Benefits and Difficulties Working with Video as an Instructional Medium

I thought I’d done video instruction before. Turns out I didn’t have a clue. Until you’ve dealt with lighting, set, framing, camera operation, trying to figure out how to read a script that’s off camera while still looking at the camera, and video editing in a professional editing program, you definitely have not done anything like video instruction. Screen captures in Camtasia with your webcam turned on definitely do not count.
I definitely have a new appreciation for all those semi-professional instructional videos posted to YouTube. Even the ones with poor sound and lighting are better than my first attempt at video capture for the mashup project, just because I lacked the proper space or equipment. And this project took way more time than I ever could have anticipated. I am so sleep deprived, not having hit the sheets before 2:30 am a single night this week.
The end result of the video production was a somewhat professional instruction that I’m kind of tempted to make public on YouTube. I’m rather proud of my first attempt at video instruction. While it definitely isn’t perfect, it’s not bad. My lighting is actually pretty good. My framing is only off in a couple shots (the problem of having your husband pulling double duty as your camera operator and teleprompter operator). My edits are pretty good for the most part – I only heard one place where I chopped my audio badly between cuts. The most important thing is I think people would actually find the instruction useful. And since this is an instruction people might actually be looking for, I am very tempted to post it and see how many views I get and what kind of feedback I get.
It was very difficult to accomplish this project. I had software problems, hardware problems, and camera issues. To film the practice mashup I recruited the help of my three daughters and then spent two days regretting that decision. They couldn’t memorize the script, so one of them is obviously reading off paper. For the other I found and downloaded a teleprompter app, but she could not project, and the sound I got with my camera is just terrible! They needed multiple costume changes that took way too long. Then they were very silly and required multiple takes.
I had to do a set change that required a remake of my living room with blankets and sheets. Even with every white sheet I could come up with I did not have enough for the camera’s span and the laundry basket ended up in the shot. I broke a CFC light bulb trying to dim the overhead lighting. To capture 3 usable minutes of video took two nights of filming and used up 20 minutes of video.
When I finally had a decent laptop with the right version of the video editing software, a good HD camcorder with a real tripod, and better lighting set up, even then capturing the video for the real project was a challenge. It took all Friday night to capture a handful of scenes, and then we ended up redoing two shots Saturday, one because the table appeared to be on a slant and the other because Ron cut off my head. Of course, we’d filmed in front of two windows after dark on Friday, so we had to wait until it got dark Saturday to retake the shots to avoid the scenes looking strange. Also, the screen capture portions of the video sounded different as I was recording via my headset, so I set up the camera in the same location and recorded the walkthrough using the camera so that all the sound in the video would be uniform.
While I found the resulting video very professional and useful, for the kind of instruction I do, it was WAY too much work for me to do on my own without a media production crew. If I do decide to develop a video instruction project of this magnitude again, I will recruit the media specialist on staff at my university and request that he supervise, film, edit, and produce the video for me. I may come up with the concept and write the script, but I don’t think I want that much responsibility for coming up with a quality finished project in the future.
I do find video to be a useful medium for delivering instruction. As an example, when I had to figure out how to embed the final project into Dreamweaver, I searched the web for instructions and found a YouTube video an individual like me had posted. I would have done it differently (he filmed over his shoulder to capture his actions on the computer rather than using a screen capture utility for that purpose) but his simple instructions were enough to tell me that rather than looking for a complicated mechanism in Dreamweaver, all I needed to do was copy the embed code from YouTube and paste it into the code of my Dreamweaver file in the appropriate location. He even demonstrated making the video a custom size, which was helpful as the frame I was putting it was only 330 pixels wide. If I had not located his video, I don’t know if I would have thought of that on my own. For some reason I seek complex answers to often simple problems.
YouTube has grown to be a major source of information on the web, mostly because of videos posted by regular people in an effort to help others. I’ve gone there for information on fix-it projects on the house, gardening tips, to learn how to use new software, automotive repairs, makeover projects for my daughters, etc. This resource has elevated instructional video to a new level, giving it a world-wide audience. It obviously has widespread appeal. Videos are portable, viewable on virtually any device. I think because of sites like YouTube and the growth of portable devices that can play videos, more people will turn to instructional videos for information.

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