I created the video for the first assignment in the Filmmaking & Storytelling with Casey Neistat course that I’m currently taking. The assignment was to use your phone to document and tell a spontaneous story, so I got a bit meta and filmed myself making this business research video tutorial. I hope you find the short video useful and can adapt some of my process for your own videos.
I’ve been making instructional videos and screencasts since before YouTube existed and I have changed my process over time as both my skills and technology improved. Another business librarian recently asked me about my current process, equipment, and software, and since it’s been a decade since I last shared how I make videos, I decided to write it up. I hope this post gives you some great ideas to create some incredible instructional content.
Make A Script
My video ideas typically come from the repeat questions I have previously received from students or from my own predications of the types of questions they will likely have in the future (which is also based on past experience). If I can put tips to solve common stumbling blocks on the web in a guide, faq, or a video, that can save the students time.
I’ll typically outline my idea using pen and paper, then put together a more formal script in Evernote. I used to be more off-the-cuff with my recording, and doing a script slowed down my process. However, because I am now more disciplined about providing quality closed captions to my videos, writing a script before I hit “record” saves time on the back end. A script also keeps me true to the topic at hand, which helps me keep my videos shorter and more on point.
Once I have a draft, I time how long it takes for me to read the script out loud. I then read the screencast part while practicing the clicking and navigating around the database or website. I then edit as needed if the flow is clumsy or if the script is too long.
What I use
Pen and paper
Evernote (Word, Onenote, or text editor work fine, too)
Would be nice to have
Record the Screencast
Typically I record the screencasts in either my work office, though during the WFH phase of the pandemic I recorded at home. At home my desk is near the furnace and the Xbox, I don’t have a door, the tile floor makes sound bounce, and the dog wants to go outside or play. I therefore have to be more flexible about when I record at home. Fortunately my work office has a door and carpeted floor, and due to many staff continuing to work remotely, it’s reasonably quiet. Regardless of location I prefer recording in the morning to limit interruptions.
I’ve used Screencast-o-matic for years (SOM) to record the screen of my computer, and I still find it to be the best bang for the buck. Currently I use a two monitor setup, so I will place my script (in Evernote) on the primary screen, and put the browser on the secondary screen. I will maximize the browser window to hide the address bar and my bookmarks bar, then set SOM to record the full screen. I always record on a monitor, not from my laptop screen, as the laptop screen has less resolution. The better the screen, the better the recording quality.
When I record, I rarely nail the screencast in one take. I frequently have to stop the recording when I mess up, delete the footage, then record the section of the script and screen again. Fortunately, SOM makes it easy rewind to where you messed up and record the section over. I used to just keep recording and just re-do the sequence until I got it right, but I have found that creates a lot of duplicate clips that you have to weed through later when editing. If you can nail as close to a final version of your screencast footage as possible, that will make the editing much easier later.
A dedicated recording studio with sound dampening (this is why the NPR podcasters recorded in their clothes closets when working from home)
Drink water before recording to prevent a scratchy voice
Make sure you have a quiet mouse surface
If your mic has a gain control (the Yeti does) turn the gain down as much as possible and place the mic as close to you as possible
Use a pop filter for your mic to dampen your P’s, H’s, and other breathing hisses
If recording a browser window, maximize the window and set SOM to record the full screen
Record the screen of a monitor, not your laptop, to maximize the screen recording resolution
Don’t strive for perfection or you’ll never get the recording done
You’ll naturally veer from your script somewhat. That’s okay, but don’t stray too far and ramble too much!
Edit the Screencast
Since I use Screencast-o-matic to record my screen, I also use it to edit the screencast recoding. I use SOM to trim the footage and add transitions between clips. I will do this rough edit before I film the introduction and conclusion on-camera video, as this process can sometimes cause me to tweak the script.
I usually add instructional callouts such as text, arrows, highlights, and shapes to the screencast after I film the on-camera footage. I could edit the screencast footage in my video editor at the same time I edit the camera footage. However, I find that it’s much easier to do the basic overlays and callouts in SOM. As I continue to improve my skills with Adobe Premiere, I may change this process.
