If you've been on the Internet in the past few years, you've probably noticed that a solid black or white background is a popular choice for videos, and for good reason: it's the perfect foundation for showcasing your creativity. You can focus the viewer's attention on your subject by removing visual distractions and use the negative space as an extra plane for graphics or text. And, perhaps unexpectedly, you can evoke a strangely intimate setting for a portrait or interview.
For example, check out this video by Joel Sartore in which he presents a wonderful variety of creatures that pop out from the minimalist background in all their unique shapes and textures:
You might be surprised to find that you don't need an expansive space or expensive equipment to achieve this look. With a sheet of paper or fabric and a few lights, you can give your video a really polished feel.
For a black background: Start by hanging a large piece of black fabric on a wall. Fabric is better than paper for a black background because fabric tends to absorb light, and paper tends to reflect light — here you want to absorb as much ambient light as possible. Professional photography stores sell official “black background” fabric, but a black bed sheet should work fine, and will save you money. Set up one or two lights pointing toward your subject, several feet in front of the black fabric. You don't want any of that light splashing onto the background itself, so keep these lights angled toward what your camera will focus on.
Check out these tips by Caleb Pike — he explains what to keep in mind and shows that you can create a solid black background in a small space:
A white background is slightly more complicated to set up, but you should still be able to do it at home. Start by hanging a large sheet of white paper — it reflects light and you'll want to knock out as many shadows as you can. You'll need several lights; clamp work lights work well, and are pretty cheap at your local hardware store. Point the lights toward the white paper from different directions, and place more lights a few feet in front of the white background, between the camera and your subject.
Here's a great video by Videopia that illustrates the white background studio setup:
Editing software also can help you create a solid background. Get some pointers from Dave Dugdale here:
Next time you're browsing videos or watching regular old TV, keep an eye out for black and white backgrounds and remember to not be intimidated by the pro studio look. You can make it happen in your own home!