Tips for more professional educational videos

Educational videos can range from the low-tech recordings of a narrated slideshow recorded on a cell phone or desktop PC through to high-end videos recorded in a professional studio. The amount of time and money available obviously determines the production value of your video, but regardless of budget, there are several principles that can enhance your videos.

1. Sound matters

Even a very professional visual production will suffer if the audio is poor, and your audience will leave. If you have access to a desktop USB microphone or a lapel mic, then use it. If you don’t have one of these options, then consider recording your voice to your phone. Most phones come with an earphone / mic set that will produce better quality sound than the built-in mic on your PC.

If you have the means to edit your audio after recording to remove long pauses, repetitions and errors, this improves the quality significantly (see point 6 below.).

2. Shot composition

A lot of lecture recordings will make use of the presenter to camera view of a ‘talking head’. Whether you are recording using a built in web-cam or a stand alone camera mounted on a tripod, try to place your camera at eye level.

Awkward angle

Eye-level is better

Especially when recording with a laptop, you may need to raise the height of the laptop. If recording from a mobile phone, mounting on a tripod is recommended, and use landscape rather than portrait orientation.

Look behind you. Is there anything distracting in the space behind you? Or for that matter is there a suitable prop you could bring in to your space to add some context to the video?

If you have the means to create some relevant context – for example using a background visual such as a whiteboard or a poster – then you may want to position yourself to one side and give a clear view of the visual.

Place your screen elements over the intersection of thirds

A general principle for good positioning is the rule of thirds. Dividing the screen into thirds horizontally and vertically, and then positioning the items of interest — the person talking and a background image — at the intersections of those lines, creates a good overall balance.

3. Lighting

The most important tip is to avoid strong light sources from behind you. Even natural light from behind can interfere with the visibility of the presenter. Be aware of any reflective surfaces that might result in back-lighting. It’s better to have a soft light source falling onto the presenter’s face. Having an additional light source e.g. from the ceiling is fine but try to avoid deep shadows produced by strong light. The images below show how just by changing position, you can avoid back-lighting.

back-lit image
Avoid strong back-lighting
Soft lighting from the front is better

4. Duration

To present concepts in a concise chunks, break your lecture into key concepts and create short videos for each of these. Some studies suggest that the optimum length is 7-10 minutes. Creating shorter videos also assists with editing, uploading and downloading times. You can then create a playlist of videos to comprise a full lecture.

Create shorter videos and organise these into Playlists

Another way to break up longer videos is to scatter interactive elements like multiple choice quiz questions into the video. This is possible using the Media Hopper Create Editor, and results in an interactive video lesson that also helps to gauge how well key concepts are being received by students.

Embed multiple choice questions into your videos

5. Use your voice

If you’re unaccustomed to hearing and seeing yourself on video, don’t be surprised if you think you look and sound weird. But with a bit of practice that sensation is usually short-lived. Spend some time practising your delivery. Focus your videos on the concepts or ideas that students might not be able to glean from their other resources; maybe there are common misconceptions that you can help to dispel, or competing points of view that students should be encouraged to consider. By discussing the material, you may be able to bring some of your personality into the delivery.

6. Editing

While recording, if you make a mistake, don’t worry. Pause the recording, make a note of the time mark in your timeline, then repeat the section. You’ll snip out the error afterwards, or the Learning Technologists can help you with this. Recording with the Kaltura Capture desktop recorder allows you to save your videos directly to your Media Hopper Create account. From here you can perform basic edits, such as trimming your beginning and end sections to eliminate unnecessary footage. You can also snip out any sections of your video where you made an error and want to remove that.

The Kaltura editor allows you to trim and snip from your recording

Watch a short tutorial on recording with Kaltura desktop recorder, doing basic edits and publishing your video

7. Use captions

Captions provide additional support for those who cannot listen to your video, whatever the reason. To remove accessibility barriers, transcripts should be converted into captions and uploaded to accompany the video. This is not just a nice to have, it is a necessity in educational material. There is a way to do this in Media Hopper Create, which is covered in a tutorial here.