🦊 Leveling Up Your Video

Quick Brown Fox #54 — Upgrading your home video setup, building self-awareness, and knowing your audience

Hey friends,

I hope you’re doing well and taking good care of yourselves. I recently found an outdoor pool nearby and went for a swim for the first time in over a year. I love swimming, and have really missed it in my life. I love the refreshing sensations, the meditative lull of silence, and the escape from all obligations. It feels so great to be back in the water.

Here in America, it’s been heartening to see that vaccines are being distributed even faster than expected. A lot of us are happily surprised to see that we might actually be getting things under control. When I imagine things going “back to normal,” I can’t say I’m eager to jump back into every aspect of my pre-pandemic life. The exception is the swimming pool — I’m thrilled to dive back in.

Leveling Up Your Video

Earlier this week, I upgraded my home video setup. I've been thinking about doing it for a while now, and decided the time is finally right. It’s been over a year of working from home, and I don’t plan to stop anytime soon, so it made sense for me to invest more into my home office.

Beyond the equipment adjustments, I found there’s also a mental adjustment needed when switching to a DSLR camera for your webcam. Recording yourself in high resolution is great until you realize every detail of your face is more visible for the world to see. It hasn’t been a major issue for me so far, but I’m still staying cognizant of it. I’ve been telling myself for a while that my gray hairs are ‘startup battle scars’ — they’re a part of me, and I have no reason to hide them.

When I first got my DSLR setup, it looked good, but I realized there was room for improvement. I moved around some of my lights, tweaked the camera settings, and was able to make a pretty drastic improvement in the overall quality. To give you a sense of the tweaks, here’s a before and after:

The camera used in both photos is exactly the same (Sony A6000 + 35mm f/1.8 lens). The difference is that I added a new light in front of me, moved the floor lamp to behind me, and tweaked the ISO settings to get the full Bokeh effect. It served as a reminder that lighting is always the key to good videography, photography, illustration, and animation. In case you’re looking to upgrade your own setup, I made a video documenting mine that might be helpful:

WFH Video Setup: Optimizing Lighting and DSLR Settings (11 mins) — I do some quick comparisons w/ my old webcam and the DSLR with/without lighting. Also, I briefly talk about how to pick a lens (aperture + focal length) in as simple terms as possible. I include all the links to my gear in the video description.

As much as I liked the new polished setup, I wanted to ensure it didn’t stop me from publishing videos freely. So, to kick off some additional momentum, I recorded two videos that I also want to share with you:

How to Build Self-Awareness (17 mins) — As a response to my open call for questions in a recent newsletter, reader Florian Maganza asked me for any advice I have on increasing self-awareness. I loved this question! This is an important topic for me, and is something I actively prioritize in a number of ways, including my writing. Self-awareness allows me see what is happening in the moment and notice patterns over time. In this video, I talk through my approach embracing perception (noticing moments) and reflection (reviewing patterns) with practices like daily mindfulness, meditation, journaling and writing online.

Knowing Your Audience Clarifies Your Creativity (5 mins) — We often think that understanding our audience means we can distribute our work more effectively. That’s important, but audience clarity can also serve as a guide to help us during the creative process. I share a few thoughts on how thinking about my frame, and who I want to speak to helped me write a recent essay.

Innovation by Subtraction

I loved this thread from Ethan Mollick on the power of innovating by simply removing something. He references a paper about how people systematically overlook subtractive changes: “Defaulting to searches for additive changes may be one reason that people struggle to mitigate overburdened schedules, institutional red tape, and damaging effects on the planet.”

Simon Stålenhag demonstrated this concept wonderfully with this render, reminding us that the famous Star Wars character Han Solo is simply a cowboy without a hat:

I’ll leave you with the timeless words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, who articulated this concept perfectly:

A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

Until next time,


🌎 salman.io | 🐦 @daretorant