Growing up, I thought I was destined for the camera - I dreamt of being a movie star and if I was really lucky, maybe one day I'd even star in my own original Disney Channel film.

If you hadn't already guessed - a lot has changed since then. Nevermind the fact that I'm introverted and prefer attention be directed anywhere but torwards me, but I prefer being behind the scenes, anyway.

But that doesn't mean I won't step in front of the camera when I need to - and this week I'm getting ready to sit down and film my course content, and thought I'd walk you through the process of getting set up.

You don't have to be a Hollywood producer or a tech wizard to create beautiful and functional videos for your online course. With the proper setup and a few optional tools, you can make professionaly quality videos with ease.

When it comes to content creation, there’s a lot of ground to cover so I'll be dividing the topic into two weeks so I can get into the nitty gritty without making you sit through an 6000-word post.

Before we talk about how you can actually create the content, this week I'm breaking down the basics of what will be going on behind the scenes and talking to you about how to film your videos, what tech you might need, and the programs you should consider to make your content creation process go as smoothly as possible.

If you haven't been following along, this is part six of a multiple part series.

Read the past five weeks here:

Learn how to set up a studio where you can film professional quality content for your online course.


From start to finish

I'll walk you through creating slides for your online course, first. Then we'll set up your filming studio and  talk about the programs you can use to edit your videos.

Creating slides for your online course

Creating slides is intuitive in theory, but people who aren't design savvy sometimes struggle.

Slides help you to highlight the top points you're covering and they help your students focus.

If you've taken an online course you may have noticed the instructor using slides. Sometimes slides are enough, but other times people choose to do floating head videos.

Floating head videos are when you see a video of the instructor in the lower corner of the slide.

If you are going to use voice over exclusively, we recommend creating a sit down video as an introduction to yourself and the course.

The best programs for creating slides

When I first started playing around with design, my go to was Gimp. Fast forward a few years and I moved onto Canva. Now, I go between Canva and InDesign, depending on the project.

If you have no clue where to start - I recommend using Canva. Canva is free (unless you upgrade which is unecessary for what we're trying to do) and they have premade templates to use.

Canva takes out a lot of the leg work, all you have to do is delete their filler text and add in your course content.

If you're more advanced, InDesign is worth checking out because you'll have complete control over your design.

Another option a lot of people swear by is using a slide program such as PowerPoint or Keynote. While I don't have experience with either program, I will say that you can make beautiful presentations with either. 

In fact, our designer, Allison, has taken out the leg work for you and created free Keynote and PowerPoint slide templates you can use in your online course and wrote an amazing post on how to create great presentations.

Click Here to Download the Templates

Learn how to set up a studio where you can film professional quality content for your online course.

If you're going to do floating head videos, make sure that you mark off where your video is going to go so you don't accidentally cut your words off.


Filming your videos for your online course

This is where people freak out (where I freak out) because sitting in front of a camera is intimidating.

But after doing it every week for the past six weeks, take it from me when I say it get's easier.

Which leads me to my first peice of advice: Practice.

Practicing what you're going to say will make the entire process go so. much. easier. 

Creating a script to practice

If you're interested, here's my process for creating the script:

  • Write down everything I need to cover in the video. This is stream of consciousness and I don't worry about organizing it in any particular order because I am just trying to get everything onto paper.
  • Organize it chronologically. This is where you refine step one. Break it down and decide the order you'll present your content in.
  • Create bullet points. Now I break those points down into three or four word bullet points and tape this list right under my camera lense so if I lose my train of thought I can refer to my list and get back on track.
  • Practice. I use my bullet list to practice what I'm going to say out loud. This feels silly but it helps you figure out exactly what you're going to say, and it'll help you come off as a natural.

Setting up a "studio"

Confession: I converted a storage room in my basement into a studio. Trust me when I say you don't need to have a fancy studio to have a professional course.

Learn how to set up a studio where you can film professional quality content for your online course.

There are 3 main considerations to think about with your studio:

  1. Lighting. Your lighting will make or break your video quality. Your best bet is to use a natural light source like a window or sliding glass door. This option is free but delivers professional results.

    If you don't have access to natural light, you can use a lighting kit. I use a Ring Light, but you can get umbrella lights for cheaper. Both will deliver beautiful results.

  2. Backdrop. You don't need a fancy backdrop, but you should make sure that it's not distracting. If you aren't using a plain wall or sheet, make sure the background isn't cluttered at all. You might not think a sloppy background is a big deal, but people will notice.

  3. Sound. I mentioned that I film in the basement - that's because it's the quietest area in my house and I've been able to set up a nice studio that won't be messed with. 

    When you decide where to set up your filming studio consider the background noise. Make sure that you won't be getting traffic noise and that the people in your home won't have to tip-toe around.

    To deflect echoing, surround yourself with soft things to absorb sound. Think pillows, blankets, or spare matress pads.

    If you want to get fancy you can also invest in a microphone. Though in most cases your built in microphone should suffice.

What camera should you use?

Spoiler alert: You do not need to invest in a fancy DSLR to film your online course. We have plenty of online course creators who have created beautiful videos using only thier iPhones.

