5 steps to a better Course Introduction video

I thought I’d share some lessons I’ve learned over the last couple of years about making better course introduction videos – I picked 5 for 2 reasons:

  • “5” is a manageable number for busy web browsers
  • “5” forces me to share the most important (and potentially most useful) lessons.

(Note:  an a bonus for me – it’s my first listicle – a new term I only learned in December thanks to Dave Winer, Scripting News.)

Lesson 1:  Use the best quality equipment you can afford and know your apps

Most of the podcasting and video equipment guidelines recommend equipment that is out of my price range for the small number of introductory videos I make. I’ve captured decent video with my smartphone (Samsung) or with a reasonable quality ($60 Cdn) webcam. But what really helps, IMHO, is recording clear audio. I have a “Big Blue” Nessie Adaptive USB Condenser microphone.  It does a good job at a reasonable price.

There’s an app for everything these days – the free ones generally have limitations. Make sure you’re aware of them before you start recording. I’ve spent a lot of time reshooting videos when I found out the output formats were incompatible with the site or service to which I wanted to post the video. Converting can be fussy and result in unacceptable quality losses. I’ve started combining screenshots with straight video – means I have to pay more attention to these issues.

Lesson #2 – Script your introduction – set a time limit – think about longevity

I’ve created (and watched other people’s) rambling and unhelpful introductory videos. Set yourself a time limit and stick to it. For intro videos I suggest 3 minutes or less – or break up your video into different topics.

Take the time to writer (or type) a script. I use a storyboarding approach and draw, write my ideas on paper. Although it would be faster to type, this keeps me from getting too wordy.  I try NOT to write complete sentences so I’m not tempted to “read” my intro – sounds way too stiff and boring. But I want to tell the viewer what they want to know, for example:

  • What the course is called and what it’s about (briefly)
  • The value of the course to them (if it’s a prerequisite for something else, what concern they might have that it will address, how it will help them do a better job (maybe even get a better job?)
  • Who I am (briefly – they can find my resume elsewhere if they’re that interested)
  • How long the course is and anything unusual about the length, mode of delivery, or design

Try not to refer to time or place information that might date your video. Although you don’t want to use the same intro video too many times, it is a real time-saver to have it ready to go when you teach the course again.

Lesson #3 – Create an atmosphere or feeling – set the tone – be authentic

Think about how to connect with your viewer – what will make them want to stay and listen/watch? First impressions can matter – what impression do you want them to take away from your short introduction video? I try for a blend of friendly – approachable – cheerful but still knowledgeable and trustworthy. Watch your phrasing, the intonation of your voice and particularly, the expression on your face. Try not to look too serious and don’t keep looking at your script as it can make you look shifty or harassed.

Lesson #4 – Plan on retakes – save your disasters (you’ll laugh afterwards)

Although I don’t need as many as I used to, I still need to record my introductions several times. I still fumble my words or find that I’ve misjudged the lighting or turned off the camera when I looked up or down so I look like a demented zombie.

Take the time to get it right – even if it means taking a lot longer than you may have estimated. Make your video as visually appealing and watchable, as easy to listen to, and as useful to your viewer as possible.

Lesson #5 – Learn the basics about video formats and publishing

Size matters in video production. The format of your video (whether it’s avi, mp4, swf, wav, or other web format) and aspect ratio or dimensions (e.g., 512 x 288 or 640 x 360, etc.) matter in how easily you can upload it to a website or learning management system and, more importantly, how easily it plays back for your viewer. Read some of the general guidelines on the web or that are provided by your video recording/editing app. Test out a short sample before you really work on refining your content or presentation.

I’ve learned so much through trial and error, although I still have more to learn. But hopefully, these 5 lessons will help you as you record your course introduction videos.

Let me know if you have additional lessons to share.


Extend your learning (some sites I found really helpful)

University of BC’s Do-it-yourself Media site – http://diy.open.ubc.ca/

Vimeo’s Video School site – https://vimeo.com/blog/category/video-school

 

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