Self-Produced Videos

Self-Produced Videos

The majority of video content that you'll be creating will likely fall under the broad category of "lecture replacement." It may be obvious, but it's worth pointing out that the online teaching method is not the same as the face-to-face teaching method you may be used to. All of the interactivity and active learning you've created, your ability to read the room and know when your students are "getting it"—all of that occurs differently in an online or remote course. For your lecture replacement content to be effective, it can't simply replicate what you would have done in the classroom. 

The duration of your videos should be intentional and constrained. Studies have shown that educational video content under 6 minutes long has a nearly 100% engagement rate, but engagement drops dramatically with videos longer than that. 

What that means is that it's essential that you reframe your lecture content as mini-lectures. Structure your material into short, topic-based videos that are ideally no more than 6 minutes long (but definitely under 10 minutes). This will go a long way toward making all the work you're putting into creating video valuable for your students.

If you don't just want to take our advice, take a look at this video, Record Effective Microlectures, from the Association of College and University Educators, as well as their accompanying How-To Record Effective Microlectures document.

Preproduction

Preproduction is really just planning. It's an opportunity to think strategically about where video is the best tool to use at a given point in your course and how to implement it. The preproduction process typically includes these steps:

  1. Create a list of videos you would like to make based on topics. Then for each video, ask yourself, "What's the learning objective? What should students know or be able to do after watching it?"
  2. Think about the content that students struggle with and where they would benefit from seeing you demonstrate a process, such as working out a problem, walking through a diagram, or setting up an intricate scenario. 
  3. Create an outline for each video that lays out what you want to say and what you want to show. This will begin to provide an idea of how long your video will be.
  4. Practice if you have the time—at least when you’re starting out—and try to time yourself. This will spare you from having to do many takes and help you identify when something you had planned is or isn't working.

Also, remember to avoid long lecture videos. As mentioned previously, keep your videos under 6 minutes for better engagement. If you find your outlines and preparation indicate that your videos will be long, you can divide your content into smaller chunks. Try as best you can to keep your videos under 10 minutes. 

Audio

If students are going to get the majority of information and context you provide by hearing what you say, it's worth trying to make sure that what you say is recorded in a way that it is as understandable and clear as possible. 

Generally speaking, an audience is much more forgiving of poor quality video than poor quality sound. 

A microphone's ability to pick up sound is relative to its proximity to a sound source, just like your ears. If a microphone is far away from the thing making the sound, the volume of that sound will be low. If the microphone is close to the sound source, the volume of the sound will be comparatively louder. The goal in audio recording is to capture sound at as loud a volume as possible without introducing distortion, which is the sound of an audio signal breaking up because it's too loud. 

Try following these recommendations to help improve the clarity of your audio recordings:

Use an external microphone.

The tiny microphones in your computer, smartphone, or earbuds are modern marvels of engineering. Relative to their size, they can pick up sound surprisingly well. But compared to a dedicated mic whose only job is to be sensitive to sound and doesn't have space constraints, they don't fare as well. So, to make a real difference, you'll need to get a separate microphone that connects to your recording device. 

If you're using your smartphone or a consumer-level camera, consider a lavalier microphone. 

If you're only going to be using your computer/webcam to record, consider getting a USB microphone. 

 

There are many different microphones out there, and for the most part, they tend to be large, sensitive mics that cost between $50 and $100 or headsets with mics that cost $20 or more. Any of these options will yield a better result than your recording device’s built-in mic.

Here is a list of affordable microphone options, among other items.

Eliminate background noise.

Take a moment before you record to listen to the sounds in your environment. What do you hear? Which of these sounds can you control? Try to turn off any devices that are making noise that’s being picked up by your microphone.

For example... Do you hear HVAC or fan noise? Turn them off while you're recording. Are there birds chirping, dogs barking, or neighbors mowing? Try checking your windows. Got noisy kids? They're hard to turn off, so maybe send them to the backyard... You get the idea.

Use audio meters.

What are audio meters, and what do they do? They're the little bars or dots you sometimes see in the corner of your screen that indicate the volume of your recording.

They're a visual indicator of the volume of audio you're recording. Usually, when you see green/yellow or the bars/dots go up ¾ of the way, you're in good shape. If you see nothing, you're not recording. If you see red, the volume is too high and will sound distorted.

Use headphones.

What's the best way to tell if your audio sounds good? Listening to it. If you can listen to what you record while you're recording, that's ideal because you can hear when something is distracting or unclear and make adjustments in the moment—like turning off that noisy fan or sending the kids outside to play. If you're not able to listen as you record (for instance, when you're on camera), at least listen to your recording after it's finished to make sure everything worked properly.

Recording

When it comes to making a video, location is key. Here are some helpful tips for choosing the perfect place to record your videos. 

Select a good location.

Find a quiet area free from traffic sounds, noisy pets, children, etc., then be sure to do the following:

  • Face towards your light source, and use it as intentionally as you can. (You'll learn more about this in the Lighting section.) 
  • Choose a background that is uncluttered and clean looking. If you have a home office with a bookcase, this could be a great background! 
  • Use some sort of stabilization. Something is better than nothing, so get creative! You can use books, a shoebox, a tripod, a selfie stick, etc. Use what you have available to the best of your ability.
  • If you're recording with a smartphone or tablet, make sure you hold it horizontally (unless you are doing something for Snapchat). 

