Monday, May 20, 2013

3 Steps to Video Excellence

Over the last few months I've been presenting in several classrooms where faculty were looking to introduce students to instructional technology of some sort, which usually fall into the category of digital or face-to-face presentations.  In preparing and developing for these classes, I let my mind wander a bit on how to do this in a way that balanced the students' need to understand the tools, exciting enough for them to want to use the tools, and manageable for them to actually integrate the tools.  Here is the triangulation that I developed that can be done with using nothing more than your computer (an maybe an external microphone if you don't have an internal one) and little knowledge of basic programs.  In total, this entails creating a presentation that can be engaging and easily moved into a video for later use.

This process requires 3 programs--all of which are web-based (and free).  The only obstacles are that two require registration (Google and Prezi--though if you have a North Shore Community College account that is your Google account and Prezi offers an Educational License that is free when you use your school email account) and the video can be no longer that 15 minutes.  But for videos that are going in an online environment (for either face to face or online teaching), this is good because it helps the instructor or student keep focus on what they need to communicate is a confined time.

Step 1:  Google Slides (Presentation Tool)

We're talking primarily about Google Slides here, but Powerpoint works just as well for this part.  Either way, you'll need to opt to select "Download as a Powerpoint" when you are done with the Google Presentation in order to integrate it into Prezi.   For a good primer on Google Slides, check out their help feature which has really good information.

In Google Slides, you can compose your  specific content and information.  This might include images, videos, and text.  You can think of them as your "scenes" and what you want to convey in each scene.  When completed with the content, this is also a good time to work through the presentation to get a sense of how long it will take you and the flow of it.   

Step 2:  Prezi  (Optional)
Once you have  content settled into scenes in Google Slides, you'll want to download it as a Powerpoint file (pptx).  (If you've been using Powerpoint; you are all set).  Then you'll want to go to and create an account.  Be sure to sign up for an educational license if you are a college student or instructor.   This will provided you with additional benefits.  Like Google, Prezi has great support and guidance for learning the tool and for something like this, you don't need to know much about Prezi beyond the basics.  

Once you have created an account, and started a new Prezi, you'll want to select the "Insert" menu and choose "Powerpoint."  You'll be given the option of how many of your slides you want to import as well as the design you want to use.  Those are aesthetic choices you will need to consider in terms of what the information is you are conveying and how it should look laid out on Prezi.  

When you have sequenced and aligned your scenes in a way that works for you, you'll want to run through the sequence from start to finish at full screen.  This will benefit you in two ways.  The first is that it will make sure everything runs smoothly.  It will also give you another opportunity to pace through it and see how it works in terms of time.  

It should be noted that this is an optional step and one that you might not be ready to tackle with your first video or two.  Prezi can be a little overwhelming if you haven't used it much or are still not comfortable with Web 2.0 tools.  However, if you're just importing your entire Powerpoint and not necessarily manipulating much of the content besides cleaning it up any glitches in the transfer, it can be easy to do in an hour or so (at least the first time).  I've added it as a step here because the moving and fading tool features allow for your Powerpoint to come alive a bit more than just a typical Powerpoint.   We'd also recommend you check out our previous post on Prezi to get a better sense if the tool if you haven't used it before.  

Step 3:  Screencast-o-matic 
 Once you have created an excellent Prezi, now you can get ready to make a video of it with the use of Screencast-O-Matic.   We're big fans here of Screencast-O-Matic as we've mentioned before. Screencast-O-matic is a free tool that only requires a brief and easy installation of a browser applet in order to run.  The program will record what's on your screen (screencast) and whatever sound you create (or you can keep it mute).  

At this point, you'll want to have a tab on your browser to open up the Screencast-O-Matic tool while also having a tab open on your browser with your Prezi that you want to record.  Set your Screencast-O-Matic to capture the full screen and then set your Prezi to full screen.  When you are ready, press the big red button on Screencast-O-Matic and begin recording.  

3 Notes about recording:
  1. Don't expect to get it right the first time.  You'll probably need to restart at least once.
  2. Don't aim for perfection.  Look for a conversational voice and don't worry about a few mistakes.  If you aim for perfection, you will lose your mind and lots of time trying to get it "just right."
  3. Do your best to prepare a script that you work from.  This is useful not just for you to follow along but you can make the script available so that it meets accessibility requirements for your students. 
This is not so much a step but a consideration. Now that you've made a great video, the question is where to put it.  You can certainly store it in your ANGEL course.  However, I find it useful to upload it to my Google Drive and then embed it into an ANGEL page.  This allows me to also share the video out with other people and places as I see fit.  If comfortable, you can also put it on YouTube.  The one challenge if you are going to use YouTube is that you would need to create a separate account since your NSCC account can't be used for Youtube accounts. 

Here is an example of a video (also reiterating much of what's in this blog post). 

Have you tried any of these tools?  How do you like them?  What challenges have you run into?  Have you produced any interesting content that's available to see (share the link below!)?