A while back I posted about how I was occasionally finding lip sync lag (ala “Kung Fu Theater” when I recorded my on-camera video introductions and conclusions using Screencast-o-matic. No matter what I did, I would still experience some lag when recording my face, and my lips and words did not quite match up in the final video. They appeared to be out of sync by a couple of frames. I’ve since changed my process and have now removed the lag entirely.
I now use the Logitech Webcam Software to record my introductions. I use my webcam to record my video, but still use the Blue Yeti to record my voice, as the Logitech software allows you to choose a microphone source separate from the webcam. This keeps the audio levels consistent between the Logitech software and Screencast-o-matic records, so I don’t have to do much fiddling with audio in my movie editor.
Since I am editing my videos in Windows MovieMaker (yes, it still works!), the additional step in recording in Logitech doesn’t really take any additional time. After I record the Screencast-o-matic demonstration, I download the video file to my computer, and the file, along with the Logitech video file, into MovieMaker to edit.
I made this short video to test the audio and video quality of the Blue Yeti microphone and the Logitech C920 webcam using Screencast-o-matic. Sometimes if you use the audio from another mic like the Blue Yeti, but record your video another source, such as I do with the Logitech C920 Webcam, there can be some voice-to-video lag. When the lag is present, the lips of the speaker will be out of sync with the audio and it can look like a badly dubbed 1970’s Kung-Fu Theater film.
In the video below, I tested using just audio from the webcam, and then audio from the Blue Yeti mic, to see if there was any lag. I had just restarted my computer, so the internal memory and page file was pretty empty, and I had all other apps closed except for Screencast-o-matic. I did not detect any lag in the video from either audio source. The sound quality is also noticeably better using the audio from the Blue Yeti microphone. It appears that if you find lag, restarting your computer and closing all extra applications will help with producing better quality, and in-sync, audio and video.
YouTube had been nagging me forever to put a trailer on my channel so that unsubscribed viewers can get to know what my channel is about. About 4 months ago I put together the clip below. I recorded the opening of the trailer with my Logitech camera and Blue Yeti microphone. For the other video clips, I actually used Screencast-o-matic to record snips of my videos directly off of YouTube. This was a bit easier than digging through old mp4 files on my local hard drive. I then spliced it all together and did the voiceover in Windows Live Movie Maker. The end result is not awesome, but it will suffice until I have the time to think of something more creative.
Last summer I started using some new hardware that has made my video making a lot easier. The new setup helps me make better quality videos while reducing steps and saving a substantial amount of time.
Some time ago I shared how I make my instructional videos. In that post I detailed how I recorded my video introductions with a dedicated camcorder (or using the video mode on a standard camera) and then captured the screencast using Screencast-o-matic. I was recording the camcorder audio with a lavalier mic, but recording the desktop audio with a gaming microphone headset. While the audio was good, the levels from the two different sources never quite matched, despite my best attempts to equalize them in my video editor. My old process also required me to plug the camcorder into my desktop computer, then download the video from the camera. While this did not take a huge amount of time, it was an extra step.
The picture above shows my new and improved setup. On the left is a Logitech HD Webcam that records up to 1080P video. On the right is a Blue Yeti Microphone that records excellent audio. Both are connected to my computer via USB. I’ve stopped using the video camcorder altogether and now just record my introductory video with the webcam, Blue Yeti, and Screencast-o-matic. I then record the desktop demonstration with Screencast-o-matic and the Blue Yeti mic. Because I am using the Blue Yeti for the audio source for both the introduction and the screencast, there isn’t any need to adjust the audio levels. Both sound awesome since they are from the same source!
Since the Webcam is already attached to my computer, I don’t have to combine multiple video files. I will usually record in the introduction (and outro) at the end of my screencast, using the same video file. I then export the file to my desktop and then do my editing in the old faithful Windows Live Moviemaker. Unfortunately, the editing in SOM is still a little slow and clunky on my machine.
In general, the quality of the video is superior to my old method and my new method definitely saves me a lot of time. However, there are times when the video can lag behind the audio in the on-camera personal introduction segments. This is usually caused by having too many applications open on my computer while recording video, so closing unneeded programs helps.
