YouTuber Michelle Phan is creating art.
The amateur makeup artist turned Lancome and L’Oreal spokesperson’s videos are a measure of the evolution of user-created content from low-quality visuals and static talking heads to slick amalgams of music videos, news broadcasts, sketch comedy, and short film.
Her best works today are dreamlike vignettes that mix her trademark soothing voiceovers with panning visuals, pastel backgrounds, cartoonish text overlays, and the steady unpacking of complex information.
But even before she was enjoying the backing of large cosmetic companies, her videos were stylistic high-water marks of how far a creative individual could take the video blog format. Her 2009 DIY instructional video on how to look like Manga heroine Sailor Moon is proof any subject can become art if you have imagination enough.
Even live, video conferencing communication.
Phan’s videos are obviously pre-recorded, which lets her indulge the storytelling element of her work. The same is true for the most popular video bloggers on YouTube’s subscription leader board.
Presenters like PewDiePie, with his 54 million subscribers (and around 10,000 more added every day), NigaHiga (19 million), and HolaSoyGerman (31 million) have created their own genre of amateur media, built on rapid-fire editing, multimedia visuals, altered backgrounds, and an understanding of lighting and webcams.
They’re known as social media influencers for their ability to guide the thinking and purchases of their followers. The biggest influence they’ve had, however, is on their own field, and on the expectations of live-streaming audiences.
A static talking head is no longer an acceptable way to communicate online, and with the affordability of the tech behind the tricks, it’s possible to recreate their showmanship within a personal and business setting.
How to Change Your Video Background
As with all things video, there are both software and hardware avenues to making your own presentations more professional and modern.
We’ve previously discussed the depth-of-field cameras and software that can remove a video caller from their background and replace it with something more spectacular–solutions such as Personify, Real Sense, and the more affordable Logitech C922 webcam.
There are also a load of free video editors available that can not only cut your pre-recorded videos into tighter entertainment pieces, but also allow you to alternate between backgrounds during a live video call or stream. And you can even use downloadable apps that work with your existing camera to create a virtual webcam that changes the appearance of a live stream or video call. This includes apps like AlterCam and ManyCam–although these aren’t as powerful as the hardware or editing suite options.
You can create your own DIY green screen with solid lighting and, well, a green curtain or fabric, some green paper, or even just a stretch of grass to make it easier to edit around your form.
With a quality microphone and camera setup, and a stylish background/presentation, you’re ready to turn your own video calls and live streams into works of art–PewDiePie uses a Blue Spark condenser microphone (around $200) and a Logitech Quickcam Pro 9000 camera (you’ll have to search eBay), if you want to follow in YouTube’s most popular footsteps.
Putting Your Best Face Forward
Once you’ve embraced some new technology and have a professional-looking presentation around you, the rest is up to your imagination.
If you’re among the growing number of telecommuters, you might want to use your new background to change your home office into a more professional space. Something like Michelle Phan’s solid pastels is a nice upgrade over the tired-looking bookshelf in your room, and let you express a little personality without it becoming distracting.
In a business-to-client or business-to-business video call setting, you could get more adventurous and include pre-recorded marketing videos, product demonstrations, or virtual tours of your office. You might incorporate the background into your pitch, cycling through images or videos, or even stepping out of frame for a second to let the video speak for itself.
And if you’re looking to start your own live video blog there are no limits at all to the static, pre-recorded or even live action displays you can put up behind you to enhance your performance.
However you use the background altering technology, however, take a lesson from the best YouTubers, and consider your screen a canvas and yourself an artist.