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Talking-head Videos: Complete Guide With Examples & Tips

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Talking-head Videos: Complete Guide With Examples & Tips

Do you need a resource to help you create high-quality talking-head videos?

While it can be simple to produce these videos, it can also be easy to screw them up. And bad videos can hurt your business and brand.

In this article, we’ve pitched in to help you create engaging and well-produced talking-head videos. 

So let’s begin. 

What is a talking-head video?

A talking-head video is one where someone speaks directly into the camera. This person is usually a ‘Subject Matter Expert’ (SME), an interviewer, or an interviewee. 

In these videos, the shots are taken from the chest or waist upwards, with the subject seated or standing. It’s also common for the subject to look straight into the camera, but on occasion — like in interview-style videos — the person may look slightly to the side. 

Enough theory — let’s look at some examples of different talking-head video types.

Successful talking-head video examples

Explainer Videos

Explainer videos are the most common type of talking-head videos. In these videos, a subject matter expert usually explains a topic or concept in detail to an audience.

Below is the most common example of an explainer talking-head video. In this video, popular YouTuber Ali Abdaal gives his take on what he believes is The Real Secret of Productivity.

The next example is also a talking-head video, but with more B-rolls, sound effects, and other relevant images interspersed throughout the video.

Interviews

The use of talking-head videos is also common in interviews.

This old interview with Tom Cruise is a good example of a talking-head interview video. Note that neither the host nor Cruise look directly to the camera, but they both look slightly sideways, as is common in such videos.

Customer testimonials and case studies

Product testimonials and case studies usually have talking-head video moments sprinkled throughout the video. 

This video from Monday.com is a great example.

Corporate Videos

Talking-head videos feel more personal and intimate than other styles of video. That’s why they are the most effective way to communicate with employees, customers, and shareholders.

Corporate talking-head videos can be enhanced by using B-roll footage and upbeat music (like the below example) to increase engagement and tell a story. 

Advantages of talking-head videos

Lower production costs

In addition to being engaging, talking-head videos don't cost a fortune to produce. Sure, you can add animation, video footage, images, and sound effects to your video — which of course increases costs. But a pure talking-heads video is one of the cheapest and most effective ways to use video in your business.

To make a talking-head video, you just need a camera, a script, a human, and a video editing tool. No other fancy-schmancy talking-head video production tools are necessary.

Builds a strong connection with your audience

As we mentioned earlier, a talking-head video does an excellent job of building a connection with your audience. Videos such as whiteboards and animation have their own advantages, but in terms of building trust and credibility, talking-head videos are king. 

And people like doing business with companies they trust and find credible. 

Great for microlearning

If you've ever taken a course where each video was between 2-5 minutes long, you'll know what microlearning is. It’s a type of learning that is typically delivered in short, bite-sized pieces that people can listen to at their own convenience. 

Talking-heads videos are the ideal format for microlearning videos. It’s also very easy to make these videos — especially with software like Riverside.fm. You can record an hour-long presentation and break it down into different clips, or use footage from a Q&A session and cut it up into smaller segments. 

This allows your viewers to consume content in bite-sized chunks if they are too busy to watch long videos.

Disadvantages of talking-head videos

They can be boring

Watching human faces is nice and all, but there’s a reason we also like videos with animations and visual effects. 

Our brains crave novelty, so having a human talk and talk for more than 10+ minutes can get boring (unless the person is charismatic and can capture the audience's attention). 

Awkwardness

Talking-head videos can also sometimes be awkward, especially if the person speaking isn't natural in front of the camera.

Not suitable for all styles of learning

Some people learn more from visual explanations. Others learn better through reading. Since talking videos lack visual and written cues, it’s hard for such people to learn purely through a talking video. 

How do you make a talking-head video setup?

To make a compelling talking-head video, you need to keep the following things in mind: 

  • Script
  • Video Lighting
  • Framing

How to write a script for a talking-head video

Step 1: Write a video brief

To make an effective video, you need to know your objectives for the video. You can find this out by asking yourself these questions:

  • What is the purpose of the video?
  • Who is your target viewer?
  • What action do you want your viewers to take?
  • Which platform do you plan to upload the video on?
  • What value does your video bring to your viewers?

Take some time to come up with answers to the above questions. Doing this will give you an idea of what to include in the script on a broad level. 

Step 2: Follow the Basic Plot Structure

The Basic Plot Structure is the best way to structure your talking-head videos. Here are the five parts to a basic plot structure:

  1. Introduction — Introduce yourself, your company, your product, or your topic. Give some background information on any of these.
  2. Hook — Suck your viewer in with a question, story, statistic, or anything that makes them hungry to watch the video further. 
  3. Rising Action — This is where you will present the main points you wish to convey to your audience.
  4. Climax — Here, you should wrap up your main points with a satisfying conclusion that ends the video. You can summarize points previously made and give additional tips and takeaways. 
  5. Resolution — This is where you conclude your video with a call to action. You can also thank your viewers, ask them to subscribe, and add a final note here. 

Let’s look at an example video (below) and see how the plot structure plays out in an actual video.

  1. Hook (0:00–0:08) — The unique thing about this video is it starts with the hook and then goes to the introduction.  In this section, Nick piques the interest of the audience in this segment by driving curiosity. His audience consists of budding YouTubers eager to learn how many videos they need to create to grow their YouTube presence. And here, Nick promises to give them just that information. 
  2. Introduction (0:09–0.25) — The segment includes a call to action for viewers to subscribe and an introduction to him and his channel. 
  3. Rising Action (0:26–3:29) — This is where Nick dives into the heart of the video and explains how many videos a YouTuber should make to grow their channel.
  4. Climax (3:30–3:43) — Here, Nick wraps up the video with a concluding statement/tip. 
  5. Resolution (3:43-3:53)  — Nick ends the video with a call to action to watch other videos on his channel.

