Lightboard, Camera, Action

Exactly a year ago, I wrote this post on how to make a lightboard for less than $100.  The post has been visited nearly 7000 times in the first year.  I thought it was time to provide an update on tips I have learnt in the last year.  If you are new to the lightboard, you should check out the other post first.

What the research says:

There is currently no evidence based research on the efficacy of the lightboard.  However, recent research (Fiorella and Mayer 2017) found that videos where the instructor writes and draws in real time improve learning more than static images such as a PowerPoint screencast video.  Also, they found that videos where the instructor’s hand is visible improves learning more than Khan Academy style videos where the digital ink writes on the screen but the hand is not visible.

Writing and drawing in real time possibly reduces extraneous cognitive load because the information is presented more slowly.  Extraneous cognitive load is any mental effort that does not contribute to the learning goal.  Therefore, presenting all the information at the same time, on a busy PPT slide has a high extraneous cognitive load. 

A recent post on the FLN explains Richard Mayer’s multimedia learning principles.  These principles apply to all video types.  However, some video types are better suited to satisfy the principles.  Regardless of the video types you make, ensure you follow the multimedia learning principles.

Does size matter?:

The board I described in my previous post has been a great workhorse for me.  I even took it to a conference in New Zealand!  However, it is possibly a little small.  My full size studio lightboard is 1600mm x 1200 mm.  It is great, but is possibly larger than you need.  I think the sweet spot is the size of Joel Speranza and Brendan Mitchell’s boards (approximately 1290 x1080mm).

I made one of the same dimensions with a kwilla frame (a hardwood).  It fits in a large SUV and can be just carried by one person.  Joel and Brendan used glass pool fence legs.

(This is 1290x 1080mm, this is on a table that is too high.  A normal high school student desk is ideal)

This is my full size board (1600 x 1200mm).  This obviously requires a larger room.  This room is 4m x 4m.

So ultimately your size will depend on the size of your studio and whether you need the lightboard to be portable.

Glass thickness:

The LED light strips are 10mm wide, so you will need a 10mm channel to house the LED strip.  However, you really don’t need the glass to be that thick- it is too heavy and expensive.  5mm is possibly all you need.  Make sure the glass is toughened if it is in an area where students can access it.

Glass type:

For a really small board, you can get away with using normal window glass.  However, you get far better light penetration from the LED strip lights if you use ultra-clear glass. Ask the glass supplier for Starphire, ultra-clear or low iron glass.

LED Strip lights:

LEDS come in cool white and warm white.  Warm white is a little more orange.  It seems to work well.  The cool white is a little more blue or purple.  It is subtle, and unless you compare them, you would never know there was a difference.  So just get what you can.  Don’t worry about a dimer.  It is most economical to buy a 5m roll of LED strip lighting.  I just buy online from ebay.

Camera settings:

I still maintain that the camera settings are the most important factor for successful videos.  Adjusting the ISO, shutter speed and aperture allows for a totally black backdrop, writing that really pops and the smudges on the glass are invisible.  Every board tends to be different, so you will need to adjust my settings.  I go for an ISO of 200.  I set the shutter speed at 160 and the aperture at 4.5. 

To set up the camera, have your talent stand behind the board, turn on all of your lights.  Then adjust each one of the settings one at a time, up and down as you look at the camera display to see what it does to the image colouring, lighting  etc.  When you have it worked out, write the settings down.

Talent lighting:

You will need to play around and find what looks good for you.  I use LED panels with AC adapters.  They are great.  My photographer friend tells me that soft boxes would produce a kinder light.  That is, not as harsh.  However, the trade-off is that there will be more lighting spilling onto the backdrop.  Try to avoid lighting from below as it looks like horror movie lighting!  I find both sides and top lighting works well.  On my large board, I use two top lights.

Note the two top lights.

Setting up for a shoot:

I am lucky that my studio is always set up.  Even still, I always do a check recording before I get into it.  I turn all the lights on, then record as I stand in place and write my video title on the board and say something.  I then play it back to make sure focus, lighting and audio is all fine.

Set up the boundary of the shot by marking the board with a black or blue whiteboard marker. 


Do not write over your face.  The best way to make sure of this is to stand to one side of the board and write on the other side of the board.

Wear clothing without writing.  Possibly avoid black because it can make you look like a floating head and arms.  Instead go for a single colour like grey.  Remove your lanyard or name tag.

Look at the camera, not the writing and not your reflection in the glass.  Really focus on looking into the camera as much as you can.

Don’t write long paragraphs of text.  The lightboard works best for drawing diagrams and small amounts of written words. 

Plan your video so you don’t write over your face.

Post production:

Here is a link to a video I made on how to do post production using Camtasia Studio 9, and also Filmora.  There are loads of other programs that you can use to flip your video 180 degrees like Adobe Premier Pro.



The lightboard can be a very effective video type.  My students really like it and I enjoy making them too.  There is certainly more set up and post production than other video types.  Research seems to support video types where the instructor is visible writing and drawing in real time.  Of course the lightboard is not the solution for every video you need to make.  For example, if you are demonstrating software, or an experiment or teaching someone how to triangulate a map. 

Be prepared to invest some time in making your lightboard and sorting out the set up and camera settings.  You might be able to get someone to make your board for you.  I have made 4 or 5 boards now and I really love it. 

If you want any further advice, support or encouragement, please feel free to contact me in the comments below, or on Twitter @sciencesteveg, or Youtube- Steve Griffihs or email



Fiorella, L., & Mayer, R. (2015). Effects of observing the instructor draw diagrams on learning from multimedia messages. Journal of Educational Psychology, 108(4), 528.



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