If you’re a newcomer to vlogging, and you’re asked to dress a vlog set, a vlog background, your natural instinct might be to fancy it up. Similarly, if the vlog is topic-specific, you may want to gather numerous items related to that topic in the background. But you may be surprised to learn that these approaches are counterproductive in a vlog, and that something closer to the opposite is best, that less is more.
For the most part, these vlogs constitute interesting, appealing personalities openly sharing their daily lives with the world on camera, in almost daily episodes, showing us their home lives, taking us shopping with them, taking us on road trips, giving advice, leading by example, inspiring. Some vlogs are more topic-specific, centered on a particular activity, such as cooking, video-game play, working out, makeup design, and gardening. But no matter what type of vlog, the vlogger speaks directly into the camera the whole time, usually for around fifteen minutes, and opens up to you. Even in a topic-specific vlog, such as a book review vlog, the vlogger explains why he or she likes a book, shares personal stories, opens up—and the audience connects!
I. Don’t Distract
So, the reason for “less is more” has to do with the fact that a vlog’s attraction is, specifically, the vlogger. The vlogger speaks directly to the audience, tries to make eye contact. If I like the vlogger, I may be glued to my seat.
Specifically in stationary shots, too much going on in the background can distract from the vlogger. A hundred family photos, your entire DVD collection, the table of elements, an eye exam poster, all these don’t make for the best backgrounds, not if you want me looking at you. Such busy backgrounds also aren’t easy on the eyes for extended periods. But even just one thing screaming for attention can distract from the vlogger. If you have a big Bruce Lee poster hanging behind you, you can be sure my eyes will keep drifting to it, and your voice may be lost on me.
And in non-stationary shots, like when you’re walking us up the supermarket aisle or pumping your gas, pretty much anything goes because such action in a scene complements the reality aspect of vlogs and is in itself entertaining.
What do others think?
- Make sure your set isn’t cluttered. Keep it simple. —Amani Channel, webvideochefs.com
- One thing is sure regardless of your content, make sure your background isn’t cluttered… —Aisling Green, klood.com
- The less cluttered, the better… —Jennifer Wilkov, rachellegardner.com
- I also have cluttered backgrounds behind me. Sure, it makes me look “real,” but it’s also distracting. —Rae Votta, (describing a failed attempt) dailydot.com
- A quick way to appear more professional is to place a black backdrop. It removes the clutter from the background so the viewer can focus on what you are saying. —Eric McClatchy, viddler.com
Ever watch a stand-up comedy act with a distracting background?
II. What, then, is the Ideal Setup?
So, don’t distract from the vlogger. But what else is there to consider, additionally? What is the ideal setup?
Consider that many successful vlogs often simply have a single-color backdrop, such as long, rich-looking, purple window drapes.
Consider that some get more decorative and put up that Bruce Lee poster or two, but in a subtle way, showing only a corner of it, or a hint of a painting or book shelf, just enough to add some flavor, some seasoning, but not take over the shot. Showing only a portion of an object is a common approach that sits well on the eye.
Some in the audience may feel better with a single-color backdrop behind them, some with a corner of a painting, but ultimately, don’t worry too much about this. The audience cares only about the vlogger. You’ll even find that a cluttered background is easily forgivable if you like the vlogger. It’s just best avoided. So, pretty much anything that isn’t too distracting or bothersome is sufficient. A vlog is not dependent on how pleasing your background is or how fancy your camera work. For example, with more than five million subscribers, you would think a vlogger like Roman Atwoods uses the latest and greatest camera, but on the contrary, he often uses a small point-and-shoot that’s fairly affordable. Perhaps, the more “normal” the vlog is, the closer to home it feels, in line with the reality aspect of vlogs. How do you prefer to Skype or Google-Chat—with Hollywood set design and cinematography in front of you, or with just your friend’s face in front of you?
These are basic guidelines. Consider them but don’t limit yourself to them. Perhaps you know a better way, or will discover one. I welcome you to comment and share. And if you have a vlog or are starting one, I salute you and offer you best wishes!