As instructional designers, we try to use the best tool for the task when communicating with a learner. Video is a great format for conveying information, but how do you know if it’s done well?
This week, we’ll hear from our summer student worker, Kyle Winchell. Kyle is a Digital Media Broadcasting major and editor of Spring Arbor University’s weekly chapel video, Almost Chapel. After graduation he plans to fill various roles for local film productions, specifically in the roles of director of photography and production assistant.
Online video is becoming the most popular source of entertainment and information over the traditional choices of the past, such as television and newspapers. Many people spend more time on sites like YouTube, Netflix, and Hulu rather than hoping they find a show while channel surfing.
Online video provides us with the instant gratification of watching the next episode of The Office after a long day of work (and then binging five more) or satisfying our curiosity of a specific topic by looking it up on YouTube and watching a video essay created by a channel. We can get the content we want now instead of when a TV provider decides to show it to us.
But when we want to find a video that provides valuable information such as The History of Pancakes: Why You Should Care, what makes it a good video? Why should you spend your time watching it rather than reading an article? We’ve been so spoiled by amazingly talented creators on platforms like YouTube that we’re not even sure what a bad video looks like—they don’t rise to the top like the good ones, and I think I know why.
First of all, good videos need a narrator. A nice voice in the background with all the information presented to you on the screen or a mix of shots of the narrator talking to you with the information presented intermittently.
However you do it, you need someone talking so the viewer can listen. If there’s only text on the screen to read why isn’t the viewer just reading an article on the same topic? (Though that doesn’t excuse you from including accessibility features like captions or transcripts for those who need it).
Our narrator also needs to be a good one, not just any person will do. While you may have your information down and a script written out, it’ll all fall apart if the person reading it doesn’t have proper inflection, volume, or cadence.
While the narrator doesn’t need to be the next presidential candidate giving a speech, they do need to speak competently to keep the attention of the viewer.
Placing the narrator on screen also helps with attention as the viewer feels like they are having a conversation with the narrator. The narrator should maintain eye contact, though it may be hard with a teleprompter, to make the “conversation” feel intimate.
Once you have a great speaker to present your information, it’s also important in the post-production process to have a decent editor to put your video together. While it’s possible to listen to someone who’s right in front of you without losing focus, it’s not the most efficient way to deliver information.
Video editing lets us develop a rhythm and consistent pace throughout the video to make up for any mistakes the narrator makes and deliver the content in a stable and consumable format. “Jump cuts,” or cuts in video where the subject seems to “jump” slightly due to time being shortened, are welcome here! Informational videos aren’t meant to be high value productions like movies or TV shows, but editors help save the viewer’s time by cutting any unnecessary “ums” or “ahs” the narrator may speak.
And at the heart of it all, it’s important to have good information to give your viewers! Take the time to do the research to make sure your sources are credible—those skills weren’t just for college!
Too often we see sensationalist information making its rounds on the internet when it’s completely untrue. So do your part and verify the information you share is reputable. Also make sure that your presentation stays focused and tries to answer as many questions you think the viewer may have on the topic.
Nothing makes a curious viewer happier than having a question answered without even needing to ask.
Online video revolutionized how we get our information, and it’s making it easier than ever to share ideas, values, and perspectives. However, with its growing popularity it has made the job of these online creators increasingly difficult due to the increased production schedule to meet demands and the extra time it will take to gather credible information. It sounds like it would be a nightmare, but whenever they’re asked about it they seem to always say they wouldn’t rather be doing anything else.
How do you create good informational videos? Do you have any tips for Kyle? Let us know.