I’ll be honest. I’m as tired of exams as the students are. Our library is a wreck, students are grumpy, and it’s either too hot or too cold in the building. It’s been a hard, hard week, but it ends tomorrow. If you’re in the same boat, let this awesome video cheer you up. It made me smile in a huge way.
YouTube has a very cool featured whereby the big fancy YouTube computer will try to automagically perform closed captioning for your videos. In my experiences in watching my own videos, and from viewing other videos, the closed captioning results from YouTube can be hit or miss. In a pinch, most results are serviceable, allowing non-native speakers the ability to pick up on *some* of the works used in the audio.
I normally introduce myself in my videos as “Hey there, I’m Chad Boeninger, Business Librarian for Ohio University Libraries.” In one of my recent videos, YouTube apparently didn’t pick up on my Southern accent or the spelling of my name. The image below shows the result:
Fortunately, you can fix these results, and the process, while tedious, is not entirely painful. All you have to do is go into the Edit menu in YouTube, and click on the Captions link. This will take you to a page where you can change the wording of the captions, as shown in the image below:
After you have edited your captions, it is a good idea to disable the YouTube automatic captions for that video to avoid confusing viewers with multiple closed captioned options.
The end result, is much better:
Now that I’ve got the first 7 seconds fixed, now all I need to do is find time to work on the remaining 15:03. Perhaps an easier option is to download the captions.sbv file from the video and edit in a text editor, as shown below. You could then upload the modified sbv file to YouTube, remembering to disable other caption options.
I’ll edit the captions for an entire video soon, and report back on what I’ve learned.
This video shows the basics of making library instructional (or other educational) videos and screencasts. The video discusses the inexpensive equipment and software needed, and shows how to make a video from start to finish. Discusses camera selection, how to use Screencast-o-matic.com, how to edit the video in Windows Live Moviemaker, and how to upload to YouTube. For a detailed write-up of the process, visit my post on how I make library instructional videos.
Making videos for my library patrons have saved me time, allowed me to better serve my them, and enabled them to quickly find answers to their questions. I first started using web video for library instruction over 6 years ago and have learned a lot along the way. My hope is that the information in this post can help others make web videos and screencasts to reach and teach their patrons as well.
Update: For a video demonstration of how I make videos, please see this post.
Why Web Video?
My job as a librarian means that I help students and faculty find the information that they need. This help is often provided via classroom research sessions, individual in-person consultations, email, chat, phone, and even text. As a single librarian who serves a college of over 2,000 students and 80 faculty, I am constantly looking for ways to provide better outreach and support to my patrons, while also looking to increase efficiency on my end. To this end I strive to reach the most people with methods that can be scaled for the size of the population that I serve. I have found that web video is one of the easiest and best ways to reach as many people as possible with the least amount of my time and effort.
What type of content?
The content for the videos that I make generally comes from the questions that I receive. It’s pretty easy to know what kind for videos you need to make based upon the frequency of questions that you get (or may get). In many cases, I make videos for general topics, such as how to find economic information in Passport GMID. In cases like this, my goal is to make a general video that will show users how to navigate a database with a rather complicated interface. The question that this video answers is a question that I am likely to get quite a bit. When I do get the question, I can easily send the user the URL to the video via email or chat. This saves me time from having to type the email explanation of how to do this, and the user gets a visual explanation of how to find the information.
At other times, I make more specific videos that address specific research topics. Currently I have over 200 business students who are doing a feasibility study of placing a popcorn franchise in the local Athens mall. I met with all 200+ students (5 classes of 40 students) last week to teach them about how to research this topic. I also created a specific Business Blog post to address the tools needed to research the popcorn and snack foods industry. Before the class I made three videos, one for finding industry ratios for popcorn stores, one for finding demographics of popcorn consumers, and one for finding popcorn consumption by location. All three videos were demonstrations of what I did in class, and were created so that the students could refer back to them after the class. I even showed the video about popcorn consumption during class, as SimplyMap, the database demonstrated, can often take longer than 5 minutes (the length of the video) to explain during a live demonstration.
