Step by step guide to creating and using video to engage your learners
In this 2,500 word article, Paul develops the rationale behind creating video and the benefits this medium brings to the world of Learning and Development.
Paul argues that all modern trainers should be adequately skilled to produce their own video and have the technical capability to produce, edit and distribute this exciting training medium.
Paul will take you through how to produce “down and dirty” video using your Smartphone or webcam and then shows you how to set up your own video studio in a cost effective way being able to produce professional video output.
Six variations of delivering information and skills via video are dissected and techniques and tips are shared putting you light years’ ahead in your own development and finally, Paul shows you how you can edit the final video and deliver to your learners via the web.
All very practical advice which you can use the very next day in your trainings.
Why should I create video?
Before I start showing you’re the how to create great video, let me share with you why you ought to be doing this.
Firstly I believe that all trainers, be they corporate or self-employed, should be technically capable of using the internet to aid learning and development. I’m not saying you need to be a coder or flash programmer, but you do need to be able to find your way around web based applications and software and have a solid appreciation of the cloud and Learning Management Systems.
This leads onto video. Video is not new. Many of us use DVDs on our courses, YouTube clips and online video to present ideas and concepts. But how many of us actually create video and use these clips on our courses or in our blended learning delivery.
Learners consume video every day. The ubiquitous use of Smartphones and Tablets mean that everyone has the capability to devour video. People now prefer to watch a video than read a web page, YouTube is the second most popular search engine, after Google, and is particularly popular with the Generation Y. And video can paint a thousand words.
More importantly video can capture a presentation and can be consumed by thousands of people simultaneously. Can be paused, re-wound, replayed. Can you do that with a live trainer?
Video is great for eLearning, can be delivered via your LMS, is engaging and expected by the tech savvy learner. If we don’t provide video, we’re falling behind the curve.
Let’s take a look at how. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how easily it can be learnt.
How do I create video?
There are essentially two ways of creating video. Outsourcing the whole project to a dedicated production firm or DIY – do it yourself. Outsourcing is where most firms go but this option is hugely expensive and will only allow you to produce limited footage but the output is always first class.
DIY is less expensive and gives you far more control. There are three ways you can do this. Equip a studio with all the equipment you need, use your Smartphone or use your laptop or PC webcam.
Your Smartphone will produce decent video which can be edited using software to produce a reasonable final result. Do get yourself some sort of tripod. For a couple of pounds you can buy a tripod that’s specifically designed for Smartphones. I picked one up this year from eBay and use it for learners to record their own videos on my courses. The tripod stops the jerkiness that will occur without.
Smartphones can be used “selfie” style to record you talking about your topic on location if you wish. I’m often seen walking my dogs self-recording myself sharing a selling tip or idea. It adds realism to the footage, integrity that studio video doesn’t have. The major downfall is sound, it’s just second rate. You can buy lavaliere microphones for £50 that solve the problem and give your video professional sound. But these are fiddly and remove the portability advantage of the phone.
The other problem is transferring the video onto your PC or laptop for editing. Many Smartphones upload videos to cloud storage and since video sizes are enormous, this process can be very cumbersome. It’s best to tether your Smartphone to your PC and transfer the footage by cable.
These come installed in tablets, laptops and can be purchased for a few pounds for PCs. They produce good quality footage and are easily edited because the files reside on your PC after recording. But the outputs just look like webcam videos. People don’t look at the camera when they record themselves, preferring to look at the screen and the output looks stilted, just a trainer talking to the computer.
Backgrounds generally are poor, maybe a bookshelf or a blank wall.
You can record your Skype output easily enough. For £20 you can buy software that will capture your Skype video conversation with someone and output it as a movie file.
I’ve done this very successfully when interviewing experts or SMEs. Recently I interviewed on Skype, for an hour, the UK’s most successful protection salesperson. I used the software to capture the interview and created a series of clips which had both of our images side by side. The audio was OK and it had a sense of excitement and edginess which made it very engaging.
If you want to be able to produce a wide variety of videos, then you really want to invest in a studio with the capability to record video at will. Later I’ll show you six types of video which will add variety to the mix and you can only do all of these if you have a fully kitted out studio.
Ideally your studio should be large enough to house all the kit, should have the ability to control outside lighting and should have an element of sound proofing as well. Corporate trainers will be thinking of a spare room, self-employed cousins will be thinking of a spare bedroom, garage or study.
Depending on your budget you can sound proof the walls with carpets or specialised wall coverings and buy blackout blinds to obscure all outside lighting. Or you can just close the windows and ask everyone nearby to keep quiet.
You do need a minimum of equipment to be able to produce video and here’s your shopping list in no particular order:
- A giant whiteboard to produce whiteboard style videos
- A green screen background to produce Chroma Key or green screen video
- A camera. Spend well here, opt for a prosumer model, but most modern camcorders will produce really good HD video. Make sure it records to an SD card so you can conveniently transfer the final footage to the PC. Don’t use the on camera editing tools, use software on your PC.
- Tripods for the camera.
- Autocue device such as a tablet. You position this using a gadget that attaches itself to the tripod so the autocue is just below camera level. Autocues are useful if you haven’t memorised the presentation or talk that you’re videoing.
- Lavaliere microphones wirelessly connected to your camera. Sound taken from the camera is second rate. Your learners will forgive you for second rate footage but will be less forgiving with lousy sound. You can buy a directional external microphone that sits on top of the camera but a lapel microphone allows you to move around and still pick up excellent sound.
