Teaching With Videos

This is not an unusual request.


Another message pings into my inbox: “Hi Nichola, can you tell me what you use to make your videos as I want to start creating some for my students.”


Flipped learning is becoming more popular, many teachers are venturing into teaching with videos to support their students learning and I get lots of emails and messages asking about how I create my videos, what microphone I use, which software I recommend etc. So I thought I’d give you a rundown of how I create my videos.


This is by no means the only way to create videos and I don’t even claim it is the best way but it is my method and the equipment and software I use which works well for me.


Planning my videos

Believe it or not I don’t just sit in front of a camera and say the first thing that comes into my head; I carefully plan it out. My videos are quite chatty so goodness knows what they would be like if I was just allowed to ramble on without a strict plan in place.


The first thing I do is write any notes that will be downloaded by the audience to accompany the video as this helps me know the detail I want to cover in the video and formalise the running order. It also gives me a chance to play about with the language and think of the best way to put my message across in the simplest way possible.


I also create any PowerPoint presentations including animations and rehearse what I am likely to say. I create the graphics that will be used as part of the video and do a “dry-run” of using the software. Even though I think I know it really well, I can still be surprised by something.


I find it essential to practise any programming I will be doing. This involves creating and testing the code and once I know it’s working correctly, I print it out. As the coding is recorded without me being on camera, I can use the printout as a reference guide without the viewer knowing I am looking away from the camera as I enter it.


I then plan my script. I don’t feel comfortable reading from a formal word-by-word script as I like to look at the camera when I am on-screen and I don’t have the memory to remember things exactly so my script just contains bullet points. Because I have already written the detail in the notes I know the phraseology that I will probably use and have already planned any examples and metaphors so I can ad-lib from the bullet point list with a certain amount of confidence. The bullet points for a 15 minute video usually fits onto a single A4 page.


Once I have everything prepared, I record the live sections of the video.


Recording live sections

When I refer to live sections I mean the bits of the video where I appear on camera, directly talking to the audience. I often see educational videos which contain only a screen recording of a PowerPoint presentation but didn’t realise somebody is talking for a few moments until the first bullet point pops up by which time I have missed the first few seconds of their important message. When you see somebody talking on the screen it acts as a prompt to the viewer to switch on their audio.


I have many messages from teachers telling me that their students are more receptive to listening to somebody talking when they can see them rather than having a PowerPoint presentation shown accompanied with a faceless audio track. I feel that having the presenter on screen for at least part of the video makes the message easier to digest. Personally, I find it dull when somebody is talking but all I am looking at is quite a few seconds of “empty screen” before the next section of text appears. It may be just me but my mind tends to wander and I can get distracted by something else in which case I am not really listening to the person and it is only when I look back at the screen I realise they've moved on. If somebody is on screen talking to me I find it captures my attention more, I remain looking at the screen for longer and am therefore less likely to miss the next important point they are making. It may be uncomfortable, putting yourself on screen, but I feel the benefits outweigh the embarrassment.


So how do you set up for the glamorous world of appearing on screen? Most of my videos are recorded in my home office and once I set up the equipment my desk is a cluttered, tangled mess …


The recording equipment I use is listed below:

  1. I have the bullet point script on my screen

  2. My camera is a Panasonic HC-V160 but there are newer models on the market as that is a few years old now. I like this camera as it has a screen that I can flip so it faces me and I can see that the shot is framed correctly and I am not cutting off the top of my head or looking like a munchkin who is too low for the screen. Ideally your eyes should be looking directly or slightly upwards into the camera so position it where it is just above your eye line

  3. The ring light is an “ELEGIANT Ring Light”, a 10.2" LED light. It has adjustable brightness and colour hues so I can change it for cooler or warmer tones depending what time of day I am filming and what the light is doing in my office. This helps counteract strong shadows that can be distracting in the video. Ideally the light should surround the camera but the legs on this particular model are too short for that and when I put it on a box it got in the way of the camera tripod. It seems to work fine without it being higher so it doesn’t really bother me

  4. My tripod stand is a few years old. This one is a Star 75 and it allows me to adjust the height and the angle of the camera

  5. People will forgive poor lighting or even being slightly out of focus at times and will still continue to watch the video but when there is poor sound they switch off. I treated myself to this microphone after I received some vouchers as a thank you for appearing on a webinar. It is a BOYA Condenser Shotgun microphone BY-PVM1000 which is on a Tiger Boom microphone stand. It doesn’t fit precisely (hence the Sellotape) but it does have an elasticated cage to hold the microphone which reduces ambient sound that might otherwise be picked up through vibrations

  6. I have a set of noise cancelling headphones and microphone which I use when recording the screen but I don’t want to wear them when I am on camera as I don’t like how it looks. This is a Binaural MKJ-805DUC USB headset with microphone and works well as it is not too heavy but still records good quality sound

  7. Probably the most important thing that I have to have ready at the start of every recording is a large cup of tea

There is one other thing that makes a world of difference to the quality of your videos and costs nothing. What is it? I hear you ask. It is a sign to tell others in your household to leave you alone and keep the noise down, mine gets stuck to the door of my home office when I am making a recording.


