How to Turn your Zoom Recording into a TV Talk Show

If you’re looking to improve the look of your recorded Zooms, you don’t have to invest in expensive equipment or hunt down mothballed gear. Here are a few simple ways to simulate the structure of professional television production.

Recording a Zoom conversation is easy. It’s a one-click process. But if you’re looking to create a more controlled visual product that follows the traditional structure of a professional video interview or TV talk show, you’ll need to put on your MacGyver hat and use the Zoom interface a little differently.

It’s all about finding the best way to control which webcam feed is being recorded at any given moment.

Active Speaker View Mode is Faster than Pinning Each Shot
I originally thought it would be better to manually choose shots by ‘pinning’ the appropriate video frame, instead of letting Zoom’s default Active Speaker View follow the voices.

I was wrong.

Frequently pinning different shots ends up being a clunky process that’s slow and can also generate unexplained two-frame video glitches in the recording.

Instead, allowing Active Speaker View to automatically switch back and forth between your shots is faster and yields better results. (another example of the superiority of software over humans)

Use Gallery View as your Wide Shot
Then, all that’s manually left to do is occasionally click back and forth from Active Speaker View to Gallery View to show all of the video frames at once. That simulates what viewers are used to seeing in the wide shot of a TV talk show.

Just be sure to activate ‘Hide Self View’ if you’re not a part of the conversation and simply acting as a behind-the scenes director. You’ll find this option to make your image disappear in the drop-down menu after hovering over your own video box. Then click on the three-little-periods icon in the upper right corner.

Keep it Simple
No, Zoom isn’t really designed to give you the same technical control when recording a multicamera conversation as a traditional video switcher in a TV control room.

And no, you can’t record the individual shots separately to edit together later.

That said, if you simply let Zoom automatically follow the conversation and then occasionally sprinkle in the Gallery View, you’ll get a remarkably decent result.

And that’s all from the comfort of your home, and free for anyone to do.

Don’t worry about the video thumbnails you’ll see on the top of your screen during Active Speaker View. They aren’t recorded. Neither are the names on the bottom of the video frames.

Imperfect but Good Enough
Of course, the overall visual result pales in comparison to shooting a multicamera interview in a professional TV studio, mostly due to the limited quality of webcams, imperfect lighting conditions and cluttered home backgrounds.

But today and for the foreseeable future, webcam video is our new normal. Most everyone has embraced it during this COVID reality show we’ve all been cast in. Of course, I crave the beautiful imagery that professional cinema cameras can generate. We’ll get back to that… one day.

For now, if you want to record a webcam conversation that follows the structure of a studio-based TV talk show, Zoom will easily do that using limited assistance from the human brain and a few important clicks.

It works.

And it’s just another example of why Zoom became a household name overnight.