Developing Explanation Videos - FAQ's
Q: How are the explanation videos made?
A: Skilled teachers learn to use Captivate or Camtasia to build explanations that they feel will help students with concepts.
Q: Who could make a great video explanation developer?
A: A good teacher with a strong/clear voice is a great start. After that, you just need some time to develop some technical skills.
Q: Do I need to be a real "techie" to make this work?
A: The more comfortable that you are with a computer, the easier it'll be to get good at this. That being said, I've seen some pretty basic users work real hard and get very good at this.
Q: Captivate or Camtasia?
A: While there are other awesome tools out there, Captivate and Camtasia are probably most common and reasonably inexpensive. Either can be used to make great videos. Camtasia is easiest for making really basic screen captures (eg. Khan Academy style), but in BCLN development, we typically aim to create more "polished" videos. While Captivate has more bells-and-whistles than Camtasia, for most of the videos BCLN builds, either software will do the job. I'll point out that Captivate has more interactive features, but these features aren't used for most of our explanations (addressed below). See examples for more clarity.
Q: Why does BCLN post to YouTube?
A: For simplicity, really. Free quality streaming. Easy to embed. Works perfect in any platform. It's the most inexpensive and versatile solution available to us. No "real" interaction, of course - addressed later.
Q: How long should my explanation video be?
A: It's a very common error among new developers to make their explanation videos WAY too long. Make a script/storyboard then divide it up at the natural breaks. If you think about it, there are probably more natural breaks then you first think. Try to keep your audio clips to < 2 minutes, and your resulting videos to 2-10 minutes long (shorter end for younger classes - eg. 2-6 min).
Q: What resolution/size should I be working with?
A: It's advantageous to build big. You will likely embed the video smaller than you build in, but big allows the user to show a nice clear video in full screen, as some teachers will project the video in their classroom. Also, as resolution naturally expands, a video built big will have a longer shelf life. Of course, bigger means slower during the development process, particularly on an old computer. A good resolution is 853x480. HINT: while developing, keep your work zoomed in to about the size of a typical embed, as this will reduce the chance of accidentally making your text too small or screen too cluttered for a typical embedding situation.
Q: How do I make my resulting videos easy for students to follow?
A: Beyond a solid explanation and clear voice, here are some tips:
- nice (reasonably) large text (easy to follow)
- save text for main points (not all the details you vocalize)
- not too many fonts (Verdana and Georgia are good)
- avoid "all capital letters typing" (even in headers)
- provide "white space" (try to avoid clutter)
- highlight important items while you talk (arrows, timing, highlights)
- carefully align audio and visual (smooth synchronization really helps)
- don't make reference to course name or units (makes it useable by other courses)
- be particular about spelling and accuracy (a pain to fix later)
- while trying to make polished work, definitely include some character/stories/thoughts...
Of course, building a good video is all about making the right compromises. Consider the above list and keep in mind the value of this advice as you make choices (some of which might counter the advice, for reasons particular to your video).
Q: Should I add music to my video?
A: This is totally developer-preference. Some find that a musical intro allows a user a nice-calm few seconds to adjust audio. Others suggest it's a distraction. Either way is fine. Check out the examples and see what best suits your style.
Q: Where do I get images for my explanation.
A: If your explanation is best done with some embedded graphics, you have a few choices:
- make your own graphic
- finding a copyright free graphic on the web
- request rights (or purchase) to a graphic from a web owner
- asking Brent about using some BCLN media folks to make the graphic
Q: Should I put copyright/owner information on my videos?
A: If you are making a video while under contract by BCLN, please include www.BCLearningNetwork.com on the video as part of the intro and/or in the lower-right corner throughout. Please also feel free to include your name as the developer, as this is useful information for the future - eg. Boonstra for www.BCLearningNetwork.com.
Q: May I get a background template to get started with my development?
A: For consistency sake, we'll encourage the use of the green blackboard background. If others backgrounds clearly better fit some need just let me know. If you want a template background for getting started with video explanations, just give Brent a yell and I'll supply a template that has your name on it.
Q: OK, I've been asked to go back to the discussion about interactive vs regular video. Why not have them all interactive?
A: Warning: this will be more of a "Brent editorial piece" - not as much "only the facts" as a evolution of my thought over the years of doing this. Take it for what it's worth, and share your thoughts, as we continue to evolve.
- When Camtasia and Captivate (RoboDemo at the time) were first "hitting the stage" they were relatively basic screen capturing tools. You would use Camtasia if you wanted a real fast "off-the-cuff" explanation, and RoboDemo if you wanted to add some extra interaction aspects.
- While Camtasia seemed to grab a bigger share of attention, as it was nice and easy to use, I was more of a promoter of RoboDemo/Captivate, as I like to be able to tweak the work later and really liked adding interaction. I was also using Flash to make some of the interaction pieces at the time, but as RoboDemo/Captivate improved it became easier to forget about Flash/ActionScript and use the software.
- A branch of the BC MoE was toying with the idea of building some online resources and asked me to do a comparison of the various tools for building explanation videos, should they be able to secure some resource money. It's an outdated report now, but one of the most surprising outcomes (from an explanation built in each of the six software packages) showed that Captivate was as efficient at producing the resulting .swf files as building it straight into Flash (basically same file size and server demands).
- Up to this point, the best way to present resulting videos to students online was as an .swf file, so adding interaction was more work during development, but added no increase in difficulty on the student end.
- As producing .swf's was becoming less versatile (Apple vs. Flash) and HTML5 outputs weren't evolved enough to be very polished, there was pressure to output video to .flv's so they could be streamed by YouTube (or something similar), as this ensure that all of your students could easily access the material. This required a change in thinking on my part, and I moved the interaction out of the videos and started putting more interaction into activities that surrounded the explanation videos, such as HotPotatoes interactions, Flash Games, Quizzes,.....etc.
