Screen Video: 17 Best Practices (Regardless of the Tool) from Matt Pierce

Screen video is on the rise. As people flip their classrooms, use mobile devices and seek new ways to get knowledge, learning professionals will need to master the art of screen video. Tips from Matt Pierce at Tech Knowledge in Las Vegas…

First, what is useful to record?

If you go online and try to see how tools work, there is plenty of content about the basics. These “how-to” lessons tell us the basics and answer the common questions. Focus your efforts on the difficult stuff, the errors, the specific things your people are trying to achieve. FAQs.

Ask questions to define your audience

Before you start recording, think about who is going to watch, when, how, where. Take your time to think about how this will make your content and format different. Is there one good way to do things? No… Adapt to all this!

Storyboard your screen video

If you ask Pixar or the rest of the movie world where they put the most effort in making movies, the answer is the storyboard. Think about what you are going to do in what order.

Make a script… If you need to

According to Pierce, the need for a script is proportional to your level of expertise. If you are an expert, you might be able to “wing-it” a bit more. But if you are less sure of your content, write a script. As a disclaimer, Pierce notes that the better he scripts his screen video, the more likely he will be able to tell his 5 minute story in 2 minutes. Script leads to minimum effective dose.

Remember, length is an issue

There is no correct answer to how long a screen video should be. But as a general rule, the shorter the better (provided it is effective). Focus on key messages. If you need to make 3 short films, this might be better than one long one. If you can provide references in your video where people can get more info, this is also a good way to shorten the video.

Bad audio ruins good video

According to Matt Pierce audio IS an issue. If you have taken the time to capture the screen well, put effort into the audio too. Get a USB microphone for your PC to avoid the fan sound. If you are using a headset (and don’t need to listen as well) flip the microphone around so its underneath your mouth, not in front of it. And get rid of as much noise pollution as possible…

Don’t worry about the sound of your voice

Options number one is to simply get over it. This will be easier if you realise that what you hear is not what others hear. But there is another option: Get someone else to speak!

Don’t show big chunks of text in your video

People don’t expect a lot of text in screen videos. They like image and movement. If you must put text, keep it short and build it up. Whatever happens, avoid big text!

Use your voice as a tool

No-one wants to hear you talking like you read. Your voice has volume, intonation, speed and articulation. Use these elements to modulate your voice and bring attention to specific parts. This will create better understanding and keep attention. Just like in a presentation…

Be careful with humour… it’s subjective

The best way to gauge humour is to get pre-back or feedback. See what works with your audience. Ask them. Do a dry-run or publish for 1 or 2 people before you release for everyone.

Think about screen size

According to Pierce, most modern devices will have a wide screen. But in reality, people use different devices to look at different content. Again, there are no golden rules. You need to know your audience.. Whatever you do, start with good quality and be consistent in size-usage across the record/edit/produce cycle. Pierce suggests 1280*720 (or bigger) for all steps. You can always make it smaller later…

Be mindful of what you show around the things you are actually teaching

Get rid of other applications so people can’t see what else you are up to (Facebook!). Turn off any and all notifications – you don’t want to ruin all your best efforts by having an email pop-up while you record your screen. Pierce suggests even having another computer used only for screen recording to avoid any issues.

Balance translation efforts to expected ROI of the learning

If you work in a multinational environment, you might have different languages in your target groups. What are the options for dealing with this? What can you do to reduce viewer effort?

  • Add subtitles
  • Make it again in the other language
  • Dub it eight another voice
  • Provide text translation in a supporting document
  • Encourage people to pause, take their time or even slow down the video
  • Provide channels for support outside of the video
  • Break down your video into smaller, easier to swallow chunks
  • Slow down with your screen captures
  • Be careful with music

    Jingles are very popular for the marketing department, who want to put it at the start and end of every educational video. But the user will soon get sick of it. Transition music between main chunks of information is good to create and re-win user attention. But whatever you do, don’t fill the video background with music. It doesn’t work!

    Change your mouse settings

    Two simple tips: Make your mouse-cursor bigger and slow down the mouse movement speed. Both of these will make it easier for others to follow what you are actually doing.

    Use transitions well

    First of all: Use them. A visual transition helps to create and re-win attention. But what is most important is that the transitions you use should have meaning (they happen between topics, for example) and be consistent (use the same transitions to show the same structural changes).

    Apply the rule of thirds, especially when filming people

    Read about this here:

    Thanks for reading!

    Published by Dan Steer

    Wandering corporate trainer, learning and development consultant, conference speaker and professional El-Magico. I help people get better at stuff by creating and facilitating Infinite Learning © opportunities. The world would be a better place if everyone was doing what he loved and doing it well. I am working to bring out the "El Magico" in everybody. Training in presentation and communication skills, leadership, social media for learning and marketing, learning and development management + personal effectiveness.

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