People are visual creatures. We can spend hours on Netflix and YouTube, but when it comes to reading news sites or blogs, we often get bored and click away after a minute or two.
Clever internet marketers have taken notice, and have responded accordingly, shifting their strategy to focus on video content.
Course creators have done the same. Online courses that include video (rather than just text and images), are higher value products and sell for more.
Furthermore, they create a greater connection between you and your audience.
For newbies, video production seems like a complicated and expensive process, but in reality, you can easily create professional quality video on a budget.
Why Use Video in Your Course?
According to The Next Web, our brains process visuals faster and retain and transmit more information when it’s delivered visually.
So basically, video = better results for your students.
Creating videos can be easy
Step 1: Build a DIY Video Studio
Creating high-quality video doesn’t have to be hard. You can create a professional quality home studio with material that you already own. Otherwise, you can invest a few dollars here and there to up the production quality. Here are our suggestions:
DIY Studio for Free-$601. Shoot with your phone/laptop
Most people either have a phone and laptop, or have a friend who has a phone or laptop, making this a free option that can still deliver a high quality end result.
If you’re not sure where to start, check out this guide to shooting high-quality video with your smartphone.
Shoot with your phone horizontal, or your laptop upright. This will create a widescreen video so nobody will be the wiser that you shot on your iPhone.
If you’re filming with your laptop, make sure the camera is at a 90 degree angle. Tilting the screen can look funny and distort your face.2. Buy a tripod ($20) or elevate your laptop
You want the lens at face level to get the most flattering shot. With an iPhone, that means using a small tripod (like this $20 one!).
If you’re using a laptop, however, you can stack it on a pile of books or boxes to reach face height.3. Use the right editing technologies
If you’re using an iPhone, we suggest the filmic pro app to stabilize your video.
On a PC? Camtasia is a great alternative. (And it's what I use!)4. Never use the zoom feature
Zooming in with your phone can make your video blurry. Instead of zooming, move your phone or computer closer to you.5. Shoot at 24 frames per second
The average viewer might not catch if you skip this, but people with trained eyes will know, and it's a simple flip in your settings.
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 makes a big difference in sound quality.
Set one phone or laptop in front of you to record visuals, but use another phone closer to your face (but off camera!) for clearer sound. Obviously we don't expect you to have two phones, but you can borrow a friend's or use your camera for video and phone for sound.
Later on in the editing process, you’ll combine the visuals from one device with the sound from the second.
7. Clap your hands to mark the start of a scene
If you’re syncing up audio to a different visual source, it helps to have a visual cue for where that start syncs. A clapboard with its white stripes and loud noise is a symbol of cinema, but it’s also a waste of money when you have two hands.
Clap loudly at the start of your scene. This will create a spike of noise that shows up as a tall spike during video editing.
You can use the height of this point to match the visuals from one camera with the sound on another.
8. Use a sheet as your DIY backdrop
A background is pretty easy to fake with any large piece of fabric. Black works better than white, which tends to wash out its subject, especially with bright lights.
9. Use soft household objects to stop echo
A common trouble point is getting an echo from your sound. This can come from large rooms, empty apartments, or from clearing furniture out of a room to set up your studio in the first place.
The very simple solution is to use pillows, rugs, couches, and all things fluffy to absorb sound. It’s as easy as throwing some cushions around your lights.
Here’s more on recording high-quality audio for your course.
10. DIY lighting: natural light
Your hand-me-down lamp and boyfriend’s reading light aren’t ideal for casting even and warm light.
Bad lighting can make you look sickly or cast weird shadows on your face.
The best option for cheap lighting? Filming by a window or glass door and using that sweet, sweet natural light.
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High-Value Studio for $300-900
The upgraded version of the “DIY home video studio” is to create a “high-value” studio. While the DIY Studio can create beautiful results, it’ll be easier to create high-quality video by investing in a few pieces of equipment.
Compare these two shots side by side:
Not to mention, the High-Value Studio has two huge advantages.
1. Low cost and high return
Below, I’ll talk about why we suggest each of the upgrades from the DIY studio, but if you want a quick list of the equipment we suggest, cost and links to where to buy it, click below to download our Studio Set-Up Guide.
Below are our tips for the very first things you should buy in order of priority. We believe this list encompasses the equipment with the highest return on investment. Once you start buying professional equipment, you could consider using part of your home/workspace as a permanent home studio…or not. That’s the beauty of these studios. Leave them up, or take them down, you have options.
Where to Invest
Buy a mic
Sure, hanging an iPhone from the ceiling with fishing line might make for a quick microphone fix and good story, but it’s easily trumped by an affordable and higher quality microphone that instantly takes your videos to the next level.
Buy clamp lights
For DIY studio lighting, we suggested using natural lighting, but you run into problems if you live in gloomy areas, or if you don't get natural light into your home at all.
You can buy three clamp lights for $39. You’ll want two key lights pointing at your subject at 45-degree angles and one light aimed at the backdrop to round out the light and get rid of shadows from a moving subject.
You can also use diffusion papers to soften the light to the right amount of brightness and use clamps to keep them in place.
Shut out natural light
It comes as a no-brainer that if you’re buying lights, you don’t need to open the windows. Cover them to keep extraneous light from streaming in.
Buy a camera
This is the natural progression from using an iPhone or laptop to film your video. There are tons of options, but we’ve found a high ROI and love the end results from the Canon SL1.
When you buy a better camera, you’ll also want to buy a tripod to match.