Step 3: Additional Tips for Crafting the Right Script

Be conversational in your scripts

Talk TO your audience, not AT them. 

So, what does this mean?

It means that you don’t preach to your audience like a know-it-all. Instead, treat them like a friend to whom you are explaining things to. 

Focus on one message

Is your video meant to inform YouTubers about the number of videos they need to make to increase their presence on YouTube? 

Then stick to that topic ONLY — don't veer off into a tangent on how to increase click-through rates.

Focus on only one message. 

How to set up lighting for a talking-head video

A good video lighting setup for a talking-head video ideally requires three light sources (the three-point lighting setup):

1. The key light (mandatory) — If you want good lighting, you need a key light. In a talking-head video, this is the light that’s at the front or slightly to the side. 

To create depth and contrast on the subject's face, position the light at a 45° angle. This will illuminate one side of the face while creating shadows on the other.

For key lights, you can use natural light like sunlight or professional lighting. If necessary, you can diffuse the light with an umbrella. You can also use warmer or cooler lighting if your setup allows it.

2. The fill light (good to have) — The purpose of the fill light is to soften the shadows produced by the key light. Artificial light or a reflector is used to achieve this.

3. The backlight (good to have) — The backlight (or rim light) is placed behind the speaker, opposite the key light. 

It is usually placed high enough that it’s out of the shot, and it faces downwards. A backlight emphasizes the subject's contours and separates them from the background.

Neither the fill light nor the backlight is more important than the other; it just depends on the kind of look you want your shot to have. 

You can get all three lights as a kit on Amazon

Now, there’s a fourth light you can add to your setup — and that’s background lights.  These can be studio lights, lamps, or even natural sunlight. Their purpose is to make the background brighter. 

Accent lighting can also be used as background lights to complement the background and add color. 

How to frame a talking-head video?

In a talking-head explainer video, the Subject Matter Expert should look straight into the camera for maximum audience engagement. They should also be dead center in the middle. 

The shot should be taken from the speaker’s mid-stomach or mid-chest upwards. In addition, you should leave 2 inches between the top of the speaker's head and the top of the frame.

For interview videos, use the rule of thirds. 

Imagine the screen has two vertical lines that divide it into three columns of equal width. If the subject is looking to the right of the screen, place them at the center of the first line. If the subject is looking at the left of the screen, place them in the center of the second line.

Having clutter in the background makes the shot unattractive, so make it’s neat and tidy. If possible, you could also add complementary colors in the background to compliment your clothes and skin tone, or clothes. 

How to film a talking-head video?

Step 1: Prepare your content

Write a good script with the help of the tips we mentioned above. 

You should also create a storyboard with a shot list that describes:

  • The different individuals that will be present in different shots. 
  • The location of each shot. 
  • The different visual elements, including props, graphics, background, etc. 
  • Your plan for shooting the scene. Will the shot require a zoom-up or a long shot of the presenter? Will there be lots of edits in the scene, or will it be one continuous shot?

Step 2: Prepare your recording environment

Step 3: Start Recording

There are two ways you could record.

You can record directly into the camera and edit the video in post-processing. 

Or you can record using software like Riverside.fm to record remotely. With remote recording software like Riverside, you can capture footage in 4K and record the video locally. 

Step 4: Edit your video

Use video editing software like Final Cut Pro X or Premiere Pro to edit the video elements of your video. For audio editing, you can use Audacity, GarageBand, or Adobe Audition.

How to record a talking-head video on an iPhone 

To record a talking-heads video on an iPhone, use either your front cam or back cam. We recommend the latter as the quality is better. To further improve video quality, we recommend you enable HDR mode. 

Avoid using your phone’s mic for recording audio. Use some of the more professional mics we mentioned here.

For recording talking-heads online interviews or podcasts on an iPhone, Riverside.fm's mobile app is a great choice. You can record in 4K locally and live-stream your podcast to social media or major streaming platforms. 

5 Tips on how to make talking-head videos more engaging

Use storytelling

Stories make you feel as if you are experiencing the events in the story firsthand. So if someone describes eating a chocolate cake, the listener’s sensory cortex lights up. Similarly, if someone recounts a workout they did recently, the listener’s motor cortex lights up. 

Remember, though, that storytelling isn’t great for all types of videos, especially short explainer videos. However, it can have a huge impact on your audience for longer videos. 

Put energy into your talking-head videos

Videos with passionate and energetic presentations get more views. Conversely, having a lifeless and monotonous presentation in your videos will be the bane of your brand. 

Speak to their emotions

A study has found that videos that go viral usually evoke the following emotions in viewers:

  • Curiosity
  • Admiration
  • Amazement
  • Interest
  • Astonishment
  • Uncertainty

So try to convey these emotions in your videos.

Be authentic

No one likes content that’s salesy, manipulative, or inauthentic. To make people trust your brand, be as authentic as possible. 

Use repetitions

Repeating an idea more than once can make your content more persuasive — as long as the idea is approached through multiple angles and not repeated verbatim. 

Psychologists believe that this is due to the “Familiarity Principle” developed by researcher and psychologist Robert Zajonc. The principle states that the more we are exposed to an idea, the more we feel that the idea is familiar and thus trustworthy and true. 

Viewing an idea or concept from multiple perspectives us understand it better. And the more we understand a topic, the more likely we’re likely to believe that it’s true.

Humor

Use humor to hook your audience. It can be added either in your script, in your presentation, or through funny b-rolls (as is popular with many YouTubers). 

Getting humor right is tricky, so just run by the script with someone else, as what you find funny, someone else won’t 

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