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4 Video making tips for instructional designers

It’s generally agreed that video has become the favorite of the new generations. People all over the world watch short films on subjects that interest or amuse them – cats have become real stars online due to this technology and more and more internet users produce and upload their own materials, sometimes attaining great success.

All smartphones have cameras and anyone can become a director right away. There was even an awesome project that asked people all over the world to send short videos of themselves answering the same few questions and the end result – Life in a Day is very personal and touching.

So filming itself is easy but those of us who have at some point tried to actually ‘make a video’ with a story that needed to convey some meaning found that it was not so easy.

4 Video making tips for instructional designers

There is a good reason for that never-ending army of professionals behind every good motion picture. But that can't be the case for those who need to produce ‘self made’ video content for online instruction. So here are four things about making videos every instructional designer should know.

4 Video making tips for instructional designers
  1. The lights

    Lights, camera, action!

    The saying goes like that because the light is the first thing to take into consideration when we are talking about visuals. The classic scheme includes three-point lighting for video production shooting: a backlight, a key light, and a fill light.

    • The backlight is meant to convey some depth to the shot and separate the main subject from the background. This should be placed behind the subject and should provide light on the head and shoulders.
    • The key light is exactly that, the main light. It should provide the dominant lighting for the subject.
    • The fill light is a supporting light for the main (or key) light. It usually mirrors the latter at a lower intensity and “fills in” the shadows created by the key light.

    As far as combining the key and fill lights, the setup should change considering what needs to be accomplished. For contrast and a little dramatic feeling, the key light should be at a slightly greater intensity than the fill light.

    For corporate videos that need to be shiny and glamorous, the two lights should be used at approximately the same intensity to avoid shadows and ensure the light is evenly diffused across the subject’s face.

  2. The camera

    With the camera, it really is all about angles and again, there are three basic ones: eye level, high angle, and low angle.

    • Eye level is most commonly used in corporate video production. It’s considered neutral and is more flattering than either low or high. It’s also very business-like and adds little drama to the shoot. It’s the same of the angle you see on the news – when the anchor doesn’t forget to move to face the camera that is filming at a certain point.
    • High angle is shooting down on a person or having the camera significantly higher. This can give the subject a weak or childlike look so unless it’s an educational video that needs this sort of effect, it’s not advised to use it.
    • On the other hand, having the camera at a significantly lower angle than the subject and therefore “looking up” at the person creates an intimidating or foreboding look.

    I remember seeing a video shot at a low angle where the subject was the CEO of the company I was working at that time. His speech was great, the words were friendly but the way he appeared on the screen just made the audience look at his teeth and up his nostrils so the effect was lost.

  3. Composition

    Just like in photography, the golden rule of filmed images is The rule of thirds. This is a visual cue that prompts you where to place subjects in your scene.

    Imagine an image broken up into thirds both horizontally and vertically. Where these thirds intersect are called cardinal points because they have more visual dominance — the eye is naturally drawn to them more quickly. Consequently, placing a subject on one of these intersecting points makes it stand out more and makes the point of the video shine through.

    Of course, bending the rules (even if they are golden) works to great effect once in a while but for those who are beginners or do not have a great innate artistic streak, sticking to them usually works best. Here is how a picture that respects the rule of thirds looks like:

    The rule of thirds on a cat

    Photo source

    Lighting is also used in such a way as to make the background a lot less obvious and help the cat stand out. The angle is more of a head-level because insisting to make eye-contact with a feline (even if it is a small and cute-looking one) is not always wise.

  4. Sound

    Audio is probably the most overlooked and under-appreciated aspect of the film-making process and it’s a shame because sub-par sound will render any audience disengaged immediately.

    The first thing to consider is filming in an environment that is not filled with all kinds of noises. A studio is best but since that is not really an option when you make your own video, it is advisable to take the microphone that will be used for the shoot and do a trial recording. What one hears naturally can be rather different than what is picked up when using a microphone.

    If the results are not those which are desired there are a couple of other options. One is capturing the sound with a different recorder that will allow better control over the levels. The other is good old fashion sound editing. It may take some time but there are a number of free, easy to use apps available and employing them you’ll make sure that the video material you produce is 100% good quality.

In the end

These are, of course, just a few basic tips. Video making is fun but also involves a considerable amount of time and effort. If we take into consideration that 1.5 billion users play 1 billion hours of video each day, going through the trouble of doing it right is definitely well worth it.

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