stabilise the webcam (design © my great-grandfather Heath Robinson) but you can spend as much or as little as you wish.

Lighting is often what makes a video more successful. In the past I used some large clusters of daylight bulbs within a filter, but positioning the tripods was awkward and frustrating. More recently, I’ve bought a pair of “Neewer” LED studio lights for £40 and apart from a tendency for the batteries to die without warning, give me more light with far less space required. I’m now looking for replacements battery units powered from the mains so they won’t conk out half-way through a recording. However, daylight is still free and careful positioning of your desk will maximise natural ambient lighting.

Preparation
As with most things, a bit of planning will pay dividends. Have several (pristine) sheets of paper just off screen, plus some nicely folded example models. No matter how well you know a model, have diagrams arranged off camera in case your mind goes numb mid-way through. Try to ensure you are not interrupted by family members or cats and that there are no road-works taking place nearby.

Choose a neutral surface to fold on, one that contrasts with both sides of your folding paper. Position your lights at an angle so the paper has shadows, which are key to clarity. Make several tests with different levels of lighting – you can adjust brightness/contract later on but there are limits to what you can “repair” in this way.

Shooting
I always begin each video with a good throat-clearing & a drink! Even if you know a design well, explaining as you fold adds a considerable level of difficulty. Even after several years, I still mess up on a regular basis. The secret is to move your hands temporarily out of shot at key moments. That way, if you have a problem, be it memory, a tickly cough or a passing helicopter you can pause, refold up to the last key point and continue – it’s simple to cross-fade two videos without making it obvious, as long as your hands are not in the shot. Sometimes you just get your words mixed up – just freeze your hands in position and repeat the phrase so you can edit the audio later on. I’ve tried shooting without audio, then recording the words later and adding to the video feed. However, it’s not always easy to sync the words to the folds afterwards and can take a lot of time to perfect. Dropping in selected words can sound awkward unless you are a practised orator.

The worst case scenario, effort & time-wise, is to start again from scratch. However, that decision can result in a far better “take” – it all depends how polished you want your video to look & sound. I try to go with the flow and make light of anything minor that goes wrong – adding subtitles later on to say “I said the top, I meant the bottom!” and so on. Whilst high standards are all well and good, personality counts for more, IMHO, if you are to engage with the viewer.

Try to speak clearly and be aware of where the microphone is – you can boost the volume later, but it also boosts any hiss or background noise. I also like to add a quiet instrumental backing track during editing which I feel helps keeps a flow going better between talking, rather than the sound of rustling paper and dogs barking!

Videos need titles and end credits – to explain what is coming up, to give credit / thanks to the designer and to plug your website / video feed. They also add consistency to your output and help with “branding” – you are a tiny fish in a massive pond and need to stand out somehow. YouTube and others allow you to create a “thumbnail” to display in a playlist – if you don’t create one, they will randomly select one for you. Check their guidelines for size/format etc. I set my initial “zoom” to just wider than the unfolded square, on the basis that is generally gets smaller from then on(!). During editing, I zoom in (slowly) from time to time so that the maximum detail is shown. If there is any fiddly folding taking place, you can zoom closely on that area, then zoom back out afterwards.

It’s unlikely that the example you fold will be of exhibition quality (and you will probably be using plain coloured paper), so I generally take a photo of a superb example and use that at the start & end of the video,
Choose designs that can be made in 10 minutes or so, since this will attract a larger audience
and YouTube has a time limit for new users. It’s also essential to ask for permission to make the video if the model isn’t your design and don’t take it badly if permission isn’t forthcoming!

You can see some of my efforts on the ColorTree website – I like to think these are getting better as I learn from mistakes and build my editing skills!

Going Live
If you decide to “go live”, I recommend getting two webcams and splitting the screen so most of it is the folding and you are in the corner – it allows for a greater degree of interaction & (hopefully) interest. On windows 10, I use OBS studio (freeware). This also allows you to add other overlays, as seen here.

I use the “live broadcast” feature of Splitcam and send this feed live to facebook – you cannot use a combined screen as a “camera”. You can prepare for a live demo as much as you want, things will go wrong & you need to decide quickly how to solve the problem. Have diagrams, spare sheets, a drink etc all to hand. During my last two BOS live sessions my “face” video froze, although the audio continued. I don’t know what causes/ed it, but that’s life.