How we record videos for our online training courses

We’re just starting to record the video inserts for a new online training course we’re developing. As I’ll presenting at the TCUK 2014 conference on on this topic, I thought I’d take a few photos in case they come in handy during my TCUK presentation.

We record the presenter actually presenting the slides, as this results in a more natural presentation style. The presenter sees the slides on the laptop, and we use the laptop’s camera for recording the video.

our studio set up

Previously, we’ve recorded to a white background, but for this course, we’re going to be using a green screen. We record the audio using a USB microphone and a digital voice recorder. This means we have two audio recordings of the presentation.

The presenter sees a copy of the slides on the laptop screen, which he can progress through using a remote control. He also sees the script via a teleprompter on a tablet.

What the presenter sees

The green screen (we use chroma-key to remove the background) is giving us more consistent results than having a white background.

It’s a comparatively low budget setup, and it seems to work.

Searching for key words and phrases in training videos – Adventures in media synchronization

One of the limitations of video-based information has been the difficulties for users in finding a particular piece of information in a video. Usually, they have to watch the whole video, or “peck and hunt” to get to the moment containing the information they were searching for.

As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, HTML5, an emerging Web standard, enables Technical Authors and courseware developers to synchronize different media. One application of this is enabling users to search a text for a key word and then start a video or audio at that point. Here is an example.

Searching for key word or phrase in a video - example

In addition to making it easier for users to search videos for the information they need, it will also mean the pages will be more likely to appear in the search engine rankings. In other words, there will be an SEO benefit as well.

Synchronizing text and video within Web pages will become a lot easier in November 2012, when we are likely to see the the introduction of authoring tools containing this functionality (at the moment you need to be familiar with HTML and JavaScript).

We believe this is an exciting development in the field of user assistance.

Creating risk reports in less time, using Confluence (Case Study)

This is an edited recording of a case study (by Malcolm Tullett of Risk and Safety Plus and Ellis Pratt of Cherryleaf) presented at the London Atlassian User Group meeting in April 2011. In this case study, we show how Cherryleaf created a system in Confluence software that dramatically reduced the time needed by Risk and Safety Plus to create risk reports.

How important is video to Technical Authors?

Internet Psychologist Graham Jones addressed this question in his most recent weekly email.

He said:

Video is everywhere online. Indeed, YouTube is now the second biggest search engine, according to recent figures. When people can’t find what they want on Google, they turn instead to YouTube to find an answer, before they head off to alternative search engines such as Bing or Yahoo…

As you read this, 2,200 videos are being watched online at this very moment in time. Every day 184m videos are downloaded…

Who, for instance, would have thought that a video showing how electricians can use a tool for wrapping wires would be interesting? Yet, it receives an average of 8 views per day – so far totting up over 7,000 views on YouTube alone. True, this is not viral, but take a look at the statistical graph that YouTube shows for each video like this. In other words, even with comparatively boring topics, video is becoming more and more important online. If video were merely something interesting to add to a website as part of the furniture you would not expect the growth in viewing that videos like this receive.

Graham argues you cannot afford to ignore video. Whilst it is a requirement for your company’s online (i.e Web site) presence, do audiences expect it in the online Help and other forms of support documentation? Possibly not yet, but how long will it be before video is a fundamental part of User Assistance?

I have a great respect for Graham and his expertise, and video is something we’ve been implementing for a while (as an aside, we are both speaking at an event on Social Media later this month).

I’m sure neither of us would argue that video will replace text. Instead, people will expect information to be delivered through a variety of media.

The questions for Technical Authors are:

  • Can they be sure they will be the people creating this type of information?
  • If someone else does the work, will the Technical Author’s relevance and importance take a step down the corporate ladder?
  • If they are expected to do this work, do they have the skills to do a good job of it?
  • Which will come first – the video or the text? Will it be easier to create the video and transcribe the text, or to create a video from the information provided in a user guide?

YouTube was founded as recently as 2005, and the growth of video has been stratospheric since then. The need for Technical Authors to develop their video strategy may come sooner than they think.

Video of a simple report writing solution

Here’s a video of a proof of concept prototype we’re putting together for a client. The system automates the creation of field reports. It creates a skeleton document, with key content populated. Many pages contain guidance on what to write.It is probably the lowest cost content management system we’ve put together.

If you can see the video below (there’s a problem viewing it on the main page of the blog) you can view it here.

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