On Tuesday, March 21, 2017, we convened at Washtenaw Community College for an excellent presentation on creating video with Camtasia, a video editor and screen recorder that produces cross-platform files. TechSmith’s Andrea Perry spoke briefly about the increasing role of video in instructional design, then showed and reverse-engineered the process of creating a short video, Camtasia Behaviors.
The Pre-production Process
Pre-production comprises three activities: creating a storyboard, writing a script, and deciding where and how you are going to share your video.
Create a storyboard, keeping in mind the audience’s goals when watching a video.
Write a script, which has to prioritize what’s covered and ensure that the user gets enough—but not too much—information for what they need to accomplish.
TechSmith writes their scripts in a simple table, so that shots can be scrutinized, edited, and moved around individually.
Scripts are reviewed for grammar, tone, and redundancies, and stakeholders weigh in with their impressions before the writer produces the video.
Decide where and how you are going to share your video. Step back and consider your audience again: what devices will they be watching the video on? How big are their screens? Will it be viewed online or locally? How fast can it load? If you don’t have a style guide, decide on your production settings and styles for the video.
A General Note on Consistency
Perry said that consistency in voice and tone is essential to build trust. Having a single author write scripts for a set of videos creates consistency in tone, while a single narrator ensures aural consistency. At TechSmith, video sets are each written, produced, and narrated by a single individual.
Style guides cover visual consistency: colors, font families and sizes, and branding.
The Production Process
We still haven’t got to using Camtasia, because Perry recommends recording and editing the audio track first for the best-quality sound.
Recording the audio
Choose a quiet place, where sound will not bounce around. If you don’t have a sound studio, a coat closet will do nicely. Perry recommends practicing first and smiling when you record. Listeners can detect that smile!
You will need a USB mic or headset, and an audio recorder and editor, for example, Audacity, which is free. There are other audio recorders and editors available, both free and commercial, if Audacity will not meet your needs.
Perry shared several things that will help when you are ready to edit:
- Set the volume to about 80% of the maximum: this allows softer sounds to be heard, without clipping the loudest sounds—clipped sounds are not pleasant for the listener.
- Start the recording with four seconds of silence.
- Record the entire audio sequence in one take.
- If you make a mistake, stop and clap, then start speaking from the previous clap. Claps cause a spike in the sound pattern, and make it easy to find breaking points.
Editing the Audio
There are three goals in audio editing:
- Remove the white noise. That four-second pause at the beginning will help you establish what to remove.
- Check and even out the volume, if necessary.
- Patch the takes together by removing the errors between claps and the claps themselves.
Gather Existing Audio and Visual Assets
Put all your graphics, logos, and sound together in one folder so that they remain findable. Camtasia links to these files; it does not embed them. Perry mentioned that YouTube has a copyright-free audio library if you need background music and that Camtasia has an extensive library of public-domain assets.
Creating a Video
Now you can open Camtasia. To create a video, follow your script, assemble your existing assets, add assets and behaviors, and edit to make a cohesive video. Use the styles that you decided upon at the end of the pre-production process, or your style guide.
Perry made several recommendations:
- Record and edit at the size that you have selected as the best final size for your audience.
- Beware that when you cut your media into pieces, the pieces you trimmed off are still there; Camtasia does not delete the hidden information. This can increase the size of the final file.
- Post your video so that your stakeholders and people you trust to give useful feedback can review and critique the video.
- Video can be hosted for free at screencast.com, for example.
Once you incorporate all the necessary corrections, you can produce the final video using the settings you decided upon at the end of the pre-production process. A 2–4 minute video will take an average of 40 hours to produce.
A Final Note on Audience
Video is very useful for complex, hands-on instruction and for first-time users. Captions improve findability, and make it possible to use muted videos.
Thank you to Lisa Veasey for arranging this program and to Washtenaw Community College for hosting the program.