Still the same.
At some point, you might decide that you want to invest in higher quality equipment. Before you do, consider if it’s actually necessary.
- Is a majority of your content video based?
- Is a higher quality video really going to convert and engage your audience more than what you have?
- Is it necessary for your subject matter?
If you still think upgrading to more expensive equipment is worthwhile, then start by considering the following:
- A professional backdrop: Two words: green screen. This opens up a whole new world of opportunity if you want to invest in green screen. However, a nicer grey background works as well, or even a white backdrop with a whiteboard like Rand at Moz.
- Sound Panels: If sound clarity is important to your content, buying and installing a few sound panels to muffle extraneous noise might be a good option.
- Nicer Cameras: Because Lord of the Rings wasn’t shot on an iPhone.
Nice equipment is something we’ve toyed with and our suggestions are included in our Studio Set Up Guide. Check it out for some tried and true equipment.
Step 3: Video Pre-Production Tips
So you've got your setup, you're gearing up to film your masterpiece, BUT... now you're feeling a little stuck. Sure, your studio is looking great, but when it comes to next steps you're a bit overwhelmed.
Don't worry, we've got your back. Here are some of our best tips for video production:
1. Do your research
See how other people are teaching online. Focus on niches that you're not interested in so you can solely focus in on the technical side of things. What angles are they using?
How are they editing clips together? Do they use slides?
Figure out what you do and don't like about other people's teaching methods and design a teaching method of your own.
2. Think about framing
It might feel natural to sit smack-dab in the center of your video, but if you're going to be showing products or adding text overlays, it might make more sense to sit off to a side.
You also don't want to sit too close to the camera. We've all seen those videos that make you feel like you're nose to nose with the person on the other side of the screen, and it's always a bit unnerving.
3. Blur your background
This might feel like a small thing, but it makes a big difference in how professional your quality looks. It's not hard, either.
Here are two tricks to making it happen:
- Increase the distance between you and your background. when the camera focuses on your face, it will focus less on things farther away
- Adjust your lens. Changing the aperture changes how of a scene your camera catches. The lower the number on your aperture, the smaller part of the scene that’s in focus.
Here’s a quick reminder:
So, if you want a blurry background, add distance and shoot in a lower aperture.
Not everyone is a natural at this—and you're probably going to feel awkward at first and so you might look awkward, too. Combat this by practicing.
Saying your script to yourself a few times before you film will make it sound more natural and less forced. You don't want to sound like you're reading lines auditioning for your high school play.
Step 4: Post-Production Tips
Editing is my least favorite part of video production. Why? It will never not be weird to see myself talking on the computer. BUT! I do it anyhow because it's important and I'm waaaay too awkward to not edit out the bloopers.
We have a few tricks up our sleeve here at Teachable to make the video editing process smooth as butter, so here are my best tips for you.
1. Record room tone
To start, no matter what kind of video content you’re creating, you want to record in a quiet and noise controlled environment.
Capture around 30 seconds of “room tone”, or the base sound of the room. Turn on your mic and let it record. This sound will be used in the editing process to fill audio gaps, eliminate white noise, and smooth out transitions from one scene to the next.
It’s quicker than trying to edit out every time gap or inserting filler noise you’ve pulled from elsewhere.
2. Give yourself enough lead-time between takes
Knowing that you’re going to edit your videos, make life easy on yourself and create silent lead time between your takes and after you make a mistake.
This is especially important with screencasts. If you make a mistake while recording, it’s fine to stop and keep going as long as you take the time to stop. You can cut out your
fumbles and filler time and use room tone to smooth the transition.
If you hurry to your next point and don’t pause, you’re going to wind up in editing madness.
Editing out a fumble:
3. Easy transitions with cross-fading
Sometimes, there’s a transition in a video that doesn’t need room tone, just a little smooth-over. Use crossfading.
A majority of non-linear video editing programs will let you do this in one of two ways:
- Drag the beginning/end of one clip over the end/beginning of another
- Line up the two clips next to each other and then apply a cross dissolve/fade.
4. Save your content on an external hard drive
Big screens aren’t the only thing big about videos, they’re massive files.
Some programs, including Screenflow, capture your whole project as one file (in this case a .screenflow file). Other programs create a series of source files, project files and even rendering files. All are massive.
Check out how long rendering is taking. Let’s AVOID this:
What to buy:
When buying a great external hard drive, it might be a good idea to look for quality. Working with video, you need AT LEAST 500GB of space, but we prefer 1TB+.
Also, check out transfer rates (how long it take to stream data to and from your computer). If you’re saving and transporting big files, it’s important to know that a 1.8GB movie transferring at.05MB/sec will take hours but at 25MB/sec only a few minutes.
5. Compress your videos after exporting them in HD
The better the resolution, the bigger the file, the better the connection needs to be in order to watch, stream, or download it in a reasonable amount of time.
We can’t control the internet speeds of our viewers, but we can do our best with what we can control. Export your videos in the highest quality possible, then compress them. This provides the highest quality from your end at the fastest speed.
At Teachable, we’ve compressed a 54GB video to 25MB! This download works lightyears faster, and when compared the quality side-by-side, it was hardly noticeable in our ScreenFlow.
Check out the size of our files.
By implementing the tips in this blog post, you can begin to create high quality content from your own home and on a budget. In the comments, let us know your best video production tips!
Sections of this post are adapted from previous content written by Ashley Hockney.