- Will we start publishing to HTML some day and return interactive features to videos? Perhaps.
OK, that turned out to be more babbling history then I intended (yes, I'm old), but perhaps it gives a feel for the continued evolution of thoughts around "explanation videos" and "interactiveness in courses" and such...
Q: You've made a great script and broke it into short pieces, but I don't want the student to hear a messy version of my great explanation. What's a good recording set-up?
A: Having a good audio set-up REALLY helps make your videos present well. If you watch all the videos I've done through the years, many of the old ones had really poor audio. I've made some with cheap headsets and noisy backgrounds. I've made some where my levels were too low. I've made some with the mic too much in front of my mouth......etc. How can I help you avoid all my mistakes?
My current set-up = a nice quiet room with a Blue Yeti microphone. I picked it up on sale for $99 and it works great for Skype and Collaborate as well. I use a laptop, as I find my big desktop has too many noisy fans and filtering them out hasn't worked perfect. I try to speak above the mic (removing breath/blow noises) and carefully break my script up into short segments so I don't lose the energy of the explanation by the end. I still have improvements to make, but these tips might help you get started.
I also asked Darrol about his set-up, as his audio is fantastic. Here's his reply:
What I use for audio is a Audio Technica MB 1k Cardoid Dynamic Microphone which is plugged into a Behringer XENYX Q502 pre-amp. I think each one was around $40-$50 . I had tried a condenser type USB microphone that plugs straight into a computer, but the output wasn't high enough to work properly. The manager of the local Bad Robot store recommended this pre-amp and mic combination, and I really like it. With the pre-amp I have good control of the volume and even a treble and bass adjustment. He recommended the cardoid dynamic mic over a condenser type as he said it would probably pick up less background noise. It still picks up some. I've had to improvise a method for advancing my slides in powerpoint. I move my keyboard under the table where the mic can't pick up the "clicking noise" as much and I gently press the "page down" button to advance the slides in powerpoint as I'm narrating.
I use Camtasia for recording the video and audio. I think the most important thing I do is use the "Enable noise removal" feature in Camtasia after I record all the separate captures and get into editing mode. You can adjust the level of noise removal on this. It works quite well to get rid of the computer fan noise etc (anything that is a uniform noise). (You have to use the control button and select all the audio clips first) In addition I try to keep the room as quiet as possible. (Luckily we don't have any little grandchildren around the house right now).
When I look at the timeline of the video and audio, in the audio track, there are sometimes little clicks during the pauses (either me clicking the button a bit too loud or breathing out too loud). You can select this small portion of the audio track and turn down the volume (or even silence it). To avoid having to use this too much (as it is time consuming), I try to avoid breathing out on the microphone while I'm talking. I can see where broadcasters etc. must have to really practice this. When I listen to a recording of mine with breathing out recorded, it's quite annoying (as I'm sure it would be to a student).
Q: I'm done my video and I'm ready to post it to YouTube. What are the YouTube settings I should know?
A: Both Captivate and Camtasia videos can post directly to YouTube. When you are ready to post, let Brent know and he'll supply you with BCLN YouTube Channel account info. Once your video is uploaded to YouTube, here's the standard BCLN Settings:
Title: BCLN - Category(eg. Physics) - Whatever Your Video is About
Description: Explanation of ....... (a bit more detail then the title)
Tags: BCLN, Chemistry 12, Title, other related keywords, Your name... (how people find it)
Privacy Settings: Public
Advanced Settings: defaults
Once you're ready to embed the video into your course:
Share > EmbedVideo size: 640x360 is a good size for most cases
unclick: Show suggested videos when the video finishes and/or add ?rel=0 to the end of link.
center: Since a centered video often looks best in a lesson, <p align="center">...</p>
Q: Some tips for the audio recording, beyond the technical aspect (ie. the voice, itself)?
A: Here's a neat summary - just click "No Thanks" on the way in.
other questions to include here?......
Step through an example video explanation build. I'm going to build a video on velocity vectors as an example.
Step 1: Sketch a layout of your video - a vision of your flow of info. Think about providing context and if you have some nice memory devices or "tricks" include them. What are the main concepts you want to cover and general idea of how to cover them? You can click below for my layout example.
Step 2: Make a audio script to match your flow. Break up your audio into little pieces. Watch for natural breaks in the presentation. Having breaks will assist in you keeping energy up (you may not feel it, but most people kinda lose energy throughout a recording) and will help your Captivate work from being too cluttered. I make a folder for each project (stored in Dropbox or Onedrive) and put this in the folder called script.docx. You can click below for my script example.
Step 3: Find some images to support your plan. Sometimes it's good to put together images before you do the recordings as you may struggle to find the image you had-in-mind or may "come across" better ideas. When searching for images, I aim for:
- copyright free (watch for watermarks or indicators that publishers originally made it)
- .png with transparent background is ideal (photoshop work if not)
Within your project folder, make a subfolder called "graphics" and put your pics there.
Step 4: Record the audio. I use Audacity and export to .mp3, but there are lots of free options that do the same thing. Good audio IS important, so spend the time checking levels and do a nice job. There are lots of good comments above about audio recording.
Within your project folder, make a subfolder called "audio" and put your clips there. I just call them 1.mp3, 2.mp3.....etc.
Step 5: It's time to put it all together in Captivate. If you don't already have it, ask Brent for a Captivate template that includes the standard BCLN background.
Put a copy of the template into your project folder. eg. math-fractions-intro.cptx
Step 6: Publish your work.
Publish into your project folder. eg. math-fractions-intro.mp4
Step 7: Upload to YouTube. Ask Brent for upload access to BCLN channel.
Step 8: embed into your course.