What I use
Adobe Captivate has more robust editing functions with additional cost and complexity
Practice makes perfect you better
Record On Camera Intro & Outro
I include an on-camera intro and outro in almost all of my videos. I believe this adds a bit more personality to the video while also showing me as the “expert” behind the screencast.
As I mentioned above, I typically shoot the on-camera shots after I have a rough edit of the screencast. This sometimes takes place on different days, depending on when I have the time (or remember to pack my camera equipment). I’ve also shot multiple on-camera pieces for separate videos in the same day. (These were videos where I deliberately wanted to be seen on camera in the same shirt).
Shooting the on-camera parts can be more challenging and intimidating than the screencast. Sometimes it’s hard to get started with the most difficult part first, but the momentum from the screen recording pushes me over the finish line.
In Spring 2020 I wanted a bit more flexibility to record video away from my computer, so I started using my Sony A6000, which is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera that originally released 5 years ago. The modern version of this is the Sony A6100, though if I was recommending a camera for making these types of videos (and not for photography), I would suggest the Sony ZV-E10. The ZV-E10 is an all around better camera for video and has a flip out screen so you can see yourself recording.
I also use a Sony 35mm 1.8 lens, which allows me to get the blurry background in some of my recent videos. If you’re just getting started, I suggest using the kit lens that comes with the camera first, then invest in another lens later when you get more experience.
I mount my camera on a tripod as shown in the images below. For this purpose, almost any tripod will do.
The onboard microphone on any camera is not great and bad sound can ruin an otherwise great video. I capture my voice with a lavalier mic that is mounted on my shirt just below my top button. My A6000 is an older camera that does not have a mic input, so I plug the lavalier mic into my phone and record the audio separately with an app. When I do the final edit, I sync the audio recorded on my phone with the camera video footage. Newer cameras such as the A6100 and the ZV-E10 have mic input jacks, so you can plug in and record the audio directly to the camera .
Both areas have decent light, though in some cases I have supplemented the lighting with household lamps placed just out of frame. I have some budget light kits on my radar but have yet to pull the trigger.
I’ve also shot other introduction videos “on location” to make them more relevant, interesting, and fun. Examples from my archive include:
While it’s fun to shoot at locations other than the office, it is a lot more challenging to control sound and lighting conditions. While I’ve gotten a lot better since those video examples linked above, it can still be very difficult to shoot a video off site, especially by yourself. It’s much easier to dial in your settings and repeat the recipe every time with a fixed location.
The nice thing about shooting in a fixed location is that you can use something to hold your cue cards or serve as a teleprompter. While an actual teleprompter would be ideal, I’ve experimented with several no-budget options, including using PowerPoint as a teleprompter.
Combine & Edit Footage
The next step in the process is to combine the on-camera and screencast footage to edit the final video. For years I used Windows Live Movie Maker (WLMM) which is sadly no longer available for modern Windows machines. It has been replaced by the Video Editor app, which will get the job done but is more limited than the software it replaced. FWIW my 10-year-old son used Video Editor for two months before he outgrew its capabilities (he wanted to do more cool stuff with his Fortnite and Minecraft videos). However, Video Editor is a decent free tool if you are new to video editing on a Windows PC and just want to get started. iMovie offers a bit more functionality and is also available for free on the Mac, but I’ve only used the iPad version.
Spring 2020 was the first time I used my A6000 camera, the lavalier mic, and my phone to record audio and video. Adding this equipment made for better quality video and audio, but complicated the editing process. I ran into problems using SOM because I had to manually sync the audio and video. This is a tedious process that requires visually aligning the sound waves from the different audio and video sources, and using SOM was not the best tool for the job.