Regardless of the context of the video, I try to make all of my videos answer a particular question. That is, I would rather make a video on “How to Find Stock Reports in S&P Net Advantage” than just “An Overview of NetAdvantage”. This helps in a couple of areas. First, I believe that a video that addresses a specific question will help me keep the video focused and shorter. Second, someone searching for “stock reports” on the web via Google or on YouTube is more likely to find the first title, rather than the second.
How much time does it take?
The first video I ever made (before YouTube was a household name) took me over 6 hours to make. At that time (around 2005 or so) you would have to worry about things like video formats, compression rates, streaming, and more. There was very much a trial and error approach and a very large learning curve when putting video on the web. Since then, web video formats and players have become more standardized and web video hosts have made uploading and publishing video a lot simpler. Technology has advanced to the point that people can now focus primarily on the content of their videos, rather than worry about video codecs and compression rates.
When making web videos for library instruction, the time spent is directly related to the amount of practice you have had. If you are just starting out, your first video may take you a while. You may stumble with the screencasting/screencapturing tools. You may fumble with the recording of your content. You may try for perfection, but not achieve it. I’ve had a lot of practice and have established a pretty good system over time (I will try to write up time-saving tips in a separate post soon), so I am usually able to create and publish videos very quickly. With the three examples mentioned above, I was able to record, edit, publish to YouTube, and post all three videos to the Business Blog in just under an hour. My record is seven videos in about 90 minutes. I’m still not as efficient as I would like to be, but I have gotten a lot better over time.
How much time is saved?
One may think that not much time is saved if you have take extra time to learn how to do something new. That may be true early on, but I can guarantee that as you get better making videos, your return on time invested will increase exponentially. At the time of writing this post, those three videos that took me an hour to create from start to finish have been viewed a combined 172 times in the past 10 days. I can tell you for sure that having those videos available has saved me and my students a huge amount of time. They get the answer they need quickly and in the context of their specific research, and I can avoid answering the same question over and over again. That frees up my time so I can answer the more unique (and harder) questions.
How long should my videos be?
I try to keep my videos to less than 5 minutes. Limiting the length to 2-3 minutes is even better, but some concepts or databases can’t be explained in that amount of time. If the video is likely to go over 5 minutes, I try to find ways to divide the video up into several smaller videos. As an example, a single video covering every single feature of Passport GMID (a huge and powerful market research database) would likely take 10-15 minutes minimum. I’ve chosen to divide all the various features of Passport GMID into multiple videos. The important thing to remember is most people are not watching my videos for entertainment. While I try to keep the videos as interesting as possible, the fact of the matter is that few people are going to find “demographics of popcorn consumers” a lot of fun. Therefore, I try to get them through the content to find their answer in the most efficient manner possible.
Script or no script?
Depends. If you are just starting out, I’d suggest going with a script or at least a brief outline. Most of my outlines have been written on a Post-It note, so you don’t necessarily have to have an elaborate script with storyboard. For most of my videos, I will usually run through the search demonstration before recording, then repeat the same basic process for the recording. This practice run helps me to avoid stumbling and having to repeat the recording numerous times. A script is also useful in keeping your thoughts on track and keeping you within your time limits.
Which software for screencasting?
While there are a ton of options for recording your computer screen (screencasting), my favorite is Screencast-O-Mattic. I like it because it is web based, and it has free and paid versions. I’ve been using the free version for quite some time, and I have found that the only drawback is the company watermark in the bottom left of my videos. I recently upgraded to a Pro Account for 12 bucks a year, which removes the watermark and gives me some more advanced editing features. If you are just starting out, stick with the free version for now.
How do I record my voice?
For most of my recordings, I use the microphone from a Logitech Webcam. It’s easy to use and the sound is decent. You can also use the microphone line-in port and a lavalier mic or even a Skype/webchat headset. The hardest part for me (and others in our cubicle farm) is finding a quiet time or place to record the screencast. I’ve found that I can get a lot of recording done before 9 a.m in my office, but you may find that late evening or lunchtime may work better.
Where do you record your videos?
