Tips for making a talking-head video that people want to watch

Microphone wearing glasses talking into a camera

While the head is a great device for thinking, keeping hats off the ground, and smashing jewelry-store windows, it's also incredibly well suited for one of the most enduring, popular forms of video: the talking-head video.

Talking head videos are exactly what they sound like: they feature a human head, placed in front of a camera, emitting words. It's compelling because it creates the effect of engaging the viewer in a one-on-one conversation. While talking head videos always require a head, they may also include the speaker’s shoulders, their torso, or if you want to get really wild, their whole body. Don’t get too hung up on the head part — instead, know that this type of video is ideal for all kinds of videos, from reviews of products, books, movies, or whatever, to explainers and tutorials. 

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Benefits of talking-head videos

They’re easy to make

You don’t need fancy camera angles, elaborate sets, or complicated lighting setups. Just sit your host or self down in front of a neutral backdrop, make sure you can see and hear them/you on your cameras and mics, and press record.

They add a human element

We’re naturally drawn to other human heads and engaged by their ability to talk. Tracking someone’s body language in addition to hearing their words can help make the viewer feel like they’re communicating with the presenter instead of just having information thrown at them. 

They’re a familiar format

Everyone knows what to expect from a talking head. We’ve seen a million of them in explainer videos and on documentaries and TV shows. It’s a format that can convey professionalism if you want it to, and keeps the video focused on your content. 

How to make a talking-head video more engaging

The widespread use of smartphones has made talking-head video content more common than ever. You’ll want to make sure your videos are well-produced enough to hold a viewer’s attention in that churning sea of content. So make sure to:

Find good framing with an interesting backdrop

It’s tempting to pick a blank wall for simplicity’s sake. But there is such a thing as too simple, and a plain white background comes off as bland. A bookshelf, a plant, or a wall with some tasteful art on it can add personality and give viewers a sense of intimacy with the presenter. 

Use the right video gear

One of the fastest ways to lose your audience is by delivering a video with fuzzy, poorly lit footage and muddy audio. You don't need anything fancy — if you use Descript, you can just record on your laptop mic and use Studio Sound to make it sound almost perfect — but you should use a decent camera or smartphone. Nabbing a tripod — ideally with a ring light if you’re not going to be filming with a natural light source — will make sure your content looks and sounds professional and polished. 

Write a good script and deliver it naturally

It won’t matter how you sound if what you're saying is confusing, muddled, or delivered in a monotone. Make sure your script is clear and clean, and that you know how to engage viewers with this list of tips.

Film with two cameras

Not critical, but it helps keep the viewer's attention if you can cut back and forth between different shots. One camera should be straight on and fairly close up; the other might be farther away and at a different angle to add variety to your takes. 

Use dynamic edits 

A talking head video doesn’t have to be ALL talking head. Mix it up with punch-ins (that’s a cut that takes you into a close-up shot) and B-roll to make sure the viewer doesn’t get distracted and drift away from your video. 

How to create a talking head video with Descript

Descript has tools to help you with video editing and video production, including a built-in recording feature, intuitive editing, and templates for titles and intros so you can do all of your production in one program. Here’s our step by step guide to making it happen:

1. Record in the app, or import footage 

You can make your life easy by recording straight into Descript, so your footage is there and ready to edit the moment you finish filming. Descript will also allow you to screen record if you need footage of someone using a website or app. But you can also record to your hard drive or phone and import that footage into Descript — it will automatically make a transcript of your video for easy editing. 

Pro tip: since Descript’s video editor is text-based, you can leave yourself a verbal marker when you know you have a take you want to use. Just calling out “keeper” or some other signal word will allow you to ctrl+F in the transcript to find your best takes. 

2. Edit footage in the transcript

You’ll keep using the transcript to edit throughout the process. It’s super intuitive — if you see a word, phrase, or paragraph you want to cut from the footage, you can do that just as easily as you’d edit text in a document. And it’s just as easy to drag-and-drop segments around if you want to restructure things. 

3. Use scenes to add B-roll, music, and more

Once you have everything where you want it, use Descript's scenes feature to create segments — just by clicking the slash key — so you can quickly add B-roll, music, titles, and anything else you want. Scenes work like slides in a PowerPoint, making it super easy to add stuff exactly where you want it in your video without touching the timeline.

4. Add an intro and outro

Scenes also make it easy to give viewers an onramp with an intro — ideally including the title and maybe your logo — and let them know what to do when they’re done watching with a snappy outro. These cues are also good for distinguishing a series of related videos. 

5. Export and share

Descript allows you to export your talking head video in a boatload of file formats, resolutions, and qualities. You can then upload it to the video or social media platform of your choice — YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, whatever. Then sit back and watch the views roll in.

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