Tips and Tricks: Creating Video Recordings to Share Online

creating video recordingsVideo has become one of the ‘next best things’ when it comes to documenting how things are done. Want to change the oil in your ’99 Honda Civic? YouTube has that. How about a table of contents in Word? Yup. Need to make a Whopper in about 30 seconds and get the weight perfect? Even that my friends. Even that. But what do you need to know to make your own videos?

I’ll give you four tips, plus a summary that recaps them AND adds a bit of value as well. Heck, we’ll even throw in some instructions for you, and you’ll be creating video recordings in no time.

Tip 1: It’s not about the recording, it’s about the setup

Surprisingly, it’s NOT all that important to know every trick and tip in your video tools. I use Adobe Captivate (since I have the full Technical Communications Suite v5), but you can use any one of a number tools to create a basic video. There are a lot of online resources you can use to learn about using Captivate (or you can sign up to take one of my courses on it!).

So, if it is not the tool, then what is it? The big trick is to get your workspace set to do what it is supposed to do. Support your recording and creation of a video.

Windows Live MessengerDisable things you can’t manage or don’t want in a video. For example, close things that are, as I call it, video useless. They add no value to the video, and likely make you start over. They’re interruptions—horrible things to deal with during a video recording. Things like Skype. Or email and notifications. Or Windows updates. Or other things that pop onto the screen when they shouldn’t.

Once you disable these, the odds of getting interrupted are reduced.

Tip 2: Don’t record, just follow the instructions

Now get comfortable with what you plan to record. Do the same thing three or four times, keep it simple, and see what traps are waiting for you. In other words, rehearse.

I’m going with something REALLY simple here. My goal is to create a short how-to video, not to produce a movie that is two hours long, and competes with Avatar at the box office. My sample discusses how to create a PDF document from Microsoft Word. So my notes to me read:

Create a PDF

    1. Create a Word file and add content.
    2. Select File > Save As > PDF or XPS.
    3. Name the document and choose a location.
    4. Click Save.

With that in place, I’ll go and actually do this in Word. Be right back…

I’ll then follow my procedure. So I choose File > Save As > PDF or XPS, then name the document and choose a location. Lastly, I click Save. If, along the way, I find little changes I update my procedure. I write notes to myself to remember as I record. Then all the tips and steps are in one place.

Confirm Save AsSo that’s pretty easy. As a matter of fact, so easy that I didn’t even create a video yet. I’ll go do that again. Now, the second time I do this I get a message I hadn’t planned for.

The second lesson then is to test your environment a few times. Once I know what to expect I’ll first delete my PDF from the output folder. No point in having that extra dialog appear.

Now that I’ve done the job a few times, I’ll delete my PDF and get ready to record.

Tip 3: Record your video (but be quiet about it)

As I record, I do so by reviewing the instructions. Speed counts for nothing as I can adjust later. Of course, if you do full-motion recording, then time it properly. I like to record into ‘slides’ that I can then tweak. So what is the tip here? Just that you actually focus on recording. Don’t try to do 10 other things at the same time. Like adding audio, or effects, or anything else.

It’s also good to restart if you make a mistake early on, but to just keep going if you make it later (you can cut out that portion later). I also recommend that you add a lot of extra content along the way, adding a slide or two if needed, and then clean them up later.

I avoid adding audio/commentary while I record for a very good set of reasons. One is that it’s disruptive to me. I have to think about what I’m doing onscreen, and then also remember my lines? Right… Also, if you add sound after the recording, you have more options. Sound studios, other voices, post-processing of audio, and other goodies.

Tip 4:  Look after post-recording work

At this point you have your starting point for the finished product. You likely captured slides/images you didn’t need, so now’s the time get rid of them. You also may have done the same thing over and over, and you have 100 slides when 25 will do. Figure out all the logical areas you can clean up and start cutting. When you get your slides to a manageable state you can then add markup, or effects as needed.

In Conclusion

Did you notice that out of the four steps two are setup, and only one is actually recording content? That IS the trick to making good recordings. Planning. Works with most things actually.

The summary of tips for your first video:

  1. Plan your recording
  • Use software you are familiar with
  • Find a simple task to perform
  • Plan how the task will unfold
  1. Test your environment.
  • Configure screen resolution
  • Hide away unneeded components
    (such as the Windows Taskbar)
  • Work through the process
  • Take notes or outline
  1. Record
  • Don’t talk
  • Add extra slides as you go (easy to delete)
  • Restart if you make errors early
  • Continue if you make mistakes later
  • Pause to take stock, don’t worry about timing
  1. Post-recording
  • Delete slides you don’t need
  • With repeated process: cut back on slides and add transition slides if needed
  • Add markup to materials

Play along at home

If you want to try to create a video, test out this combination.

    1. Download a copy of a tool to create video, I recommend Adobe Captivate.
    2. While the tool downloads, set up your workspace by disabling messaging tools, email alerts, and any other things that auto-appear on your screen.
    3. Set your screen resolution (I use 1280 by 720 for video).
    4. Launch Word and create a document.
      create word doc
    5. Select File (or the Office Button) > Save As > PDF or XPS.
      save as pdf
    6. Name the file, and give it a location.
    7. Click Publish.
    8. Review the finished file.
    9. Close the PDF, and delete the file from its location.
    10. Repeat steps 5 to 9 one or two times until you KNOW what is going to happen, and delete the PDF as needed.
    11. After you delete the finished PDF for the last time, launch your video tool (again, my instructions are for Captivate).
    12. Select File > Create new Software Simulation.
    13. Make sure that what you want to record is on the screen (so in my case, back to Word)
    14. Accept the defaults and click Record.
    15. Complete the actions (in this case, File > Save As > PDF or XPS, then name the file and click Publish).
    16. When done, press End on your keyboard.
    17. Review and tweak the video as/if needed.
    18. Select File > Publish.

That’s the core of it. Good luck with your first (and all future) videos!

Bernard Aschwanden

Since 1992, Bernard Aschwanden has excelled in technical communications as a trainer, courseware developer, team leader, manager, and as a consultant for Publishing Smarter. Bernard is a professor at Seneca and Humber colleges, sitting on their advisory boards, and helping drive curriculum development. He has written many articles about publishing, and is an active partner with key developers of technical communications tools. Bernard also serves on the Board of Directors for the Society for Technical Communication.

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