Compose your shot.

Get your camera to be eye level. Avoid shooting up at yourself, i.e., if you're shooting on a laptop, put some books under it to make it higher.

Below are examples of wide, medium, and close-up shots. For webcam videos, you're going to want to use a medium or close-up shot.

Be intentional about lighting.

Lighting can take your self-produced videos from good to great! One of the best light sources you have access to is daylight, so use it to your advantage. If you have access to a window, use that as your main light source. If you don’t, use what you have at your disposal—a lamp or overhead light will also work.

Beyond this basic advice, an understanding of video lighting concepts will help to really get the most out of your existing light.

 

Three-Point Lighting

Three-point lighting is a common method of lighting in video production that uses three lights: the key, the fill, and the backlight.

The key is your strongest light source. Placed to one side of the subject, it lights one side of the subject more than the other, creating some shadows on the other side of the subject. Remember that windows make great key lights!

The fill, which is placed on the opposite side of the key, is used to fill in the darker areas on the subject if they're too dark.

The backlight lights the back of the subject and helps create depth by adding some separation between your subject and the background.

Bouncing Light

Bouncing light is when you take your main light source and redirect it to a reflective surface, which results in a softer, more even light. This can be useful for creating a fill light. Some household items you could use to bounce light are a white sheet, a white wall or ceiling, or an aluminum baking dish.

Take a look at these photos. Our subject is a plant, a window is being used as the main light source (or key), and a white sheet or aluminum baking dish can be used to bounce light from the window back onto the plant making those darker areas brighter.

You can also use the same concept for lighting webcam videos. A white sheet is being used to bounce light back onto the subject, creating a fill light.

Keep in mind that you never want to put a bright light source directly behind you.

Visual Design

When you're creating your videos, don't just think about what you want to say to your students. Think about what you want to show them. Here are some helpful tips for designing visual elements for video. 

  • When it comes to text and slides, keep it simple—less is more. Too much text on slides is hard to read.
  • Avoid taking slides from your face-to-face course and talking over them. This is not the most engaging way to use video in your course. Think about ways you can adapt your existing slides for video. 
  • Proofread your slides! This may seem simple, but this step can really improve the quality of your videos. 
  • Think about how you plan to convey information through video.
  • You aren't just limited to slides. You can also use photos, stock footage, graphics, and more! There are many options depending on what you want to do. Just make sure you keep copyright in mind.

Check out these examples for slide design. You can see the one on the left is poorly designed. It's cluttered and difficult to read. The one on the right is well designed and easy to understand.

     

For additional tips on designing better slide presentations, please see Vanderbilt University's Center for Teaching guide on Making Better PowerPoint Presentations.

Editing

Have you ever recorded a mini-lecture and made a mistake that required you to start over? Or maybe you had to start over a number of times? If you could take out the parts where you accidentally said something incorrectly or where your children started carrying on in the background, it would minimize the total amount of time you need to create your best version. Well, that's where editing comes in. 

At its most fundamental, editing is taking out all the bad bits and weaving together the pieces that remain so they flow well together. You're creating a harmless illusion that simply shows you at your best—much like you might do with your writing. This illusion is often aided by adding supplementary visual elements, like video, images, graphics (which can include presentation slides), and text. 

Many computers come with pre-installed video editing applications: Think along the lines of iMovie on a Mac. These programs provide all the functionality most people need. For a web-based video editor that works in any browser and stores your footage in the cloud, check out the Miami University Library-facilitated resource, WeVideo.

If you'd like to dabble with a more fully featured program with considerably more control, try DaVinci Resolve, which is free and works on Mac and PC. If you have an Adobe CC subscription, consider Adobe Premiere, which is among the most widely used video editing platforms in the world. 

There are many ways to learn how to edit and use the tools mentioned above. Miami University offers faculty and staff access to Hoonuit, which features many helpful primers on video creation and editing. Here are a few, all of which are accessible when logged in via MyMiami.

YouTube tutorials can also be quite useful. However, because the quantity and quality of tutorials is so vast, and what you might pick depends heavily on the software you're using, perhaps begin your trip down the rabbit-hole by learning about the craft of editing from a master, 3 time Oscar winning film and sound editor Walter Murch.   

Sharing

Once you've completed editing your video, set aside a little time to review it and make sure it plays back as you expect from beginning to end. Ideally, try to give yourself a few hours or a day after you've completed editing before finalizing your video, as it helps you see it with fresh eyes. Verify that any text is spelled correctly, that problems you demonstrate show the correct answer, and so on. Once you've confirmed that your video is ready for your students, it's time to export your video from your video editing software.

Each platform has a slightly different mechanism for exporting, but generally speaking, your goal should be to output a file that is at least the same resolution as the footage you put in, the modern standard being 1920 x 1080 HD footage. Similarly, there are dozens of video codecs or types of compression you can select for your video output, and many, if not most, will be recognized by our Kaltura video repository. However, if you want a simple recommendation, just go with h.264 or .mp4 (they're the same), and you'll be fine.

Now that you have your file, follow our instructions on how to get your media uploaded to Kaltura within Canvas, and from there, how to review, edit, then enable automatic captioning to ensure accessibility.