Tips for Desktop Recording

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. Regardless of production quality, there are several principles that can enhance your videos.

1. Get the audio right

Even a very professional visual production will suffer if the audio is poor, and your audience will leave.
Choices vary – a decent headset with mic will usually provide acceptable audio at an affordable price.

Choose a USB headset to reduce electrical buzz. Avoid headets with the 3.5mm jack as these can cause electrical buzz.
Brands like Logitec and Sennheiser are very popular and reliable.

If you have access to a desktop USB microphone with cardioid condenser, then you will typically get better sound quality.
Desktop USB microphones like the Blue Yeti are very popular and reliable. Ask the Learning Technologists for any current recommendations

Focus on getting the sound quality of your audio right first. If your recording has unwanted pauses, repetitions and interruptions, these can be edited later – see point 6.

2. Shot composition

A lot of lecture recordings will make use of the presenter to camera view, or ‘talking head’ . Whether you are using your PCs built in web-cam or a stand alone camera mounted on a tripod, place your camera at eye level.
Especially when recording from a laptop or phone, you may need to raise the height of the device. If recording from a phone, mounting on a tripod is recommended, and use landscape orientation.
Think about zooming out a bit so more of you is in the frame, and feel free to use gestures. Studies suggest that this kind of activity keeps the audience engaged longer.

Awkward composition
Position your camera at about eye level

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.
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.

Do you have some visual context to add to the frame?

3. Lighting

When it comes to 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. Also 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 faceeither from the front or from a 45° angle. Having an additional light source e.g. from the ceiling is fine but try to avoid deep shadows produced by strong light. If you need to, adjust your position to avoid back-lighting.

Avoid strong back-lighting
Change your position to have light fall onto your face

4. Duration

Present concepts in a concise ‘packets’, 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. You can then create a playlist of videos to comprise a full lecture. Creating shorter videos also assists with editing, uploading and downloading times.

Media Hopper Create allows you to create video playlists, so you can arrange your shorter videos into coherent groups.

Use playlists to organise shorter videos into coherent groups

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.

Add interactions to your videos using Media Hopper’s quiz tool

Keep your videos concise. Avoid the practice of “telling them what you’re going to tell them, telling them, and telling them what you told them”. In an era where most of us are accustomed to engaging with videos for educational content, students want to get to the point quickly.

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 a bit of time practising your delivery.

Don’t try to replicate a 50 minute lecture. How you use your videos is up to you, but the power of video is in connecting with your students, and giving them some of your personal insight, time with the expert. So don’t regurgitate something they will encounter in a reading or other source.

If you are using a slide presentation with your video, engage with the material by annotating, highlighting and marking up things on your slides as you talk over them. This enhances engagement with your audience.

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. 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. For more advanced edits you can speak to the Learning Technologists who will be able to assist.

You can make basic edits in Media Hopper Create

7. Use captions

Captions provide additional support, not just for people with audio impairments, but also those who cannot listen to your video, for whatever reason. In order 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.

Use captions

But what should I include in my recordings?

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. What about integrating the topic of this video with other themes that come into the course or program? What do you find interesting about this topic? Is there an opportunity to use the video to set up a post-viewing activity, like a discussion or reflective task?

For more help on desktop recording contact the PPLS Learning technologists.