It’s happened to all of us at one point or another; you’re recording video and suddenly realize that the objects along the right and left side of your frame appear to bow out a little. You know you didn’t purchase a fisheye filter, but this problem presents itself anyway. This is especially apparent on many webcams or small-lens pocket camcorders that attempt to make the most out of a tiny lens by curving it to give it a wider viewpoint.
This effect is caused by a natural curve in the lens. Some lenses are more flat than others, especially those that are made specifically for macro shooting. So, does this mean you can’t use your camera for taking video? Not exactly. There are several ways you can actually reduce the fisheye effect without tossing out your camcorder of choice.
One of the most obvious solutions is buying a new lens that has a flatter surface. While not all camcorders come with removable or interchangeable lenses, there are some that do. A lens made specifically for close shooting will generally provide a better and more reliable image up close.
If you’re shooting on a webcam, you’ll notice this problem more during wider shots where more background is apparent in your image. If you want to reduce the fisheye effect, try backing off your camera a bit more and doing a slight zoom. This will focus the image on the less rounded center of the lens, giving you a more true overall picture. Unfortunately, many webcams and pocket camcorders only have a digital zoom, making the image less clear and more pixelated.
There are some post-processing tools available through various high-end editing programs out there that can help you combat fisheye in video. Unfortunately, these tools are rarely as accurate as their still-shot counterparts in correcting a bowed moving image.
If you’re noticing a bowing on your forefront subject, your camera may just be too close. Try backing up a bit and providing more space around your subject. Many talking head podcasts will place their primary subject according to the rule of thirds. By positioning them at the point either 1/3 of the way to the right or left of the frame, you allow yourself plenty of room to add graphics such as pictures and videos to help enhance your podcast and improve on overall quality. Being absolutely centered in your video may sound like the optimal way to do it, but there’s a reason you’ll rarely see this done on television.
If all else fails, you can try shooting with a different background. Having straight lines behind you is a sure-fire way to experience noticeable bowing caused by a curved lens. Try a solid background or one that has no discernible shape.