Video Making Tips

For one of my projects I’m going to have to start making some how to style videos. Because of this I’ was preparing a list of things I needed to do or keep track before making the videos and while in the process of making them. Seeming I haven’t had a load of time to put out a blog post I decided to block some time and get one done.

Making a high quality video is really all about preparation, ensuring your have everything setup and configured properly and you have everything you need. Too many times have I watched demo videos or how to videos and they have been almost impossible to watch or even understand. Below is a list of the things that are required to make good how to videos, but also are probably best practices for many video types.

  1. Have a good headset microphone. If your going to do a lot of talking you should ensure that your coming across well. Microphones built into monitors and laptops suck, and even ‘high quality’ desktop microphones that I’ve seen bundled with motherboards don’t do well. Ensure that your not swallowing the mic and that it’s not to far away from your mouth, you may need to do some test to get the proper position. (I use a Logitech G35 for gaming, but it works well for this too)
  2. Use good capturing software. TechSmith’s Camtasia is the leader in this area, but there are certainly more capturing and recording tools out there. Ensure that your using it properly by doing some dry runs and playing with the features.
  3. Can people see what’s going on? This ties into #2 about using the features of the capturing software. You should zoom in an out when needed or removing unneeded distractions from the screen and increasing the font size. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched a video where someone has Visual Studio out with a tiny font size and all the panes open.
  4. Limit distractions. You know that little cool twitter feed that sits in your taskbar? Close it for the recording, or don’t record that part of your screen. Anything that distracts the viewer from what your presenting doesn’t have a place in your video.
  5. No background noise! If your like me you have a beast of a computer at home with enough fans for it to take off if it wanted to. The hum of those fans, while soothing when your fragging some guy in Battlefield Bad Company 2 or doing some at home development is a annoying drone for the people listening to your video. A high quality microphone will help a lot, but try turning your fans down or turning off any other source of noise (i.e viagra pfizer 100mg. tv’s, mp3 players, kids, the wife, etc).
  6. Have a title screen. From the first frame through your introduction should be a title and logo screen. This screen should have the date of the video, your name, name of your company and/or name of the product, and the title of the video.
  7. Write it down! Have a script or at least bullet points of what your going to talk about. Use words your confortable with and don’t try to shove in large complicated words just to make yourself sound smarter. Use natural language and speak at a good pace. If you need to cough or sneeze, pause the recording.
  8. Have a recap screen. At the end of the view have a screen with important information, like names (yours, company, product) and Urls and other information and resources.
  9. Introduce yourself. Say your name and title, say who your with and what the video will be about. If it’s part of a series at the end let people know what video will be next, if you know.
  10. Length! Try to keep your video as short as possible. If you are planning on a video to how to an entire product try splitting it into neat little sections, maybe feature by feature. This allows your viewers to go to the specific on they want without having to try and fast forward a long video to a specific point. Shorter videos are also very convenient and will hold the viewers attention better. My preferences is no longer then 15 minutes, with a preferable time of 5 to 10 minutes in length.
  11. Web Viewing. You should encode your video and have it setup in a YouTube style player. I shouldn’t have to download the video if I don’t want to, nor have a special codec to view it. If I’m looking for videos for a product I’m doing it because I’m totally stuck on a problem, or I want to see it in action I don’t want to have to go though a whole process to view the video.

This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list but just some pointers I’ve picked up along the way. Hope this helps anyone working on video creation for their products or how to videos.

About: Shawn Jackson

I’ve spent the last 18 years in the world of Information Technology on both the IT and Development sides of the aisle. I’m currently a Software Engineer for Paylocity. In addition to working at Paylocity, I’m also the Founder of Resgrid, a cloud services company dedicated to providing logistics and management solutions to first responder organizations, volunteer and career fire departments, EMS, ambulance services, search and rescue, public safety, HAZMAT and others.

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