Video production, video shootLately I have been creating video interviews for clients and it has actually helped me gain a new perspective in the course design process.

To shoot good video, you really need to translate your written content into visual images. You need to be able to think in terms of camera angles, actions and shots that will make up the visual story of the content. This is a great exercise in how to think about designing courses without leading with just the content.

The other benefit that it has given me is a new perspective on how to lay out my scenarios and course contexts to have the proper landscape and dimension to take away the “flatness” of the two dimensional screen. Let’s break both of these concepts down into more detail:

1. Video is all about the art of telling the story visually without words.

You can’t produce a video with a bunch of text and bullet points. It doesn’t engage the viewer and certainly doesn’t fit in the world of video production. So the question really is, can video be an effective learning tool even if ALL of the text about that content doesn’t appear on the screen? Of course. So it was a great reminder that it is possible to dump the text and make it visual. It has been a challenge but a fun one to make some seriously dry content come to life with visuals.

a. By using different views of the characters, it creates a more meaningful story.

There are a lot of views or camera angles that will help reinforce your visual message. For example, moving in for a close up shot, focuses on the character. It could show emotion or just gives the viewer a chance to see additional detail about that person. This is an important reminder for our courses as well. Vary the way that you put a character on the screen to illustrate something, like in a scenario. If you are talking about Joe, the manager’s and his dilemma, show a wide shot, a close up and maybe a mid-shot to help add dimension to the story.

b. Even if you are creating a two dimensional course without video, put the SME on video to role play the scene you want to create.

Video is an excellent tool to get people to focus on what really matters. Put your subject matter experts on camera doing a role play activity to illustrate what the learner needs to do. There is nothing like video (or the threat of having to watch themselves) to get people to focus their message and really key in on their best messages. So even if you don’t use the video, go through this activity and re-create the message including the emotion and feeling in your courses. This will help you find the visual story away from the content.

2. Video has reminded me that I can get out of the two dimensional flat screen mentality and add different dimensions to my courses.

I remember being in grade school art class and learning how to draw a landscape on paper. You put a little dot somewhere in the middle and then draw lines out to make the foreground and background which creates the proper perspective. Things in the front are larger and as they get farther away they get smaller.  Remember that?

Well, I think that I had forgotten that. Or just didn’t think about it in terms of the computer. So yes, that was essential when painting but surely not when creating a scene in a course on a two dimensional screen. Boy was I wrong. So I love that this was such a solid reminder for me as I was producing video.

Here are some things to remember:

1. The Rule of Thirds

This rule says that you should divide your screen into three equal parts both horizontally and vertically. Pick a position to put your character that is on one of the intersecting points. Don’t just put someone in the middle of the grid. And make sure that you position their eyes on the top portion otherwise you will have too much awkward headroom.

2. Shoot your subject in the appropriate location

Put the character with the right background. It causes visual dissonance to have someone in the wrong context. For example, if you are teaching a scientist about a particular chemical or product, put them in a lab. It helps to add context and visually matches the content.

3. Eliminate unneeded distractions but add appropriate props as needed

We did a video shoot recently where the subject wanted a bunch of extra knick-knacks on camera because they represented something personal to them. However, the message that he was delivering was a leadership message. Having those things present created a visual discord and quite honestly ruined his credibility as a leader a little bit.

However, appropriate props will help to visually reinforce the message that you are trying to convey without having to use words or bullet points.

4. Make sure the light is right

Whoever thinks about lighting their characters in their courses? Certainly I didn’t. However, think about how powerful this very subtle addition can be. You can light something that should have focus and shadow other things that aren’t vital to the story that is on screen.

5. Add looking space

This one is my favorite just because this is one that people get wrong all the time and it is so distracting. Make sure that the character is looking into the scene instead of off screen. If the character is looking off screen, you are leading the learner to look that same way. By having the character looking into the screen, you are visually leading the learner to follow their visual path. Also, make sure that you position the character to give enough room for them to be looking at the scene for the same reason.

6. How someone is dressed matters

Even if they are stock photos, how a character is dressed really matters. Are you building a course for a bunch of construction workers and your characters are all wearing suits? How about Doctors and they are all wearing shorts? It matters what the characters look like as they have to be similar to the dress of the learner.

So pick up your phone, tablet or video camera and try and shoot some video today. you may be surprised at how much it helps you build visuals in your courses!!!