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Making a Painless Short Video

Does the idea of spending endless hours editing videos make enduring a dental procedure sound like fun? If so don’t worry, you can still produce high-quality video — without editing — that will engage your students.

If you have ever Zoomed or participated in a video phone call you may already have the basic skills needed to produce a short video. The emphasis is on the word “short” — since this video won’t be edited, it will have to be recorded in one, flawless take.

Here you’ll learn how to create an engaging 2-5 minute video with your existing equipment. The resulting product could be a selfie-style welcome message, a mini-lesson, an announcement, or other instructional video content.

Production Choices

The first step is to choose the device you’ll use to record the video. Chances are good that you have access to one or more of these basic video tools: cell phone camera, laptop camera, or webcam. Later we’ll explore the pros and cons of each choice, but first, let’s talk about recording resolution.

At some point in the production process, you’ll probably need to make a choice regarding video quality. These choices might be expressed as numbers like 480, 720, 1080, 4000 (typically expressed as 4K). These numbers reflect the video resolution, the higher the number the better the quality. 

Bigger numbers also result in larger video files that take longer to process and upload. In most situations, 720 or 1080 resolution is sufficient. It’s best not to go below 480 which is the approximate quality of a VHS tape — pretty low by today’s standards.

Unfortunately, resolution numbers alone don’t guarantee good results. Other factors include the lens quality, autofocus system, and the electronic components used in the camera. If you don’t get the quality you want try another device. 

The latest iPhone, and higher-end Android phones, are capable of capturing stunning 4K video. Even older cell phone cameras are capable of producing quality results. The quality of laptop cameras and webcams varies greatly, but many will produce a decent outcome.

Don’t “Wing It”

Shorter videos do a better job of maintaining student engagement and increasing learning. That’s a convenient reality because the premise of this article is producing short videos! (Link to “Creating Engaging Video Lessons” article.)

Don’t try to “wing it“ when performing for the camera. At a minimum create a detailed outline before you click the record button. A full script is best, remember you only get one take. Print the script and place it just below the camera when recording. 

Include a whiteboard in your shot if you need to write or draw during the video. You might not have access to a whiteboard if you choose a shooting location on the shore of a beautiful lake or a mountain top. No worries, print what you need on sturdy card stock, or place a paper copy on a clipboard.

Speaking of shooting locations, you’ll need to decide whether to record inside or outside of a building. Disadvantages of shooting outside include minimal control over temperature, wind, lighting, noise, and lack of electricity. A visually interesting outside location can be more compelling to students, but make sure that it’s not so captivating that students are unable to focus on your message.

Equipment Needs

You might need a tripod or selfie stick when shooting with a cellphone. Or it might be possible to lean your phone against a solid object. Carefully frame the shot to allow room for you and other objects that are part of the lesson, like maps, science equipment, or art supplies.

When using a laptop camera on a desk, consider raising the laptop somewhere around 6 to 12 inches above the desk — I use two dictionaries. The raised height will result in a more flattering angle of your face. Also, think about this when setting up a webcam.

No matter what device you use to record, locate the mic and be sure to get your mouth as close as practical to it. Do your best to minimize background noise — sometimes easier to do when recording inside. (Link to “Capturing Quality Sound with a Cell Phone” article.)

Once you finish your video masterpiece, it needs to be uploaded to a server that students can access. Both SchoolTube and YouTube allow you to record and upload a video to their servers for free — but SchoolTube offers some advantages.

SchoolTube’s exclusive focus is K-12 — this avoids the chance of students being exposed to inappropriate ads, unsuited related videos, and unwanted comments. YouTube is actually blocked by some K-12 school networks.

If you want to take your video to the next level, SchoolTube offers free web-based video editing that enables you to fix mistakes, add titles, music, graphics, and screen recordings. Additional equipment like lighting, external microphones, and tripods can also help you produce an even higher quality video. So go out there and try your hand at creating engaging instructional video content, it’s more fun and less painful than you might think!