I discovered that Hitfilm Express was a free video editor that could automatically sync the audio and video. I watched a Lynda.com course and a few YouTube videos that taught me the basics of using the interface and was off and running. Hitfilm is a great video editor, but it does not run very well on my work laptop (it runs awesome on my personal gaming laptop). I used Hitfilm to edit and sync the on-camera audio and video, but would then export a video file and complete the rest of the edits in SOM.
I’ve notes a few observations about the three applications below.
easy to use
a bit limited though more features the Windows Video Editor or iMovie
runs on low-end machines
can import camera footage to edit in addition to editing screencasts
includes automatic captions
most features are free, but can purchase add-ons for additional funcionality
spotty how-tos available on YouTube
one fairly comprehensive course on LinkedIn Learning
can be a bit laggy
useful for creating special effects (exploding books anyone?)
runs better than Hitfilm
robust training available on YouTube, Skillshare, LinkedIn Learning, and Adobe.com
more expensive and available via Adobe Creative Cloud subscription
includes automatic captions
Create Video Captions
It’s important to provide accurate captions for your videos to ensure accessibility. YouTube does provide automatic captioning, but I’ve found them to be a bit hit-or-miss. The advantage of using Screencast-o-matic to edit my entire video is that it also can automatically caption videos. I would use SOM to caption the video, then make edits where it made occasional mistakes in translating my Tennessee accent. I would then export the caption file as an .SRT file to upload to YouTube or Vimeo.
After a recent update, Adobe Premiere can now also create automatic captioning. I have found that the Adobe captioning algorithm to be the most accurate of any captioning feature that I have used. It is also incredibly easy (though still time consuming) to fix the incorrect captions.
Create Video Thumbnail
My last step before uploading to YouTube or Vimeo is to create a custom thumbnail. Odds are if I don’t upload a custom image, YouTube will automatically create a thumbnail image by capturing the most awkward and unnatural look on my face. I have used Canva and PowerPoint to design my thumbnails. Canva has more elements to use if you have more design talent than I do, and I’ve recently found that PowerPoint serves my needs. I now have a slide deck that is full of thumbnail options that I reuse and edit from previous videos.
Note that my process for saving the image from PowerPoint is different. If you simply save a slide as an image using the Save-As option, you get a 1280×720 size image which is not full HD. My workaround is to “present” the slide then use the Snip & Sketch tool to grab a high-res screenshot of the image.
Believe it or not, it has taken me longer to write this post than it does for me to actually make a video. In writing this post I’ve had the opportunity to read old posts and watch some old videos. I can definitely say I’ve gotten better with practice over time and I’ll continue to improve. I’m excited to get better with Premiere, and I will continue to enjoy learning about the latest tech and techniques.
If you’ve read this far, that’s pretty amazing. I hope you’ll be able to use something I shared to make your own awesome videos. If you have questions, feel free to leave a comment or contact me.
Finally, if this blog is around for another 10 years, perhaps I’ll write up my video process again then.
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.
The FlipShare software that comes with the Flip cameras allows you to do some really cool things with ease. One of the features it has is the ability to let you easily upload a video to YouTube from the FlipShare menu. It’s a convenient feature that doesn’t require the user to open aweb browser and go digging for the file.
Unfortunately, uploading a video to YouTube this way can have negative affects on the video, particularly the sound. As an example, take a look and listen to the following video. This video was uploaded with the FlipShare software.
Now watch and listen to this video, which was uploaded via the YouTube website by browsing to the raw AVI file on my desktop.
In the second video, you will notice that I don’t sound like I’m talking underwater, as I do in the first video. The sound in the second video is clear, but the first video the sound is quite garbled or hissy.
In looking at the screenshot above, it appears that FlipShare or YouTube does something to the file when it is uploaded via the FlipShare program. The raw AVI file is changed into a file named Video 67, and for some reason it does not have a file extension. This file name change could be the result of the compression that the FlipShare program uses, and the result is degraded audio that has a slight hiss. I have no idea what causes this, but my only advice would be to upload your Flip videos via the YouTube website, rather than through the FlipShare program.