- Lighting. This is the most important aspect in creating truly professional video. As a minimum you’ll need two or three hard “barn door” style lights that can illuminate your green screen and whiteboard plus softer lighting to illuminate your subjects face and body. Google lighting and you’ll find dozens of companies that’ll advise you. I spent around £300 on lighting.
- Editing software for your PC. These are not expensive, around £100. Don’t rely on your PC’s free offering, these don’t have the features you need. More on this later.
- A very powerful PC that can cope
What kind of videos should I create?
I’m going to share with you six varieties of video that you can produce in your studio. Remember variety is key to learner engagement.
Everyone likes an expert and you can very easily interview an expert and record the footage. I mentioned using Skype earlier but an alternative is to studio record the interview. You can fix up the camera with a directional microphone and just interview your expert with both of you in front of the camera.
A more engaging way is to video your head asking the questions and then switch the camera and video your expert’s head providing the answers to the questions. Ensure you position the camera so it stays to the left or right of the eye line of the two people talking, giving the impression of a seamless interview.
With your editing software you can cut the clips and sequence them in the correct order.
My favourite and very professional. I’m sure you’ve seen these. A trainer appears to the left of the video screen with an ever changing background. Backgrounds can be movie clips, photos, descriptive words or animations and these all add to the message and provide a visual aid to the learner.
Essentially you create a green backdrop to the trainer speaking to the camera. Cover the back wall with a green cloth or buy a stand that’ll allow you to drape a green cloth behind you. When you edit the clip on your PC, you remove the green image which makes the clip transparent. You then add your new background to suit. Render the whole thing to a finished video and you have green screen video.
Here you present to the camera using the whiteboard behind you to illustrate your topic. Very engaging and can be used to present complex topics in the same way as you would present in the classroom.
It’s best if the whiteboard occupies the whole video screen to give the impression of a whiteboard studio and the trainer stands to one side, not the middle. There’s a rule of thirds in video and the presenter should occupy the left or right side of the picture.
Use a lavaliere or lapel microphone so that sound is picked up even when the trainer has her back to the camera.
Very similar but you use a TV to your side with a PowerPoint presentation. The downfall is that you need to cart a TV into the studio. I find it a whole lot easier and more engaging to put the PowerPoint presentation as the background on a green screen video.
However, if you’re bringing in other trainers to be recorded, many are only comfortable if they can use their PowerPoint deck as part of their presentation and that’s totally fine if it helps them present well.
Cartoons and animations
These are fun to produce and even more engaging to watch. You can present something complex in a cartoon storyline and your learners will love it.
Many think you need to be a cartoonist or a flash programmer to encode cartoon videos but you don’t. You do need software but you only need to spend around £75 to buy software capable of having moving cartoon characters, backgrounds and words whizzing around the screen. Add a music track and you have a very appealing piece of video.
PowerPoint will do this for you if you know about animation movements and rendering a deck to video.
I particularly like the hand-drawn videos you see on YouTube. These involve a hand mysteriously drawing and writing words narrated in the background or left with music for the learner to read. Again you can buy inexpensive software to do this for you.
A Prezi presentation narrated and captured to video can be extremely attractive way of sharing information with learners.
Software is needed to screen capture and to turn the finished result into video. Set up the pathways in your Prezi and literally present it on the computer talking to the microphone as you would an audience.
The final result is very effective.
How do I edit the video?
As I mentioned earlier you need to purchase software to render the video and take an online class on how to use it well. Many blemishes can be cleaned up with the software, bad sounds and noises can be removed. You can increase the volume, cut sections out, tidy up the beginning and end, add music for the introduction.
You can’t create green screen video without software. Here you add backgrounds of your choosing to spice up the final edit.
The final role of the software is to render the finished item into a file type that can be viewed by the learner. There are a huge variety of file types to use. High Definition, wide screen, these are all choices. You can also shrink the file size which is the honourable thing to do if your learner is going to stream the video over the internet.
Don’t under estimate the PC you need. Video rendering software is power and resource hungry. You need a massively fast processor, huge memory and an enormous hard-drive. A dedicated PC for video rendering is a must. You can’t do it on a sub powered PC or laptop.
How does my learner view the video?
Gone are the days of creating DVDs or cassettes for the learner to view your videos. That’s so last century. Nowadays your learner will want to stream the video over the internet. They will want to use their phone or tablet to watch the clips you produce or a laptop. This all depends on your IT set up in your company.
As a minimum you’ll want somewhere to store your videos in the cloud. You may wish to store them on the company’s servers and provide links so your learners can stream them over the intranet.
If you have a Learning Management System, links can be provided to learners through this medium.
YouTube is a popular cloud storage but it’s very public. You could open an account with Vimeo which allows unlimited storage and very powerful playback features and you can password protect them or only allow people with a link to see them.
Have a look at my YouTube Channel – www.paularcher.tv – you can see how my videos have evolved over the last 6 years. The earlier ones are horrendous looking at them now but this serves to illustrate the learning curve I’ve been on over the last few years.
YouTube and Vimeo give you code that you can put onto your website or blog so that people can view the videos from there, that way you can provide other media such as handouts or PDF documents to read or download to accompany the video.
This has been a whistle stop tour of how to create videos for the modern training professional. You don’t need an enormous budget, just some creativity some tech awareness and the motivation to want to learn and get better with time.
My advice is just to start and keep evolving. You’ll make mistakes but get better and better. I did.
The future of learning and development will move to a web based video based environment so we might as well get good at it now.