Itís A Wrap! Tips for Producing Engaging Videos
by Kristen Cinar
W hile computer-based distance learning is not new to colleges and universities, 2020 marked the first year in which virtual learning became the new norm in higher education. This transition brought to light the need for improved media content, particularly that which could engage users via web-based learning platforms. Academic librarians began searching for ways to bring their services online by developing helpful screencasts that walked students through the research process and their virtual libraries. Public librarians also began envisioning how their services could be re-imagined in this new digital world. While screencasts and meeting platforms (such as Zoom) serve the basic, intended purpose, there is room for improvement where audience engagement is concerned. For librarians looking to improve the quality of virtual learning materials, there are many free sources online that can make this process simple enough for even the novice video creator.
|Learning a few quick tips for selecting attractive templates, creating
visually appealing animations, and including enjoyable audio can do wonders for improving the presentation of your content.
Naturally, the appearance of your video should be the first component addressed when creating a primarily visual asset. Most librarians are familiar with Microsoft PowerPoint, so it makes sense to start there. Microsoft’s user-friendly presentation software provides a variety of templates from which to choose. However, other free sources are available elsewhere that can make your video appear more professional and less like a standard corporate data report. Two websites with free options are Slides-
Mania and SlidesCarnival. Each can be browsed or searched by category, style, and even color. Educators will find many relevant options to choose from, such as blackboard-style backgrounds and paper notebooks. However, one should not stop there when imagining what tutorials and lecture videos could look like to captivate a youthful audience.
Both aforementioned sites provide options to download the presentations into PowerPoint or Google Slides. PowerPoint currently has more features to offer as far as transitions and animations are concerned, which is, perhaps, one of the more critical elements of an engaging film. Some templates have specific instructions for crediting the creator, such as including the credit slide at the end of the presentation.
Recent versions of PowerPoint provide more slide transition offerings. While many of these options are not necessarily appropriate in corporate presentations (such as the origami crane or paper airplane effect), there may be times when these are suitable and even beneficial in a film that relies on creativity to maintain viewer interest. For instance, the latter choice, the airplane effect, may be used successfully when discussing how to contact a librarian or email yourself a copy of an item record. The airplane mimics the icon used in such information-sharing situations, which viewers will likely recognize. Likewise, the page-curl transition would seem the ideal selection for slide themes that provide a book as the primary image, while a paper-crushing transition would be good in a discussion of the drafting process or idea development stages. Finding ways to create visual interest by transitioning through your slides will help keep the attention of your viewers.
Animations may be one of the most essential elements to make your film seem more like a professional production and less like a screencast. These can be simple inclusions (such as colorful boxes or highlighted shapes introduced with the fade animation) that draw the eye to the portion of your screen you are discussing. Librarians should also feel free to insert more creative options, such as an image of a hand dropping down to point out a section, for example.
Of course, the more complex your animations are, the more skilled your video will seem. Imagine ways you might insert graphics into your slideshow to illustrate a point you are trying to make. If you’re discussing the physical location of something in the library or on campus, insert footprints and animate them by fading one in after the other to mimic a walking motion. The inclusion of graphics and animations is where your creativity will come into play.
Not just any image is suitable for a film. Unless you’re using a plain white background, PNG files are the best choice. They typically have a transparent background surrounding the graphic, as opposed to a white box. A transparent background will give the impression that the image has been custom-made for your film and look more professional.
There are numerous Creative Commons sources available throughout the web. A great one is Pixabay, an extensive archive of free images that can be easily searched and shared. While most of these images are attractive photographs, search results often do include images with transparent backgrounds. Google is another option. Performing an image search will return a vast number of results that will need to be filtered down. After selecting Image, click Tools beneath the search box, then choose Creative Commons licenses from the drop-down option Usage Rights. This will ensure that the results you see are available to you for free without requiring expressed permission by the creator.
When recording your slideshow in PowerPoint, you have the option of customizing the timing spent on each animation. You can also include a voiceover in your presentation while you are recording your animation timings. (I’ll provide a few tips on this process later.) Whether you include a voiceover or not, you will select the Record Slide Show tab and record your presentation by clicking through your slides and aminations at the approximate speed you think your narration will take. You can adjust this in most video-editing programs after the fact, so it is not something you should stress over.
