Perfect is the enemy of goodVoltaire, 1770.
The same goes for instructors making video for students. Many of you have asked what I use to make videos.
- Microphone: Equitek e100, AKG C1000 or whatever I feel like that day
- Zoom F4 multitrack field recorder in USB Audio Interface mode
- Fujifilm X-T3
- Small rig clamp connected to my Dell monitor
- Edit in Adobe Premiere Pro
- Sweeten audio and remove noise in Adobe Audition
- Neewer 660 LED lighting with a softbox
But that doesn’t mean that you need to do this. You don’t. This is just a part of my professional practice and my personal interest.
You can make great videos with things you already have at your disposal.
First of all if you’re just starting out, it’s probably more helpful to think about what will make
your video more successful for your learners. Really, the success or failure of your video is going to be hinged on:
- Is your video just in time for your students
- Does your video capture a process or convey an idea correctly
- Whether the content is planned and well organized
- Whether the video serves the learning outcomes of the course
- Does your video meet the minimum required fidelity
What makes great videos or rather what kind of videos do people actually watch?
Generally speaking the research over the last few years has shown that people watch shorter videos. If you look at average engagement versus video length the boundary point is generally 12 minutes. If you go over 12 minutes you’re heading into the danger zone.
Chunk your Content
If you’re going to deliver a long lecture you may want to break it up into chunks: this allows your learners to digest that material in smaller pieces. It’s also good for you because if something goes wrong with your video with the capture of it you haven’t actually spent a whole bunch of time talking to a camera that’s not actually recording anything.
I discovered the first time I did this video I didn’t turn on my audio recorder.
Make a Plan
You should make a plan for your videos whether that’s a quick text-based OneNote document or storyboard or sketching out a few point form notes. Just make some kind of plan: even if you deviate from it you’ve got an idea of what’s going to happen and the ideas you want to
Balance Planning with Spontaneity
Plan, but be a real person. You should have videos that balance the right amount of planning and
spontaneity so that your viewers can connect with you as a person.
Students want your presence in the course and one of the ways in which you provide presence is through video. Being a real person in the video will help make that connection with your students.
Try Different Approaches
You should try to use several different approaches in making your videos. For example, if you’re trying to demonstrate a process what you might find helpful is to document the process first.
Shoot it with your camera and then narrate it afterwards. Quite often, it’s
unnatural for you to narrate something as you do it – people don’t do that in real life – unless you’re my daughter who is a Gen Z.
Aim for the Minimum Required Fidelity
Earlier I talked about the minimum required fidelity and honestly for most people that’s 1080p HD video: any smartphone will shoot 1080p HD video from the rear camera and probably from the front facing camera as well. Every iPhone since 2011 shoots 1080p HD video and the quality of this video is pretty remarkable. One handy thing about smartphones is that they have screens that you can see, so that you can monitor your video. My Fujifilm X-T3 – which I love – doesn’t have a flip around screen.
There’s no need to shoot in 4k footage. Qualities of 4K:
- Generates larger files requiring larger SD cards and external drive storage
- More difficult for your computer to edit
- Most of your viewers will view your video in 1080p anyway
Read what Tony and Chelsea Northrup have to say about shooting 4K for YouTube:
While you will experience an incremental benefit in quality the number of headaches that you will create in trying to manage that content will slow you down if you don’t have an existing workflow. Until recently, I was editing 4K on a 4 or 5 year old MacBook Pro, and before I could start working on any 4K project, I had to create proxy media. Proxy media is lower quality media only used for rough editing, and not for final output.
What’s most important is being able to create your video as quickly and easily as possible. The easier you make it, the more likely you are to create more videos.
Bad audio will kill your video every single time
It’s been said many times, before but it bears saying it again:
People will tolerate bad video so long as the audio is good but bad audio will kill your video every single time.
No one wants to listen to bad audio. So how do we make sure that we get good audio? Here are a few options.
Get close to the microphone. The further you are away from any microphone – no how matter how good it is – the worse audio quality you will get. You will have more background noise and lower signal-to-noise ratio. I was going to recommend you use the Apple earpods but after testing them I can’t honestly recommend it. (In later tests, my Gen Z daughter was able to get decent results, so Your Mileage May Vary). If you are using your iPhone, here are some low cost options:
- Smartphone based lavalier microphones: there are many lavalier microphones that you can adapt to a smartphone like the Rode Smartlav+
- Small camera mount microphones like the Rode Videomicro. They sometimes come with a windscreen. These too can be adapted to your smartphone albeit with a special TRRS cable. (they usually ship with a TRS stereo mic cable)
Support: smartphone clips and tripods
You will like need a way to support your smartphone and you can buy these clips through various different retailers and they vary in price. The cheapest option is to purchase a selfie stick from the dollar store which usually have the correct tripod screw mount and then attach that to a tripod or some kind of support. This particular model (The Manfrotto Pixi Clamp) has a cold shoe mount so you can mount a microphone to it as well.
If you want that radio sound and you’re only recording audio for voiceovers, you need a large diaphragm condenser microphone. Many models require external +48v phantom power from an audio interface or mixer in order to make it work. Alternatively, you can purchase a USB microphone which is essentially a microphone with a preamp, phantom power (if required), and analog to digital converter built into it so that you can just plug your USB directly into the microphone and away you go.
What can I use for Lighting?
The cheapest lighting is the Sun in the sky. Either sit next to a window with the light shining on your face or to the side, or use the weather app figure out when it’s going to be a nice day and shoot your video outside. You may have difficulty in direct sunlight, only because it will be so bright that you can barely see (and you will either have blown out exposures). Dappled sunlight works or if it’s overcast that will give you essentially very flat lighting, but it’s better than sitting in the dark.
If you want ultimate control over your lighting situation, the best option for you is low-cost LED based lighting panels. These are very popular with YouTubers and they range from very small ones like the Viltrox L116B.
LED video lights have variable intensity (which is very handy) and variable color balance, thus you can balance them your in-home lighting. The small units run off Sony NPF batteries, so they actually don’t even need any power, and run for a surprisingly long time. The Viltrox L116B is a smaller unit, and if you use two of these you can actually shoot completely reasonable videos in a completely dark room with just two.
Again, if you don’t have any of this stuff – don’t worry – sit next to a window, and remember perfect is the enemy of good. Use whatever you have at your disposal and do the best job you can to connect with your students. Through practice you will get better, and your students will appreciate every bit of effort you put into it.
If you like this information, or thought it could be improved in some way, leave a comment or hit me up on Twitter.