I almost always record my videos in my office in the library, though I have been able to record a few at home. Making videos is a good work-from-home task, especially while a sick child is taking a nap. In a recent video, I actually recorded part of a sports business video in front of our football stadium (in the cold). I’ve got a list of other locations around town that I may use for the introductions in future videos, just to spice things up a bit.
Screencast-O-Mattic allow you to change the size of your video to meet your needs. With the availability of modern widescreen monitors, I prefer to record with Screencast-O-Mattic’s HD setting of 1280×720. This gives me the largest size file to work with, should I need to resize in my video editor. In general, I upload all my videos in HD 1280×720.
Why and How do you add the video of yourself in the videos?
In all of my videos, I bookend the screencast with a personal video introduction and conclusion. I do the video introductions to make sure students and faculty place my voice and name with my face, and to personally introduce myself as the expert. Without the video introductions, I feel like I am just a voice on the screen. The video introductions add a little personality to the videos and highlight me as a resource in addition to the databases that I am demonstrating. Plus, as shown in the image below, the video introductions allow me to show off my collection of sweater vests.
I use a small inexpensive video camera to record the video clips. I then piece the clips together with the video from Screencast-O-Mattic in Windows Live Movie Maker. The process is a little outside the scope of this particular post, but I will write that up soon in another blog post and link to it from here.
To edit or not?
If you are just starting out, my advice is to try to avoid editing. With editing you add another level of complexity that you may not need or want to mess with. If you totally flub something in your recording, it should be fairly easy to re-do the recording, especially if you are sticking to the 2-5 minute time limit.
How do I know when my video is done?
The easy answer to this is “when you have covered your topic as clearly and as efficiently (short) as possible.” However, the definition of “done” can depend on individual expectations. I almost always record my videos in one take, listen to them once, then publish them to the web, warts and all. If I notice in my listen-through that I provide incorrect information or if I am not very clear, then I may re-record the video. A couple of “umms” and pauses won’t really harm the quality of your video, so don’t be too concerned with perfection. I’m not trying to be Lucas or Spielberg—I’m simply trying to make content that helps students and faculty. If I was super critical of my videos and demanded perfection, my videos would take a lot longer to produce and I might not meet my patrons’ needs in a timely manner. In other words, I don’t think they will care if I mispronounce a word or two as long as they get their question answered. If you think your video is bad, you can search YouTube to find worse ones and feel a lot better about your skills.
Where should I upload?
YouTube. But don’t stop there. You can’t automatically assume that because you upload it to YouTube that your intended audience is going to find it. You will need to cross post and promote your video all over the place. Embed your videos on your libguides/research guides, your blogs, and wherever you think your audience will find it. If you can’t embed the actual video, try to look for creative ways and place to link to the video. We even have an image link in our EBSCO database interface that links to our videos about searching EBSCO.
But you don’t use just use YouTube, do you?
That is correct. I actually use a service called Blip.TV as well. I started using them when YouTube was in it’s infancy because Blip had better video quality than YouTube. This may also be covered in another blog post, but for now let’s just say I use both Blip and YouTube. If you are just starting out, just stick to YouTube to keep things simple.
How do I promote my videos?
I have my YouTube account set to automatically Tweet my upload, which occasionally gets picked up by our official @aldenlibrary account, which can then get picked up by students, the official @ohiou account, and others. I’ve often had pretty good success emailing a video to faculty members. I usually tell them that I’ve been helping a lot of students with the same questions, and my video should help others with similar questions. They are usually pretty good about forwarding the email to their students if they know it will help them find better information for their projects. I also usually show at least one video in every class I teach, and show them the link on my blog where they can find all of my videos. I also use a WordPress plugin to show related posts and promote the videos that way (yet another concept that should be its own post when I get around to it).
What else should I know?
Hopefully by now you have the basic knowledge needed to create your own videos. In future posts I will address related topics such as cameras, editing, WordPress plugins, and additional resources/readings. Stay tuned for more on the topic, but for now have fun making videos. Should you have any questions or comments, please feel free to submit one on this post. Finally if you would like another business librarian’s take on making videos, check out Steve Cramer’s recent post on the topic.