But, let's explore your other options:

You can use your cell phone. This the most basic option, and I imagine 99.9% of people looking to create an online course own a cell phone, and of those people most of them will have a smart phone with a decent camera.

If you are using your cellphone, a great light source is even more crucial. Using your phone, you won't get away with subpar lighting the same way you would with a DSLR. If you don't have a lighting kit, set up camp in front of a window.

Use your webcam to film. Like cell phones, most course creators owns a computer with a webcam. Use that webcam to film your video content and expect the quality to be equal to your cellphone's.

Again, focus on finding a great light source.

You can use an actual camera. Whether it's a digital camera from 2005 or a DSLR, cameras are an obvious choice.

Like we discussed in the post on how to price your online course, if you do have a DSLR that means you've got higher production quality. With that higher quality you can charge a bit more for your online course.

Editing your videos

Once you've created your slides and filmed your videos you've got a few options for editing your videos.

Your free options are Windows Movie Maker or iMovie, both of which are basic but they'll get the job done in a pinch. Of the two, Mac users win out because there are a lot more capabilities wtih iMovie. the ability to create floating head videos and add graphics on top of videos are just two.

Most of the Teachable team uses ScreenFlow for our video recording needs - this is an awesome program that records everything going on on your screen with the option to record your voiceover or video, too. We even wrote a comprehensive post on how to use Screenflow to record your video content.

Camtasia is the PC alternative to ScreenFlow and offers the same functionalities. 

When I create my content, I'll be using a combination of Camtasia and Windows Movie Maker. I'll create floating head videos with Camtasia, and edit videos together with Movie Maker.

DIY Studio (Free-$56)

Let's put everything together and see how we can create a free  studio that you can use to record all your content.

1. Shoot with your phone/laptop, These are incredibly powerful tools that either you or a friend probably own and provide decent clarity for your videos. 

2. Always shoot with your phone horizontal or laptop upright. The horizontal angle will look nicer when you upload your video to you computer, and it also hides the fact that you’re filming videos on an iphone.

If you’re using a laptop, set it up at a 90 degree angle - trust me on this one. 

3.Film at eye level. Whatever you’re using to film, you want the lens at face level. With an iPhone, that means using a small tripod. 

Propping your iPhone up on a pile of books seems easy, but usually it doesn't work. We think it’s worth it to buy a small tripod ($15) even at this DIY stage.

If you’re using a laptop, however, you can stack it on a pile of books to reach face height.

4. Use the right editing technologies. If you’re using an iPhone, we suggest the filmic pro app to stabilize your video. 

If you’re using a Mac, we suggest Screenflow as an affordable way to film and edit your content. If you're a PC user like I am, Camtasia is a great alternative.

5. Shoot at 24 frames per second. Here is one of the nitpicky things that most people won't even think about, but will make a huge difference to the viewer. (Psssst. This is the standard setting if you're filming on your phone.)

6. Use one laptop/phone for video and another phone as a microphone. This is more complicated than speaking into the same laptop that’s recording you, but you will notice clearer sound quality if you decide to go the extra mile.

Set up one phone or laptop to record video, and use another phone closer to your face for clear sound. We don’t expect you to have two phones, but if you have a laptop and iPhone, this is a perfect combo. If you're filming with a phone, see if you can borrow a friend's for sound.

Later on in the editing process you’ll combine the video from one device with the sound from the second.

7. Use a sheet as your backdrop. A fancy background is pretty easy to fake with any large piece of fabric. Any fabric you have on hand will work. Make sure that there aren't busy patterns, and do test shots to make sure the color doesn't wash you out.

8. Use cushy household objects to stop echo. Echo can come from large rooms, empty apartments, or just from clearing furniture out of a room to set up your studio in the first place.

The solution is to use pillows, rugs, sweaters and anything else soft and dense to absorb sound. 

9. Use natural light. The cheapest low-cost solution to your lighting woes is to open up your curtains and take advantage of natural light.

Artificial lights will cast strange shadows and hues that are less than flattering. Natural light will have you glowing.

Creating engaging videos at home doesn't have to be expensive or technical, here are our tips for an at-home studio set up that you can DIY yourself and list of high ROI equipment.

Click here if you want to see how you can create a home video studio with a bigger budget!

What we'll be covering next week

Like I said, we've broken down content creation into two separate weeks because, wowza! there's a lot that need to be covered. Here's a look at what we'll be talking about:

  • Creating our lesson plan. In theory, we know the transformation we'd like to bring our students to, but how do we actually plan that out and create a curriculum that will accomplish what we'd like?
  • Producing our videos. When should we sit down and talk to the camera rather than use slides? Do we use just a voiceover on our slides, or opt for the floating heads? How do you even create floating head videos, anyway?
  • An inside look at editing. Video editing has a learning curve, but you just need to get the hang of the program.
  • Uploading your content to Teachable. This step is easy as can be, but I'll show all you new Teachable users just how easy it is.

How are you going about creating your DIY studio? Are you being scrappy with it or pulling out all the stops and investing in professional equipment?

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Morgan Timm

Written by Morgan Timm

Morgan Timm is a content marketer at Teachable with a background in blogging and social media. She runs Mostly Morgan, a life and style blog that reaches an audience of 40,000 people monthly.