Recommendations on tech for making videos for teaching?

Does anyone have recommendations on tools and tips for making tutorials and educational videos?

I’m a professor and as you all know our classes had to go online midsemester with no time to prepare. I’m sad to say that my videos were pretty boring. Just me speaking over my slides. I’m looking for tech, software, and advice on making tutorial videos (is there an MPU episode on this?). Tips on engaging viewers or speaking more comfortably to the camera. Tips on streamlining the post-processing process?

I’m excited to buy learn new gear and skill, but I know this sometimes leads me to not making the best purchasing decisions.

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Hi. I’ve gone through a lot of this and now I’m making short lesson videos for my A Level students.

A lot depends on your style, so try to understand that. I’m going for instructional lessons that go over the key learning points in the way I want them. I haven’t gotten on to demos yet.

My main tip came from my wife as she listened to me: sound interesting. I try to do this by writing a script and then recording the audio separately from the video. It is time consuming, but let’s me focus on content in the script, then on enunciation, energy and enjoyment in the recording. I record this using Quicktime through a Scarlett pre-amp. Use a strong voice and a pop filter to dramatically improve sound quality.

At the start and end of every video I do a short bit to the camera. I used to use my iPhone, then when I changed to my OMD camera, I was amazed how much better (and real) I looked.

I import these into Final Cut Pro, which can synchronise them. I also use RX7 to denoise the audio (and a couple of other filters).

I then play this at half speed. I have my slides in Explain Everything on my iPad and annotate the slides etc whilst listening to the recording.

I then import that to Final Cut Pro, tidy up and it’s done.

A lengthy process to be sure, but I like the output, which I plan to use in a flipped classroom for years to come, so it’s worth the investment to me.

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On the “sounding boring” thing…

… My experience of podcasting and screencasting is we all get bored of ourselves, including our voices. That’s not how we sound to the world.

I would find the bits of what you have to say that interest you and allow yourself to get a little excited. Then your enthusiasm (and the true you) will shine through.

On the recording separately the audio and video, I don’t do that - when screencasting. But I do separate the audio and video out, clean up the audio and reunite with the video.

In general, I think it’s a case of easing into this and expecting to start at ‘bronze” or below and head up to “gold” through experience.

I appreciate there isn’t much runway on this, not least because my wife (a senior academic) has exactly the same challenge.

I record screencasts and then edit them in Final Cut.

For recording, I use an external microphone and this is better than the built in one on my 16". I do not record video of me at the same time, I see no reason to distract from the content. I also do not have much text on the slides (no bullet points, only titles and images/examples), again so the student focussed on what I’m saying and is not reading the slides. When I first tried these types of classes I had quite busy slides and the students said they could not keep up with the content, now I get no complaints. If it is a theoretical part I usually include an image of the person or thing I’m talking about and explain in the audio, and if it is code I just show the code and use a highlighter while talking. I’ve been really pleased with the results, and I have even created marketing videos for the courses with this method.

The most important thing I’ve found is to make the videos short and slow paced so students can absorb the information. Mine are on technical subjects (programming and databases/big data) and I make sure that when they’re doing asynchronous classes they have short challenges to upload at the end of each short video. This means they practice what they’re learning and I can assess them.

My institution has moved 30% of classes to being asynchronous, which is a huge change. This will be continuing after the quarantine.

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That’sa good point about pace. I use ParrotTeleprompter to pace me through the script so I don’t race. And I write the scripts in my normal voice, so it’s not clinical.

As for the separate audio, I want to work towards doing more things at once, but I found that trying to manipulate a presentation and draw whilst talking through the content made my voice trail off or become monotone. YMMV.

On the other hand, my first batch of videos were rubbish compared to my current ones, but the students were fine with them.

The most important thing, and I have zero doubt in this, is to just get on and make some. Publish them to students, and then make the next one better. Don’t hold one back because the sound was noisy or you made a (minor) mistake. Get product out, it’s the best way to learn.

If it’s boring because nothing is happening on the screen, try that trick of recording yourself writing notes and doubling the speed (normal writing speed is very slow to watch). It provides visual interest.

Don’t kid yourself that you’re going to compete with a seasoned pro for interest though. Just be yourself and students who know you will find you interesting. The general public won’t, but that’s irrelevant right now.

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I second the suggestion to create a pre-built script before you do the recording. Even the process of creating an outline can help to develop a better pace for the presentation and to eliminate suddenly glaring mistakes in content.

When you are going to record yourself in the video, get a dedicated Webcam with an adjustable field of view to restrict the show to just you (and not your wall bookcase).

When you are going to include your voice in the recording, get a dedicated (headset) mic to filter out spurious background noise.

Test the various video production / editing apps before you go forward. Some contenders are posted at this link.


JJW

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I’ve been using Apple’s Mainstage 3 with Zoom to add audio effects live (basically just the “bright vocal” preset with a few adjustments) -it’s only $30 and the presets are the same as Garageband so you can test what it’ll sound like that way. For recording it could eliminate audio remastering after the fact.

What I’d really like to figure out is a setup that will let me lecture and walk around like I do in the classroom - I tend to be lower energy when seated and it’s not the optimal position for speaking clearly…

I like Screenflow for recording videos because 1) you can record yourself picture-in-picture, which is just more interesting to watch than a voice over, and 2) you can record your iPad, so you can live draw as you would on a whiteboard. I’m sure other screen casting software does this, too, but Screenflow is very easy to use. I’ve been using it for nearly 10 years.

I recently checked out OBS Studio on @Evan’s recommendation. Very powerful open source solution that allows all sorts of inputs, has lots of bells and whistles. It’s probably not as polished or straightforward as Screenflow that @beck mentioned, but it is definitely nerdy :nerd_face:

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Amen!! We listen to professionals for most of our media consumption (making and assumption) and that’s our bar, but not really.