When you are happy with your slideshow’s appearance, you will need to export it as a MOV file. To do so, select the Export option under File. Give the file a name and choose an easily accessible location on your computer to store it. Select MOV from the file format drop-down menu. This will conclude the visual portion of the video.
An affordable microphone is strongly recommended if you wish to provide a crisp, clear narration. These can be found online for less than $50 and can often be plugged right into your computer or laptop using a USB cord. In addition to a microphone, a script is an essential asset in the voiceover process. This is where online lectures and tutorials are more convenient than their face-to-face counterparts. Composing each line beforehand allows you to perfect your wording and eliminate the stutters, the ums, and the errors that can sometimes be found in screencasts and in-person discussions.
Music is another professional feature that today’s YouTube audience would look for in an engaging video. Luckily, there are several royalty-free music sources online that do not require an account to access. Bensound and Free Music Archive are great options. Both contain vast collections of music that are easy to navigate and free to users unless you choose to upgrade to Pro or Extended subscriptions, which are generally required for commercial use. As with the free templates, you will want to ensure you give credit to the creator if this is specified.
While there are plenty of video-editing programs available for institutional purchase—including Camtasia and Snagit—iMovie comes free with every Mac computer. To create your video, upload the MOV file you exported from PowerPoint, as well as your music selection. If you’ve waited to do your voiceover, you may add it here by selecting the microphone icon. iMovie allows you to choose any moment in your film and edit it by trimming it, altering the speed, adjusting the appearance, and so on. Many tutorials have been created that cover the basics of this great software application.
One great feature found in iMovie is the ability to accommodate a greenscreen effect. To do this, you do not need to construct an actual greenscreen studio in your library. Instead, save money by taking advantage of your access to Zoom. As many workers learned throughout 2020, virtual backgrounds are a lifesaver when a professional space is not available for meetings. Try downloading a plain green image online and using it as your virtual background. Record your one-person meeting as you present your lecture or other content. Zoom will save this file as an MP4, which can be inserted right into iMovie. Add both videos to the project reel and then select the tab “green/blue screen” This will overlay the two files.
The benefit of the greenscreen effect is that it will allow you to drop yourself, so to speak, right into your video presentation. One roadblock of online learning is the challenge of providing a human element to the computer-based course. This small trick will allow you to present the engaging animated slideshow you have created while allowing students to see you as you speak—similar to the physical classroom.
Now that your video elements are combined and perfected, you can easily share the video as a file or upload it directly to your YouTube channel. YouTube is an excellent hosting option for your videos for several reasons. First, it allows your video to be searchable and easily accessed by all unless you choose to limit viewing rights only to those with whom you provide the link. In addition to the ease of access, YouTube provides automatic Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant features that add a layer of accessibility for those with special needs. One such tool is the closed-caption option. YouTube does an excellent job of deciphering the narration and converting it to helpful subtitles. However, subtitles may need editing, as accuracy is not always guaranteed.
Savvy librarians will also want to maximize the marketing potential in YouTube by linking videos in their channel. The platform allows you to embed video thumbnails in the latter portion of your film to direct your audience to other channel publications. This can be used effectively if you are discussing one topic that viewers may wish to learn more about. For instance, providing a link to a tutorial about determining keywords would be very helpful in a video about searching a database. This will allow you to focus your tutorial on your chosen topic without lengthening it by including an excess of information for those who need more help. Longer videos may cause viewers to disengage.
You might choose to insert thumbnails at the end of the video instead. These additional viewing suggestions need not be directly related to the film just played. You may highlight any video on your channel to increase the likelihood of more traffic. YouTube also allows you to retrieve assessment data by quickly learning how many viewers each video has and how long the audience played the selection. In addition, you can determine if the audience engaged with your film by utilizing like or dislike reactions.
Improving the quality of films and tutorials is necessary for engaging an audience that has been exposed to professional-quality videos, in many cases, for their entire lives. Learning a few quick tips for selecting attractive templates, creating visually appealing animations, and including enjoyable audio can do wonders for improving the presentation of your content. Such enhancements are easy to learn, and options such as those mentioned here are often free. While the time investment will be greater than that spent recording basic screencasts, creating a better viewing experience brings you one small step closer to reaching your target audience and earning their interest. Only then can you maximize learning potential.