Believe me, during lockdown when I have a husband who is sweet enough to offer me a cup of tea when he is making one for himself and two teenage sons who don’t know how to close a door quietly or decide that the middle of recording a video is the time to ask me what’s for dinner, this sign has made so much difference.


Back in 2012, when I was still trying to work out the best ways to create videos for my resources, I made so many mistakes. I cringe that in one of my early videos you can actually hear the washing machine start the unmistakable sound of the spin cycle in the background. These days, with so many people at home during lockdown, the audio interruptions are more likely to be next door mowing his lawn or the young lad who lives on the other side of us deciding to start basketball practice with a very loud and poorly fitted backboard that rattles alarmingly whenever it is hit with the ball or the rhythmic squeaking of a trampoline as his sister practises her tuck-jump just as I am about to record a video. If this happens, I am forced to stop the recording and wait for the noise to subside while I get on with something else rather than attempting to work around it.


After I have filmed my live sections to camera, I create the screen recordings.


Screen Recordings

Depending on the subject matter there will be parts of the video when I need to demonstrate what is happening on my screen and the software I use to record my screen is not free but I have been using it for a number of years and never had any problems with it. There are free alternatives out there but I tried a few and either didn’t like them and found them difficult to use, they didn’t include the features I wanted, they added a logo unless you pay for the professional version or the video length was too short and would not allow me to record the length of videos I wanted.


I use BB Flashback Pro which costs £49 for a lifetime licence for a single computer. The player is very simple to use and allows me to record the full screen or a part of the screen and with sound or without.


However, the editor is what really makes this software worth the money in my opinion. It is simple to use and includes some powerful features. I can decide if I want the pointer showing, include a highlight around the pointer, show the actions of the mouse such as clicking or double-clicking, add speech boxes and highlighted areas to the screen, edit the sound quality, re-record sections of the audio if I need to without having to re-record the video, merge sound tracks, speed up or slow down sections of the video and delete or add frames etc.


Once I get the screen recording edited and finalised I then export that clip as an AVI file.


Final editing

Once I have the live action clips on the card from my camcorder and the completed screen recording clips, I use another piece of software to edit them together. The software I prefer is Wondershare Filmora Pro, which is £149 for a lifetime licence.

With this software, I can create a video in different sizes depending on what it will be used for. I find 1280 x 720 is best for full screen videos that I use in a PowerPoint presentation and 600 x 600 is a good size for social media adverts.


I can edit together the clips, trim them, add backing music, overlay other video clips or images such as my logo and alter the sound quality so there is not a huge discrepancy between the sound levels of the live recordings and the screen recordings. There are lots of other whizzy animations, overlays and transitions that I sometimes use for my adverts, but I tend to keep my teaching videos very simple as I think the message can get lost with too many special effects.


After I have edited the video, I need to export it into a suitable format. I find if I am creating it for a PowerPoint presentation, I export them as WMV video with 25 fps 3000 kbps. It is a good compromise between reducing the file size and starting to lose quality as my videos are designed to be played through a computer and not on the big screen. If it is for a social media advert, I find MP3 HD Optimised works well.

However, that is not the end of the story.


Adding closed captions

I read a worrying statistic that 83% of videos seen online are viewed without sound and if they do not include captions people simply scroll past without watching them. Since reading that (I have no idea how true it is but knowing my own viewing habits I tend to agree with it) I decided to start adding captions to my videos.


There are lots of companies out there that can create captions without you having to type them in and they charge as little as £1 per minute but I found a free alternative that works just as well. In YouTube, they will add automatic captions (not 100% accurate but pretty good) and you can tweak them afterwards. Then you can download them as a .srt file which you can use elsewhere.

All you need to do is upload your video to YouTube and wait a couple of hours for them to add the automatic subtitles. Then go into your video editor and voila, you can edit the captions and download.

I usually upload the final video to YouTube in an evening and let it create the captions overnight; I correct and download them the next morning.


So that is how I create my videos. As I say, there are lots of alternatives that can be used. If I were to create a 15 minute video from start to finish it would take me most of the day to go through all the stages from planning and preparing the subject matter, writing the notes, recording the live sections, recording the screen and editing it all together.


If you are thinking of creating videos you don’t need to follow this same process. You can film yourself using a smart phone, just make sure you have a decent light source by making sure you are facing the light and not having it behind you as that will leave your face in shadow. It is also not a good idea to have strong light on one side (i.e. near a window) as that can throw odd shadows across your face too. Also avoid having a distracting background and avoid things moving in the background as that can confuse some cameras and move the focus away from you, making your face blurred.


If you are going to invest in any equipment, I would suggest the microphone is the most important piece of equipment as sound quality is more important than picture quality.


There are also alternatives for recording your screen. Screencast-O-Matic, is popular and free for a 30-day trial, or you can try Flashback Express but that does include a watermark in the final video.


So, if you want to have a go at teaching with videos then I heartily recommend you go for it. They are a bit scary to start with and it is easy to be too critical of yourself. However, I believe it is better to create a basic teaching video you can use in your classroom than wait for perfection so go for it, experiment with what works well for you and your students and have fun with it.


Good luck.


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