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Check with your institution’s and/or department’s Instructional Design and Technology group. You might have resources already available to you, e.g. Kaltura Capture, external mics, etc. Additionally, you’ll want to keep in mind that some of your students may have accessibility accommodations you’ll need to meet.

As far as the videos themselves, as other people have mentioned start with an outline or script. If you use a script, you can use it later for captioning. As far as software goes, my recommendation is Camtasia Studio. It has a pretty low barrier to entry, plus you can do some powerful advanced editing in it.

A piece I give faculty and instructors creating video for the first time is, “Don’t be perfect, be yourself.” Don’t worry about “ums,” “ahs,” and “likes.” A second piece advice I give is to keep it short — 5 to 10 minutes, if that.

Howdy! I’ve been doing just that for more than 10 years now, as both a college professor and then as a high school teacher. A couple things I’ve learned… start each session with a big overdone smile. It’s OK in a video to be goofy or make a mistake as long as you explain it (don’t feel each recording has to be perfect). Students appreciate and learn from your mistakes too. When teaching to the camera, your lessons are going to be much shorter than in person – focus on the “essential to know” only and perhaps a couple examples, but leave additional practice and detail for asynchronous sessions – even college students will tune out after a maximum of 15 minutes.

Technical pieces / workflow are documented here: https://aplusphysics.com/flux/technology-guides/

Video on creating screencasts available here: https://youtu.be/fJR8tXj-CcA

Most important, have fun with it. If you’re not having fun, students will pick up on it. Feel free to “hide” an Easter Egg in each video, or wear a goofy hat once or twice, include an odd background, special effect, etc. “Overshare” your enthusiasm and it will come through.

Be well!

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I recorded my lectures for my students for 5 years, Fall 2010 to Spring 2015 when I retired. Somewhere between 400 and 500 hours, Electrical Engineering. Of course this was with a “live” student audience in class, and the recordings were for student review or absences.

It was all done using iShowU (various versions over the years) for screen capture (screen was projected in class) for presentation slides and on-screen demos. A videocam was aimed at the whiteboard to record that, and a second videocam was sometimes used to record demonstrations at the front desk. Editing was initially done with iMovie but went to Final Cut when they added multi-cam. Since I hosted the videos myself (school hosting came late in my teaching and wasn’t very good) I kept the file size relatively small by recording at 10 frames per second.

Since it was a live recording, there were no “takes”. When I made a mistake I’d usually just leave it in with an on-screen note in the lower third. I used a one page outline of the lecture to keep on track and no script. Since it was in front of a class, occasional questions would cause deviations from the plan, and I’d leave those in the video.

When school was closed because of snow or a class time was during a holiday I’d supply the lecture by recording at home. I would enrich the “slide deck” with the material I would normally write on the white board. The most difficult thing, and what would also be difficult at this time, is the lack of feedback. Theres no way to look at the students to see signs of confusion or boredom, nor is there a way to field questions.

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Thank you. This crystalizes a significant failure in the asynchronous-only mode of lecture delivery.

I will have to think about this implications of this on how I will present my lectures for the coming Fall when we may be slated to stay entirely on-line for all or even part of the Semester.


JJW

Hey @DFullerton, great content on your site! Looking forward to implement some of your ideas and processes in perfecting my own workflow.

Currently, I’m using Screenflow for both recording and editing my videos. I see you’re going the extra mile and using Final Cut Pro X. I get FCP is far more professional than screenflow, but considering that many of the stuff I find useful seems to be already baked in screenflow and I, admittedly, do not use nor have used FCP before, I wonder why you’ve decided to go for that extra mile and learn/use FCP on your workflow.

Would mind to elaborate on the benefits of using FCP instead of just Screenflow for the editing process?

Now that FCP is offering that 90 days trial, I’m wondering if that would be a good tool or overkill for a teacher trying to produce some homemade content for his students.

Unfortunately this has largely been the case with my experience in synchronous online teaching as well with Zoom - most students keep their camera and mic off - I can take questions but definitely miss being able to readily gauge the attentiveness and alertness of the room.

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Hi @Idebritto… Definitely no real need to go to Final Cut Pro – I did so in support of that “keep it fun for yourself” advice – in creating > 200 physics videos, the same old / same old gets a bit tedious for students and teacher. Final Cut allowed me to throw in a few more bells and whistles that kept me challenged and having fun. Absolutely not a requirement, but the additional features from Compressor, the enhanced Chroma Key capabilities, and a few other “nice to haves” pushed me in that direction. If educational video production had just been a one-year thing, certainly no need – but I was making them pretty heavily for about 7 years, and it allowed me to take my ‘game’ to the next level.

Another favorite of mine as I coach other teachers is TechSmith’s Camtasia – it has a fantastic feature set for the price, is pretty straightforward to learn, and includes tons of ‘extras’ you can start to incorporate as you see fit, but are not required.

Long story short – if making videos for the COVID-19 closure, but not a long-term thing, I’d absolutely go with ScreenFlow. If this is a multi-year adventure where you’re setting up multiple courses with online video, the additional investment might be worthwhile.

Make it a great day!

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Yes, your stuff is great, and I direction I’d like go! I’ll be scouring your site for more info. Thanks :pray:

FCP is great if you are cutting together multiple video sources rather than just the computer screen. With Compressor you get great control over the output format. And there is always the fun factor. Here is an example of the title screen of one of my lectures:


Wakes you up if you happen to be sleeping when you start it.
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Nice @tomalmy! Just got my trial copy and started playing around with it!

Now I’m beginning to hunt for plugins and resources to add to my projects. Any tips?